Interview: Cosmo Baker Speaks Art Education, Skating, Graffiti & More

Interview: Cosmo Baker Speaks Art Education, Skating & Graffiti

photo by Dan Raff

Brooklyn’s Cosmo Baker is set to spin at the Wexner Center’s Off the Grid Party on Saturday, March 8th. Local support will be provided by George Brazil and Nick Toldford & Co. Cosmo Baker is a heavily revered deejay. Cosmo has been spinning for 23 years so unless you want me to include a 2000 page resume as a PDF let’s just say he helped found the World Famous dance party the Rub in Brooklyn, and is a Philly-Bred guy who has done mixes for everyone on the planet including the Roots Picnic. I interviewed Mr. Baker for the Columbus Free Press During the interview Mr. Baker spoke on the passing of Philly writer CR Star, and his own graffiti background. He also discussed devils, skateboading and Ohio funk. I figured the full interview would be of interest to the readers over here.

The event you are playing is a fund raiser for Art Education programs. What is the importance of art education to you?

Art is this intangible thing that moves the world. I mean art, in any form, moves people personally, and that feeling matriculates through relationships and families and communities. It’s such an integral component of human communication and interaction. And now these days when arts programs are being gutted from schools and for the most part young kids only exposure to are comes in the form of public art and advertising, it’s crucial that we all do our best to continue educating other about the importance of art in all aspects of society. So yeah, things like this mean a great deal to me. If it weren’t for my art education, I wouldn’t be the man I am today.

You are coming to Columbus, and I know you are a record guy… What are your top 3 Ohio Funk/Soul Records? 

Dude that is NOT a fair question. I’ve said this so many times – Ohio is the funkiest state in the union! You have Roger Troutman. You have Slave. You have Bootsy Collins. You have Dazz. You have Heatwave! YOU CANNOT ASK ME TO JUST CHOOSE THREE. But, if I must, I’ll say The O’Jay’s “Darling Darling Baby” cause of the Philly connection, I’d probably say Ohio Players “Pride And Vanity” and then you have The Isley Brothers and I mean HOW CAN I CHOOSE ONE ISLEY BROTHERS SONG?!? Okay, The Isley Brother “Keep On Doin’” which is what I will pick at this very exact moment.

When I was reading about the Roots picnic.  Okayplayer referred to you as the least hate-able deejay. How does one go about earning that title?

Well man who wrote that and do they really know me hahah?? No I don’t know about that, I mean I am a pretty humble dude and I am just a regular guy. I try to relate to everyone cause we’re all just people and on this rock that’s flying through the universe. So no need to stress the bullshit you know? All in all, I am just really happy and grateful that I am here on the planet and for the things I’ve seen and for what I get to do. I guess you can’t really hate on that.

Have you ever been on Jimmy Fallon?

I’m currently waiting for my big break. Ahmir WHAT THE DEAL YO?!?

My friend told me you are 5 Percenter. I have a heathy respect for the NGE. Even if you aren’t a 5 Percenter……What public figure would you consider to be a devil? And why?

Hahah, well I’m not a Percenter but I grew up around a lot of folk that were involved with the doctrine and having being a part of The Nation as an everyday part of their lives. I definitely studied my lessons and learned all the math and it an important part of my development as a man and also for my worldview, but I am non religious and feel very happy that way. Even though I was raised Jewish, NGE to me is just as much a structure that has as many cultural implications as it does with religious connotation. So PEACE to all the Gods and Earths out there and to all my extended family that I’ve known for years. But to answer your question, there’s no real personification of The Devil. The Devil is in all of us. The Devil is symbolic of our own personal inabilities to be connected with one another and with our place in this U-N-I-Verse and our own shortcomings and our own inability to strive for greatness and perfection, allowing ourselves to fall victim to the pitfalls that are laid out in front of us. This i just my own opinion. One just has to always do for self, and doing for self means doing the right thing. Always.

