When he was in junior high he played Diddy’s birthday party in Morocco, so you could say DJ Ruckus is something of a fast starter. And he hasn’t let up since. Ruckus more or less “lives on a plane” these days, playing around 180 shows a year with plenty of stops in Las Vegas, where he’s a resident for Hakkasan Group. Before summer’s end, the open-format star will play Liv in Miami, team up with frequent collaborator Rev Run for a gig in Honolulu, and yeah, he’ll be back in Morocco, too.
You’re in Vegas a lot more these days, bouncing between Hakkasan and the new Omnia. Do you get any time to yourself when you’re in town? Every now and then. Pauly D lives in Vegas, and he’s got this crazy crib with motorcycles and this insane DJ booth. So I like to hang at his spot. But I also like to check out Downtown, which is really cool, and just catch up with friends and people in the industry when we’re not in club mode. I’ll catch a concert, too.
You started your career at a young age. What first drew you to it? As a kid I was definitely into breakdancing and graffiti and all that, and then when I was 11 or 12 years old I came across turntables at a disco party—back then somebody has a birthday party with a DJ and calls it a disco party—and it just caught my eye, the way music was being manipulated. And then there was an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air where Jazzy Jeff is scratching a record at a family reunion. I heard that sound and was fascinated. I wanted to get into whatever that was.
You have some fame in your family—Lenny Kravitz is your cousin—and you made some quick connections. Surely that was helpful, but was it ever a hindrance? Not really. Luckily I wasn’t playing guitar trying to be the frontman of a band. That’s a big pair of shoes to fill. It was much more of a plus and definitely opened some doors, but once you get inside that door you gotta carry it on your own, and I tried to make sure I did so. Maybe in the earlier days it was kinda tough if that was the only way someone would recognize you, but I’d rather have it than not.
How did you hook up with Rev Run? It must be amazing to collaborate with such an iconic figure in music and hip-hop. Yeah, it’s a lot of fun doing our show together. He was looking to do some work and DJ sets outside of Run-D.M.C. and his manager reached out. He used to be a DJ, you know, started out carrying crates for Kurtis Blow. I think our first show was at the Palms when I had a residency there six years ago. We were just real comfortable together and quickly figured out our synergy. He’s a big piece of the Hakkasan deal, and we’ll continue to play together there.
You’ve been playing Vegas long enough to see a few musical trends come and go. What do you think Vegas clubs are going to sound like in the future? I think some sort of change is coming, but it’s tough to say if EDM is going to phase out or what it will be. For an open-format DJ, we’ll always have a chance because our versatility is how we thrive, our ability to adapt and use whatever is happening to make rooms move. But it has gotten a little saturated, and some sounds are a little regurgitated. At the same time, EDM is such a massive sound, and it’s tough to fill a room and get it to the energy level you want without it.
What’s next for you, musically speaking? I’ve been remixing a lot of stuff from the 1999 to 2005 area of hip-hop, bringing a little electronic flavor to those records but keeping the same tempo and just adding a groovier vibe. I just did “Move Bitch” by Ludacris and “Break Ya Neck” by Busta Rhymes, and ODB’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” is coming out soon. I just want to make sure that era of hip-hop continues to get some love.
DJ Ruckus July 18, 10:30 p.m., $40+ women, $75+ men. Ling Ling Club at Hakkasan.