Digging With…DJ Lacewell

If you could please introduce yourself? Where are you from? How long have you lived here (if not from here)? Any quick thoughts about Raleigh? How long have you been a DJ?

I am Lacy Wall III from Eden, NC. I met my wife at East Carolina University and Raleigh is her hometown. After graduation and serving in the Navy, I have made Raleigh my home for a little over a decade. Raleigh is home and I put on for my city! So many people I have known throughout my journey as a North Carolinian call Raleigh home. I am so proud to be a part of this community. That is a complicated question. At first, when I was a student, I could not afford turntables. So, I would hang out with my friends who had turntables and records. I started off with CDs and then shifted my focus to buying vinyl in the mid aughts. I haven’t looked back since. So, I’d like to say, that I have been DJing for 23 years. Ever since I put down the trumpet for a mixer and turntables.

We met via algorithms somehow I believe and have I’ve been really enjoying watching your “mixtape Mondays” on Instagram. You always choose some real interesting mashups and it seems as though your selection is extremely diverse. Did you always have such an eclectic ear? 

I grew up in a household filled with music because my father owned a car dealership. So, the final test if a car ready to sell was to test the speakers. Which was the final part of building cars. My mother, taught me the importance of learning the lyrics of songs and would sing with me. We still do that to this day. When I got to East Carolina, I was introduced to four DJs that changed my perspective forever—Cut Chemist, DJ Shadow, Z-Trip, and DJ P. What truly changed the game for me was DJ P from Springfield, MO. His talent along with the introduction of the iPod in the 90s, made it possible just to play music the way I wanted to hear it. This also showed me how to be satisfied with my interpretation of lyrics and beats.

I thought I read at some point that you worked at Carolina Soul records? What was that experience like?

Ha! I have done in store events for Carolina Soul and become friends with a majority of the staff over my time shopping there. My first introduction to Jason Perlmutter was through his https://www.carolinasoul.com/ website, the Ebay Store, and his radio shows through the University of North Carolina radio station. Carolina Soul is my home digging spot. Jack Bonney, who runs the store, has such an impressive music knowledge. In normal circumstances, I am there at least a couple times a month.

What are your thoughts on Analog vs. Digital as a DJ?

There are so many schools of thought when it comes to DJing. The fact that you have an interest in playing music for people is what matters the most. At the end of the day, it’s just harder to be precise when performing on turntables which drives DJs to be that much better for their audiences. Like anything else in life, there are levels to the craft and it’s all about finding your style while growing within the culture. The platform is irrelevant as long as you have a passion for practice, failure, and hopefully some success on your journey. 
If you want the most interactive experience with the music; turntables are the way. I also just enjoy the crate digging culture and the work that must be done to find “holy grail” records.

How many records do you think you’ve got in your collection?

Around 7,000 give or take.

What do you look for when you go hunting? Is it something specific usually? Being that your tastes are so diverse I bet time can get away from you. 

I look for original samples from my favorite hip hop songs and I also enjoy looking for albums with amazing covers paired with musicians that worked on many projects in their era. I like to joke with my friends and say, “how many records did Boz Scaggs play on the 80s?” I also have a passion for finding North Carolina artists. I have a goal of finding at least one record in all 100 counties. Lastly, I look for record labels that I love and try to completely collect as many albums as possible on those labels. The great Phonte Coleman once said, “we all have dreams but dreams don’t keep the lights on.” I run a fairly tight schedule for work/life balance to ensure that I will have time to look for and listen to music. Also, during my off time, I listen to whatever I recently got that is new once a month for an entire day. I have been doing that since my college years.

What would be your ideal DJ gig? Now vs. when you started?

When I started DJing, it was just about having the opportunity to play. When I play now, it’s about my friends and what they want to hear. The great DJ Jazzy Jeff says, “a good DJ plays what you want to hear, but a great DJ plays what you didn’t know you wanted to hear.” What that really means is I am now afforded the opportunity through experience, to have the crowd trust me and my ability. Whereas in the beginning, I was far too selfish in how I presented music to people. Hip hop in itself is a competitive sport. Now that I am in my 40s, I just want people to dance.

What would your ideal DJ set up look like?

Two turntables, a state of the art mixer, and no microphone. I don’t like making announcements. I also don’t want to step over the creativity of the artist that I am presenting. It took me years to think that way. That it is not about me but about the people that have given me their time to watch me perform.

Is there a specific record that you’ve got your eye on but it doesn’t seem right to drop that much dough on it?

Test pressings and Acetates. That’s the next level. I feel like with my resources, like Carolina Soul and Gene Brown, I can obtain something that has been pressed despite the rarity of the record. Test pressings and Acetates are an entirely different level. To be honest, my friend DJ Merlin, gave me a Jazzmatazz Vol. 1 test pressing. It’s one of my most cherished pieces in my collection as he was always supportive in me becoming the best DJ that I possibly can. That record means the same thing to me as my friend, Brad Hufford, who taught me how to dig for records and my friend, Marcus Nance, for giving me my DJ name Lacewell.  It’s the  influence of your friends that drive the entire hip hop culture and define who I am. If I had to name one record that I am hesitant to invest in, it would be The Smiths – “Hand In Glove” 7”. That record is important because I never knew about artists like the Smiths when I was in Eden, NC. It only takes one person to set you on a path of discovery and I salute my East Coast Music and Video family.

What would you like to see more of as far as the culture goes here in Raleigh in the near future(post pandemic)?

Communication, consistency, and kindness. We’re all in this thing called life together. I would like to be a mentor to others, just as I was mentored. I can reach out to Tee Cardaci, John Beez, or R. Scott Wells and they will respond to me on anything I want to know about music at the drop of a hat. Music is about celebration and being with your friends. I hope our scene continues to grow as we have some really exceptional people and talent in the Raleigh area.

Check out some of Lacewell’s mixes here…