San Diego's DJ Jam used to carry a camcorder with him everywhere. He recorded "Doggystyle" studio sessions, while on tour with Dr. Dre and while out doing shows with Snoop. He'd press "record" until the tape was full, switch it out for a new one, then hit "record" again. Once he was back home, he would empty his camera and dump the tapes in a box for storage. If he got clowned for always filming back then, he doesn't now -- when outlets like MTV and VH1 are looking for classic Death Row era footage, DJ Jam is the go-to guy.
LeBron James and the Cavaliers are man-handling the Atlanta Hawks on a flat screen TV in Jam's home office, there's a low hum from a fish tank, the game's muted, and he's sitting behind an organized black desk with his dog, sharing bits and pieces of West Coast rap history. There's the time he went up against Evil E (Ice-T's DJ) at the regional DMC competition in LA. Before Ice-T met Coco, he was with Darlene, rap's original bombshell, and Jam remembers -- she was there.
He also worked on "Real N----s Do Real Things" with the Notorious B.I.G.
"Puffy flew Biggie and Cease out to LA," Jam remembers. 'We went in the studio and basically I had to come up with everything -- over a box of blunts."
Jam's idea, a radio show call-in, was not only the first time an artist had his own feature mix tape, but it was also one of the early opportunities at breaking the New York rapper on the West Coast. B.I.G. was buzzing in NYC, but at that time, not too many people outside the city had heard much about him. So Jam asked the Brooklyn MC if he would mind rapping over West Coast instrumentals. B.I.G. liked the idea.
"So we sat there and did a song called 'Real N----s Do Real Things,'" Jam said.
Another time, Jam was DJing a Greek show at San Diego State, "back when people got mad when you're at a party and people are trying to groove and somebody gets on the mic," Jam said, when he let a pre-Dogg Pound Kurupt rap over the beginning of En Vogue's "Hold On." It was around '89-'90, before Death Row Records, before Kurupt blew. But after hearing him rap, Jam knew Kurupt had it.
"This dude rock[ed] for, like, 10 minutes straight," said Jam, who has that on cassette, too. He taped his set and recorded Kurput's freestyle but Jam doesn't think he has ever played it for anyone, not even Kurupt.
Once, during one of Snoop Dogg's early recording sessions, he said, "I'm in the studio while we're making 'Doggystyle'; Jimmy Iovine, back in the corner, sweating because Dre's going over his deadline. So he's in the studio with us now, like, making sure, like, 'Ah,you guys, like ... hurry up!' And Dre's like, 'Psssh! Forget a deadline. I don't believe in deadlines. It's done when I say it's done.'"
After sharing that peek into the beat doctor's legendary perfectionism, Jam added: "Dre's always been like that."
The Cavaliers roll over the Hawks with no resistance, LeBron showing no pity. There's still no sound, and the fish tank is still humming, and Jam's dog is still resting. Before we wrap it up, he laughs and says, "See, that's history, man. I ain't told this -- nobody's heard the story."