DJing Is a Mental Game

While we’re talking shop with each other, we dj’s constantly kick around war stories and share tips. The best of us intimately understand the complex psychological tightrope walk that a successful party rocking experience entails. The skillset isn’t completed by technical ability and encyclopaedic musical knowledge. The third and possibly most crucial element to good party rocking is emotional empathy. A good dj can pick up the emotional frequency of a room like an antenna was implanted in his/her brain. A great dj can then tune that frequency to one of their own choosing.

There are drawbacks to cultivating this sixth sense as a dj. When you’re that plugged in you can get easily get tainted. I’ve realized that whenever things are out of sync that may impede my ability control the room’s emotional energy, I experience heightened tension and anxiety. There are the obvious things like sound/technical problems but the subtle aspects are often more detrimental to my mission.

The pouty, salty chicks in the corner who aren’t going to enjoy themselves no matter how much fun everyone else is having make my job harder and give me a headache. You should have just stayed at home or gone to a spot that’s just like a trite rap video. Maybe you’ll be happy once you pay for the priviledge of standing in line for an hour, having your ass grabbed and some drinks spilled on you! Surly bouncers can sabotage me before folks even get through the door because insulted club patrons have harder hearts that are more difficult to win over. High drink prices are another culprit. I can see that wallet pinch on people’s faces and even worse I can read when they’re obsessed about that $15 they just dropped and are too frustrated to feel the music. And there’s always that person that thinks the dj is their personal servant rather than someone who is working for the good of everyone and is an artist in their own right. That stank aura of entitlement is quite contagious to other partygoers. Watch what happens the next time that one persistent prick starts browbeating the dj. They’ll inevitably be joined by copycats.

Basically though, whatever is troubling your soul when you walk into my party, most likely I’m aware of and really effected by it whether it’s significant (you lost your job) or frivolous (that b***h thinks she’s cuter than you). The sum of that bad energy is poisonous to a budding vibe and when it reaches a certain threshold it’s something that I become obsessed with conquering.

I’m of the opinion that it’s my job to make everyone happy if I can (sometimes it’s beyond my control) and I say I succeed about 99.99f the time. I can win over any room. ANY ROOM. That’s the standard I’ve set for myself and the reputation I have and it’s important to me. We all have varying tolerances for compromise as dj’s. Some jocks will acquiesce to every fool that pesters them in the booth. Others are militant and see it as offensive to their artistry to cater to tastes they perceive as lower than their own. I’m somewhere in the middle. I feel like I’ve reached a level where I can please a wide variety of people without selling out my principles. I once said that I would never play anything by R. Kelly so as not to co-sign on teen sexual abuse but in a moment of desperation at a gig I dropped a couple Arruh joints just to get folks to LEAVE ME THE F**K ALONE. I’m still conflicted about what I did.

To avoid crises of conscience and high blood pressure I generally don’t take gigs that are way out of my personal areas of interest – which is why I stopped hustling for those high profile mainstream club gigs many years ago… if I had to play krunk several nights a week I’d jump off of a building… let alone hyphy, snap music, Dipset or whatever other strains the niggalicious virus may mutate into – but if I have to switch gears while I’m in the trenches I’ll do what I have to do even if it’s not “my thing.” It’s funny when people think they know who I am as a dj are then surprised when I rip a crazy dancehall and soca set or figure out how to mix the newest radio jams with some old school classics. I’m always studying, y’all. I’m not easily defined.

So what’s the point? A fun night out is very subjective, as well as ideas of what “good” and “bad” music is. That’s why I can rock a party down to its foundation but I can never totally eliminate the potential for hating. And as long as that element of hate persists I can’t rest, even when it’s frequently unfounded. That’s the price I pay for the heightened instincts that make one a vibe conductor.

I’m not yet at a level where I’m so accomplished and so in demand that I can dismiss anyone who isn’t feeling me. But even if I do blow up I wouldn’t start thinking like that because it would go against one of the main things that makes me dope.

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