With thick dreadlocks dangling over his back, you might think that DJ Drez is a fall-down stoner reggae freak, and you'd be right about the reggae part. Drez has been going to the Bob Marley Festival in Long Beach since the parking lot was just half full with college students in white and primer-grey Volkswagen buses. But he has yet to dip his toes into the puddles of cocaine and booze that make the club scene: "I've never smoked or taken a drink of anything," he says proudly. He still sounds a little mellow, but that's not THC on his brain—it's pure good vibes.
"Good music or love can create that high feeling," he says. "I've always been able to grab that without anything else. People think I'm crazy."
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The 29-year-old self-proclaimed "sound ambassador of rasta vibes and smooth style" is a prominent pioneer in underground hip-hop, affiliated with groups such as Black Eyed Peas, AWOL One (whom he met through Koo's), Aceyalone and Project Blowed. But he's always had an unhurried attitude toward his career, ever since the early days when his friends would hang out in his room in Fullerton and scrawl graffiti as he spun on an old belt-driven Technics (without a pitch adjustment) and a mixer from Radio Shack. He classifies himself as a hip-hop DJ (and says the Jungle Brothers' second album is his favorite ever, because of its production and content), but he likes "anything with a groove and a vibe."
His last mix tape, 2003's TheCaptureofSound(released on Battle Axe) is layered with a heavy selection of soul, jazz, world music and a long list of guests from Dr. Oop to Rocky Dawuni. Right now, he's working on "a straight hip-hop jazz joint" with Marty Williams, a 20-year member of the San Francisco jazz scene, with a vibe reminiscent of Bill Doggett.
"Hip-hop brought me to love these other types of music," he says, all his good vibes uncovered in a bin full of vinyl. So he doesn't have a flask in his jacket—he's still cool.
DJ DREZ WITH DJS JUD NESTER AND COCOE AT ABSTRACT WORKSHOP AT DETROIT BAR, 843 W. 19TH ST., COSTA MESA, (949) 642-0600; WWW.DETROITBAR.COM. SAT., 9 P.M. $10. 21+; ALSO AT THE NAFRO (FORMERLY NATURAL AFRODISIAC) RECORD RELEASE AT DETROIT BAR. SAT., MAY 7, 9 P.M. $8. 21+.