Best of Phoenix

Best of Phoenix 2019: DJ Pickster One

Best of Phoenix 2019: DJ Pickster One
Jim Louvau
In honor of the theme of our 2019 Best of Phoenix, "Create Your Phoenix," we are spotlighting people who are innovating in their respective fields, helping our community to evolve in ways that we can all appreciate.

His real name is Dusty Hickman, but most people know him as Pickster One, a sought-after and nationally acclaimed DJ.

“I got my DJ name from back when I used to be writing graffiti,” he explains. “That was my graffiti name, and it stuck. It was a fun name to draw. I was not very good at graffiti, but I was a good rapper.”

He admits to having “tried everything,” including a stint in culinary school and cooking at several high-end local resorts. But turntables turned out to be his thing. “I was DJing for touring rappers, and that led to me going out on my own tours. It was better than busting my butt in a kitchen all week.”

Indeed. He’s been performing since 1998, running The Blunt Club, the Valley’s longest-running hip-hop night, and has toured the U.S. and parts of Europe. In 2015, the Chicago Sun-Times named Pickster one of the best DJs in America.

“It’s crazy to think about all of it,” says Pickster, who grew up near Monterey Bay, California. “I used to go to Blunt Club, and now I’m part of it. It’s always been a place where people could do art and play music and celebrate all the elements of hip-hop. It’s me and Dumper Foo — he started the Blunt Club. We just celebrated our 17th anniversary. We bring in national acts now, and it’s all just really changed.”

So has DJing. Being a turntablist has new street cred now that vinyl is hot again. “It’s hard to say why people are into vinyl these days,” says Pickster, who produces concerts for Universatile Music when he’s not spinning. “Obviously, it sounds better; it’s a better format to listen to music in than a digital file. I think people just like the warmer sound.”

Regardless of the format, it’s hard to keep up with all the music coming out these days, Pickster says. “Lately, I’ve been getting into Latin music. I like Anderson .Paak, and I’ve been listening to that new Tuxedo album. And Sly5thAve, they do covers; that’s really great stuff.”

Whether he’s spinning old funk records at The Womack on a Thursday night or dance music on the weekend at downtown’s Gypsy Bar, Pickster is looking for one thing. “You have to find the nucleus of any party, and play to that,” he believes. “There’s always a pocket of people, or a couple of girls or some break-dancers or whoever. You find that nucleus, and that’s the energy of the party. You play to those people, and it always works.”

Five Things That Make for a Great Night of Dance Music

By Pickster One

1. A good crowd — people ready to have fun and let loose.

2.  A good DJ. You could have somebody up there playing the best songs, but if they don’t know how to play them, how to mix them, then it’s, “No way.”

3. The music that you’re playing. I know, it’s weird to put this third on the list, but what are you going to do without the tunes?

4. Atmosphere. Where you’re at is always important, and you can create atmosphere with music, but scenery can change things.

5. The floor and the lights. It sounds basic, but it’s just true. Music sounds different in a room that’s fully lit, and you’re dancing on carpet. It’s just not the same.
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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela