Scratching the Surface

Rashid Qandil is bringing the most unique, most original and most independent hip-hop to Birmingham.

by Brett Levine, Photo by Jonathan Purvis


Rashid Qandil is a relationship builder. As a DJ, he is constantly looking for interesting opportunities, unique partnerships, and ways to explore music that might not have been considered in Birmingham.
“I’ve been a DJ for over a decade,” Qandil explains. “I started focusing on buying records and DJing because I felt like there was a great deal of music that simply wasn’t being played here.” This belief led him to play in many alternative venues, starting with the series of MONO-09-POD performances and music events curated by Jess Marie Walker. “I was DJ-ing arts performances, or playing between sets at local punk and avant-garde shows.”
These connections led to an opportunity to play at a MAC Cosmetics event. “I worked at their spring show, which was just after 9/11,” he remarks.  “At some point in time someone complained to the store manager that I was playing unpatriotic music,” he laughs. What amused him the most was the cultural misunderstanding. “I was playing Indian music, Jamaican music, ragga and dub,” he smiles. His audience simply didn’t know the difference.
Shortly thereafter, his musical diversity became even more evident. “I played at several of the Illumin8 events, spinning a mix of electro and house music,” Qandil notes, “but at the same time that I was playing these styles of music, I was listening to a lot of indie hip-hop.” He enthuses: “From the late 1990s there were great hip-hop nights. Supreme had Eargasm at the Rocking Horse, R-Tist and Shaheed were playing there, Tom and Carlito from the Jive Mob were always there, and the city had the Precise Elements Crew.”
This love of hip-hop led Qandil to turn his focus in a different direction.  “I started a night called Lobotomix at Bottletree, playing a mix of deep house, baile funk and hip-hop; music I really enjoyed,” he muses, “but somehow it just didn’t seem to flow.” He continues, “I wanted to play music, but I wanted to focus on what I was interested in. If I didn’t have something, it was because I didn’t listen to it.”
Just over a year ago, something unexpected happened. “I asked the owner of Speakeasy if I could set up my turntables and invite some friends for my birthday party,” he laughs. “It was elbow to elbow, and I realized that Birmingham was missing an indie hip-hop night, something I’d wanted to do all along.” Performers that night included R-Tist, The Green Seed, Shaheed, DJ Tanner, and Rashido himself. “At the end of the night George asked if I wanted to do it again, and the regular Lobotomix night was born.”
“I really believe there is a strong underground hip-hop culture in town,” he says. “Since Lobotomix became more regularly scheduled, producers are bringing me beats, sharing their music online, and becoming really excited about the local hip-hop scene again. I think,” he continues, “that because we have a vehicle for people to gain exposure, it will help move the scene forward.”
For Qandil, Lobotomix is more than a local DJ night. “I’ve been promoting my entire career, starting with a series of down–tempo nights at two different venues in town. Since Lobotomix began, I’ve had Akil from Jurassic 5, among others, and I’m working on a number of great performers, MCs and DJs for the coming year.”
Also in the mix is a record label. “I hope to have our first release by June 2011,” Qandil remarks.  For now, Qandil and the Lobotomix crew—Green Seed, Shaheed, DJ Tanner and DJ Jeff C, who was a USA DMC finalist, and affiliates Thed Weller and S Fly —will continue to bring the most unique, most original and most independent hip-hop to Birmingham. “I just want to keep it moving forward, but most of all I want to keep it to its roots.” Qandil has the needle to the record, and his finger on the pulse. Feel it.

One Response to “Scratching the Surface”

  1. liesa Cole says:

    rock on Rashid! Thanks for upping the cool factor in the “Ham”.

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