The legendary turntablist — and one of the best battle DJs to ever live — passed away on September 19, 2009, just a few weeks after suffering an accident during a Krav Maga sparring session. While in the hospital, he went into cardiac arrest and never recovered. He was 37.
Anyone lucky enough to be in Raida’s presence when he was around a set of turntables witnessed a quiet yet unrelenting beast.
I’ll never forget the time I booked him for a show in Santa Fe, New Mexico shortly before he died. A friend and I picked him up from the Albuquerque airport in a white GMC Denali, blasting Egyptian Lover’s 1984 debut On The Nile. He was noticeably entertained but told me he’d have to get the electro-Hip Hop out of his head before his set later that night.
Upon arriving at his hotel, he immediately put on Metallica to scrub Egyptian Lover from his mind. As I watched him get his set together, I knew that evening was going to be something special. Sure enough, the show was packed and Raida’s set was nothing short of spectacular.
He kept his humble demeanor in check even when a drunk idiot stumbled behind the table to “request a song” during his performance. In fact, she was so intoxicated she fell into Raida’s decks and made the record skip. The crowed erupted with “boos” and the girl limped away with her head hung in shame. But Raida didn’t miss a beat. He just keep going like nothing ever happened, the sign of a true professional.
In 2012, Swift released the Roc For Raida album, a collection of both released and unreleased songs and battle style routines that Swift felt defined Raida as an artist. It also included lost interview archives from John Carluccio. All proceeds went to Raida’s family.
Rest In Peace Raida.
5/17/72 – 9/19/09 https://t.co/xOgXIQBkz7
— BROLICARM (@DJROBSWIFT) September 19, 2019
On Thursday (September 19), Swift commemorated his late friend in a lengthy post on his website.
“On this 10th year anniversary of Raida’s transition, I’d like to honor him with the following words,” Swift writes in part. “I met Roc Raida at the 1991 East Coast DMC qualifying round. It was the first competition I ever entered. As I walked up in there with my mentor Drew, better known as Dr. Butcher, I recall encountering the mighty X-Men for the first time. They all were there, Steve D, Johnny Cash, Diamond Jay, Sean C and Roc Raida [at the time he actually spelled it Rock Raider].
“They [the X-Men] were loud and drawing attention to themselves. You’d hear them laughing and joking throughout the entire preliminary. But what I found interesting about Raida was he was the complete opposite of his crew. Raida was the quietest one of all. That really intrigued me and his silent temperament made him stand out even more than his rambunctious partners.”
Swift continues, “Steve D, Raida and the rest of the X-Men entered the competition so there was an air of intimidation affecting the competitors. But as much as we respected them, Drew and I were confident we trained hard enough to impress the judges (Clark Kent, DJ Word and Rose, who ran DMC NY at the time) and place somewhere in that top 8 slot.
“I recall getting up on stage and hearing Drew tell Clark Kent ‘watch my boy Rob!’ As I looked into the audience of DJs competing for the same exact thing I wanted, I noticed the X-Men throwing up their X signs. Publicly displaying their brotherhood connection while putting fear into the hearts and minds of the other competitors. Once I dropped my first routine, ‘Eric B. For President,’ the only people that existed though were Drew to my right and me on the turntables!”
Swift would ultimately become part of that same brotherhood. He joined the X-Men in March 1991.
In 2007, the X-Ecutioners recruited Linkin Park members Mike Shindoa and Joe Hahn for the “It’s Goin Down” video, which featured cameos from Linkin Park guitarist Brad Delson and late lead vocalist Chester Bennington as well as Xzibit, Adema’s Kris Kohls and Mike Ransom and DJ Babu of Dilated Peoples.
It was another testament to their versatility as a crew.
Although Raida’s life was cut short, the legacy he left behind lives on.
Of course, Swift wasn’t the only one remembering Raida this week. Several of his fans and peers also paid tribute on social media.
Check out some of the reactions below.
Anthony “Grandmaster Roc Raida” Williams: 5/17/72 – 9/19/09. 10 Years Today. One Of The Greatest…we miss you bro! #RocRaida #GrandmasterRocRaida #RocRaida4ever #TheXmen #TheXecutioners pic.twitter.com/WtGKqU0hjD
— rhettmatic (@rhettmatic) September 19, 2019
RIP ROC RAIDA pic.twitter.com/l8TywiSz1b
— FREE AGENT. (@evboogie) September 19, 2019
RIP GM ROC RAIDA… this was 20 years ago at soundcheck on tour. being able to do two tours w the xecutioners was a blessing. the first show i ever did w rahzel was w them. hard act to follow. respect. ?? pic.twitter.com/SjsKJsrN0q
— DJ JS-1 / JERMS (@DJJS1) September 19, 2019
— DJ Filthy Rich (@djfilthyrich416) September 19, 2019
Grand master Roc Raida appreciation day… ❤️
— INFAMOUS (@INFAMOUS_) September 19, 2019
Roc Raida all day?? pic.twitter.com/zywm1S61hH
— Children of Zeus (@ChildrenOfZeus) September 19, 2019
R.I.P. Grandmaster Roc Raida <3 https://t.co/KxDTdNtJ2Z
— John Morrison (@John_Liberator) September 19, 2019
— Michael Dewberry (@Dewb) September 19, 2019