It wasn’t the sex, booze or “other” that flipped his switch, but the movements of the upstairs neighbors who, upon entrance, shed their mortal skin and became DJs. “I was amazed at the attention they got when they came in. Unpacking their crates and equipment, the whole room just stopped. Only when they began to spin the disco did it start again—but at a different speed, a different tempo.” His parents took nights off.
Not Bear. Such reprieves were spent cross-legged in front of the family HiFi armed with a tape recorder, taking rapid-fire dictation from the now-tenured, then-radical first wavers of Chicago’s House dynasty. Frankie Knuckles, Farley Jackmaster Funk, Ralphi Rosario, Steve Hurley, Mr. Lee, Julian Perez, Fast Eddie—all were catalogued and absorbed.
Sounds focused for such a young lad? You’re probably expecting something akin to: “Upon reaching puberty Bear received his first drum machine, locked himself in a room with a slide rule and a supercomputer vowing not to emerge until he had constructed the “perfect” beat.” Or, “On his sixteenth birthday Bear donned a cape and green tights vowing to wage a war of virtue against all enemies of House.” Not quite. Close. But not quite. He did what any young prodigy should.
He skipped the Boys Scouts and joined the House on the Boulevard Crew. Similar to another ‘80s convention, the “breakin’ crew," but favoring turntables and microphones over cardboard and parachute pants such neighborhood clubs allowed young turks like Bear to evolve while keeping them out of trouble in skinflint environments like Logan Square. Truthfully...there might have been parachute pants involved, but that’s a question for the man himself. From then on he was running in the rabidly talented Chi-town wolfpack alongside Derrick Carter, DJ Sneak, Bad Boy Bill, Mark Farina etc—and he, like the rest, did his time working at landmark wax store Gramaphone; playing out at Chicago mainstays like Crobar, Karma, Shelter, Redno 5 and Zentra; setting up his own production company (What I’ve Been Through Productions) and putting out singles on, among other labels, Dust Traxx. The latter, for good or evil has become a rite of passage for any respectable Chicago DJ. One major by-product of life in the heart of a city so rich in its musical heritage is the opportunity to build a diverse palette.
And Bear has—from Italy and Brazil to Germany and the UK, Bear has kindly walloped crowds over the head with his self-dubbed “Mental Musicale”—a soulfully kinetic jambalaya of disco, salsa, techno and Latin-influenced “house hop” rhythmus shot thorough from alpha to omega with his own on-the-spot freestyle, rap and spoken word: Willie Colon and El Gran Combo on a steamy double date with Afrika Bambatta and Kraftwerk at Studio 54. He’s astutely aware that audiences are beginning to want more from a DJ than cross fading. “In Europe mix shows are pop. You can hear Green Velvet alongside Coldplay, and Americans are starting to feel this. The days of put your hands in the air, ‘Praise this and praise that and praise everyone,’ are over.
People are bored; they’re expecting DJs to be artists and†performers. We need to elevate our game. When I go out most of the time I’m wondering, ‘Where is the show?’ I make the show—an all-in-one show of Chicago soul. I grab the mic and perform everything live.” Bear Who? is responsible for the 2003 dance chart slayer "Fix My Sink", with remixes by the Grammy Award Winning duo "Basement Jaxx." The song produced by Mark Bell of Bjork and Simply Red fame, along with Dj Sneak, marked Bear Who?'s first excursion into the world of music television and world wide dance fame.
The "Fix My Sink" video was filmed in alleyways around Queen West in Toronto. The song and video subsequently hit #1 for 13 weeks on the legendary Radio 1 BBC dance show hosted by legendary Pete Tong, number 10 on the MTV UK Video Charts and #25 on the Radio 1 Pop Charts. “Fix my Sink” also landed in the hands of world famous dance collective Ministry of Sound UK and Australia hitting the pop charts at # 10 down under. Bear Who?’s popularity grew even higher when Dj Sneak, Mark Bell and Todd Terry (“Everything But the Girl”) collaborated for a fiery single titled “Que Pasa,” now featured on AOL music sessions live exclusively for Grammy Nominated Dj and Artist, Armand Van Helden. “FMS” proved Bear’s ability to conceive and execute grade-A floor burners that garner equal respect in the worlds of dance and hip-hop; consequently his discomfiture at perceiving himself low-man in the “Mongoloids” has eased.
If you’re not familiar, the aforementioned is a loosely formed, tightly knit brotherhood of badasses including The Basement Jaxx, Roger Sanchez, Sneak, Armand Van Helden, Junior Sanchez and Daft Punk. Time for one “Hurrah!” and it’s back to work. He’s not nearly satisfied. Bear’s recent remix of Grammy Award-winning artist Kelly Rolland’s “Stole” blew people’s pants off.
Scratch that, it caused people’s pants to evaporate. Bear has completed riding his rail in the studios with the completion of his first artist album, “The Beatbox.” This album is a fusion of Hip Hop meeting House music in a way that only Bear Who? has the ability to portray. A new idea and sound that has the first music video completed as well as the backing of 2 additional music videos, full media blitz, tour and some of the best remixers in the Dance game (Greenskeepers, CZR and DJ Rush to name a few). The Beatbox is also the first single off the album.
When asked to explain the title his reply is simply, “The Beatbox is my brain. House music smoothed out on a Hip Hop tip with Pop appeal.” A fair answer and one that illicits curiosity and hope...for there’s much more than kitchen appliances that need a’fixin in the US scene, and it appears that Bear’s brain might be just the tool we’re looking for. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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