DJ Stylus The Vibe Conductor

Taking this rap shit too seriously

I played back-to-back classic hip-hop parties this past weekend. I teamed up with two of my favorite DJ colleagues in DC, we had a blast and smashed on both nights but the crowds couldn’t have been more different. One crowd was full of serious heads who got more excited the deeper we went in the mix. The other crowd was more diverse, significantly younger, and only really moved by the same hits that everyone knows. One party-goer described my set from that night as “hybrid house jazzy hip hop.” Pete Rock in particular got a thumbs down and I double-checked the track list for house music but couldn’t find any.

I was reminded that when it comes to hip-hop these days, most people have no idea what the fuck they’re talking about.

Not exactly breaking news, I know.

When I was younger and wore hip-hop like a shield of identity, I’d be quick to check you on hip-hop dogma, then I’d strike a b-boy pose. Now that I’m getting older, I’ve started to feel like something was wrong with me. Like I’m the fuddy-duddy who refuses to change with the times. Talking to folks, reading these websites and being in the DJ booth trenches with my comrades are making me realize it’s not me.

This isn’t about people showing up to The Main Ingredient and requesting Gucci Mane with a straight face. The folks in that alternate dimension who think the world revolves around “swag”, tattoos and Patron are a separate discussion and might as well be on another planet. I’m talking about the folks who ride for hip-hop as hard as I used to, except their zeal is fueled by ignorance.

Hip-hop raised me and molded me but on my journey as a DJ and creative soul, I’m always adding new sounds, styles and genres to my portfolio of experience. Ultimately I’m a music person. I always seek to paint from an ever widening palette whether I’m spinning records or making them. I no longer identify myself as hip-hop, pretty much because no matter what I do, it’ll always BE hip-hop. It’s a lens that shapes my perception outside of my conscious awareness. It’s my internal rhythm. It’s not something that I have to proclaim or debate. It’s something I’ve lived so long that it’s like breathing, yet it’s still one dimension among many that I can access when expressing myself musically.

You don’t have to have the same experience in order to love hip-hop. You don’t have to spend 20 years and tens of thousands of dollars collecting records. You don’t have make a pilgrimage to the Bronx or perfect a six-step. I understand being zealous about hip-hop. The difference between my experience and what I’m seeing today is the lack of humility about what you DON’T know.

For instance. I love jazz. I started learning about it in high school. I’ve been to a lot of shows and collected a lot of music. I’ve even performed with jazz musicians. But I’d never critique an expert jazz musician without knowing what I was talking about backwards and forwards. So out of all the assholes that regularly give us grief in the DJ booth, why are the most rabid ones almost always on some hip-hop related bullshit?

These days people have a surface grasp of hip-hop combined with a warped sense of entitlement. And there’s a significant thirst for validation involved too. I don’t know if it’s really about the music or the times we live in. The latter is influential, because there seems to be a correlation between talking loud and saying nothing about hip-hop and the ease with which people feel comfortable spouting off on the internet. But I focus on the music because that’s where I’m most engaged.

What is it about hip-hop makes those with the least to say speak loudest? Why are you too lazy to care about anything beyond the same 20 records that we’ve caning to death for 20 years? Maybe it’s because no one listens to albums anymore. I thought I no longer cared but it still gets to me sometimes.

14 Replies to “Taking this rap shit too seriously”

  1. […] This post was Twitted by DJStylus […]

  2. Sasha

    I was at the Black Cat party on Friday and made the comment on meetup about your set being “hybrid house jazzy hip hop”. I described your set that way because when you played Jump Around I wanted to hear the original version the one I used to hear at the house party in the 90’s. I was on some nostalgia ish that night. Then you played a version of Encore I never hear of, again I was on some nostalgia ish…I just wanted to hear the one I was used to hearing so I could dance and get hyped and rap along. Now I love me some house and I plan to be at Marvin’s for the 2 year anniversary 2moro getting my groove on. When I go to a Close To The Edge party I want to hear the original version that I grew up hearing or maybe the remix that everybody knows. I wanna be in nostalgia mode, and that is where I was coming from when I reviewed your set on my meetup. I have my ear open for new music all the time…I was rocking tonight to Little Dragon@Liv and even talked to you about you spinning at Marvin’s today/2moro, and leaving out on a stretcher. I love what you do…but at Close To The Edge I wanna hear the standard…hey I grew up in California so I only know what I saw on Yo MTV Raps and Pump It Up and The Box…cut me some slack…lol.

  3. Ryan Fraz

    I understand what you’re saying bout young hip hop enthusiast ignorant to the music because I’m one of them sometimes. Thankfully I’ve got guys like you, Ron, Rashad, and Taj to keep me abreast and informed. I guess its about being humble to what you don’t fully understand.

  4. I really don’t have the answers, but I have asked myself some of the same questions on numerous occasions. We’re in some very interesting times these days, and I’m even more interested in seeing the direction things are heading. This “shift of consciousness” is definitely taking place, but in the meantime, I strongly believe that if we can continue to project the highest, most postitive vibes as we can, and keep “balancing (our) dopeness with (their) wackness” then we, and the world will be alright. Thanks for the post brother, I’m glad myself and a few of my family, friends, and deejay collegues aren’t alone too. Peace.

