Few DJs can boast a history of beat-dropping that dates back to the days of grade school. Then again, few DJs grew up in houses as heavy with sound as that of DJ Oski. Oski's pops, Pepe Pothea, was a player — he handled percussion for some of salsa's most active bands throughout the '70s and '80s. Oski's god-pops, Papi Peña, was also a player, as well as a much-regarded arranger on the very same scene.
By the age of 8, Oski Gonzalez was manning his family's collection of classics as if he were born to the task. "Man, we had records and eight-tracks and reel-to-reels all over the place," Oski remembers, "and I was all over that."
Those formative years were spent split between the M.I.A. and Park Slope, Brooklyn. When the Gonzalez clan finally made the definite move to the Magic City, father and godfather set up themselves gigging at legendary Miami Beach hotels such as Sans Souci, Casablanca, and Versailles. And the then-junior high school-aged Oski tagged along as much as he was allowed. "It was like Goodfellas," he says. "We'd enter through the kitchen, and my godfather would tell the staff to take care of me. It was amazing."
DJ Oski: Fridays at Tobacco Road, Miami; tobacco-road.com
By the time Gonzalez had finished high school, he'd rechristened himself MC Oski and was leading his own outfit. The crew was called the Latin Connection, and it had enough hip-hop chops to interest Hot Records, which gave the up-and-comer his first big break. Gonzalez parlayed that spot into a slot in Elemento Creativo, which landed a Spanish rap hit called "Esta Caliente."
From there, the go-getting head-spinner turned to promotions, helping to spearhead Wynwood's Hoodstock series and taking over Liberty City's Carver Center, where he staged shows starring everyone from Jeru the Damaja to Fat Joe. That run ran from '93 to '95 and ended only after the cops shut down the Carver for lack of proper permits during a set by no less a legend than KRS-One.
Despite the solid cred he'd built, Gonzalez left the scene for a spell and tried his hand at a variety of less-than-satisfying careers. But sound is in Oski's soul. And by 1999, he was back at it in full force, first with a three-month stint at the Marlin fronting a rap/rock outfit called Continental and then with his own Oski Foundation.
As always, Gonzalez spun in between his band's sets. And as always, he hustled sets all over town. But one club continuously refused to book his Foundation. It was only after a chance meeting with former Mavericks manager John Tovar that he'd finally get the gig he'd long been yearning for. Yep, that club was Tobacco Road. And nearly a decade later, Gonzalez is still there.
In fact, Gonzalez is there more than ever. A few weeks ago, the Road appointed Gonzalez head promoter. And for the past four years, he's been responsible for spinning at all the Friday-night action, from happy hour to the wee small hours of the morning. The slot gives Gonzalez an opportunity to drop whatever he wants. "Anything goes," Gonzalez says, "from Frank Sinatra to Frank Zappa. Sometimes I'll swing salsa or merengue; other times I'll go from Oasis to Steve Miller."
In addition to handling promotions by day and manning the tables by night, Gonzalez is about as staunch an advocate of Miami's oldest bar as one can get without being deemed certifiable. You can hear his absolute enthusiasm in everything he says about the place.
Mostly, though, you can hear how Oski is all about Miami and its music. And if there is a better place in this city for such a cat to be working his magic, they haven't built it yet.
DJ Oski's top five:
1. "New York, New York," Frank Sinatra
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2. "Peter Piper," Run-D.M.C.
3. "Hypnotized," the Notorious B.I.G.
4. "Sex Machine," James Brown
5. "Pedro Navaja," Rubén Blades