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DJ Rico Dejoie is now the boss of a record store and a label

Rico Dejoie owns Boss Vintage, a record store at 1214 McGee St.
Rico Dejoie owns Boss Vintage, a record store at 1214 McGee St. Special to the Star

He has been a fixture in the Kansas City music scene since the mid-1990s, foremost as a DJ.

In the past year, Rico Dejoie has become a business owner, a record producer and owner of a record label.

In April, Dejoie (day-JWA) opened Boss Vintage at 1214 McGee St., just north of the Sprint Center. Boss Vintage is a shop that sells vinyl records and turntables.

“I really wanted to bring back a mom-and-pop shop that’s been missing in so many communities,” he said. “We’re not a big store, so because of that I can fine-tune the collection and emphasize what I think are serious records.”

DeJoie, 49, has been collecting records for decades. The son of immigrant parents from Haiti and the Dominican Republic, he grew up in New York listening to lots of world music: calypso, Haitian jazz, meringue. When he was 15 or so, he started hanging out at CBGB, the hallowed music venue in the East Village, where he heard another variety of sounds.

“That’s where my taste in music really started developing,” he said. “I started buying records from the bands that came around. That’s where my collection started.”

His diverse tastes in music came in handy when he started DJ-ing in New York in the mid-1980s, sometimes throwing rent parties at the end of the month when it looked like there might not be enough cash to pay the landlord.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I’d do punk, goth night, ’80s nights. It didn’t matter. I’d DJ anything.”

In 1994, DeJoie came to Kansas City for the first time to help a friend move to New York. He has been living here, off and on, ever since.

“I fell in love with Kansas City,” he said. “I kept going back and forth to New York because I wasn’t too sure. But I always came back to KC.”

For 20 years he has been amassing a larger collection of 45s — it now exceeds 9,000 — and taking parts of that collection with him to DJ gigs in Kansas City and beyond, including Puerto Rico, spinning primarily soul, reggae, ska and punk. His collection of vintage soul records has made him a go-to DJ.

“After Amy Winehouse got popular, things changed,” he said. “She followed a style called Northern Soul, which is rarer soul music. It got me bigger gigs in places like San Francisco and Los Angeles with people who knew I had these records.”

When he treks to out-of-town gigs, Dejoie shops for more records, usually in the kinds of shops that inspired him to open Boss Vintage.

He shares his modest-size space with Topsy Turvy, a boutique owned by Ashley Ferro that sells vintage clothes, music ’zines, dishes and other accessories. Topsy Turvy provides a nice symmetry to Boss Vintage. (Both are open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.)

“We’re about the ’60s mod culture,” Ferro said, “like ’60s polyester dresses, plus dish sets, the whole lifestyle. There’s an art form and a fashion to what (Dejoie) sells, the records and record players. So it all fits together.”

Boss Vintage also brings back a bygone scene. The record inventory comprises rare 45s and LPs plus turntables and stereo consoles. It also includes some cassettes. The vinyl must pass muster.

“We only sell original pressings,” he said, pointing out albums by David Bowie, the Rolling Stones (in mono), the Jam and Cheech & Chong’s “Big Bambu” album, with a giant rolling paper as a record sleeve.

He shows off some of the more unusual LPs he has in stock, including some Jamaican ska from the ’50s and ’60s and “The Copulatin’ Blues,” a collection of raunchy songs from the 1920s and ’30s that includes tracks like “Do Your Duty” by Bessie Smith and “New Rubbin’ on the Darned Old Thing” by Oscar’s Chicago Swingers.

He takes out a copy of an album called “Cowboi!” and plays it on one of the several record players in the store.

“It’s a country-punk-oi record by a guy named Johnny Rioux, who’s in the Street Dogs,” he said. “Small label, first-time original pressing. That’s what we like to sell here, things that are unusual or unique.”

Those turntables are another attraction. Some of them are old models that have been updated and refurbished with new speakers. His prize is a Rek-O-Kut, a model built in the 1960s. “That’s not for sale,” he said.

He has a prize recording, too: the single recently released on Boss Hooligan Soundsystem, the name of Dejoie’s label. The A-side of the single is “Skins and Symarip,” written and sung by reggae/ska legend Monty Naismith Montgomery, who was in town in December to perform at Dejoie’s annual Hooligan Holiday party.

The track was arranged by three local musicians: Kian Byrne and Dan Loftus of New Riddim and Ryan Heinlein of Project H, all of whom accompanied Montgomery on the recording. The B-side, “Walkabout,” was written by Byrne and Loftus and recorded by New Riddim.

“Rico and I had talked about putting out a 45 together,” said Byrne, who is also a member of the Celtic rock band the Elders. “We share the same interests in sound and it all worked out great.… This definitely won’t be the last record we work together on.”

“It has been a longtime dream of mine to do something like that, to be able to play a record on my label,” said Dejoie, the project’s executive producer.

Friday night he might well play that record on the patio at the Riot Room, 4048 Broadway, before a performance by 77 Jefferson, a local reggae band. Dejoie has other local DJ gigs on the books: for the Original Wailers at the Riot Room on Aug. 12; for one of his heroes, legendary producer Lee “Scratch” Perry, at the Riot Room on Sept. 8; and for Stephen and Damian Marley at Crossroads KC on Sept. 11.

He will also hit the road for guest DJ gigs and to replenish the inventory at Boss Vintage, which has joined a growing list of stores selling vinyl in Kansas City. Boss Vintage was joined by the much larger — 6,500 square feet — Josey Records, which opened in June near 18th and Oak streets.

Dejoie sees other stores as part of a fraternity rather than competition.

“(Josey) has been really good to us,” he said. “They have told people about us and sent them our way. If we get another store or two in town, I want to make a map of all the stores in Kansas City so people can do a record-store tour.

“I want it to be like when people went into a record store and they sat and listened to new music or music they haven’t heard and they talked about it, and then go on to the next (store), like the old days.”

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.

Friday

Rico Dejoie, as Boss Hooligan Soundsystem, will spin 45s on Friday night at the Riot Room, 4048 Broadway, before a performance by the Kansas City reggae band 77 Jefferson. Showtime is 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 in advance, $7 at the door.

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