King of nothing

Boston’s DJ Kon rejects the crown, plus Millions and Bruno
July 27, 2006 2:33:39 PM

MULTI-TASKING: Dorchester’s newly crowned “King of Diggin’ ” talks records and manages the dance floor.
“Hi, sorry to interrupt, are you going to play any ’80s?” a patron asks DJ Kon behind the decks at Middlesex Lounge. “Maybe,” he says. “Are you going to play ’80s?” she repeats. “ ’Cause that girl, she’s going to Africa.” “Well, I’ll be playing some African music,” he says with a smile. “What about just the song ‘Africa?’,” she asks. “I have that, we’ll see, I have a great cover of that, it’s a dub.” “That’s fine, can we get Toto tonight, though? . . . ‘We come from the land Down Under!!!’,” she yells. “Maybe,” Kon says calmly, “but that’s Men at Work.”

Dorchester’s own DJ Kon (a/k/a Christopher Taylor) plays clubs all around town, but occasionally he drops by the low-key Cambridge venue to spin “his favorites,” as it says on the bill. It’s a privilege, because he’s known around the world as a crate digger — an obsessive, irrepressible record fan who will don rubber gloves to find a lost gem. Such fanatics generally go unheralded, but this summer, the BBE label released a compilation of some of his favorites and called it Kings of Diggin’, putting the Boston native on the map as one of the pre-eminent music archeologists. “I hate that title, because I’m not a king of anything. An acronym for my name is King of Nothing. The CD series is ‘Kings of . . . ,’ whether it’s house or disco, and that’s respectable. But as for me: no. I’m a student of music, I like to learn new music every day, and that’s really what it’s about for me.”

An old Green Line graff artist and disco head, Kon has been compiling and trading rare vinyl for decades, hardly ever getting compensation when someone samples his finds. For a time, he sold some rarities directly to producers for hip-hop loops, but he got turned off pretty quickly. “I’ve consulted for some big people, but it’s not really worth it. You’re dealing with multi-million-dollar people who want to nickel-and-dime you. From the corporate executive standpoint, it’s like, ‘Well, what exactly are we paying him for?’ So it’s this whole chain of command. It’s kind of like playing yourself. It doesn’t work out in my favor. The money is really easy, but you’re providing a blueprint that could lead to millions of dollars on their end. I don’t really see that.”

Kings of Diggin’ spotlights 17 rare loop-worthy jams put together by Kon and his NYC-based partner Amir. (There’s also a bonus CD from Tokyo beathead Muro.) Amir discovered the groove for OutKast’s “So Fresh, So Clean,” and he recently left record mecca Fat Beats to work for the indie hip-hop label ABB. Kon still lives in Dorchester, where he has lived most of his life. The two correspond often, get together rarely. For this high-profile release, however, they had two recent Boston release parties, one at Middlesex Lounge, one at Vertigo in Faneuil Hall. The compilation itself is an international blend of Brazilian, Latin, European funk, and something Kon calls “West Indian urban disco.” It kicks off with the dreamy folk funk of Matthew Larkin Cassell’s “In My Life,” which, it turns out, is Kon’s favorite vintage-record find of the bunch: “He’s a cool dude. He’s now a teacher in California and he surfs.” Kon had heard of the private-press recording but couldn’t find it anywhere. (And that means anywhere.) So he had an idea. “A friend of mine works at Warner Bros. and has access to publishing, so he looked him up and wrote him a pretty charming letter and got in touch with him. And I was like, ‘Yo, pass that info and then I can hit him up.’ And I took it to another level and got to acquire the masters, worked a deal out to launch this guy’s stuff. I got my record directly from him. He’s a good guy, a down-to-earth dude. . . . I just want to get his music as far out as it can go. That’s my thing.”

Expect to see Cassell’s rare LP up on eBay soon — Kon’s compilations usually ignite the rabid vinyl market. “A prior compilation that we did, I had this great record that I saw go for $1000 on eBay. That’s not indicative of the true value, it’s just what some fool with a lot of money wants to pay. But that’s . . . a lot of money for a record.”

Kon has waded through the muck for a stack of water-damaged goodness, and only he knows the value of some of his finds. “Most of the tracks on the mix I got through 10 years of contacts. But I’ve found things around my way, in Dorchester. Very expensive records for 50 cents.” He smiles. “I keep my composure. Never let them see you sweat! But meanwhile you’re like, ‘Oh my God! I’m about to get this for 50 cents!’ Those are the joys. But I also pay $400 for a single record. You just got to do it. If you’re me.

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