Behind The Mic: Rob Rubalcaba

Rob Rubalaba stands outside the Love Library on a sunny afternoon.

When it comes to student organizations on campus, you usually don’t expect professors to be involved. That isn’t the case with KCR College Radio. KCR has Rob Rubalcaba, a math professor at SDSU and San Diego City College, in the studio every Friday from 9 to 10 p.m. I was fortunate enough to ask Rob, also known as Professor Shadow, a few questions for another edition of Behind the Mic. 

Rob’s music show, appropriately named “The Pregame,” is geared toward people who are going out (to bars), he said. If you tune in, you can expect to hear a plethora of golden-age hip hop, and songs sampled by hip hop artists, such as The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa,” which samples The Isley Brothers’ “Between The Sheets.” Rob made it clear that he doesn’t play obscure tracks. He said, “I want to keep people interested” by playing music that is known.

“It drives me, I just get this kick of energy from being able to share music.”

Rob, an SDSU grad of 1999, expressed the passion that drives every show he does, all of which are unique.

Rob said that the biggest steps in preparing for his shows are visiting record shops, hunting for the sample records, and then converting the samples to a digital file. He noted that occasionally he skips the conversion and brings the records with him to the studio to throw onto his turntable, a practice that he’s been familiar with for four years.

When I asked Rob about his interest in music and being a DJ, he told me it began at Auburn University during his graduate years. There, Rob started collecting music digitally and making mixes. Simultaneously, Rob was a DJ on Auburn’s WEGL 91.1 FM, the on-campus radio station.

Curious to see what the differences were between WEGL and KCR, I asked Rob what those years were like at the Alabama studio. He mentioned that the station functioned more rigidly than KCR. It required DJs to go through a year of training to fully understand the practices of the studio, such as running the board, before having their own show. Rob followed up by saying he was very happy that KCR gave DJs the “creative freedom” to find new music and share it.

To stand out, Rob plays a continuous mix of music for his whole hour. He may mention a few of the songs and artists at the beginning, but the rest of his show is a solid block of mixed music. Songs flowing into one another, record scratching, matching beats – everything that Rob does when he DJs at bars, he does on his show.

Rob’s chronicle of disc-jockeying at bars began with DJing for two years at Graffiti Beach’s monthly art shows. Alongside doing the boutique store’s shows, Rob would DJ local events in the South Park neighborhood. Rob’s big break came when he got into North Park’s bar and lounge, Bluefoot. There, he held a monthly set, originally called “The Sunday Hangover,” which included a mix of soul and funk. Shortly thereafter, Rob was picked up by another bar, El Dorado, which he has now been at for nearly a year. Beyond that, Rob also DJs at Seven Grand, a whiskey bar in North Park.

The experience of operating turntables at bars can vary depending on where you DJ, according to Rob. He said that some bars want specific music to be played, tracks that aren’t heard anywhere else. However, some bars, like Bluefoot, let Rob pick his own music for the night.

Rob mentioned that as a DJ, he sets the mood for the bar. He can make a slow night turn to a fun party and switch a busy night into a chill evening.

I had to ask about his teaching, and when I did, Rob mentioned, “I love being able to take math that most students don’t like…and  making it exciting for them.” Rob elaborated, saying that he shows students how math is done with music and art, subjects that his students can connect to. “I love walking in to a classroom and seeing smiling faces, especially for a math class,” he said.

One of Rob’s favorite things about SDSU is seeing his past students around campus, with some even getting out of food lines to say hi to their former professor.

Reiterating the love he has for both teaching and his show, Rob said “I’m getting to do what I love day and night.”

You can experience “The Pregame” every Friday from 9  to 10 p.m.

In addition, you can find your favorite DJs on our KCR schedule.

Featured image: Rob Rubalcaba loves to be a part of the campus he teaches at by being involved with KCR. Photo by Sumner Shorey.