Interview with DJ Sake1

Stefan Goldstone (a.k.a. DJ Sake 1) is coming straight out of the Fillmore district in San Francisco where “Sake 1” was first created as a graffiti pseudonym, or “tag name.” He graduated from Washington high school, went on to complete his undergraduate studies at UC Santa Cruz and has since then received his MBA in social welfare from UC Berkeley. He currently lives in the Mission and volunteers for Caduceus Outreach services which provides mental health treatment for homeless adults. Sake is also close to completing a yearlong initiation process in becoming a santero, or priest of Elegua in the Lucumi religion that has a strong historical following in such countries as Cuba and Venezuela.

To see (or better yet, hear) DJ Sake 1 in action, you better get yourself down to Levende on a Thursday night, around 10:30pm, unless you want to wait in line. The party that he throws there known as PST (Pacific Standard Time) has become a favorite local event, providing for the house-party vibe that it gives as the same faces are seen week after week, as well as the continuous newcomers. This is a grown and sexy event, so leave your colors, set-trips, and bad attitudes at home.

Thursdays, 10 p.m.
Levende Lounge
Mission, SF
$10 ($5 goes to a different charity or foundation each week)
(415) 864-5585

Q&A with Sake 1 (questions by Katina Castillo, S4HH)

1. Any particular genre of music hold weight in your home as a youngster as far as what mom and pops had playing on the regular that might have influenced your later taste in music?

A lot of jazz, which i think wound up sticking when the sampling of jazz artists in hip-hop music got popular in the early-mid 1990s. Other than that it was Motown, show tunes and every single record Barbara Streisand ever recorded.

2. How important do you feel it is for “hip-hop heads” to expand their music collections to include, for example, soul/jazz/global/etc.?

Its only important if those music genres move them and/or help facilitate their understanding of the world around them, and of themselves…art and culture is a cultural pathway; some will focus on where the path is going, while others will look back to see how far they have come.One lesson hip-hop taught me is that musical orthodoxy (and other forms of orthodoxy) is most useful for those forces outside of the culture to control, manipulate, and commodify it. Orthodoxy has proven to be one of hip-hop’s greatest enemies (ironically, those who inflict orthodoxy on it are the “preservationists” who — at least outwardly — express the highest stakes in hip-hop’s artistic relevance). After a productive and very progressive 25-30 years of hip-hop music, the new shit no longer sounds like the old shit. So what we can discern from this passing of time and sound is that the relevance of rhythmically expressed feeling and ideas is the constant, and the way harmony and music is constructed to convey those ideas is fluid.

3. What do you usually play at home? Any favorite genres at the moment? always keep it eclectic? or heavily based on hip-hop?

I barely have time to listen to music at home, but since i have around 15,000 records i try to dig deep into my collection and listen to albums/songs that i haven’t heard, don’t remember what they are, etc. That and alot of classic salsa record (Coco, Vaya, Fanua, Tico, etc).

4. How does your iniciation into the priesthood of Elegua figure into your life of hip-hop culture? Do you find a connection between the 2 or keep them separate but equally important?

I think at one point in my life, it was important for me to define myself closely with the subculture of hip-hop, because it was a rebel culture and one that related to my worldview….it was also a culture that i shared in common with most of my friends and provided a positive outlet for my ideas and emotions as a young male growing up in the Bay Area.

In retrospect i feel like my life has been a filling-in of sorts, where the different colors and shapes that construct my being are filled in (sometimes intentionally, sometimes by accident). I came into the Lukumi religion by accident and it has given me something very different from what hip-hop gave to me as a younger person….namely, a means by which to govern my life spiritually, a method of communication with my ancestors, and the skill to attune myself to spiritual mediums. Perhaps, in a metaphysical sense, this is what hip-hop did/does for me, but it feels like a different thing, because im a different person than i was back then.

5. With so much tension between the “backpacker” hip-hop community and the mainstream/hyphy fans in their efforts to define or limit what is hip-hop, have you come up with your own definition to stick by?

