APRIL DJ OF THE MONTH:
DJ CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO
I recently sat down for a one on one interview with St. Louis icon, DJ Charlie Chan Soprano. This man right here has achieved so much in his 30 year career. From founding and being a part of a successful group of deejays known as the “24 SCIENTISTS”, to deejaying for hip hop legend DMC (RUN-DMC), Charlie Chan Soprano shared so much with me during our conversation. I definitely felt his passion and love for deejaying as he told his story. In addition to being a DJ, he also has a profound respect for the culture. He is my FRIEND FOR LIFE and I certainly look forward to future conversations with him! A master of his craft and a truly humble individual, I introduce to you DJ Charlie Chan Soprano:
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: Hey Charlie!!!!!!
CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO : Hey hey what’s up girl?!!
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: How are you doing?
CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO: I’m good, I’m doing a mixtape for my friend.
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: Really?! COOL! I am so excited to talk to you.
CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO: (laughing) I’m excited myself.
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: YES! Let’s get this going…How did you get started as a DJ?
CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO: Well when I was growing up it was just me and my mother. She was a single mom. My mother had this record player (turntable) that played 45s when I was 6 years old. From time to time she would tell me to put the 45 on the record player and showed me how to do it. Also I heard the song “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa. I thought it was a dope record. My cousin did a mixtape and just seeing him mix songs together made me want to be a DJ.
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: How long have you been deejaying?
CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO: Since 1982.
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: Okay now I have been so intrigued with the name of your group 24 SCIENTISTS. Is there a special meaning behind the name? And how did the group get started?
CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO: Well back in 1994 me, D2 tha C, and Rod X were looking for a studio that we could record our mixtapes for free. We came across this owner named Drexel and his friends David and Darrien, and at the time they owned SAINTS ( skating rink), The Ambassador, and The Loft. David and Darrien had a recording studio called D2 Studios and they were also the first people to sign Nelly and the St. Lunatics. They asked us who we were. Rod X suggested that we become a group and come up with a really good name to tell those guys. We then thought of the name 24 SCIENTISTS. The name 24 SCIENTISTS is from revelations. In the Islamic religion, 24 SCIENTISTS were also known as the Twenty Four Elders, or The Councils of the Gods. Of the Twenty-Four, there are Twelve Major Scientists and Twelve Minor Scientists. Now of the Twelve Major Scientists, there is one that is above all of them. He is Allah. The Twenty Four Elders were also responsible for writing history.
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: Very interesting! I had no idea on the meaning of 24 SCIENTISTS.
CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO: Yeah……with us we’re not just a group. We are a brotherhood/sisterhood, we’re a family. Anybody just can’t join 24 SCIENTISTS. We have to feel a connection to you. It’s very spiritual for us. and we must know your character. Take DJ EPIC for example; he introduced himself to me one day at Cuetopia. We got to talking and I noticed a DJ controller that he had and it was real nice. I said to him , “Hey that’s a nice controller.” He told me, “here take it home with you to try it out” and then said I can use it whenever I want to. I said no but Epic insisted. Just the fact that he let me use the controller and told me I can get it anytime I wanted showed how nice he was and that he had a good character. Another time Epic came over to my house and we hung out. D2 tha C had been to talking with Epic via Facebook and later on came up to me and said, “Hey Charlie how come Epic ain’t part of 24 SCIENTISTS?” Those are examples; it’s a personal connection. 24 SCIENTISTS is a family. On Monday nights we get together at my house. We sit around and play video games or as I call it “BEAT DOWN SESSIONS” on the Playstation 3. I also have enlightening sessions where we will sit down and the older members will talk to the younger members and just try to give them some knowledge on life in general. Sometimes we could start at like 8:00 pm and go as long as 3:00 am. That’s just how we do as a family. Nobody in the family ever needs or wants for nothing. Four family members have their own home studio. Two family members are graphic artists. One has a degree in Engineering and another one has a degree in Mass Communications. Three family members also are photographers and we also have one that is a Neo-Soul singer. Every family member in our circle does something special.
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: That is awesome! To have a bond like that is just a beautiful thing.
CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO: It sure is. I like keeping good people close to me.
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: You are currently with HOT 104.1 doing the Throwback at Noon. How long have you been doing it?
CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO: Well DJ SNO and myself got hired by RADIO ONE on September 11, 2000. At the time it was Q95.5. That radio station was a R&B/Hip Hop station in competition with 100.3 The Beat. I brought on Stan the Man, DJ Needles and C-Note as well. I did not know that they were trying to get me on board. We changed music in St. Louis by playing local artists and 100.3 The beat wasn’t doin’ that. My boss at the time told me it was a requirement to play the hottest songs in rotation. He also told us that he better not hear the other station (100.3 The Beat) play it before us or else it was gonna be a problem. I remember one time he came up to me and asked , “How come Lights, Camera, Action is not being played?” There was a real popular song out by Mr. Cheeks called “Lights, Camera, Action”. Everybody was calling in asking for that song. I told my boss, “The song is in rotation and it has been played.” He then told me, “Oh it is? Well then how come you’re not playing it right now?” We had to make sure that 100.3 The Beat wasn’t out doing us. We was playing Chingy, Petey Pablo, and we was the first to play Kanye West’s song “Through The Wire”. I hated when Crunk music, or what I like to call N**** S***, took over! I tried to hold out as long as I could before playing crunk music. C-Note was the one that really got me to play crunk music. He told me, “Charlie you got to come on board with it man.” At the time C-Note had these mixtapes called CRUNKFEST. I always listen to people that want to see me succeed. A lot of people would say “You ain’t on nothing but that EAST COAST s***!” But to me east coast rappers have this nice smooth R&B feel to their music and they can flow. So I was playing cats like Jadakiss, Young Gunz, Jay Z and pretty much anybody from Roc-A-Fella period. I didn’t mind Lil’ Jon, I met him a few years back and was familiar with his music. In 2004 Q95.5 became a contemporary R&B station known as FOXY 95.5. Everyone at Q95.5 got fired but then rehired later on when it became HOT 104.1. I’ve been doing Throwback at Noon since 2006.
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: Well I tell you what back in the day I really liked listening to Q95.5. And you on the Throwback at Noon, man you be showing out. You be playing everything from my favorite rap group OUTKAST to Mobb Deep, De La Soul, Tupac, Biggie, the list just goes on.
CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO: Right, thank you. Speaking of Mobb Deep, they had their hit song “Quiet Storm”. Now before Lil’ Kim got on the remix, a lot of DJs wasn’t really playing it. Everybody was like man that remix dope, but I was like the song was already dope before Lil Kim got on the track (laughing). Right now, my boss at HOT 104.1 be like “Charlie you playing too much De La Soul or you playing too many hood records.” I tell him that’s what the listeners want to hear. He also told me I play too many male rappers. I told him that the women listeners prefer the songs by male rappers over the ones by females.
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: You are so right Charlie! In my collection of rap albums, I have more male artists than I do female. I have male rappers like DMX, Eazy-E, Yo-Gotti, Rich Homie Quan,Tupac, Biggie, Master P, NAS, etc, in my collection. Some of my female friends be looking at me like, “Really girl?! You got Eazy- E in your car.” (laughing) I’m like “What’s wrong with Eazy-E?” There’s nothing wrong with the female artists, but that’s what I like.
CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO: EXACTLY, and that’s what I was saying. I know what I’m talking about.
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: Now you are DMC’s (Run-DMC) personal DJ. I saw you on The Queen Latifah Show a few months ago. I saw DMC on stage rapping with Queen Latifah and then they showed you doing your thang on the turntables. I looked and was like, “Is that Charlie Chan Soprano?” I looked again and said “THAT IS CHARLIE!” (laughing) You was doing it! How did you and DMC connect?
CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO: Thank you! Well okay let me take you back to the night Tupac died, which was September 13, 1996. I was in Lawrence, Kansas competing in a DJ battle competition. I competed against a local DJ named DJ Rice. I beat him and won the competition by using the “Peter Piper” record by RUN-DMC. My prize was $500 and the chance to open up for RUN-DMC. I found out that two of the judges did not want me to win. They thought that since I was a popular DJ from St. Louis that I was going to be arrogant. Two weeks later, I get back to St. Louis and RUN-DMC was at Club Evolution performing where I was a regular DJ. They were coming off stage and I saw Jam Master Jay and asked him he could stand here for a minute. I got on the mic and announced to everyone that I won a contest in Kansas and would be opening up for RUN-DMC. I performed the same “Peter Piper” routine that I did in the competition. After I performed at the concert in north Kansas, Jam Master Jay and I got to talk a while and then he told me that Run-DMC was having a concert and asked me, “How would you like to open and close for Run-DMC?” Jay also told me up front that there was no money involved but if I stick with him he would set something up for me. I was like cool. Then on Easter Sunday in 1997, I met Jermaine Dupri and Da Brat when I went to a SO-SO DEF party at Club Kaya in Atlanta. DJ Nads was always the regular DJ at Club Kaya on Sundays and he was also rap group Kris Kross’ personal DJ. While I was deejaying Jermaine and Da Brat was handing me my records. Later on that night I got to talking with Da Brat and she asked me to be her DJ. I didn’t find out until later on that Jam Master Jay had set that whole meeting up. So from 1997-1999 I was deejaying for Da Brat but still at the same time was opening shows for RUN-DMC. Jam Master Jay passed away on October 30, 2002. A couple of years later I ran into DMC, and me and him got to talk and catch up on old times. DMC decided to become a solo artist and asked me to be his DJ and I have been since 2004. I am also RUN-DMC’s DJ as well. I have been all over the world touring with DMC. Places like Japan, New Amsterdam, Columbia. We was getting so much love overseas. The people over in those countries would run up to us in the street and hug us. DMC and I made history by performing in Vietnam. We was the first to be able to perform in their country. I also toured with DMC in the US. I got a chance to be around LL Cool J a few times. LL didn’t know at the time that I was DMC’s DJ until he said something about it. LL looked and said , “ Who’s Charlie?” and then he looked at me and said, “Him?! I thought that big muthaf**** was security!” (laughing) LL used to see me get people out of our way when they would run up to us. I still have to be reminded that I’m DMC’s DJ. Fans would come up to ask him for an autograph and I’ll be getting out of the way. DMC would look at me and say, “You, come over here. You’re suppose to be over here with me.” That’s how much respect I have for him. I still get excited when I meet somebody in the industry that I have never met before. I love being a DJ. I could not imagine myself doing anything else.
