DJ Mr. B has been playing records for around 12 years now and shows no signs of slowing down. Transplanted from Baltimore to be with his kids, family and community are his inspiration, whether behind the tables or up on stage with The Blacknotes, a top band aiming for soul in Portland's shoes. Check them backing up local hiphop group Sirens Echo at PCC Sylvania this Friday, Feb 20, or catch Mr. B every Wednesday at Shanghai Tunnel.
How did you get started DJing?
I got stuck in New York for a weekend, and I stayed at this woman's house. She had all these records she didn't want, so she hooked me up with all these Latin and soul jazz records. That's what I made my first set from, at Club Midnight back in Baltimore. After that, I just started doing a lot of house parties and worked my way into a couple club nights doing house, y'know, back when house was just in the gay community.
What are your thoughts on playing in Portland vs. Baltimore?
I'm starting to like Portland a lot. It's a good place to base yourself if you're doing music. You have to hustle, though, extra hard. I've been here about seven years and I'm just starting to get used to it. The one thing that was hardest was growing up in Baltimore I had like a 400-person, built-in audience with all my friends, y' know, and here I've just had to learn how to build up an audience from nothing.
What brought you to wanting to play soul music?
When I got going, a lot of my records were from my parents and grandparents. So I had a lot of classic, old, funky soul, which is really easy to rock--but I try to come at it a little sideways by rocking some of the more obscure shit over the same stuff that everybody does.
It's also a really good reference point for American music. It's an important time historically for black people and an easy focus for whites, too. Even though 30 years later cats couldn't say who the Funk Brothers were, people remember every aspect of those songs and what they were doing in their lives' when it came out. Its appeal is timeless. That's pretty much where my life started; everything seems to lead back, for me, to Motown. It was built into my upbringing, because the music was everywhere. CHAZZ MADRIGAL