The man: Mark Cruz (formerly DJ Style; currently known as Question)
The music: A conversation with Question will inevitably bring up “The Golden Era of Hip-Hop”—a period from the ’80s through the ’90s, when old-school players like him say all the quality hip-hop came out. Back in the ’90s, when he was still spinning records as DJ Style, he’d play the jazzy hip-hop of the time with some straight-up jazz, funk and soul thrown in for good measure.
“I would call that my DNA as far as when people say, ‘What do you play?’” Question says. “Nowadays, people consider radio music hiphop, and I don’t. I’m lucky enough to say that I came from an era when we were playing really good music. Like, we were playing [A] Tribe Called Quest when it was valid. I’m dating myself, aren’t I?” Question still has crates of vinyl, and, because he was spinning before DJing went digital, he never gave up on analog.
“Serato [digital DJ system] does not make a DJ,” he says, bemoaning some of the younger DJs he says don’t seem to know who produced the samples they play in their sets.
These days, Question makes beats. He sticks with the sort of jazzy hip-hop he grew up with and produces the kind of music he truly digs. He’s already been picked up by Japanese record labels and has dropped two albums: Study Guide in 2009 and Standard Translation earlier this year.
The scene: First, a bit of history. Question was one of the first DJs to do live mixing on radio shows. He and his friend DJ Rags did a weekend show on San Diego’s Z90 back when Question was still in college.
“Talk about paying dues,” he says. “I’m talking about six-hour, live-mix shows where we start at 6 p.m. and get off at 1 a.m.”
An art director by day, Question doesn’t do the radio gig anymore and rarely DJs, but he’s currently working with DJ Charlie Rock on a new monthly Golden Era hip-hop night. They haven’t yet decided on a venue.
“We’ll also be playing funk, soul, breaks,” he says. “The usual recipe.”
Who’s CityBeat talking to next?: “Definitely CROS1,” Question says. “Cros has done a lot for the hip-hop community—period. I mean, the guy gave birth to Freestyle Sessions.”