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: That is so cool! You have definitely lived. To be able to experience all that and remain so humble is just very touching. So since you have been deejaying, how many mixtapes do you have?
CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO: Awwww let me see. Girl you gonna make me go back and dig through my stuff! (laughing) I would say between 25 to 30 mixtapes. Now majority of them are a actual cassette tape because back in the day that’s what you used to make a “mixtape”. At the time I didn’t believe in copying mixtapes until my deck broke (laughing), from that point on I was doing it. I didn’t start using CDs til 1997. I was selling my mixtapes at Mr. Manns and Deep Grooves
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: Okay, are there any local artists or celebrity music artists you loved working with? Who is your favorite?
CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO: Well I liked working with Dangerous D a.k.a D-Rebel. Him and I did a vinyl back in 1987 called “Power of Soul” and the b-side was called “He’s my DJ”. The mixtape was a tribute to the late James Brown and we also shot a music video that you can find on YouTube. D-Rebel passed away in a car accident in Killeen, Texas. St. Louis producer Luqman and St. Louis rapper Ram Rilla (Ram Love) were my favorite artists to work with. Ram Rilla had two popular singles in The Lou. One was called “Background Check” and the other was called “ St. Louis City” where he was giving shoutouts to all the gang sets in the city. Some people were like, “Wait a minute! This guy is shouting out gang members!” Ram Rilla did the “St. Louis City” remix with Chingy and Richie Rich.
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: Cool, what is your favorite DJ equipment to use?
CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO: The technique 1200s (turntables) but I do like controllers. It just depends on the type of gig I have for me to see which one I will use. I had a wedding reception I did one time and for that I took my controller. Controllers are much easier to carry because it’s less equipment. They have a lot of different effects on them that you can use which I think is pretty cool. I recently deejayed at Macy’s at Mid Rivers Mall in St. Peters and at West County Mall in Des Peres. I brought my controller and the people were very impressed. One guy said , “Wow! Look what he brought.” He later told me that there was one guy they hired to DJ and all he brought was his laptop and just mixed the music on there. You know there are software programs where you can mix tracks and you don’t need a controller or turntables hooked up to the laptop. When that guy told me that I said okay I will never do that. You know you still have to be professional out here.
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: That is so true. Are there any current and/or upcoming projects that you have coming out?
CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO: Yes. I currently have GANGSTA BOOGIE with DJ Boogie Corleone out. Be on the look out for GANGSTA BOOGIE 2! I have a mixtape coming out called “I USED 2 LOVE HER”, it’s gonna be a mix of neo-soul and hip hop. I also have a mixtape I’m working on right now with DJ Kimmy Nu called “The Rookie Meets The Legend”. It’s going to have neo-soul and hip hop artists such as De La Soul, Mos Def, The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, Troy Ave, and other similar artists. Also DJ Witz and myself are working on a mixtape that will be acapella over reggae music. I am producing for DMC as well.
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: That’s gonna be real good! I love that GANGSTA BOOGIE mixtape! You and DJ Boogie Corleone laid that out from beginning to end. Where are some places in The Lou that the local people can see you DJ?
CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO: Thank You. I can be seen at Cuetopia II in Florissant on Tuesdays, LOLA in Downtown St. Louis on Fridays, and EXO in Downtown St. Louis on Saturdays.
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: And there you have it y’all! Charlie I really enjoyed this interview. You have told me so much. I look forward to the next time we do this again.
CHARLIE CHAN SOPRANO: Me too. We gonna have to talk again real soon.
TIFFANY LASHONDA RILEY: YES!!! We will!