When Australian Filipina writer MICHELLE BALTAZAR caught up with Black Eyed Peas DJ and producer, Poet Name Life, she discovered a multi-talented artist with a heart of gold and a megawatt smile.
DJ Poet Name Life at Lady Lux
DJ Poet Name Life is on top of the world.
Born Jaime Lim Munson, the Filipino-American DJ co-produced chart-topper ‘Boom Boom Pow’ for Black Eyed Peas (BEP) and boasts the number one dance album on iTunes, Total Club Hits 4.
More importantly, he got the girl. In April this year, Poet became an honorary Australian when he got engaged to Melbourne-based top model Lucy McIntosh (pictured).
No wonder he was beaming as he sat with his fiance in the VIP room of Lady Lux, an exclusive nightclub in a hidden alley just off The Strip in Kings Cross, Sydney. Poet flew in to Australia from South Africa where he just finished performing as BEP’s DJ on the eve of Africa’s first World Cup.
Performing a one-night-only set at the club, Poet gave his local fans a taste of why he is one of the most sought-after DJ/producer/writer/re-mixer wherever he goes. He took over the decks well after midnight and got the crowd going on the dancefloor with a high-energy mix of electro, dance, hip-hop and everything in between.
He’s come a long way from the shy kid who went to John Marshall High School in Los Angeles, the school where he met Apl.de.ap from BEP.
“He was my first friend there. I didn’t know anybody because I just came off junior high,” he says, recalling how intimidated he felt about going to the “big school”.
“Then on my first day, I got off the car and I saw this guy doing windmills and breakdancing on the lawn at the front of the school. There was a circle of people watching him. I go over there and it was Apl – it was Allan Pineda.”
Poet met Will (Will.I.Am of the BEP) in the same school, too, and they’ve all become firm friends since (“Apl was my ‘kuya’ because he was a year above me”). He even got both Will and Apl to try their hand at Djing in recent years.
“Oh yeah, I got them into that. That was my call – I take credit for that.”
That highschool friendship spawned musical success in their adult life as Poet worked alongside BEP as their songwriter, producer and DJ.
To think that ‘Boom Boom Pow’ wouldn’t have made it to the airwaves if it weren’t for a 13th hour collaboration mainly between him and Will.I.Am.
“The album was done already and that was a last-minute song. We literally did that song like the night before we had to turn in the album to the label.”
Michelle interviewing Poet Name Life (fiance Lucy McIntosh on his left)
Poet said they’ve already locked down “Showdown”, “Imma Be” and “Meet Me Halfway” but Will.I.Am said something was missing.
“It was just like, we had all those other songs [but] the album didn’t feel complete. We started making this beat, with Will – we did it at his house,” he said.
“So we were making the beat while him and Fergie were making up the lyrics and everyone was at his house. I remember that night, it was so crazy.”
While Poet knew it was going to be a hit, the group was taking a big risk using hard electro beats at a time when those same beats were played in raves not record studios (but since ‘Boom Boom Pow’ dropped, hits by Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Usher all have hard electro tunes).
“All of a sudden, everyone’s doing electro. It was like going from ‘I don’t know if the masses are ready for this’ but now – it’s hot.”
Performing to an audience as many as 30,000 today, and working with Justin Timberlake, Travis Barker (Blink-182) and Joe Hahn of Linkin Park, Poet’s recent gigs are a far cry from the days he (and the BEP crew) would play to small, empty bars.
“To us, if 10 people turned up, that was like a sold-out show. We just wanted to perform and show the other side of our music like the DJing and the battling,” he said.
“It was always just fun to do, no matter if it’s just one person or just us in the bar.”
His passion for music runs deep. While in school, he played all the musical instruments he could get his hands on. His dad loves to play the guitar while his mom was into writing poems. His grandmother opened his eyes and ears to classical music and jazz.
His voice softens a little when he talks about his lola (grandmother in Filipino).
“She was one of the first teachers in L.A. that put it down for Pinoys back in the ‘50s,” he says with pride.
He credits his lola for the path he chose. “Growing up in LA at that time, there were a lot of gangs so it’s either you went on that [musical] route or the gang route so I was lucky that my grandma, my lola, enforced that love for music in me.”
He says that his lola, who is well into her late 80s, listens to his music all the time and squeals “Black Eyed Peeeeaaazzzz!” when she hears BEP songs.
Poet Name Life hits the decks
From electro to psychedelic
No matter how busy Poet’s life gets, what with being the DJ of the BEP tour this year, new albums in the pipeline and a transatlantic relationship (“Lucy and I always talk on Skype”), he says that he’s on blogsites every other day listening to what others are playing (“You have to keep your ear out.”).
He predicts that more people will soon start listening to psychedelic music, similar to the 1960s psychedelic pop, rock and folk music but with a 21st century feel.
“With the wave of music that I found online, I was thinking, wow, it’s really psychedelic right now.”
He believes the younger generation is discovering music by Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix and that is influencing the music they then create, mix or share with friends.
The way Poet sees it, music has come full circle. From psychedelic in the 60s, to bassline in the 70s, electronic in the 80s, ‘fusion’ music in the 90s to hip hop in the last decade, today’s generation of listeners have better access to all musical genres through technology.
When he’s not online scouting for the slickest beats, Poet is managing multiple projects. He has a new group called the ‘Crybabies’ and is about to wrap up his solo electro album called ‘Thank You For Being With Us’.
But no matter where his career has taken him, Poet hasn’t forgotten his roots. He gives back to the Filipino community by helping Filipino talent through Jeepney Music (with Apl) and as a ‘big brother’ in a community youth outreach program in LA.
Asked what his advice is to other DJs who want to make it big, he says that being a producer keeps his skills up.
“Knowing the music that’s being made and being on top of the techniques and the programs, that helps.”
“Not only that but being friends with all the other DJs, like keeping it within the DJ family is how we evolve and keep on top of our game.”
For Poet, collaborating with other DJs works better than fighting with them.
“I have no beef with other DJs. I share all my music.”
With his feet firmly on the ground and that generous Pinoy smile, it’s hard not to like Poet. He may be one of the hottest DJs on the planet but with such a positive vibe around him, he is the coolest, too.