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DJ Snake at Echostage in Washington, DC on March 3, 2018. (Source: Facebook)
Since his breakout anthem “Bird Machine” in 2013, DJ Snake has become one of dance music’s biggest and most prolific artists. He’s scored three Billboard Top 10 hits, played the world’s top festivals, and launched his own label, Premiere Classe. The 32-year-old has come a long way since his days as a hip-hop DJ in Paris.
In a rare interview with Billboard, Snake opened up about his youth and rise to fame.
Growing up in a poor suburb of Paris:“[Ermont is] just like every ghetto in the world … A lot of poverty. Drugs. Criminality. No hope. You just feel like no one cares. All they give you is a few soccer fields in your hood, and everything is closed. So you just play soccer. You don’t have nothing else.”
Transitioning from being a hip-hop DJ to an open-format DJ and producer:“I remember the first time I dropped a couple of house records, someone threw an Air Force One in my face. So I decided to stop, … I was like, ‘I want to be able to play everything.’ People were like, ‘You’re crazy. You’re going to lose all your credibility and fans.’ But I wanted to try new things and make my own music. So I became a producer.”
Going from producing other people’s tracks to producing his own:“The good thing about not speaking the language is you just listen … You listen to everyone, every producer, every writer. Then one day I said, ‘Yo, f#ck that sh#t. Now it’s going to be my vision. I’m not going to listen to anybody, no A&R, nobody. I’ve seen this. I get it. This is greatness. But now I’m going to bring my f#cking greatness, my sound.’”
Hustling at Ultra Music Festival:
Embracing styles from around the world:“Paris influenced me a lot back then, but now the world has a big influence on me … There’s no way I’m going to sleep on the new things that I’m hearing in Brazil and India.”
Being a role model:“You don’t need money to be creative … The ghetto builds champions every day. I just want to show the kids in every ghetto in the world that we can make some hot sh#t. We can change the world.”
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KidCutUp warms up the crowd for Pink at Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA. (Source: KidCutUp)
From March 1 to June 1, DJcity’s KidCutUp joined pop star Pink on her Beautiful Trauma tour. The Milwaukee native was the opening act at about 50 sold-out shows across the US, averaging 12,000 to 18,000 people a night. Now, after a few weeks off, CutUp is back on the road for the singer’s Australia tour. We spoke with him via email about what it was like touring with one of the world’s biggest pop stars.
What was the audience like?
Most of the audience is older than a typical bottle service club crowd, and there is a solid LGBT presence. It was a down-to-earth, fun party crowd. Surprisingly, it was pretty much the same whether we did large cities like New York or smaller markets like Wichita or Tulsa.
What was your set like?
Because the audience wasn’t the usual 20 something millennials, my set had a lot of classic, throwback party music. It was heavy on rock with a lot of old-school hip-hop as well. The audience’s taste was pretty wide, so I was looking to see which songs could bring people together instead of catering to certain parts of the crowd one track at a time. It was challenging. Sometimes it involved doing blends and intricately weaving tracks together, but it started with picking the right tunes in the first place.
Did you get nervous performing for such large audiences?
I felt less nervous on this tour than other ones I’ve done. Once I got in tune with the crowd, and the bulk of my set was dialed in, I knew it would work and how people would respond. There were so many people in the crowd that I couldn’t comprehend how many were actually there. My brain just considered it one giant bunch. Also, I worked on my set every day, so I felt pretty good about going up on stage.
What was your setup?
I used two Technics 1200s, a Pioneer DJ DJM-S9, and a coat rack, because where else am I going to put my coat when I’m on stage? It was a simple setup without a full light show or crazy production. It came down to the actual DJing and connecting with the audience. I didn’t have much to hide behind up there!
What was your life on tour like?
Touring takes a bit of getting used to. As the opening act, I had an easier time than the crew. They were incredible to watch. They’re the first people in the building, getting the entire stage built and rigged up, and they’re the last to leave. On back-to-back show days, the only time the crew could rest was during the show itself and on the tour bus as we headed to the next city. Luckily, the routing wasn’t that brutal, and the tour was organized well to avoid too many back-to-back shows. Still, you’re in a new city every other day or so. Usually, it’s one night in a hotel, and the next you sleep on the bus in transit to the next city. As far as my day-to-day activities went, I spent time working on my set, tweaking things. I would add new songs, touch up the produced parts, remaster the older songs and whatever else the set needed to stay fresh. I would try to make things tighter than the previous show. There were also business things to sort out. I met with my tax guy when we stopped in his city. It’s important to stay on top of those things while on the road, so you don’t come back to a mess.
Listen to KidCutUp’s Beautiful Drama tour playlist on Spotify.
