Michael Schafermeyer, a prominent DJ on the St. Louis underground rap scene, died early yesterday morning in Baltimore, of an apparent alcohol and drug overdose. He was 31.
Schafermeyer grew up in Jefferson City, taking his DJ moniker Helias from his eponymously named high school, where he went before attending Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington, Missouri. He lived in Columbia, Missouri, before coming to St. Louis, where he attended St. Louis Community College for a time. He moved to Baltimore early last year to be with his wife, Michelle Reichling.
Known for producing and scratching on tracks with his underground hip hop collective, the Frozen Food Section, he also DJed for hip-hop/rock group Lojic before they departed for Los Angeles in the mid-'00s.
"He was the best turntablist I've ever known, and a truly undiscovered talent," says Nate Womack, a friend and St. Louis producer known as Splitface.
"He was like a combination of Pete Rock and RJD2. He was really good with drums and flipping funk samples. He always had that 'it' factor. There was something that really drew you to his music." Schafermeyer's work appears on Splitface and June 16th's Raydeeohh, as well albums from rappers including Jonathan Toth from Hoth, Tucker Booth and Serengeti.
I met him while reporting a piece on the Frozen Food Section for RFT in 2004, and over the years we became good friends. Like others in his orbit, I was amazed by his creative and technical abilities. His beats were almost universally compelling, and he put them together quickly and cleanly; members in his clique fought to rap over some of them. Perhaps the biggest surprise, though, came when he abruptly decided to become an MC himself, which he did to great effect.
Yet despite Schafermeyer's talents, there was always a sense of chaos about him; Pro Tools files swallowed by hard-drive crashes, lost phones, nonsensical ramblings. His disorganized streak might explain why he never put out a CD of his own. "I really think he was kind of genius, and that brings along a strange psychosis," says his wife, Michelle Reichling, adding that his death has prompted her to begin culling his substantial unreleased catalogue for potential release.
Schafermeyer and Reichling were married on January 8, 2009, though Schafermeyer managed to disrupt their nuptials.
The couple had planned to take their vows a few days earlier, but while en route from St. Louis to Baltimore, Schafermeyer mouthed off to a flight attendant when she admonished him to close his laptop, inquiring whether she was "the lady who checks for shoe bombs." The remark earned him an arrest and a four-month stretch in St. Louis County jail. The story made national news.