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For over a decade, James Biko (formerly known as DJ Needles) has been delivering his signature afro-progressive style to crowds far and wide.

East St. Louis-born/St. Louis-based multidisciplinary artist James “Biko” Gates started drawing cartoons as early as the age of 2 and hasn’t put down the pencil, pen, or sharpie since. Influenced by the characters of his favorite cartoons such as Looney Tunes plus the lettering and vibrant murals of graffiti art, James melded these styles and others into his own doodles and comics. Throughout his childhood, it was clear that art was one of his true loves – another was music.

Heavily drawn to Hip-Hop, though still having a strong connection to Soul, R&B, Pop, New Wave, Rock, and Reggae; as a teen, James would typically be found on the floor of his Mom’s living room drawing cartoons with the stereo blasting nearby. Tapes filled with songs he recorded off the radio was actually how his DJ career began. When asked by his brother to play music for a friend’s party in 1994, a then 17 year-old James took his cassettes, grabbed a couple boomboxes and inadvertently began a career that would eventually take him to the clubs, on the air, across the country, and overseas.

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