DJ Jon Dread: "[I'm] a White Redhead Trying to Come Up in a Predominately Black Genre"
Ronnie Styles hasn't sported long-ass dreadlocks for years, but he's still just as big into reggae culture and Rastafarianism as during his kinky-haired days, if not moreso. As such, the 32-year-old busies himself with spinning irie and dub sounds as DJ Jon Dread at The Sail Inn's Reggae Roots Unwind every Sunday night, or booking local and touring bands to appear at the weekly when he isn't working as the executive chef at CenPho eatery Luci's.
Aaron Wallace/Nightfuse DJ Jon Dread spins during WTFunk? Fridays at Stray Cat.
Longtime attendees of First Friday may also recognize Styles from his stint performing atop the now-defunct Tree Jay House, a distinctive two-story structure that was located in front of the old Fifth Street boutique HoodRide until city officials had it torn down in 2009. It's one of his more memorable gigs from his career as Jon Dread, which also has included opening for the likes of Sister Nancy, The Original Wailers, and Stranger.
It's worth noting that Styles is a bona fide practitioner of the Rasta religion and readily discusses his belief in Jah as fervently as his passion for the Arizona reggae scene. The potential humor of a ginger into Rastafarianism and reggae culture isn't lost on him, but exemplifies how Styles believes he's "breaking boundaries" and changing mindsets.
"I had to overcome many challenges and the adversity of being a white redhead trying to come up in a predominantly black genre," Styles states in an e-mail. "Not only here in Arizona but in other states also."
Up on the Sun spoke with the DJ about such things during a recent interview via Facebook chat, as well as his new twice-monthly gig spinning reggae on KWSS, his opinion that most dubstep fans aren't aware of the EDM genre's Jamaican roots, and other topics.
Name: Ronnie Styles
AKA: DJ Jon Dread
Preferred genres: Rasta music and hip-hop, of course, are the day-to-day basics, but mushroom jazz, trip-hop and downtempo are really what I'm into these days. A lot of good, dope beats; no lyrics; and very melodic with a lot of horn. Dope to scratch, too.
Current gigs: I run, promote, book and DJ for Roots Unwind Reggae Sundays at Sail Inn; a long time resident for WTFunk? Fridays at Stray Cat Bar; still a regular at First Fridays; and I do shows over at Hidden House [and] at a great little spot called The Firehouse as well.
What's the explanation behind your DJ name?
Got Jon from a fave movie of mine, Rockers, an old '70s Rasta movie. It's dope.
How did you get into the DJ game?
I started rappin' with friends in high school, [who] later became Beatbox Killa Swindel, Dapper Dan from the Adepts, and Otherwords from Fresh Produce crew. I just wanted to play beats to rap over. That turned into doing my own DJ project and I kinda progressed very slowly from there.
What's the craziest shit you've seen at a gig?
I don't think it's the craziest thing I've seen, but when it's all is working, everybody's having fun -- the band, the crowd -- enjoying the daily break from stress, dancing, and being in love with at whatever that moment you're in love with, but it's mostly the vibe. From Cali to Colorado, I've seen the craziest vibes.
Okay, then what's the most fucked-up thing you've witnessed while performing?
Now, I do have to say that reggae/hip-hop scene in Arizona has some of the most well-maintained, respectable, down-to-earth, true-to-the-art members (fans, DJs, artists) that try and represent the art to the fullest, so its not necessarily that scene that I've seen the craziest [things]. I can answer 'bout crazy sexual acts, drugs and late night mayhem all day long, but I have to say the circus, belly dancer [and] fire performers have dropped my jaw to the floor more anything else. That community is shriving and I've seen the dopest shit with them.