12B - The Michigan Daily - WNel4hazine - Thursday, March 3, 2003
The writing's on the wall:
the dual life of DJ Graffiti
By Joseph Ubnm
Daily Arts Writer
DJ Graffiti will be fine. How about
the rest of you?
What follows may impress or intimi-
date, and once you learn more about DJ
Graffiti - a talented and respected pro-
fessional disc jockey who is the chief
executive of Rapture Enterprises LLC,
whose University B.B.A. recognizes the
accomplishment of "Martin Lenon
Smith," and whose Michigan law degree
will say the same thing when he receives
it in May - you may feel as though you
aren't doing enough with your life.
Graffiti? He definitely is. Admittedly
prone to procrastination, Graf forces
time efficiency upon himself each week
through a rigorous and often unrelenting
schedule that includes an almost-nightly
performance docket and close to 20
hours of class time requiring a commen-
surate number of additional hours for
homework and preparation. Graffiti fills
his modest amount of remaining free
time sleeping or promoting Rapture
events like the parties it throws in con-
junction with Tribe Entertainment -
hip-hop nights each Wednesday at
Touchdown Cafe, monthly Sunday
nights at the Necto, and special events at
the Blind Pig. His life makes a whirl-
wind seem calm.
"I pretty much only work at home
because I figure I lose a lot of time
(traveling to and from my apartment)
otherwise," says Smith, acknowledging
the time crunch. "I'm a procrastinator,
so maybe it isn't such a good idea
because there are things (at home) that
can distract me, but my time is at a pre-
mium, so I mostly just go to law school,
go to class, and then leave."
That strict regiment has its draw-
backs. "My first year in law school,"
says Graffiti, "I was still DJ-ing a lot as
a rollover from undergrad and a lot of
people would say to me 'You're (a stu-
dent) here? Did you just start?' because
they would never see me (on campus)."
Graffiti's isolating schedule should
not be seen as a byproduct of mal-
adroit social capacity or misanthropic
sentiment, however. He simply has a
defined idea of what he wants to
accomplish before his time passes. "I
agree with what Nas said, man. Sleep
is the cousin of death."
Since high school, Smith has had a
keen sense of independence and a moti-
vating curiosity that have kept him far
from the grave. "I have always had my
own business, and with my crew (of
rhyming friends), I was the one who
bought the studio equipment; I was the
one always saying we needed to get a
contract," he remembers, clearly
amused by the parallels between his
behavior then and now.
Currently, Smith plans to use his
business skills, legal training, and musi-
cal experience to build an agile enter-
tainment company that will facilitate
the construction and proliferation of a
self-sufficient hip-hop community.
Who's better qualified to help shape
hip-hop than a lawyer and entrepreneur
raised in the culture? While that vision
has not inspired all of Smith's seeming-
ly-coherent pre-professional endeavors
- "I know it seems like everything I've
done has been a stepping stone toward
the next thing, but that wasn't really the
case. I only knew that I wanted to be a
lawyer and that I liked music" - the
goal will realized more easily given
both Smith's academic accomplish-
ments and the myriad of projects in
which he's already involved.
Bluntly, the man has so many enter-
prises cooking that he needs a second
range. In addition to his weekly battery
of spinning obligations and his Rapture
promotions, DJ Graffiti respectively,
serves as the manager and editor of two
industry websites - www.sqratchat-
tackcom and www.break-bread.com -
appears on WCBN regularly, and has
produced successful mixtapes, like the
Bling Free series. Buttressing his innate
business sense with a passion for learn-
ing - he reads "How to" books and has
taught himself skills like web design -
Graffiti is truly a vitruvian DJ.
"I consider myself to be one of the
more versatile DJs around. For instance,
(On Wednesday's) I'm scheduled to do
more mainstream stuff because that
crowd wants hit, hit, hit, hit. So, I mix a
lot and don't scratch as much because
people don't want to hear me cut all
night. But, I like to show my skills, so I
might cut more if I were doing an under-
ground show. Or, on a Wednesday, I
might do an instant remix. Like, the
Eminem song 'Superman' has the same
beats per minute as Outkast's 'The
Whole World,' so I might throw on that
beat with Em's acapella over it."
Whether he's spinning, cutting, mixing,
producing, promoting, or studying,
Smith seems a paragon of dedication.
Complementing and contrasting with
his professionalism is Smith's charisma.
As mentioned, he's not naturally reclu-
sive and at times, he seems wanting of
more free time to be Martin Smith.
Smith is open to all people, and while
never garrulous, he has a litany of
thoughtful opinions ranging from war in
Iraq to classic hip-hop albums that make
him an engaging conversation partner.
One need only consider the gaggle of
the well-wishers at seemingly every
show - Wednesdays, Sundays, always
- when searching for evidence of his
approachability and social dexterity.
And routinely, those friends and enthusi-
astic acquaintances have become Graffi-
ti devotees following previous exposure
to the benevolent DJ and his consistent
Impressed? Intimidated? Graffiti will
be fine. How about the rest of you?