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DJ Sega: From Homeless to Hella and Back.

January 8, 2015

DJSegaOnline01Text by Chris Malo. Images by Sean Kane.

Robert Taylor Jr. sits on a chair in the living  room surrounded by clothing, bags, empty cigarette boxes, a laptop, a lamp covered in plastic and an aquarium that houses two pet snakes, Hidley and Kane. This is where he lives at the moment, in a house but it’s not his home.

Better known to the world as DJ Sega, he sits in a cozy chair, alternating between taking sips of Yellowtail sangria and taking drags from a cigarette. Locks of hair spill over his face to the black Mad Decent Block Party II shirt he sports. Dark denim jeans extend to the orange and green Pumas on his feet. A gold pendant is splayed on his chest. The chain was his father’s but the medallion that states “I AM SO IN DEMAND” was a gift from a fan in Australia, a place he lived for three months. He developed his penchant for the aromatized wine from down under.

“The original experience I was going for was always a fusion between breakbeats and club music, and the experience that you get from a live performance,” Sega says about creating his latest project. “There’s no irony that a lot of DJs are being looked at as all-stars. When I’m on stage, you’re not just seeing a DJ. You’re not just seeing an artist pressing a bunch of buttons. You’re getting a real, genuine live experience. But the sound itself is an experience.”

The cadence of his delivery is thoughtful, purposeful and with conviction, almost preacher-like, without any trace of a pontificating element.

Getting here, to this living room, to this chair, has been a process he has invited the world to see.

But only recently have people become entirely aware of how drastic things had become.

DJSegaOnline02It started when Sega used to watch his father DJ at the Baby Grand Lounge in Nicetown – a place where Sega now spins every Thursday night. But it was at Rolling Thunder skating rink on Roosevelt Boulevard where he saw DJ Dee Square spinning that Sega first became Sega. They worked together, recording his first live set at the rink. That became Sega’s first mixtape.

“Him and I sat down and politicked and were discussing things aside from music, on a personal level,” remembers Dee Square after meeting Sega that first night. “And it kind of started a little bit of life mentoring. He was going through some really rough times. We kind of built a friendship behind a combination of music and me just being there for him.”

For years, in videos and interviews, Sega had been talking about and showing the world the awful condition of the house his family rented at 5001 Irving St. in West Philly. It should have been condemned, which eventually happened this past spring. Sega, his disabled mother and uncle were forced to vacate the premises immediately, becoming homeless.

“Imagine laying in bed, looking up at the ceiling. You have a drop ceiling,” Sega recalls about the house he lived in for a decade. “And you see something running back and forth over your head. You can hear these creatures. Eventually you get used to it, just so you can get to sleep. But it’s a bit hard to deal with because you don’t want to close yours eyes in case something falls on you.”

They were temporarily housed in various hotels by the Red Cross. It wasn’t until recently that he got his mother and uncle an apartment in Northeast Philadelphia, in part from the money he raised from friends and fans through a GoFundMe campaign.

A friend and her father were nice enough to open their doors to Sega.

Having recently dropped his latest mixtape, HellaSonix 8.666, Sega is in good spirits. He’s taking life’s trials and tribulations in stride. The latest music harkens back to the sounds and blistering energy that first got the basement of the Ukie Club and mausoleum at 12th and Spring Garden streets jumping during Mad Decent’s Philly heyday, before that guy who shall remain nameless sold the sound to the world. Sega’s latest project takes rock and metal anthems and flawlessly drops in thumping basslines to transform tracks from head banging to head nodding.

“It’s supposed to reach into your conscience and pull out old memories and things you forgot about,” says Sega about the mixtape. “Old moments that people remember from their teenage years. So much so that it manifests right then and there.”

Adversity or beef be damned and after a decade in the game, Sega has no plans to slow down. If these things never stopped him in the past, why would they now?

In the near future, Sega plans to release a video version of HellaSonix, drop the next installment of his Sixers mixtape series and create new material for Is That Your EP Too.

“One word, and that word is endurance,” says Dee Square when asked to describe DJ Sega. “He has never given up. The average person would have tried to hurt themself or slid into a depression but he’s always endured and held on to his integrity.”

“Throughout life, you come across different moments, like you come across different music,” Sega says. “I take those moments and capture everybody’s memories within one song, or within my execution of that sample in that song. I like to say, ‘Not only do I pick the songs but the songs pick me.’”

He hopes to secure a place of his own in the near future. There are bigger forces at work here. Sega is well aware of this.

And he’s also aware of  the fact that he is a force of his own to be reckoned with.

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