Q&A: Cosmo Baker!
(Tracklist located at the bottom of the page)
Imagine one of your favorite DJs. What characteristics rank high of exceptional DJ talent? Is it grace behind the decks? An extensive knowledge and non-discriminatory passion for music? Being ultra intuitive and tuned into the party people on the dance floor? The ability to just have fun and get creative with it?
This is Cosmo Baker. He’s been in the game since before I even knew there was one. Philly-born and now Brooklyn-based, Cosmo Baker finds love in all styles of music – whether it be disco, funk, R&B, rockabilly, or hip-hop. Not one to be pigeon-holed, he just wants to make you dance any way you know how and he does it because it loves it. Simple as that. No gimmicks, no ulterior motives – just a true passion for all styles of music. In fact, check him out live and it’s almost like an educational experience as he showcases songs you may not have heard yet in styles you might not listen to on the regular. It’s as if he’s gently nudging you outside the box with an assuring, “Hey, I think you’ll like this” kind of vibe. My advice? Trust him.
Cosmo Baker is known for mixing records of all genres, which is what landed him a residency and title as co-founder of Brooklyn’s infamous “anything-goes” soiree, The Rub, with DJ Ayres and DJ Eleven back in 2002. Back then, parties were still one-dimensional and super homogenized, playing the same genre for hours, but armed with deep crates and a natural DJ’s intuition, Cosmo Baker flourished and stood out amongst the rest. He has recently moved on from The Rub, but the drive and talent that has been moving him from the very beginning is still very much in motion.
Take a listen through Cosmo Baker’s SoundCloud page and you’ll realize two things: 1) He’s incredibly innovative and his vast knowledge of music is timeless and will rise above any trend. 2) He’s having such a good time that soon enough you’re gonna be cutting a vicious rug and you won’t even know what hit you until it’s too late. That kind of knowledge and passion is truly one-in-a-million and it really translates to music aficionados and party people all around the world. That feeling is not one to be passed up.
He’s just that dude. I was lucky enough to talk to Cosmo Baker about his crazy record collection, what makes a good party, and how he got to where he is now. Read on!
Cool Breezy: Growing up in Philly until you moved to Brooklyn in the early ’00s, you’ve lived in two essential cities that each nurture their own wonderfully eclectic cultures. How has each city impacted the way you feel about music?
Cosmo Baker: Well I first moved to BK back in 1994 and stayed there for a couple years, so I was able to catch what I think was the tail end of a really great era of music and clubbing culture. When I moved back in ’03 the city had undergone a serious transition through the Giuliani era, the rise of the bottle service scene, and of course 9/11. But New York will always be #1 – the current and spirit is really like no other place on earth. And Philly, of course, is such a soulful city, and it’s the soul of Philly that really runs through my veins. So being able to lay claim to both places is an amazing thing to me.
CB: What was young Cosmo Baker like? Was he always a music nerd?
Cosmo: Oh for sure, I was always a nerd when it came to that. When I was younger I played music -violin, guitar, drums, and of course just listened to a massive amount of tunes that were on the radio and video shows. Not even to mention buying cassettes and records and whatnot. By the time I went into high school I already had a massive amount of tapes that were mixes that I recorded off of the radio. That’s a little bit how it all started with me, and how I became known as the guy with all the music. Then once I really got into the digging mentality and started mining all the local record shops for jazz records and prog-rock records and all that stuff, that’s when the nerd aspect really shot into overdrive.
CB: The streets say you’re an avid record collector. How deep is your collection? Also, do you remember the very first record you ever bought?
Cosmo: Hah, the streets are talking! Well, I’ve been collecting for the majority of my life, and once you get into the habit of buying vinyl, at least for some people, it never goes away. And I never get rid of my stuff, I just keep it in the collection. I know for a fact that my first record was Elton John “Bennie & The Jets” on 45. I am not sure what my second record was hahah… At this point I’ve lost count of the number in my collection, but last I checked several years ago I had over 15,000 pieces of vinyl, and that doesn’t include like maybe 3,000 to 4,000 on 45. It’s sick, I know.
(Tracklist located at the bottom of the page)
CB: You’re known for playing every genre under the sun, whether it be funk, electronic, or hip-hop music. Do you have a personal favorite? What are some records that move the dance floor no matter where you are?
Cosmo: Well I love it all. If you don’t limit what you listen to why should you limit what you play? And that’s just so much fun than just limiting yourself to one particular genre. But that being said, it all comes down to me being a hip-hop DJ at heart. That’s where I come from and that’s my roots, so I can never overlook that. However, I think that if there’s one thing that I love to play, that just makes me feel energy like no other, it’s probably like classic disco joints. Those records were just scientifically engineered for dance floors.
