A tribute to respected Toronto DJ Son of S.O.U.L.

Masimba Kadzirange, a.k.a. DJ Son of S.O.U.L., passed away in his sleep on Monday, Sept. 1, 2015 at the age of 44. In the midst of the shock and grief that rocked Toronto’s hip-hop community came an outpouring of love for someone whose warmth and energy stood out in this sometimes very cold city.

Late vinyl aficionado has been the subject of numerous celebrations

Masimba Kadzirange, a.k.a. DJ Son of S.O.U.L., passed away in September, 2015. (Bryan LaPointe/LaPointe Productions)

Masimba Kadzirange, a.k.a. DJ Son of S.O.U.L., passed away in his sleep on Monday, Sept. 1, 2015 at the age of 44.

In the midst of the shock and grief that rocked Toronto's hip-hop community came an outpouring of love for someone whose warmth and energy stood out in this sometimes very cold city. There have been several tributes in words, musicandart created for Son of S.O.U.L. by his friends and peers in the industry. As someone a little younger than him, but who felt his influence and spirit in key and important ways, I wanted to contribute my own small thank you to the one named S.O.U.L.

I cannot recall the first time I met Masimba. He is one of those people that I would always run into randomly; on Dundas Street West, on the subway, at a party or hip-hop show. Each time I saw him he would pause, give a slight shake to his head as the smile grew on his face, before welcoming me with a big hug. He would listen intently to everything I said, his hand resting on his chin in contemplation, laughing heartily at all of my jokes until I felt like I was Dave Chappelle. (I'm not.)

He was a permanent fixture at countless hip-hop shows throughout the city, one of the familiar faces you didn't even realize you were counting on being there until he was gone. 

I remember doubting at first the sincerity of that smile, the warm hug, the easy laugh and his intent listening. What was his hidden agenda?, I wondered to myself. Having grown up experiencing some of the deeply negative aspects that come with being a young woman in the hip-hop community, my armour at the time was thick and impenetrable. I anxiously peered out at everybody from behind it, wary of lowering my guard. I waited and waited for the day that Masimba's true intentions would reveal themselves. Eventually, the truth became clear: there was nothing to wait for. I had come across a rarity in this world — a genuinely kind and caring human being.

Masimba Kadzirange, a.k.a. DJ Son of S.O.U.L., passed away in September, 2015. (Sara Golish)

Over the years, I saw Masimba sitting in the audience at my plays, read the warm messages of encouragement he would sporadically send over social media, and noted the regular invitations to his various events. He was a permanent fixture at countless hip-hop shows throughout the city, one of the familiar faces you didn't even realize you were counting on being there until he was gone. When I saw him out with a group, he would inevitably be rolling with some of my favourite people in the city — artists of integrity whose work I grew up on and respected. His circle was deep and thorough.

As his close friend Zoé Johnson wisely observed at his funeral, Masimba was "a master of selecting music, and friends." He surrounded himself with positive people, most a little older than I, who recognize their responsibility to support and nurture the next generation. I have directly benefited from that support, and the way those individuals, including and especially Masimba, have checked for me.

DJ Son of S.O.U.L. was a vinyl connoisseur whose penchant for collecting and passion for music was legendary.  He began spinning in 1983 at the age of 12 using his father's old records. His ability to listen to music, to people and to rhythms, was the foundation he built from. I've heard stories of how his musical knowledge left DJ Jazzy Jay speechless, of his unfaltering ability to read the vibe of a space, and of sightings of him all over the world with yet another crate filled to the brim with recent vinyl-digging discoveries. Yet in the midst of it all, he moved with humility, sincerity and genuine love for the culture, absent the bravado and ego many a DJ in his position would adopt. He generously shared his knowledge with up-and-coming generations without reservation. As his close friend, David 'Click' Cox noted, on Instagram he was "a grandmaster on the turntables, grandmaster for his knowledge of music, grandmaster of sharing unconditional love, grandmaster of friendship, grandmaster of wisdom, knowledge and understanding."

The late Masimba Kadzirange, a.k.a. DJ Son of S.O.U.L., (left) and Amanda Parris.

When he passed a little under two months ago, the city stopped. The grief came hand-in-hand with the memories. Stories were shared on social media platforms, articles were published and artists got to work developing tributes for this gentle soul with sketches, paintings, mixes and poems. Wading through it all, as the tears fell unchecked down my cheeks, I quickly realized that my interactions with Masimba Kadzirange a.k.a. DJ Son of S.O.U.L. were not unique or distinct. He shared that smile, that hug, that generosity of spirit with everyone. His funeral was an incredibly beautiful dedication to a life well lived. Hundreds came together to raise money for the funeral through a Go Fund Me page,commemorative t-shirts and a vinyl celebration to support his family. I saw many of the people who are the architects of hip-hop culture in Toronto mourning the loss, celebrating the man's life and — most importantly — holding each other up. In that moment, I realized that DJ Son of S.O.U.L. had made the screw-face capital stop. Pause. Smile through tears and live the meaning of his name: the Source Of Undying Love.

An excerpt from Son of S.O.U.L. by Motion

So we thank you

for the beat, for the funk, for the bass
for the black wax spinning, for the rhythm to fill up the space
for the back to back, the for the needle drop, for the treasures to fill up our crates
for the sharing of lessons, for sharing your blessings, for elevating this place
and when your face graces them brick walls, 
and your name's in the Tdot hall of fame
we can say that we knew you when we were all growing up in this game
and the next generation will know our foundation runs deep 
deep
Soul deep
    and we'll remember that we are all
Daughters and Sons of SOUL

Masimba Kadzirange aka Son of S.O.U.L.
December 11, 1970 – September 1, 2015

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