When asked how he got into DJing, Jah Warrior Shelter's King I-Vier sums it up with three simple words: “It just happened.” Getting his first taste of reggae in his early teens and inheriting his eldest brother's reggae collection shortly after, it was only a matter of time before he began seeking outlets to share these records. His first official DJ appearance happened during the mid-'90s at Nickies on Haight Street.
His successful debut led him to start DJing reggae shows at Maritime Hall, and secure an internship at community-supported radio station KPFA. It was there when he worked under veteran DJs Tony Moses and Spliff Skankin, who he credits for teaching him the ways of the music industry.
[jump] Almost two decades later, King I-Vier is a well-known name around the Bay Area, runs his own record label, and is a prominent member of the Jah Warrior Shelter Collective. We caught up with King I-Vier about his crew, reggae in the Bay, and his upcoming projects this year. He performs this Sunday, July 26, before and with Mr. Williamz at Elbo Room for Dub Mission.
What styles of music do you typically spin?
I typically DJ reggae and dancehall. I also play some hip-hop and R&B.
Tell us about your crew, Jah Warrior Shelter.
My crew Jah Warrior Shelter began in the New York area around the late-'80s. It gained great recognition in those days with the original crew. Around '98 I went to NYC, played a few parties, and then was invited to join the team. From there we did a lot of parties and won some sound clashes here in the Bay Area and L.A. The rest is history. The current selectors in Jah Warrior Shelter are Rocker-T, Jah Yzer, Irie Dole, and me. I really have to show respect to the original East Coast crew Jahson Reuben, E-Dom, Quality, Monty Irie, Puppy Ranks, Major 1, Jamalski, GT English, Lenky Don, Ronnie Dread, and Smoki.
What's the best part about being part of the crew?
If something comes up like a gig or mixtape that you can't do, you always have someone to call and cover.
You guys have had a really rich history in sound clashes. Which has been the most memorable thus far?
I would say it was one of the times we did a sound clash in L.A. called the L.A. Rumble where we premiered our exclusive dubplate from Too $hort. I was hesitant because I wasn't quite sure how the L.A. crowd would react to a Bay Area hit record. Sure enough, we played it and the crowd erupted.
What have you guys got coming up this year?
We have a lot it seems. We're just wrapping up a great summer reggae festival season. We have our weekly Tuesday night party at the Milk Bar on Haight Street. I'm booked at the top Bay Area reggae/dancehall party Reggae Gold at the New Parish in Oakland throughout the year. This Sunday I'm very excited to DJ before, and for, the great Mr. Williamz from the U.K. at Dub Mission at the Elbo Room. There are always new events happening so folks can stay updated on most social media sites.
How have you seen the Bay Area reggae scene change since you started DJing?
A lot. We all can definitely see the demographic changing day by day here in the Bay Area. S.F. has gone from a reggae/dancehall parties almost every night of the week to about three that I can think of. Even so, we still have a good number of sold-out reggae shows here in S.F. Oakland's scene is still going strong where I'd say the majority of reggae and Caribbean parties are happening. Although a lot has been happening, it’s changing in Oakland as well.
I'm confident that reggae will always be around and strive in the Bay Area still. It has grown to be an internationally loved genre. People of all sorts of backgrounds love and appreciate the music. Over the years I've seen its ups and downs but even now, currently the #1 Billboard, iTunes, and Shazamed song is a Jamaican song called “Cheerleader” by Omi. Every now and then reggae gets a #1 crossover hit, which always brings in a new set of fans to the dance.
You also run a record label. What were some of the factors in deciding to do so?
I do. The label is called Royal Order Music and is doing pretty well since we've started releasing records a couple years ago. It was kind of the natural thing to do after DJing all these years. I started the label with Jah Yzer and our first release “Selassie Souljahz” by Chronixx featuring Sizzla, Protoje, and Kabaka Pyramid did great and helped us get established as a recognizable label here as well as internationally. From there our catalog's continued to grow steadily. We're releasing and actually selling a decent amount of vinyl, which feels great as well. Check us out on SoundCloud.
What kind of tracks would you recommend to someone getting into contemporary reggae?
If you want some contemporary reggae I highly recommend the albums Dread & Terrible by Chronixx, Ancient Future by Protoje, Lead the Way by Kabaka Pyramid, Ebb and Flow by Keida, and Self Grammy by Perfect Giddimani. And not just because those are my folks, but because I think they are great projects that I love listening to.
Name a song you can't get out of your head.
[Laughs] There's too many! Lately I'd have to say “Looking Glass” by Bobby Hustle.
What projects do you have coming up?
One project I'm real excited about is a record we are due to release this year on Royal Order Music by J Boog featuring Sizzla called “Stand Firm,” plus a host of other songs by great artists like Gappy Ranks, Iba Mahr, RSNY, Addis Pablo, and Torch, to name a few. I also do A&R at a music distribution company here in S.F. called IDC ,which keeps me busy promoting projects for independent artists & record labels.
Party wise, other than mentioned before there's Blunt Attraction second Fridays at Luka's Oakland, Dub Box Fridays every third Friday at Bissap Baobab Oakland. This Thursday (July 23, Haile Selassie Day) I'll be DJing Flex Thursdays at the Era Lounge in Oakland.
I'm also excited about a few mixtapes and CDs on the way. One in particular is a mix that I just wrapped up for one of my favorite new reggae bands out of Jamaica called Raging Fyah. Look out for that very soon!