Related: KidCutUp Delivers DJcity Podcast Mix
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Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, Prospect is a mixer on BBC Radio 1Xtra and member of the DJcity UK team. ELLiNGTONE, who also lives in Edinburgh, holds it down from Wednesday to Sunday in clubs throughout the city.
The conversation focused on the UK scene, but most of the tips and insights are relevant to DJs of all countries. During the discussion, Prospect and Stylus spoke about the impact of the DJcity linkups in the community (around the 13 minute mark).
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Grandtheft is one of Canada’s most versatile and influential DJ/producers. From rocking clubs and festivals to performing at DJ battles like the Red Bull Music 3Style, the Mad Decent artist can hold it down anywhere.
As a producer, he’s released some of the biggest club and festival anthems of the past few years, including “Keep It 100” with Keys N Krates, his “Sweet Nothing” remix with Diplo, and “Number One” with Major Lazer. He’s also seen radio success with original singles like “Easy Go” featuring Delaney Jane.
On this episode of A Moment With, Grandtheft discusses how he got into DJing, his creative process for producing, what he wants to convey with his music, plus more.
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Chance the Rapper was recently a guest on Complex’s Open Late with Peter Rosenberg. The 25-year-old rapper discussed his upcoming albums with Kanye West and Childish Gambino, his relationship with Dave Chappelle, his love for Lil Wayne, plus more.
Watch the conversation above, which begins at the 11-minute mark.
– His Coloring Book mixtape (11:30)
– Upcoming albums with Kanye and Childish Gambino (12:15)
– His relationship with Dave Chappelle (16:50)
– His work in the community (21:05)
– Drake and Pusha T‘s feud (22:30)
– His thoughts on Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and J. Cole (24:10)
– His favorite feature he’s done (24:40)
– His religious influences (25:20)
– His thoughts on three classic albums: Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III, Eminem‘s The Marshall Mathers LP, and Michael Jackson‘s Thriller
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Diplo performs at Hyde Beach in Miami on March 23, 2018. (Credit: Dylan Rives/World Red Eye)
Since 1823, Oxford University’s historic debate society, the Oxford Union, has hosted numerous high profile speakers. From Winston Churchill to Albert Einstein to Michael Jackson, the list is full of influential people who’ve helped shape the world.
In May, Oxford added Diplo to the list. “I never imagined my career would take me somewhere like this,” the 40-year-old DJ/producer said at the beginning of his speech.
During the hour-long conversation, Diplo gave a speech about his career and participated in a Q&A session with the audience. He discussed how traveling abroad influenced the development of his career, his thoughts on the current hip-hop scene, the lack of female representation in the DJ world, among many other topics.
On how he stays passionate about DJing:“I found a way to regulate my life so I can get work done and do shows. And I’m actually really lucky that I love it. … The randomness of my career and the eclecticness of what I DJ makes it easy to do different things. I never plan a DJ set. I have so many different projects I can pull from to play. It might be the pop songs [or] it might be something underground I just created. I think when people come see me play they’re going to expect to be surprised. So I’ve been really lucky that I never get bored.”
On the younger generation of rappers:“It’s fascinating to see how, if you look at the top charts on Spotify or Apple Music, the top 20 charts [are] gonna have 19 rap songs by young kids that are between 15 and 20 years old. And I think that’s an amazing shift because the audience wants that. They’re reaching people directly. And I feel like hip-hop always had the chance to be that music that reaches directly, but there was always a guard by the labels, by the radio, and now we don’t need any of that. You just go straight to SoundCloud or Spotify, and you’re reaching an audience. So I love that. I love the rebelliousness of and the anarchist qualities of these young guys who were on the last EP I just produced.”
On how an aspiring songwriter can get his attention:“I listen to as much music as I possibly can, but now you have to be something crazy. I’ve lived in [Los Angeles] for so long, and there’s such a songwriter-y world there where the songs are the same. They’re just dressed up differently, and I’m so bored. … But I’ve always been the kind of guy that’s been on the outside, trying to do something different. And it’s never been easy for me to write a simple song or pop music. And I think you have to be really exciting. I don’t have an ear for pop that much. I have more of an ear for craziness, and I can help you figure out how to make that work. … [So] just be different because we have so much of the same happening right now in the music scene that I think that if you push yourself to be as crazy as possible it’s gonna be your only hope to succeed.”
Watch the interview below.
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DJ Tessa performs at the LA Food Bowl. (Credit: Matthew Withers)
In an industry that is still predominantly run by men, Tessa Young a.k.a. DJ Tessa is pushing boundaries for female DJs. While DJing in Los Angeles in the early 2010s, the Reno, Nevada native noticed that booking agencies had few women on their rosters. With years of DJ experience, connections, and a paralegal background, Tessa launched Prism DJs, an all-female agency.
Launched in 2015, Prism books DJs for mostly mobile gigs such as corporate events, weddings, and other special and private events. The agency currently has 23 DJs on its roster, including Annalyze, ShanLynn, MissNINJA, and Frazier Davis. As the female DJ movement continues to rise, we caught up with Tessa to discuss Prism DJs, the challenges of running an all-female agency, what she looks for when signing new talent, and more.
Why do you think there is such a low number of women represented by DJ agencies?
I think there are just more male DJs than female DJs in general, so it was never going to be equal based on the ratio. But now, in a time when mixing and production lessons are more accessible, less intimidating, and our male counterparts are more supportive, I see more women genuinely interested in music production and DJing. In turn, more women will be added to these rosters eventually. We all need to make it a priority to level up creatively and skill-wise if we want to play on the same field.
How does Prism differ from other agencies?
Our DJs are talented, vetted, and have several years of experience. Also, I make it a priority to protect Prism’s DJs by being transparent, ensuring timely payments, handling riders, logistics, and securing, and enforcing contracts.
What are some of the unique skills required for being a mobile DJ versus a club or festival DJ?
Being a mobile DJ is definitely more labor intensive if you are setting up and breaking down your own gear. If there is a technical problem, you need to know how to fix it yourself. As a mobile DJ, especially for weddings and dance parties, the DJ needs to know how to read a crowd and select accordingly, be aware of energy levels, have knowledge of many genres, and span generations of music. Club and festival DJs might have the luxury of playing their own produced tracks or a curated set. Sometimes they get their own on-site audio technicians that standby to handle technical difficulties for them. They can have more freedom to play what they want or what they specialize in, rather than a mobile DJ that caters to the crowd.
Prism DJs at Serato’s studio in Los Angeles. (Source: Instagram)
What is the biggest challenge of running an all-female DJ agency?
The Los Angeles market is very competitive, whether you are male or female. There are so many amazing DJ options. In this social media-driven world we now live in, we need to market ourselves more sophisticatedly and creatively. Just being titled a “female DJ” or “female DJ agency” does not ensure work.
What do you look for when adding new talent to your roster?
I look for several things: above-average mixing skills, exceptional selection, vast knowledge of music genres, professionalism, and a positive attitude. I prefer that the DJs can jump on any gear with ease, including turntables, CDJs, controllers, and various mixers. DJs must also have more than two years of experience playing regularly in public. In the age of social media, it is also important for the DJ to have a good online image because clients are doing their own research to make sure that their DJ choice is a good brand match for their event.
What are your plans for the company and where do you see it going?
Prism DJs is still growing as an agency and brand, so I am continuing to work diligently on that. In the very near future, I would like Prism DJs to get more involved with the community and offer workshops to young, aspiring female DJs. Other than that, we’ll just see where this takes us!
Do you have any advice for someone who’s looking to start a DJ agency ?
If you have good eyes and ears for talent, along with marketing, management, and administrative skills, then you have all the necessary elements required for a successful agency. Go for it!
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DJcityTV has teamed with Chicago collective DJs Are Not Jukeboxes on a new series called A Moment With. The series spotlights well-known DJs as they discuss their recent accomplishments or current topics in the DJ community.
The first episode features Trackstar the DJ, the tour DJ for Run the Jewels, and the host of Shade 45‘s The Smoking Section show. The Wisconsin native discusses what it’s like working with the group, a role he’s held since its formation in 2013. (Trackstar has also been Killer Mike‘s tour DJ since 2011.)
Watch A Moment With above.
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Eric Hamilton performs with Diplo. (Source: Eric Hamilton)
In March, Diplo launched a channel on SiriusXM called Diplo’s Revolution. It made sense: over the past six years, the Mad Decent founder’s weekly Diplo and Friends program on BBC Radio 1Xtra has become one of the most popular and influential mix shows in the world. It has earned that reputation by focusing on booking a diverse range of forward-thinking guest DJs.
Now, with his own station at the world’s largest radio company, Diplo has expanded his taste-making empire. Diplo’s Revolution boasts a diverse lineup of hosts including Armin van Buuren, Oliver Heldens, Destructo, GTA, and Party Favor, all of whom are influencers in their own right. Major Lazer members Walshy Fire and Jillionaire also have shows.
Like any project, there are key people behind the scenes who make it possible. In the case of Diplo’s Revolution, it’s the channel’s 34-year-old Program Director, Eric Hamilton. Born in Long Beach and raised in Riverside, Hamilton cut his teeth DJing in Los Angeles in the 2000s. In 2012, with no prior radio experience, he began producing a syndicated show on iHeartRadio for his friend Dillon Francis. After proving himself on air, Dillon’s manager, Kevin Kusatsu, who also manages Diplo, asked Hamilton to get involved with Diplo and Friends. The show had been on the air for only a year and hadn’t reached its potential.
