From left: Adrian "Ace" Ramos, Don "Prahfit" Lacy and Gustavo "Twenty4Tek" Galaviz
It’s just a few minutes before 8pm when I drive into Japantown and enter the small clothing boutique, 2Twenty5. Two studio photo lights direct my eyes towards Don Lacy, a.k.a. Don Prahfit, the highly animated and quick-witted host of the Lion’s Den, a live web broadcast showcasing some of Silicon Valley’s best DJs and local talent.
I’m maneuvering over the wire-crossed floor to make my greetings, when I catch sight of Adrian Ramos, also known as DJ Ace, co-host and the tech wiz and engineer for the Ustream broadcast.
The show starts at 8 p.m. and for the first half hour of the live webcast, Lacy picks selections from his playlist, dosing the listeners with fresh tracks from acts like Sane Beats and Thundercat, while ad libbing on the mic. Photographer James Mak (Joysco) is setting up cameras for the live video feed, while I meet Twenty4Tek, also known as Gustavo Galaviz, the man who manages most of the chat room interactions while the show airs.
In a time when Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites are saturated with party invites and random links to music, Ramos and Lacy wanted to create a platform where people get to know them and the guests on the show on a more personal level, instead of an indirect connection.
The Lion’s Den has its roots in Ramos’ kitchen, where he got on a Ustream channel with just one camera, a few mics, some turntables and a few listeners. In 2010, he started the webcast with Lacy after they saw other local DJs, musicians and artists finding support locally, but not reaching beyond people in the small Silicon Valley scene.
“If people don’t want to come to San Jose to see the talent, we will have to show them, utilizing the technology here and see how fast we can grow it artistically,” Lacy says.
Several local DJ’s have visited the show, including the Return of the Boom Zap crew, the BVMO crew, WishOne and DJ Too Tall. In April, the ROTBZ crew used the platform to launch their Lions, Tigers and Bears compilation. Following suit, local R&B vocalist Tara Alesia dropped her VirgoEarthChild mixtape on the Lion’s Den in June.
I caught up with Alesia to ask her how her release party went.
“It was special,” she says. “I wanted to come out with a project and have the online party setting. All the people that have been a part of my musical journey were there. It’s what we call SMG familia. SMG is a collective of singers, rappers, DJs and we all collaborate with in the studio.”
When I visited the Den, people from New York, Florida, Texas and all over California were logged in the chat room. A caller from Texas shared how she found guest DJ AJ Orbit on the Lion’s Den two years ago and has been a fan ever since.
AJ Orbit spun a 45-minute set, including tracks from producers like Katraynada and Lido, along with a track featuring South Bay producers B.Lewis and Dubstantial. After the set, he sat down with Lacy and Ramos for a candid live interview that included his picks for best places to shop in East San Jose as well AJ’s story on how rapper Bushwick Bill from Geto Boys was present during one of his sessions in the studio.
A crucial element of The Lion’s Den, is the ability for the viewers to interact and be part of the show. They can ask the hosts and the guests questions in a chatroom or by calling in. The contribution of the audience creates additional dynamic to the shows natural flow. With everything running in real time, there is no room for a script and no space for canned answers. The show shifts with each broadcast and it unfolds right then and there.
“No producer and no script. We don’t want to get the robot answers. Forget the programming. You can walk in with an idea of how the show is going to go, but all kinds of things just happen in there,” Ramos says.
The crew of the Lion’s Den are aiming high when it comes to the future of the show. They say they want to be a destination webcast, with sponsors, and a go-to promotional stop for any and all DJs—both local and on tour. “All are welcomed to enter the Den,” Lacy says.