African American Studies
Danny Martinez, aka BeatMann, is one of the original Bronx DJs. He is of Puerto Rican and Italian descent. He was born in 1965 and raised in the South Bronx alongside his brother (Freddie, born 1967) and sister. As young boys and pre-teens, the Martinez brothers began tagging throughout the Bronx, using spray paint to leave their names and artwork on trains, walls, buildings, etc. They stole the paint from various stores throughout the New York/New Jersey area. The neighborhood the boys grew up in was very diverse—Puerto Ricans, blacks, Italians, and Irish all lived together in that section of the Bronx, and there were good relations between the races. Danny and his brother grew up during the heroin years in the Bronx, and they witnessed the desperation of the drug culture first-hand. Their neighborhood was rough but close-knit, and Danny could always count on his group of friends and acquaintances. Even so, Danny and Freddie carried guns from an early age, even though it turns out that they never needed to use them.
At the same time that the Martinez boys were tagging trains and buildings, Danny got into DJing. His older cousin taught him how to use turntables and a mixer. In 1975 Danny heard Kool Herc at a jam in Cedar Park and realized that he wanted to spend his life DJing. Throughout his early years he had been collecting records and learning to cut, and the jam gave him the impetus to hone his craft. He soon after had his first public performance, which was a great success, and he purchased his own system. Soon after he was performing all over the Bronx, from high schools to abandoned buildings to clubs, all by the age of 15. He became well-known as an excellent DJ in the local community. He also was involved with a breakdance and DJ team called The Bronx Boys, and there were some female members who billed themselves as The Bronx Girls. Because Martinez was a “pure DJ” who relied on cutting and beat-making rather than emceeing, he did not achieve the fame that some other DJs enjoyed—Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa, for example, in addition to having prodigious talent and ingenuity, frequently collaborated with MC’s who made their music more palatable to a wide audience. Martinez is thus closer to the Kool Herc school of “pure DJing,” and in this capacity, he holds a stalwart national and international reputation in the DJ world. Throughout the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, Martinez established his reputation by performing at jams, in clubs, block parties, and at parties that he and his brother would organize.
Martinez first DJed abroad in the 80’s, when he went to London for a series of gigs. However, Martinez’s music has travelled farther than he has: he still hopes to travel to Germany, Japan, and several other countries to perform. Martinez is still based in the South Bronx, and he is constantly exploring new music and making new beats.
Martinez, Danny Interview 1, June 5 2007, Interview with the Bronx African American History Project, BAAHP Digital Archive at Fordham University.
Click below to download supplemental content.Martinez, Danny and Freddie Interview 1.mp3 (105660 kB)