By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS ) — Stephanie Ornelas, a respected San Francisco DJ, designer and champion of Bay Area music culture died suddenly Sunday from a heart attack, according to reports on social media.
The 55-year-old Ornelas, equally known by her “nom de turntable” DJ Steph, was a fixture of the San Francisco music scene dating back to the late 1980s. According to a biography posted on SFStation.com, Ornelas began DJing in clubs at that time under the tutelage of DJ EFX (older brother to well-known radio and club DJ Mind Motion).
Starting in the mid-1990s, Ornelas would write, publish and edit the record-focused newsletter the Vinyl Exchange, reporting on local events of note and reviewing records by hip-hop artists in the Bay Area and beyond. She would later move the concept online by establishing the sadly now defunct VinylExchange.com website.
Throughout the decade, Ornelas remained a pillar of the San Francisco DJ scene, performing at a variety of parties including Many Styles at Club Deco and the now legendary Future Primitive Soundsessions.
Ornelas graduated from Mount Diablo High School in Concord and studied clinical psychology at San Francisco State University. She would also study graphic design at through the UC Berkeley Extension, leading her to another creative outlet.
Ornelas would branch out into design work, launching her own business that covered illustration, advertising and website design. But she remained dedicated to supporting and promoting music, both her own regular DJ gigs (more recently the metal/hip-hop 69 RPM Happy Hour at the Knockout in the Mission and a summer monthly at Drake’s Dealership in Oakland) and live performances by a wide range of musical artists.
She recently spun records as one of the warm up acts for a club performance by DJ/producer Prince Paul (of Stetsasonic, De La Soul, Handsome Boy Modeling School fame) at the Elbo Room.
After word of her death spread on social media Sunday, a number of hip-hop luminaries weighed in with tributes to Ornelas including Run the Jewels member and Company Flow founder El P, noted turntablist DJ Z-Trip and Latyrx members Lyrics Born and Lateef the Truthspeaker as well as MCs Dose One and Sims.