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ED GORDON, host:

Los Angeles-based turntableist Terrence Cedrics is DJ Jedi. His reputation for eclectic sampling and beats has spread from regional fans to nightlife devotees all over. A current world tour is exposing the 29-year-old music man to a new audience. Taylor Brittany-Ford has his story.

(Soundbite of music)

TAYLOR BRITTANY-FORD reporting:

The range of venues DJ Jedi has performed in is as broad as the range of music he plays.

Mr. TERRENCE CEDRICS (DJ Jedi): Hip-hop is an absence of boundaries in music. It comes from so many different things and so many different kinds of music.

(Soundbite of music)

BRITTANY-FORD: When he's at home in the Los Angeles area, every Monday night, he's at the same coffeehouse. He deejays at a spot in Santa Monica he's helped run for over four years with emcee, Ratpack Slim.

RATPACK SLIM (Emcee): Yo, gotta give props to the deejay. What did he say? Nothing. He's the silent type who gets wild and hyper with his hands and nobody understands the beauty of a classic deejay break.

(Soundbite of music)

SINGERS: Break, br-br-break, gonna break, break, break...

BRITTANY-FORD: Poets and spectators come here to soak up the atmosphere, but Jedi attracts a crowd all his own, especially on this last night, performing before he goes on a world tour with the recently reunited Digable Planets.

RATPACK SLIM: Because he is to turntables what Miles was to the trumpet.

(Soundbite of music)

BRITTANY-FORD: Jedi's perspective on fame sets him apart. Last year, when he was the tour deejay for "Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam," other details beyond fame came as a surprise to him.

Mr. CEDRICS: We were affiliated with, like, unions and we had a, you know, medical plan and stuff like that, which is just like mind-blowing. When you live your life as an artist, those aren't things that typically come.

BRITTANY-FORD: For many musicians like Jedi, getting consistent work requires luck and hustle.

Mr. CEDRICS: I've always been able to sustain a lifestyle just--if it means working a part-time job in addition to deejaying.

BRITTANY-FORD: Touring in the erratic flow of gigs are why he still calls his parents' apartment home. From that base, he's nurtured his talent since childhood.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Singer #1: ...the world that surrounds me, books that I read through, family I came from and why I act when I see you, am I...

BRITTANY-FORD: When Jedi was growing up, his parents often had friends over for living room jam sessions. He'd play with the instruments left around the house, but he grew most attached to the family record player.

Mr. CEDRICS: I can remember like situations when I was way young, being like nine years old, scratching up my sister's Prince record.

(Soundbite of music)

PRINCE: (Singing) Kiss.

Mr. CEDRICS: Even way back then.

BRITTANY-FORD: Still, he wasn't sure he could make it as a deejay.

Mr. CEDRICS: Like a little kid saying, like, `I want to be an astronaut when I grow up,' like there's no reality behind it or whatever.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Singer #2: Everybody was there ...(unintelligible).

Unidentified Singer #3: Get up, get up and do the dance, our style is (unintelligible) hit you with a spell, whether Jew or Gentile.

BRITTANY-FORD: Jedi went to college planning to become an audio engineer, but he dropped out twice. September 11th, 2001, compelled him to seriously consider the craft of the turntableist.

Mr. CEDRICS: It just kind of hit home for me how short life can be, and I was in a dead-end job. I was just kind of coming out of that situation, and I was just kind of at that crossroads, and it just made sense. It just made sense, like this is what I really want to do, and I feel like the second I made that commitment to it, everything just started falling into place.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Singer #4: My life, my life, my life, my life in the sunshine...

BRITTANY-FORD: Since then, Jedi has been popping up in venues all over the country and the world, exposing people to new music and expressing himself through his scratches and beats.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: Ah, yeah...

Mr. CEDRICS: Music is one of the few things that brings people together across racial barriers, across cultural barriers, religious, so it's not necessarily a specific message, like, you know, vote or don't do drugs or anything like that, you know what I'm saying.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Singer #5: These boots are made for walking...

BRITTANY-FORD: He makes space for all kinds of pop culture elements to leak into his music.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Singer #5: One of these days, these boots are gonna walk all over you.

(Soundbite of music)

BRITTANY-FORD: But he's careful about becoming too attached to older hip-hop sounds.

Mr. CEDRICS: Our memory is kinder to history than the facts of history actually are, especially with hip-hop. Man, it was so good back in the day. It was. But at the same time, there was awful stuff coming out back then, too. I mean...

(Soundbite of music)

VANILLA ICE: Yo, VIP...

Mr. CEDRICS: ...you know, everybody hated Vanilla Ice, so...

(Soundbite of music)

VANILLA ICE: (Singing) If there was a problem, yo, I'll solve it. Check out the hook while my deejay revolves it. Ice, ice, baby. Vanilla Ice...

Mr. JOE HERNANDEZ-KOLSKI (Friend of DJ Jedi): So this piece is dedicated to DJ Jedi, who will be leaving us.

(Soundbite of cheers)

BRITTANY-FORD: At the coffeehouse on Monday night, a good friend of Jedi's, Joe Hernandez-Kolski, gives his props.

Mr. HERNANDEZ-KOLSKI: Actions come from verbs, and verbs are words. I rarely drink, so you know I didn't slur. You heard. You got some talent, but I must implore, what do you want to be remembered for?

BRITTANY-FORD: Jedi will be touring for the next two years. Anything could happen before he returns home. He's comfortable with that, as long as he can stay connected to the friends he's hung out with for years.

Mr. CEDRICS: The surprises are great. I'll take them as they come, because it means that I give to live my dream for another day. If the phone calls stop, that's when I'm starting to worry.

BRITTANY-FORD: Until then, he'll let his hands do the talking.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Singer #6: Hand it over. Handing it over. Oh-ah, (unintelligible). Give you back your ...(unintelligible)...

BRITTANY-FORD: For NPR News, I'm Taylor Brittany-Ford.

Unidentified Singer #6: ...going around...

GORDON: You can listen to a live performance by DJ Jedi at npr.org.

Unidentified Singer #6: Send it over. Send it over. Send it over. (Unintelligible).

GORDON: Thanks for joining us. That's our program for today. To listen to the show, visit npr.org. If you'd like to comment, log on to npr.org and click on `contact us' or give us a call at (202) 408-3330. NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

Unidentified Singer #6: ...(Unintelligible).

GORDON: I'm Ed Gordon. This is NEWS & NOTES.

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