Steven Galindo, better known to Austin hip-hop and R&B fans as DJ Southpaw, has died. On Tuesday, local R&B station Hot 95.9 FM posted the news to their website, and Leon O’Neal, aka DJ Hella Yella, posted a tribute to Galindo on the website of Austin hip-hop station the Beat 102.3. Galindo had been struggling with health problems for some time and was on the wait list for a heart and kidney transplant. He was 47.
Although not from Austin originally — his military family moved frequently and he considered West Point, N.Y., his hometown — he was deeply committed to the community. Galindo was part of the first wave of artists who worked to build a hip-hop scene in Austin. In the early ’90s, he played shows at Doris Miller Auditorium in East Austin and Catfish Station downtown. During that time, he found his first radio home on community station KAZI 88.7 FM, where he hosted a late-night hip-hop show.
He originated the term "ATX" as shorthand for the Austin hip-hop scene on his KAZI show. The moniker was rapidly adopted by the local rappers he put in his mixes and later picked up by Austinites at large. He gave the first airplay to many Austin hip-hop artists, sliding them in alongside emerging Houston talents and mainstream rap artists.
“He comes from the Golden Era (of hip-hop),” promoter and music journalist Matt Sonzala said Wednesday. “He was a real DJ who was really embedded in the community and actually cared.”
Galindo moved on from KAZI to spin on the Saturday Night Beatdown show and various mix shows on Beat 104.3 in the early aughts. Later, he programmed R&B station 96.3 FM’s “Mix at Six” show for three years beginning in 2013.
As his own career became more established, he became a mentor to younger artists. “He never looked down on anybody. He always looked out for everybody, kind of, in my generation of DJs,” O’Neal said Wednesday.
Jonathan Daniel, who goes by Snupe Daniel on the air at Hot 95.9 FM, said the experience he got working late nights with Galindo at the Beat helped him build the skills he needed to make the leap to morning show host. Galindo’s DJ style, he said, was skillfully executed quick mixes.
“He would give you like a verse, or a stanza, the first minute (of a song), and then he would change it up,” Daniel said Wednesday. “If you’re a fan of DJs, you notice the work it takes to mix in and out of those songs so quickly.”
“I’ve known DJ Southpaw (before I really met and knew him) since I was 6 years old, 'cause back then the radio was amazing. I grew up on this man’s mixes,” Austin R&B artist Alesia Lani posted Tuesday on her Facebook page.
Galindo’s skills as a mixer made him a successful club DJ who helped integrate rap music into a downtown entertainment district that mostly ran on rock ‘n’ roll.
“The first time I ever heard a DJ on Sixth Street play hip-hop, it was DJ Southpaw. He had it packed at Fat Tuesdays, and it wasn’t even 2000 yet,” DJ Rapid Ric said in an Instagram post Wednesday.
Galindo played in various clubs around town, including Spiro’s, which hosted the hottest youth hip-hop scene in town in the early 2000s.
“He was a crowd pleaser in the clubs and he just had a real deep knowledge of music,” O’Neal said. “Like he could play for any crowd. He knew music for anybody. For like, teen parties, everything.”
Beyond music, Galindo was passionate about movies and worked as a theater manager at Alamo Drafthouse Ritz during the South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival. He loved greeting fest-goers and changed his Twitter handle to SXSouthpaw each year during the event.
Friends remembered him as an upbeat spirit who brought warmth to every room. “He had some health problems before, but he was always in a good mood. (You) never caught him on a bad day,” O’Neal said.
Even as his health declined, he remained positive and worked to contribute to the city he loved. "Despite having to go to dialysis all the time and having a failing heart, he had the best attitude," his brother, Tony Galindo, said. "Despite his own health, he would get up to volunteer, to work for Emancipet or to volunteer at a fun run for a good cause. He believed in his community."
He brightened the lives of everyone who knew him, friends and family said.
“Everyone talks about his smiles and his laugh, kind of how jovial he was,” Daniel said. “He was really just like a light.”
Galindo is survived by his wife, Rashawn Williams; his four children, Raven Galindo, Shyquivia Stiggers, Steven Lord Galindo and Tayliah Galindo; his parents, retired Sgt. Maj. Ernest Galindo and Marie Galindo; his brother, Tony Galindo; and his sister, Renee Galindo Wood.
Friends have created an online fundraiser on Facebook to help the family with funeral expenses.