CB: You were one of the founders of the famous, Brooklyn-based, “anything goes” party, The Rub. In your experience, what makes a great party? Of course the music depends on the particular format, but overall, what kind of music and vibes set up the night for an overall success?
Cosmo: Well the Rub guys kind had a real pure idea when it was first started, cause the incentive was just to play really great, non-homogenized, classic tunes in the club. That was something at the time which was just not really getting that much respect or reaction in a lot of the mainstream clubs. And when they asked me to do my first few guest appearances that first year it was because I already had a reputation for playing that way. So when we all got together and decided to solidify this as an official thing, it’s pretty much because we all had a crystal clear vision of how and what we were going to play. And we did it with conviction. So I think that’s one of the most important things, just really believing in what you play and doing it with heart. That helps create the connection with the listeners, and when you have that connection, all it does is grow. You grow artistically, the crowd grows with you, and on and on.
CB: So far in your extensive DJ career, you’ve released some exceptional music, toured the world, and have remained in the highest standards of DJs and party-goers alike. You’ve also made the transition from the “classic” days of DJing with turntables and records to mp3s and CDJs. All-in-all, it seems to have been an overwhelmingly successful ride so far. With that being said, do you have any advice for up and coming DJs and producers? In your opinion, what makes a truly great DJ?
Cosmo: Well thanks so much, and yes it’s been quite a ride! I have to say that I am truly blessed because, even with lots of talent and hard work and focus and dedication, there’s still no guarantee that one will be successful. So I have to really pinch myself every day. But for real it’s definitely not as easy as it looks, so anyone that’s trying to break into the game has to have the right motivation. You shouldn’t get into it for the money or the fame or for the glamorous (that sometimes are not so glamorous) trappings of the lifestyle. You should get into it because you have a love and a connection to the music, and a true desire to spread that love with people. That drive is to me what really makes a great DJ.
CB: 2012 is coming to a close and 2013 is right around the corner. Have you had a fun year? What’s next for Cosmo Baker in 2013?
Cosmo: Well I already have a ton of shows already booked for 2013 all over North America, as well as Europe, Asia and The Middle East. So that’s going to keep me busy. And I keep on saying that I will FINALLY get to work on my original music, and I think that with all the changes in my career that I went through in 2012 now I have the free time to actually make that a reality. But all in all it’s just gonna be a great one!
“Low Ceilings And Red Lights”
Big “T” Tyler “King Kong”
Big Maybelle “That’s A Pretty Good Love”
Howlin’ Wolf “Down In The Bottom”
Etta James “7 Day Fool (Whiskey Barons Edit)”
Lou Courtney “I’ve Got Just The Thing”
James Ray “I’ve Got My Mind Set On You”
Shirley Ellis “The Clapping Song”
Bill Haley & His Comets “Birth Of The Boogie”
Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five “I Want You To Be My Baby”
Gloria Jones “Tainted Love”
Little Esther Phillips “Mojo Hannah”
Just Brothers “Sliced Tomatoes”
Maggie Threatt “Soupy”
The Roe-O-Tation “Special Category”
Della Reese “It Was A Very Good Year”
Mickey & Sylvia “No Good Lover”
Bo Diddley “Bo Diddley”
Little Junior’s Blue Flames “Feeling Good”
Big Mama Thornton “Hound Dog”
James Brown “Get It Together”
Link Wray & His Wray Men “Run Chicken Run”
Santo & Johnny “Sleepwalk”
Cosmo Baker Top Ten Mix 14
1: Miguel “Adorn (Sammy Bananas Bootleg)”
2: Brett Johnson “Slow Down Baby (Severino Remix)”
3: Rihanna “Nobody’s Business (feat. Chris Brown)”
4: Bobby Caldwall “Carry On (MyKill Edit)”
5: Rhye “The Fall (Maurice Fulton Alt Mix)”
6: First Choice “Let No Man Put Asunder (Moplen Reprise)”
7: Late Night Tuff Guy “Do I Believe In God (LNTG Muscles Mix)”
8: Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs “Your Love (Waze & Odyssey Remix)”
9: Duke Dumont “The Giver (Original Mix)”
10: Pelifics with Electric Youth “Wish It Could Last (Marius Våreid Extended Disco Version)”
BAKERS DOZEN BONUS
11: Cerrone “Misunderstanding (A-Trak & Codes Club Remix)”
12: Recloose “Chamois”
13: Jeffree “Mr. Fixit (Recloose Edit)”