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The Daily Wildcat


DJ Pike Romero talks hip hop influences

Amber Ramirez

Dj Pike Romero, who uses the moniker Smash Lames, talks about the music that inspires him on March 20. Romero is a prominent figure in Tucson’s hip-hop scene, creating the Tucson Hip Hop Festival and the website, WeAreBugginOut.

When it comes to Tucson hip-hop, it’s almost impossible to miss DJ Pike Romero. 

Romero, aka Smash Lames, is a DJ in the Tucson area and the director of Tucson’s Hip Hop Festival. The Daily Wildcat had a chance to interview him about what inspires him and who he looks up to in hip-hop.

DW: Who inspires you in hip hop?

PR: A lot of West Coast music like Snoop Dogg and Mac Dre is what I grew up on. DJ-wise, Grandmaster Flash and DJ Skribble and just those old-school pioneers as they blew open doors. 

Currently, I am influenced by a lot of stuff and it’s mostly localized hip-hop, as it’s my main focus now. 

Growing up, what were your favorite albums?

I was listening to a lot of different stuff ranging from In my Lifetime by Jay Z to Doggystyle by Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre’s Chronic. Those are really big influences when it comes to what I was listening to in high school.

RELATED: Grandmaster Flash speaks at Crowder Hall to cap off Black History Month at UA

I think the main albums are those five-mic albums that are classics and stick out in my mind.

When you are DJing, what is your mindset?

When I’m DJing, I like to feel out the crowd a little bit. I do not have a specific lane that I want to go with. 

As a DJ, you want people to dance and feel good about the music you’re playing. I also have this thing where I want to break records. Overall, it is mainly to get the crowd feeling good and show them there is dope music out there. 

If it is Club Congress, you know you are going to play anthems all night. If it is Hi Fi, you’re playing nothing but more EDM [electronic dance music]. 

Zen Rock, you’re playing more trap stuff, so it just depends. It is all about maintaining your style.

What are you currently listening to? Both locally and nationally.

Nationally, Jonwayne’s Rap Album Two is [mostly what] I have been listening to. D’Angelo’s Black Messiah is all I have been listening to for the past three days, but that’s because my auxiliary cord broke in my car. I have not peeped the new Drake or Rick Ross yet, but hopefully I will have a chance to go to the store and get a new cord. 

Locally, Combine Vibes just dropped a new song, and Cash Lansky just had an incredible release party this past Friday; that [was for] a really cool album called The Cool Table. 

There is a group called Headlock here in town and they have a new album coming out later this year. Nobody has heard it yet but I have been playing it pretty heavily, and Lando Chill’s new stuff.

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From your childhood to now, how has the Tucson scene changed?

When I was 18, there was nothing. I looked for shows happening in Tucson and I could not find anything. 

I went to one b-boy jam in the early 2000s and it opened my mind up, but it was very breakdancer-orientated. It kind of grew from there. 

They had some rap battles popping off, like “8 Mile.” They used to have rap battles in Tucson called mic fights, and that helped elevate the scene. That was a staple for most of the 2000s and I heard it while I was in Oklahoma City. 

When I returned, I just sat back for about two years to see what was going on. I was focusing more on managing and less on DJing, so I was just focusing on artists and website stuff. In 2013, I decided I would just focus on local Tucson hip-hop. 

What do you feel is the current state of hip-hop?

I like it. I think as a listener, you’re getting hit with a bunch of new stuff all of the time. There is such a variety that it is hard for you not to find something to like. Even if it is Playboy Carti or Yachty, each of their songs probably has something you can enjoy. It is also definitely a generational thing, as West Coast music was definitely a big influence on me. 

You ask an East Coast dude and he is obviously going to say it’s whack. I listen to everything. I listen to Gucci Mane and Mr. Lif and I listen to just producers and DJs and scratch records. 

I try to listen to everything as much as possible to have a good range and balance of what is current, dope and what I like. At home, just because I am a DJ too, I have over 3,000 records and probably five terabytes of music.

Where did the nickname Smash Lames come from?

I just wanted to make a new moniker. From high school to basically 2010, people were calling me DJ Jafar. It was given to me by some friends, but I never really liked the name. It was really funny, but I still did not enjoy it. ‘I was actually in Oklahoma City for my college years and I moved back to Tucson and decided I wanted to change my name. 

I just thought it was dope. It was kind of braggadocios I guess and you cannot see my pedigree.

If someone was getting into rap, what would you recommend?

I think I would suggest watching movies such as “Style Wars” and “Wildstyle,” listen to Madvillainy by MF Doom and watch “the Breaks.” Cinema is a big part of hip-hop, and I think it gets left out a lot. Movies like “Juice,” “Boyz in the Hood,” “Don’t be a Menace,” and “Menace II to Society” all play a part. 

Can you talk about why Madvillainy is your favorite?

At the time, I was living with two friends in Oklahoma City and it was just something we were really into. The syllable rhyme schemes and Doom’s style of rapping just captivated me. The odd banter he talks about and the way he says it is just so odd. All of that just blew my mind, and the production from Madlib was not ordinary at all. Using TV show sample flips and a SP-303 was just interesting.

If you could have dinner with any two hip-hop artists/producers, who would it be?

This is probably going to sound cliché, but it would be Biggie and Tupac. They are probably the greatest, well not the greatest, but they are so legendary. There is just so many questions to be asked at that dinner. 

Doom and Madlib would be awesome as well. There is so many different combinations that you would want to talk to and try to get in-depth with. 

Even when you are on tour with other artists, you don’t even get to sit down that much to hang out and talk unless you are on the road for a really long time.

Who do you think is the greatest?

Black Thought of the Roots. He is perfect every time and he is versatile. He may not have a solo album, but he is the lead artist of the Roots. 

The Roots have put out so many albums that those are practically his solo albums, and every night on Jimmy Fallon he is just doing all of the different stuff. He is my No. 1 hands down whenever that conversation comes up.

I bet that gets debated a lot. He is never in the top 10.

He never pops up and I always tell people that, too. I guess I have heard his name a few times but only from the hip-hop elite that know he is that good. He bodies everyone on the tracks.

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