Ask James Scogletti, the DJ, radio host and hip-hop head known as Selecta, about the state of music in Pittsburgh and he’s quick to clarify that he doesn’t have his finger to the pulse like he used to. He’s in his 40s and even in his earlier days, his career focused more on celebrating classic era hip-hop than premiering the newest of the new.
Realistically though, he’s selling himself a bit short. Selecta has been an integral, supportive and nearly ubiquitous staple of Pittsburgh’s hip-hop scene for years, whether as performer, in hosting his weekly Grand Groove radio show on WYEP, or as the owner of the influential record store 720 Records. If you’ve ever attended a hip-hop or hip-hop-adjacent show in Pittsburgh, chances are you’ve rubbed elbows with Selecta.
Next week, that prolific career will get the celebration it deserves with Selecta's 45th Birthday Roast & Dance Party at Spirit. Selecta will sit on the hot seat for a round of roasting at 8 p.m., hosted by Justin Strong, followed by sets from Blakk Steel, DJ Rocdaspot and Selecta. Headlining is the legendary rapper and producer, Large Professor, who, aside from boasting a 30-year career and big league credits with artists like Nas, Beastie Boys, and A Tribe Called Quest, has also been a regular guest at Selecta’s semi-annual birthday/dance parties throughout the years.
The first iteration of this party was an old-school hip-hop show called Classic Material in 2007, which Selecta ran with DJ SMI. “[Classic Material] was not only a way to celebrate my birthday, but also stay with the theme of old-school hip hop and bring in an old-school hip-hop icon,” says Scogletti.
Over the past decade, these Classic Material/birthday parties have transformed into an annual occasion for like-minded fans to re-live and celebrate an era of hip hop that doesn’t always get its fair due.
“[These parties] harken back to a time when hip hop was about dope beats and rhymes. The pure definition of hip hop,” says Scogletti. “Don’t expect to come and hear the cliche dancefloor favorites, come with an open mind and dance to something that’s maybe not recognizable but has a groove. That should possess you to get on the dancefloor.”
And the roast?
“I’m being super brave and hopefully my friends will be kind. But it’s a roast, it’s supposed to get a bit cruel,” says Scogletti. “I’m prepared for the worst.”