Since then, Hamilton has served as the executive producer of Diplo and Friends, helping book guests, produce mixes, and guide the show’s direction. (Hamilton was Diplo’s assistant for part of that time.) Hamilton has also been involved with Major Lazer: he occasionally fills in for Jillionaire at shows and is the executive producer of Lazer Sound, the group’s program on Apple Music’s Beats 1 station.
Given the success of Diplo and Friends and his close relationship with Diplo, Hamilton was an obvious choice to be program director of Diplo’s Revolution. We recently spoke with him to learn more about his role and how the station operates.
How did Diplo’s Revolution come about?
Renee Brodeur, who manages Wes [Diplo] at TMWRK, brought the opportunity up in March 2017 and worked incredibly hard on getting the deal done to make it happen.
What does your role entail?
I help go through music with SiriusXM’s team and pick out stuff that plays in the rotation. I also reach out to people to do mixes or shows.
What do you look for when booking guest DJs?
If there’s someone that’s up and coming and making great new music, I’ll try to reach out to them to see if they want to play any of it in a mix. For the most part, if someone wants to do a mix, they should have it coincide with a release. Or if they’ve got a tour, show or something that they want to shine a light on, I try to have them pinpoint the date, so there’s a lot of buzz.
How much freedom do you have?
We have a lot of freedom. When this station started, I sent SiriusXM a folder of like 500 songs to play, and they were all really impressed with the music.
Do you have a favorite host so far?
GTA’s show is one of my favorites because it’s exactly what the station is about. It’s called Death to Genres, and that’s pretty much the vibe of the station. I’m probably one of their biggest fans because those guys have been making really dope club stuff for so long, but it still works today. Those guys get it. I feel like that’s something that’s always going to be constant with Diplo’s Revolution. It’s going to have people on there that are making really dope stuff, and if they have the time and want to do a show, then I’m going to give them the opportunity.
Eric Hamilton performs with Major Lazer. (Source: Eric Hamilton)
Some SiriusXM subscribers are unhappy that Diplo’s Revolution replaced Electric Area. What do you tell them?
We like house, trance, and all different types of music. That’s what this station is about. It’s not just one thing. Some people are mad because they think it’s one thing. But a lot of the stuff they think is not there is still there and they got to give it a chance. We’re at a point in the music world that people like variety. Look at festivals. Imagine going to Ultra Music Festival and hearing the same music on every stage. People don’t want to hear the same thing all the time. The station has variety, and it’s like going to a festival with different stages. That’s where music is right now. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback, though. People want to do shows on the station because they like the idea and what we’re doing. It’s been really cool to get words of encouragement from other DJs and producers in the music world.
Does it ever get stressful working on three different radio projects?
I have someone that helps me from time to time, but it can be stressful trying to maintain the creative energy and make people want to come back. That’s the one thing I’m always focusing on: making something that’s cool and makes sense to the masses, so they want to come back. Radio is radio. It’s all kind of the same, but I don’t want one show to be better than the other. I want everything to be top notch.
Out of the three platforms that you work with (Apple Music, BBC Radio, and SiriusXM), do you have a favorite?
I like SiriusXM more because we don’t have to censor anything. That’s one of my pet peeves. SiriusXM is the only place where stuff isn’t censored. I wish Apple Music’s Beats 1 was uncensored. I wish it had more freedom of speech.
What’s your favorite part about working in radio?
Getting new music before anyone. Working with Wes, you get to hear a lot of stuff first. You’re at the forefront of what’s going to be happening next. It’s like being in the now before the now happens. It’s also cool to be able to meet people that you’re a fan of. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people that I looked up to when I was younger and see a lot of places that I never thought I’d see.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from working with Diplo?
I’ve definitely gotten the work ethic from him. He’s always on the grind, constantly coming up with new everything. Look at his production list; there’s no boundaries. It’s like you conquer something, but there’s more to be conquered. It’s a never-ending hustle. He’s been an inspiration. That’s why I was really psyched to work with him. He’s helped me improve and keep me on my grind and constantly be on the lookout for what’s cool and what’s happening and what needs to be shown to people and presented in the music world.
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Ebro Darden and J Balvin
The Colombian superstar covered many topics, from the possibility of making an album with Bad Bunny to how he hopes to break down the narco stereotypes of his country. He also discussed wanting to collaborate with artists like Drake, Bruno Mars, and The Weeknd, and what it was like working with Beyonce on the remix of “Mi Gente.”
“I think it was a really beautiful cultural move. People see me with the queen, like, if she’s working with him it’s because he’s for real,” Balvin told Ebro. “She’s not the type of girl that works with everybody.”
“All the other collaborations are helping me a lot to keep spreading the vibe that I want,” he added. “That’s what I love about the situation. We’re showing the world that we’re not one-hit wonders when it comes to global stuff. It’s not a coincidence.”
Watch highlights from the interview below and stream it in full exclusively on Apple Music.