Do you have a favorite mixtape? You know, that one you still play from back in the day?
If you don’t, I feel sorry for you. Everyone should have that in their lives.
Over the years I’ve collected quite a few of those, but one in particular stands out from the rest.
I remember when DJ Element dropped this classic mix of Soul, Funk & Hip Hop back in 2002…
I first heard about him from Romeo Navarro, who had him play at the main event (and again at the after party) at B-Boy City 3.
If you came up in the Southwest and were into that golden era, trueschool movement of hip hop, this tape was the jam when it came out.
This was back when you had to know someone, because copies were limited to the events and mainly available in short runs in select west coast shops, and of those, mostly in the Arizona area where Element is from.
Definitely one of my top 5 mixtapes of all time. The selection, the mixes, the cuts, the whole thing is just a masterpiece to those who can pick up on the subtleties of what he did.
Might sound like just another crusty old tape from yesteryear to these youngins’, but to me… it’s pure gold.A good mixtape can take you on a ride. I pair them with strong coffee these days to create awesome things.Click To Tweet
Real DJing is an Under Appreciated Artform
I remember the very first time I mixed a record in the summer of 92′ on one of my friends makeshift rigs, which consisted of a beat up Technics SL-1200, Gemini MX/PMX2200 Mixer and a vintage Technics SL 1400.
My scant 30-40 record collection at the time of classic rock, rare 7 inch proto-punk, southern gangster rap and electronic music didn’t leave me with a lot of options.
But that was the summer I learned about the importance of BPM (Beat Per Minute) and phrasing, build ups & breaks and more than anything… just how to control a damn record on the platter.
The Fundamental Style Elements
Looking for basslines, melodies, the right key / pitch and breakdowns that compliment each other and make good mixes is an artform. A skilled DJ creates a unique soundscape and can tell a story with music.The art of finding records that go together is a spiritual thing. Its a journey.Click To Tweet
We spend literally years of our life researching, cataloging and programming musical experiences. Our mixes become like little time capsules of where we were at in life.
It’s the curation, the wall of sound we create with the songs we chose, the order we put them in, the trained ear that comes with the experience of years and years of digging. That is a foundational part of being a DJ. If you can’t do that, if you don’t have that in you… don’t call yourself a DJ.
The younger DJs I come across in particular these days are not capable of mixing two vinyl records for 32 or 64 repetitions.
Half of them can’t even find the drop if they don’t have a visual queue point pre-programmed or the records synched up through BPM matching. Too many are missing the fundamental elements.
With that said, there are also a lot of young DJs coming up who do their homework. They build on the foundations and create new styles that are still true to the artform.
This recent video routine by DJ Craze (who I brought to Dallas for his first time way back in 2000 at the old Gypsy Tea Room) sums up how I feel about the current state of DJing.
Can You Dig it?
I’m certainly not the first to complain about the rise of the Serato DJ and I surely won’t be the last. It’s great blog fodder.
Although there are some legitimate concerns among the older generation passing the torch, at the end of the day our parents thought we weren’t preserving the culture either. But who the hell wants to sit around listen to The Osmonds though.
I mean, maybe like some sick Z-Trip mashup with the Pointer Sisters and a drum loop from Led Zeppelin, or maybe the the Isley Brothers. Whatever.Good music can change your life.Click To Tweet
I can see those concerns though. The integrity of the the discovery process and the technical ability needed to claim the title of a DJ are not what they once were, plain and simple. It’s lowered the value of the title of “DJ” for sure over the last 10 years.
It is an awesome technology (Serato) that has set us free from lugging around 100’s of pounds of records… but in that progress a little piece of the artform was lost. Even with the big surge in vinyl over recent years, these kids aint diggers anymore.
The process of digging for records itself is something altogether different to someone born in 1997. They didn’t know a time when you actually had to go buy the record you wanted. Physically. Wait in line. At a music store. In the rain.The story behind how you discover music, for me, is also part of the music.Click To Tweet
The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same
Now I just sound old, but even with the resurgence of vinyl culture, I don’t think the average Millennial will ever truly understand that journey100%.
It will be just as awesome, but their own version. Probably even cooler and more intricate than what we did when it’s all said and done.
They will have the convenience of the internet. It was total potluck back in our day. You had to really work for that shit.
Physically traveling to far off record stores all over the city / region, going to record swap meets, obscure garage sales, dank thrift stores, snooping through records of friends, relatives, etc… with no idea if you would find the record you were looking for. Sometimes not even actually knowing the record, just knowing when you heard it.
The quest of searching out each of those little sonic puzzle pieces to construct an audible experience that conveys things that can’t be put into words.
It’s something special.
I think more people should experience that.