Definitions of music styles lends itself to orthodoxy — i am as guilty of it as the next wo/man but if im getting INTERVIEWED about it i deny doing it (ha haha). I don’t listen to too much hip-hop anymore but i do think that, again, the message is what i tune my ear to. The music has to sound tite but there’s bangin hyphy shit, theres bangin “backpack” shit and theres bangin commercial/radio shit. I like rebel music, and i reject the idea that “conscious” rap (as the college-educated hip-hop media define it) is the most revolutionary or “intelligent” hip-hop. I see this as not only classist, but anti-cultural. The real shit comes from the roots — as Amilcar Cabral said, we must return to the source.

6. What are your thoughts on the recent/current representation of the Bay (your home) by the “hyphy movement” on MTV/BET/Clear Channel airwaves?

I think its giving alot of artists who have been toiling in relative (regional) obscurity — the E-40s and San Quinns — a chance to get paid finally, which feels good for all of us who have supported them (or went to high school with them) over the past 10-15 years. The hyphy movement also is giving emerging talent like Mista F.A.B. the chance to gain national exposure without having to wait 15 years, and is bringing interest and some resources back to the Bay for the first time in a long ass time. Its important that we use these resources and opportunities intelligently, by building independent organizations and movements, because the rest of america will eventually get bored with “hyphy” music and move on to the next thing that corporate america tells them they need to be up on. But we are gonna continue making music, right? HOW WILL WE DO THAT, and WHAT WILL IT SOUND LIKE? Those are the questions we need to be prepared to answer.

7. Do you foresee eventually “retiring” from the DJ gig? Does Stefan plan to get a 9-5 eventually or continue living/eating off of Sake 1’s unconventional income?

I actually have a masters degree in social welfare from UC Berkeley and never planned to make DJing my 9-5 (or should i say 10-2). DJing is fun and can be lucrative, but the biggest appeal is that i get to spend 80% of my time absorbed in music. That said, DJing is a relatively shallow lifestyle and its not one i plan on taking into my 40s with me. I do think that, for better or worse, music and the creation and exploration of it will be a central part of my life til i die in my rockin chair sippin on gin…

8. How often do you buy records? Stop by the record shop to crate digg and see what you find? or go buy something specific you had in mind to add to your collection?

A lot….some times i think about how much time and money i have spent fucking with records and i freak out…i have around 15,000 records (probably more scattered around various ex-girlfriends houses, storage facilities, etc) and i realize that my record collection is an altar — its a living and breathing thing that im constantly adding to, conversing with, and tapping for water. These days, due to time and energy constraints (i am hella old) i probably only hit stores in the Bay or LA once every other week….but i shop online (usually for specific joints i am seeking), and if i travel to a city i haven’t been to (especially on another continent) i immediately seek out the local record store, and find myself strangely comfortable there.

9. Top 5 most slept on hip-hop albums? you know, the ones that continuously make you cringe for how often they are unknown to new-skoolers…

1. The Future Sound, “The Whole Shebang”
2. Mac Mall, “Illegal Business”
3. Master Ace, “Take a Look Around”
4. The Coup, “Kill My Landlord”
5. Superlover Cee & Casanova Rud, “Girls, I Got Em Locked”

10. Your top 5 “Go gettem RIGHT NOW” albums of any genre?

DAAAAAYUM. Only five? Aite but this is subject to change every 30 seconds:

1. Gil Scott-Heron, “Winter in
2. Young Disciples, “Road to Freedom”
3. John Coltrane, “Ascention”
4. Eddie Palmieri, “Unfinished Masterpiece”
5. Lillian Allen, “Revolutionary Tea Party”

Check him out at

3 responses to “Interview with DJ Sake1”

  1. bfcgirl says :

    Nice read. Hip Hop artists cross over to different genres so I’m surprised he didn’t emphasize the importance of expanding.

  2. emirose says :

    sake is the illest.. i “grew up” listening to sake spin at 3rd eye events, he rocked every set and glowed with purity of purpose. real ass dude, fav dj of all times.

    [peace stefan!]
    emi rose

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