Thursday, February 6, 2014

What Is A DJ Today?

Just what exactly is a DJ nowadays? I thought I knew but I'm starting to think that I'm completely wrong. Merriam-Webster defines it as “disc jockey noun: person who plays popular recorded music on the radio or at a party or nightclub; an announcer of a radio show of popular recorded music: one who plays recorded music for dancing at a party.” My definition until recently was someone who had a shit ton of records (actual vinyl) and played music for everyone to dance to. They would interact with the crowd and if they sensed that what they were playing at the time was as they'd switch it up and get everyone back into things. This isn't the case anymore.

I've been to the El Rey to watch performances a few times now (this isn't El Rey specific but since I was there recently they're getting the brunt of this) and each time I've gone the DJ has sucked. I don't mean they suck because they are playing songs I don't like. Hell, they play some very good songs most times. Its what they do to the songs I have a problem with. This is the part where I sound like an angry old man which I am growing increasingly more comfortable with.

When I was little and would listen to DJ contests and they were awesome. They still do them till this day but I don't have time for that. They would be on stage pointing at the crowd and looking like they were just having so much damned fun up there. Being a DJ looked fun. Now it looks like some random ass person showed up, plugged in their laptop, and hit play. I can do that. I do that. Its called The Ross Radio Show and Ross Radio Quickie Show. This one DJ played four Tribe Called Quest songs in a row! I love Tribe as much as the next person, but at a concert no one should play four of the same musician in a row. That DJ was ass.

Most of these DJ's don't even look at the crowd. Their shiny Apple logo shines in the darkness as the crowd gets happy for that one out of ten good songs he plays. “Oh, cool. He's playing The Light by Common and J-Dilla...just like every other fucking DJ!”

He seems to be making the same hand motions as a old school DJ so its confusing to me because he's obviously not doing anything up there. He sure as hell isn't looking at the crowd because he would see that 95% of the crowd isn't having fun.

I've asked my friend if I could call myself a DJ because I had headphones on and played music in front of a crowd. And god forbid one of these DJ's scratches on their robot turntable. It sounds like they are practicing. Its like when you see skateboarders on the street and they all seem to just fall and trip all the time. Are there awesome DJ's out there using this new technology that frightens me and my old ways?

I would love to go to a concert and have the DJ that performs before the show be awesome. Play something that is close to what the main artist's style perhaps. The DJ at the last show (Trombone Shorty) played music that was like he just hit shuffle on his iPod and walked away. But he didn't. He just stood there in the dark of the place, his frames glowing in the light of his laptop as people cheered on Kool & The Gang while being confused when it was followed up by what can only be described as a high school marching band. 

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