Rock it in their sleep
Local hip-hop deejay and production crew Sleeprockers wake up to the big time
“Just keep doing it, and eventually shit’ll get recognized.”
This is what Kwes the Bess of local deejay/producer troupe the Sleeprockers says just before I interrupt our serious music interview to tell him that my iPad keeps auto-correcting his name as “Jews.” Or “Less.”
I’ve hung out with all of the guys in the Sleeprockers crew—DJ Rated R, DJ Nocturnal, Mr.Vibe, Kwes the Bess and DJ Wanted—many times before at shows. They’re nice guys. For instance, when I first walked in to Sleeprockers headquarters, they all asked about my holidays. Kwes showed me his latest beats and Rated R offered me a mimosa.
But as soon as we sat down to talk about their new project with Hieroglyphyics’ Tajai, the whole mood changed. All of the sudden, I was very much a journalist on assignment, and they were serious about discussing their new release, Machine Language.
For readers who are unaware, the Sleeprockers are 2012’s answer to the Invisible Skratch Piklz, the 1990s-era Filipino-American turntablist crew. Sleeprockers work interchangeably between vinyl, Serato, the MPC, and numerous other inexplicable loop pedals, samplers, and hip-hop toys.
And they were recently enlisted by Tajai as part of a newly announced affiliation with famed Bay Area hip-hop collective Hieroglyphics. Hiero is responsible for some of the most legendary vinyl ever pressed, and the weight of this partnership is not lost on a crew of crate-diggers such as the Sleeprockers.
“It hits me sporadically that I’m really working with these guys,” says Kwes. “It’s another project, but the reality is really immense.”
When asked what partnering with Heiro means for not only their crew, but also the city’s struggling hip-hop scene, the Sleeprockers are humbled by the opportunity.
“We’re in a perfect position right now to really represent the deejay culture in Sacramento,” says Sleeprocker cofounder DJ Rated R.
Their new release, Machine Language, features a combination of Tajai’s gritty lyricism and the Sleeprockers turntable ingenuity, which sounds something like experimental party rock.
Or what would happen if Jimi Hendrix made mixtapes.
“When Tajai hit us up, he didn’t want a mixtape,” explains Sleeprockers’ other cofounder DJ Nocturnal. “He wanted us to take his tracks and Sleeprock the shit out of them.”
Alongside Hiero vets Casual, A Plus, Z-Man and Opio, Machine Language also features heavyweight appearances by hip-hop A-listers such as the Pharcyde, Tech N9ne, Crooked I and Ras Kass.
Although they’re probably new faces to a lot of Hieroglyphics fans, only now, a decade deep for most of the members, is Sleeprockers seeing the fruits of all that labor.
“It’s a battle within yourself,” describes Mr. Vibe. “I didn’t ever think I was gonna rock with Hiero. I just did it for the love of it.
“As long as you stay humble and pay your dues, something good will come out of it. Don’t get into it thinking you’re going to get a 401(k). That’s not what it’s about. It’s about doing it for the love and trying to build up your business around that.”
Paying dues, a philosophy of dedicating one’s self to whatever it is you do, is the Sleeprockers M.O. So much so, they can rock it in their sleep, for sure.