Kool DJ Red Alert Says Thank You on His Last KISS FM Show

[caption id="attachment_37361" align="alignnone" width="640" caption="DJ Red Alert performs at the Birth of the Boom Hip Hop Festival at the Paradise Theater in New York City, October, 2011. Photo: Johnny Nunez/WireImage"]DJ Red Alert[/caption]

Anyone who was around while hip hop was finding its legs in the mid-'80s (or, like me, has seen documentaries like Scratch and Beats, Rhymes and Life) is familiar with the name  DJ Red Alert. As a mix show DJ and owner of a small management company, he helped break acts like A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah and the Jungle Brothers while hip hop was still a small circle of bubbling new talent. Last weekend Red Alert performed his last mix on the now-defunct Kiss FM. Twenty-nine years later, he still remembers his first mix vividly. “I would play a variety, everything from dance, R&B, hip hop, rap, I was collaborating and lubing everything together,” he tells Hive. “I remember the first record I opened with in my mix was "Pleasure of Love" by the Tom Tom Club.”

Listening to DJ Red Alert’s last two hour set on Kiss FM is like stepping into a musical time capsule of New York City's rich urban music history. For the first hour, Red Alert spun funk, rhythm and soul classics, and stuck to old-school hip hop cuts for the second. Most people think of old-school hip hop and '70s funk and soul as natural musical complements, but for Red Alert, the birth of hip hop was a decisive break in the Urban radio tradition. “I remember in the beginning when I played hip hop at the time, there was still an audience that was reluctant …That’s why I kept it separate,” he explains to Hive. “[I did] the same thing on the last two shows.”  Trying to get Red Alert to pick his favorite beat in the mix is impossible, and he says trying to do so would get his head “bobbling like crazy.” He does cite “Apache” by the Incredible Bongolo Band as the “hip hop national anthem,” though, because it’s “the standard song, record, that means a lot to the hip hop culture.”

Red Alert is one of the few pioneers of hip hop still practicing his trade today, likely because like most successful DJs, he is a chameleon. “You have to adapt to change,” he says. “Certain things do not stay the same forever.” Like most 21st century turntablists, he uses the digital DJ software Serato, and is well-versed in digital lingo and platforms (when I asked him if he had a SoundCloud, he dutifully replied, “Of course!”). His most valuable asset, though, will always be his reputation. “One thing I’m proud to say is that I still have a valued name to take me to different avenues and different places,” he shares with Hive. “But I’ve learned to pick and choose what’s right for me… [I’m] keeping my eyes open, and looking forward to continuing.”