  5. Hey Sasha,

    Small world thanks to the internets. I didn’t know that was your comment when I sat down to blog this. It was a catalyst to explore issues I’ve been noticing for a long time, so I wasn’t picking on you uniquely. Every DJ I know is like “Amen!” Despite him having done some of the best and most famous remixes in hip-hop history, everyone doesn’t have to love Pete Rock. But you know what Ed Lover would say about your summary of my set. I’m sure your hip-hop itch will be scratched tonight, along with all kinds of other chambers we’ll be hitting so I look forward to seeing you there.


    Thanks for your comment. The more I think about it, it’s not just a youth thing. It’s a “me” thing. People feel like their personal tastes trump everything else. Even if the whole room is going nuts there’s always someone who thinks it’s wack because they can’t control the playlist. Rather than open up, feel the vibe and get hip to something new, they choose to hate. Sit your favorite DJ down over a drink and ask them about it. You’ll get stories for days. For more on all of this, I’d recommend checking out this post and its comments.

  6. Another question to ponder for everyone to weigh in on, since this is a dialogue:

    Hip-hop is 35 years old. There’s a lot of classic music in that time span. But if you’ve been playing the same records since 1990, them shits can get old. I can’t play “I Got It Made” or “Scenario” in my sets anymore. They’ve been PLAYED OUT. There are so many more amazing classic hip-hop records. I know. I was dancing to them when they first came out. But if all the audience knows are 30 records, are we supposed to just play those until we all die?

  7. Sasha

    i grew up in California so I’m biased but here goes some songs i would like to hear more often at a old school hip hop party.

    1. La Schmoove – Fu Schnickens
    2. Flavor Of The Month – Black Sheep
    3. Peach Fuzz – KMD
    4. How Ya Like Me Now – Kool Moe Dee
    5. Love Me Or Leave Me Alone – Brand Nubian
    6. Change The Style – Son Of Bazerk
    7. Mass Appeal – Gang Starr
    8. Don’t Give Me No Bammer Weed – RBL Posse
    9. It’s Going Down – Celly Cel
    10. Captain Save A Hoe – E-40

    lol@ you C’mon Son-ing me!

  8. Now see… I had KMD, Def Jef, K9 Posse (yup), Three Times Dope, Poor Righteous Teachers (there’s much more than “Rock Dis Funky Joint”) all in my bag. That room wasn’t ready for those cuts. But if you’re ever in the spot when I go deep in the classics, you better be on the dancefloor hollering like Jesus is coming.

    And Cali definitely gets love. I’m talking from Lench Mob to E-Rule. But folks ain’t ready for all that. I stay itching to drop some Freestyle Fellowship and some 2nd II None.

  9. [I] just play records,
    carry the dumb girls and dudes and their requests.
    So my advice is just do you.

    hip hop is what you make of it.
    btw, tho, and pardon the rant on your blog:

    i’m OVER this town and the dj scene/

    cuz you know what?

    being a HOT dj in this town means playing the hits for clubs to sell alcohol.

    no CLUB OWNER, with the exception of Farid at ESL actually respects the CRAFT of DJing.

    DC club owners only respect the MONEY THAT GETS MADE BY SELLING ALCOHOL.

    What music do you need to play to maximize alcohol sales in a club full of zero to 1000:

    bohemian scenesters

    at a mixed club or at a segregated one.

    If you can do that, you will get paid between $0 and $1000 to do it for 5 hours.

    being a HOT DJ and a GOOD DJ are conflated.
    hot djs play the hits to sell alcohol
    good djs play quality music and mix it well.

    queue this up for next time someone asks me why I don’t play out any more…

  10. Pedro has spoken.

  11. Sasha

    Y’all need to have another West Coast party at Marvin’s…i was so geeked over the NWA stickers. I represented all night at that party crip walking all over the hardwood…lol

    I will get primal if you play If You Want It by 2nd II None fo sho!

  12. First of all – THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH for co-piloting S.O.A.R. Saturday night.

    I am a music HEAD!! My parents are music HEADS and I spent most of my teenage and early adult years identifying the original songs from which hip hop artists sampled and I used my parents’ music libraries to do it.

    As a person on the “north side” of 35, I’ve also watched the evolution of hip-hop, and I’m passionate about my shit. The beauty of Saturday night’s experience is that you and your co-pilot are equally as passionate. It showed not only in what you played, but the joy you both got out sharing with others. Plus, there’s NOTHING like seeing a DJ in the booth, rapping along to a classic, eyes closed, in “reminisce mode”!!

    WONDERFUL job. I’m greatly looking forward to “S.O.A.R’ing” again.

    P.S. – If you play “Either Way” by Dave Grusin, I will act an even GREATER fool than I did on Saturday!! Yeah, that was me jumping around, dancing and rapping like a crazy woman!!

    Thanks again!!!

  13. I’m glad you channeled the energy and big up to @Sasha for stepping up and claiming the original comment post. Real dialogue is necessary, because real DJs are artists and should be respected as such.

  14. devessel

    i am just wiping the tears from my eyes as my heart swells reading this. @djstylus, don’t EVER go silent on us, ‘k?

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