Category Archives: Music

DJ Shiftee Explores Thirty Years of Turntablism in Fourteen Minutes

Electronic music production and DJ training facility Dubspot has been instrumental educating the public on the history and technique of the DJ and two-time DMC (Disco Music Club) turntable champion and instructor Shiftee’s examination on the craft is an arresting blend of historical lecture and performance art.

This is an excellent primer on one of the pillars of Hip-Hop culture (Break Dancing, Emceeing, DJing, Graffiti Art, and Beatboxing) and for those who wish to explore the subject in detail I recommend the following:

  • Wild Style (Film), Hip-Hop is exposed to the World in Charlie Ahern’s seminal 1983 film
  • Scratch (Film), Doug Pray’s fascinating documentary on the history of Turntablism and the cult of the DJ
  • Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop (Book), Jeff Chang explores the economic, political, and social forces that create and shape what we now know as Hip-Hop Culture
  • Last Night a DJ Saved My Life (Book), Bill Brewster traces the unexpected history of DJ culture through exhaustive research and engaging personal interviews

Four Steps to Executing a Successful Deejay Performance

<Writer’s Note: This is an amended post where I have added more information>

I am a Graphic and Web Designer by trade, but for many years I’ve earned money as a professional DJ (for events, companies, organizations—and on occasion—a wedding or party on referral) and there is nothing quite like the rush and excitement of performing music for a crowd. But, before you can move the crowd there is a lot of preparation involved:

  1. Be Prompt—respond to any and all correspondence immediately, be it a contract, question, or request; the sooner you have all the info you need, the sooner you can start your preparation
  2. Be Prepared—ask questions, research your client, request an itinerary,  walk through your performance venue, create an equipment checklist, and practice, practice, practice your material; the unexpected will happen at your event so be prepared when it does
  3. Be Professional—respond quickly (see tip 1: Be Prompt) by phone or email; dress appropriately; arrive and set up early on event day, be friendly, flexible, and smile often
  4. Be Productive—before, during, and after the gig engage your guests, clients, and followers in person and online (have your business cards ready); be diligent in producing content and sharing your work (this will lead to new clients and opportunities)

Deejaying is a performance: the live aspect of playing before a crowd is theater and everyone is watching you so don’t blow it by not being prepared.

 

 

The High Priestess of Soul Featured in New Documentrary

Nina Simone documentary slated to air on Netflix
Nina Simone documentary slated to air on Netflix, June 26th 2015

Academy Award winning filmmaker Liz Garbus has directed a long overdue documentary on Nina Simone using unseen archival music, photos, and film footage tell the story of a fiercely creative, complex, and socially conscious artist.

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Nina Simone is personally inspiring because of her singular commitment to her craft, her art, and her message. During the height of the civil rights struggle, she put it all on the line—her fame, her reputation, and her career—to reflect the times in which she lived.

I, for one, am excited to see this film and not the fictional movie on Ms. Simone, as portrayed by Zoe Saldana(!).

Questionable casting in fictional portrayal of Nina Simone.
Questionable casting in fictional portrayal of Nina Simone.

Cultural Exchange: Questlove Deejays and Crate Digs in Cuba

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Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is best known as drummer, writer, and producer for the hip-hop supergroup The Roots, but just as important he is a globe-trotting DJ and avid record collector.

Questlove on a dig with Cuban producer Edgaro Productor n Jefe
Questlove on a dig with Cuban producer Edgaro Productor n Jefe

Quest For Cuba is a thirteen-minute documentary by Okay Player Films chronicling Questlove’s funky, street-level cultural exchange tour of Cuba: spinning tracks, crate digging for classic vinyl (I spotted a classic Los Zafiros album in the stack!), and visiting the legendary EGREM Studios in Old Havana.

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Ten years ago, The Roots played in Cuba and Questlove vows to return again soon. I can’t speak for the American or Cuban governments, but I trust that “Questo” speaks the truth and we will all be the richer for the effort!

 

 

 

 

Thump Takes Issue with a New Generation of DJs—What Can We Learn?

Thump’s Trino Trevino hilarious, yet accurate assessment of the state of today’s aspiring DJs has a lesson for us all. Social marketing is an important component in your quest for fame and glory, but don’t overlook doing the work.  Also, don’t be like THIS guy!

“Here’s the bad news: fame and glory will never come if you never make music.”

Every Hero Needs a Theme Song: Oddisee’s “That’s Love”

Motivation. How to get yourself up to do what needs to be done?! I find music to be a great motivator (deadlines, fear, and insecurity are others…) and Oddisee’s single, “That’s Love” more than fits the bill.

Oddisee, the Good Thing
Oddisee’s “The Good Thing” is a shot of sonic caffeine

The Maryland native, Brooklyn-based artist’s new album The Good Fight “acknowledges the stacked odds, but refuses to submit”.

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Stream and purchase the new album on Bandcamp, support a great artist, put your cape on, and create your own!

Respect.

 

The Impact of De La Soul’s Kickstarter Campaign

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The term game changer tends to be overused, but De La Soul’s Kickstarter campaign may inspire more artists to work through unconventional channels to finance and distribute their work.

De La Soul
De La Soul appeals to fans via Kickstarter for creation of latest album

In less than a month, more than 9,000 backers have contributed over 500,000.00 USD—obliterating the band’s crowdfunding goal of $110,000.00 in ONE DAY!

This method of crowdsourcing and unconventional financing sends a powerful message to established and emerging artists as well as media companies and distributors that technology is a great tool for creatives to send their art directly to market.

Revolutions on Air Documentary: The History of New York’s Golden Age in Underground Music

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The Red Bull Music Academy releases a mini-documentary on the history of New York’s underground music scene entitled: Revolutions On Air: The Golden Era of New York Radio 1980 – 1988; a seventeen-minute overview of New York City’s urban music explosion, its architects, and the reverberations still being felt today.

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New York City break dancers, circa 1980

First person accounts by underground music luminaries (such as DJ Marley Marl, Kool DJ Red Alert, Tony Humphries, and Stretch Armstrong) interspersed with vintage audio, photos, and video drops you in the moment when the underground broke above ground via New York radio and germinated throughout the world by cassette tape (I fondly have college recollections of students collecting,trading, and dubbing tapes from New York to Baltimore to Philly to Detroit to Chicago to Oakland to LA).

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B-Boys on the block with prerequisite boombox, circa 1980

For those who choose to delve deeper into the subject, read Vivian Host’s feature on the New York radio scene.