Your arsenal is crazy.  You can go rap, doo-wop, reggae, house…..pretty much anything…I think I was just listening to 

Madonna’s “Vogue” during one of your mixes.

What music will you be playing at the Wexner Center?

Yo word up Madonna has that heat. No I think that’s a version that my friend Them Jeans did a few years ago and it smacks in the club. But for the show at The Wexner Center I think I am just going to be really groovy and get the people dancing. Each show is different and each show I approach as its own entity. So you’re probably gonna hear some dance music and some raps and some oldies and a bunch of stuff that will be pretty cool. I dunno, I like to surprise myself so I may fuck around and get on the mic and do some singing and rapping and dancing!

If I were a woman introducing you to my parents what part of your deejay career would I make my talking point? 

Hahaha, that’s a good one! Probably that I’ve been able to keep this as a career without really falling into arrested development! I mean, I’m kind of a giant walking talking adult child and all. But no, for real, you can tell ‘em I DJed inside The Guggenheim twice already!

If I were a journalist how long would I say you have been deejaying for?

If you were a journalist… You can tell them that I’ve been DJing for about 23 years. If you were talking dog years I think that would be 161.

You commonly talk about the holy trinity of youth culture—-skateboarding, graffiti, and rap music.

CR Star died recently. As a Philly guy what does his passing mean to you?

Wow I’m very impressed that you mentioned this. First off RIP to Corey – he was an original Philly king and infinite respect to his legacy and to his friends and family. It’s unfortunate that he passed away but it definitely makes me think about his impact. Here was a guy that was on top of his game in her era and then, years later decided to come back out and attack the block in a way that only a seasoned vet could. Definitely makes you think about the voracity in which some people approach their art and craft. And so much of that really speaks to the Philly graffiti game.

When did you start writing? And what crews did you paint with?

Well I was always interested in writing even back in the early 80s but it was when I was about 13 when I actually started to WRITE. I started with the name Astro and I would completely bite Estro’s whole style. After that I ran through a bunch of names – Shred, Klown, Loki, Esel, and then I kinda started getting up with the name Denek. Then in the early 90s I switched my whole steez up and started writing Cypher – and it was with that name that I really stated doing damage. I wasn’t really with a crew for a while but was writing with my man Ari (Design 29) which was kinda the beginning of the On The Go thing. My crew with Denek was WAB and that’s always my first and foremost crew, and I’ll always rep that crew no question, but also in the early 90s I started running with Chicago (RIP) and Menace so out of that I was put down with TUK. In the mid-90s Espo put me down with ICY and so I also repped that crew and come the late 90s – early 20s, after a long hiatus I came back out and started painting a lot with Cense, Kemos, Dasar and a bunch of those dudes so I started repping MSP and then started painting a lot with Speed and Nope so also started reaping IAO. It’s all crew love and those are all still my crews to this day.

I noticed you uploaded the On the Go’s Repeat Offender video to you-tube..
Is that something you discussed with Mr. Powers before doing? 

Actually no but I spoke with him about it after the fact… I found them somewhere and I don’t even know, but the whole thing was for me to put up the old Digging In The Crates part I had on there. Always found that mad funny… But who knows maybe all the On The Go stuff will go up. There’s such great footage on there!

Do you think your scratches or your hands are better?

I think that I scratch too much when I wear a wool sweater and that my hands sometimes need some hand cream during the winter cause them bitches be getting ashy! But my scratches are cool – I’m no fucking Skratch Bastid but what is a DJ if he can’t scratch? My hands are always good though. I got them GOOD hands hahaha.

If they made the Cosmo Baker bio-epic what skateboarder would you want to be your stunt double and why?

Easy, The Gonz. Why? Cause there’s nobody like him before or since.

What rap song would play during the opening and closing credits and why?

Opening credits is gonna have to be Above The Law “Untouchable” and that’s easy cause it just feels right. And I dunno maybe De La Soul “I Am I Be” for the ending, cause that just sums it up. Cause I am and I be!


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