After gigging for years with hip-hop luminaries like Poet Name Life, Josh One established himself as an almost-famous DJ/producer. On the eve of finishing his debut full-length, he was almost dead.
Blame it on modern technology. Josh One (born 29 years ago as Josh Noteboom) was driving down Harbor Boulevard in Fullerton on a rainy night last December after wrapping up a late-night DJ gig at the Continental Room. On his car stereo, he was playing some beats he produced earlier in the day—so fine, he had to text message a friend on his small victory.
He looked down at his cell phone, then felt a thud. Looking up, he saw his car was right about to plow through a storefront.
He quickly swerved the car onto the street, and then the car's airbag socked him on the head like a right hook from a boxer.
Peering above the airbag onto the wet road, he drove a few blocks to his dad's house. When he parked, he slid away from the airbag onto the driveway and hoped his car was okay. It wasn't. The big thud he heard was the harsh impact of a street curb nearly punching his engine through his car hood. The engine made a final grumble, then croaked.
"I thought I was invincible," he said. "But that was the last straw."
The DJ was famous for not taking anything seriously. An ex-girlfriend once scolded him for thinking every day was a party. He laughed off the upbraiding. Now he thought she might be talking sense.
He isolated himself, cut off buddies who were only interested in partying and got busy with finishing up his album. Better yet, he had inspiration for a title: Narrow Path, which came out earlier this month (he had the worst luck with the release date of his debut single, "Contemplation," which hit store shelves on Sept. 11, 2001).
Narrow Path is Josh's self-imposed demand he start focusing more on finding success, yet the sound of the album is pure cinema noir. The bumping bass line of "Grey Skies" is the aural equivalent of a flashlight held by a hard-boiled Raymond Chandler detective tripping over a crime scene. The economical guitar by Pat Bailey and the jazz flute of Tim Orindgreff just make this scene more of a mystery. No wonder it was recently used as background music on an episode of CSI: New York.
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The noir mood is so powerful it lingers over the album's lighter moments, like "Daydreamer," featuring Long Beach musician Lily De La Mora. She sings about spiritual enlightenment, but Josh's vibe leaves a poison apple in this Garden of Eden.
In September, he moved from Long Beach to the Hollywood Hills to be closer to his label and the other studio producers he works with. He still visits Orange County once every week to DJ at clubs such as Abstract Workshop, but he also feels finishing Narrow Path has opened the road to happier times.
"I wouldn't change anything with my life," he says. "My friends and the people I'm around are great, and all of my old-school friends support me. It's terrible, isn't it?"
JOSH ONE SPINS AT THE RECORD-RELEASE PARTY FOR NARROW PATH AT THE ABSTRACT WORKSHOP CLUB, DETROIT BAR, 843 W. 19TH ST., COSTA MESA, (949) 642-0600; WWW.ABSTRACT-WORKSHOP.COM. SAT., 10 P.M. $10. 21+.