If you were a part of Atlanta’s hip-hop club scene in the ’90s and early millennium, Club Kaya was a must. The spacious part-restaurant, part-dance spot, part-performance venue that later became the ornate Vision — now the site of the 1010 Midtown condominium high-rise — was the place to be.
This Friday at 595 North, some of Club Kaya's former spin doctors are reconnecting to reminisce on the good ol’ days. DJ Nabs is lining up an all-star team that includes Kemit, Doc, Toomp, Frank Ski, Mike Swift, Cowboy, Mars, Jaycee and A&R Philips.
Before he hits the lab, Nabs took a moment to stress why he thought the reunion was necessary. “I’m a Capricorn. It’s during my birthday week and we wanted to bring all the DJs together since it’s been 14 years since we all been in the same spot.”
They say you can’t please all of the people all of the time, but these guys came pretty damn close. On Friday nights alone, you had Frank Ski spinning B-more, house and East Coast hip-hop for his Northern Exposure crowd in the main room, while DJ Kemit kept the folks in the cafe dancing to a mix of Afro-Latin funk. And Nabs' Old School Sundays was the stuff of legend.
Another huge part of Kaya's legacy is the love it gave to legends on the mic. “There were performances from Jay-Z, Kurtis Blow, a young Chris Lova Lova, who we now know as Ludacris,” Nabs says. He's also editing footage for a special documentary titled American DJ Story, slated for HBO (air date to be determined), which chronicles his rise as a one of the top spinners in Atlanta, including footage he filmed while on tour with Michael Jackson in 1992. The site for Nabs' documentary features four short trailers, ranging from Nabs' preteen interest in hip-hop to Ludacris’ breakdown on why the DJ still rules.
“I want to flesh the story out more and give as much perspective as possible,” he says.
For some of the other local legends participating in Friday’s Kaya reunion, the story is about going back to the true essence of the art of DJing.
“The Kaya reunion represents a time in this city when the DJs set the tone of the party. We told and showed the patrons what and who was hot. Not one of the DJs involved ever rocked the same set,” said DJ Kemit, who currently rocks the Sound Table, Cloud IX and the every third Saturday soulfest, Spread Love.
DJ Doc also appreciates the trip back in time: “My wife Nicole and I have special memories of Kaya. We always met on the dance floor in the front room where Kemit was DJing, even before we started dating. So this reunion is a reminder of my place in Atlanta's music history as a DJ and a reminder of good friends, family, good times, great music and love.”
While they’re all for a resurgence of Atlanta’s “golden era” on the ones and twos, they’re also leery of the kind of guys that Big Boi called out in the Yelawolf-assisted “Ain’t No DJ.” You know the kind that grab a laptop, make a playlist, and have at it?
“That’s kind of part of my mission [to educate] with [the documentary preview] Diary of a Mad DJ. Most people on Twitter know I’m not a fan of that at all [the celebrity DJ]. They don’t know the things that go into being a real DJ. The people playing records are just that — they’re not DJs, it’s just a way for them to stay in the limelight, ‘cause they can’t get show money,” said Nabs.
“Not only has the craft been compromised by the technology, but DJ's like myself and those involved in the Kaya reunion have to take responsibility for not teaching the history, but also forgetting to emphasize the power and the influence of the DJ on popular culture,” added Kemit.
All in all Nabs has high expectations for the reunion. “I expect to see old faces and I expect to see new faces. They’re coming back because they want to relive the good times.”
Club Kaya reunion. Doors open at 8 p.m. Fri., Jan. 21. 595 North, 595 North Avenue. Tickets can be purchased for $10 at weekofthegoat.com. Find out more about the yet to be released documentary at americandjstory.com
Check out D.J. Drama talking about his experiences in the lab with DJ Nabs:
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