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In the Mix: The Top 5 Ways Deejaying Is Like Pushing Up

She's smiling now, but watch what happens when you stop playing Beyoncé.

She’s smiling now, but watch
what happens when Beyoncé stops playing.

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So, your boy has been spending a lot of time talking about and listening to DJs lately, not to mention spinning myself, and it’s got me thinking. Something about the whole process of manipulating the wheels of steel just seemed so familiar. All of the attention to detail, the tiny adjustments, the electric thrill of the perfect mix…I couldn’t help feeling that I’d been there before.

Then one day, staring down at my Technics’ hypnotic twin platters, it hit me. In what other situation does one commonly find themselves putting on a show for an audience that’s often tentative, skeptical, or completely disinterested? If you answered “teaching at a public school in the United States” you get partial credit, but that’s not the response that I wanted. On the other hand, if you said, “kicking it to a woman,” you are correct!

And yes, I’m a straight dude, so this is written from that perspective. You can either substitute your preference where applicable, or fucking relax and appreciate my genius in all of its temporarily gender insensitive, heteronormative glory. Your choice.

Now, without further ado, I proudly present the top five ways that deejaying is like pushing up.

5. Preparation Is Key – A former DMC champ told me that there’s always something that he could be doing to prep his next set. This means finding new songs, checking out the next venue, basically anything to make sure that his next gig is as smooth as an alpaca’s ass. The same is true if you’re trying to get that P.Y.T. on your team. If you’ve got friends in common, find out about her background and interests. If you’re out at a bar, notice who she’s with and how she acts. Any of this intel could mean the difference between keeping her dancing or sending her running for the exit.

4. Stay in the Groove The groove is an abstract concept that roughly means a coherent, consistent, rhythmic flow. Like the stream of a conversation, once it’s moving along a good DJ does everything in their power to keep it rolling. It’s the same way with you and your next lady love. If you’re talking about where she’s from and she’s opening up, stay on that track until you can blend in a topic on the next deck that’s complementary. Don’t be a dummy and throw out some crap about how you hate her hometown because the girls are such airheads. It sounds obvious, but left on your own some of you dudes couldn’t feel the groove if you were a needle on a record.

3. Hone Your Recovery Tactics – Even the best DJs face glitches. The record skips, you drop the next song off beat, or that new version of Seraktor freezes right in the middle of your set. Still, it’s not the glitch, but your response to it that can make or break you. You made a joke about the phrase “Christian Scientist” being a worse oxymoron than “compassionate conservative”…only to find out that she picks up the Monitor on the way back from her Young Republicans meeting every week. Don’t go cowering beneath your decks. Cue the next track and get that bad boy pumping. Put a wrinkle in your brow, lean in, and intensely whisper, “REALLY? Well, I’m always looking for smart people to challenge my assumptions. Let’s talk about it.” Oh. Shit. Hear that? That’s the sound of you taking the party to the next level.

This is either a party or the Zombie Apocalypse. I'm a glass half-full type, thus I included it here.

This is either a pic of a bangin’ party or the Zombie Apocalypse.
I’m a glass half-full type, thus its inclusion here.

2. Read the Audience – You’re throwing pure audio gold out the speakers. You’re a vessel of divine musical artistry, touched by Apollo himself. The problem is that the crowd thinks that you’re just plain touched. While there’s something to be said for challenging people with unique sounds, if you go too far off the deep end you just might drown. Things are no different with that young tender. Sure, discussing the finer points of critical race theory might cement you as an intellectual in her mind, but did you ever stop to think that she’s not interested in your brain at 1:15 AM…after her third vodka gimlet? With all due respect to Lupe, you gotta dumb it down, homey. There will be plenty of time for brain later. (See what I did there?)

1. Remember the Fundamentals – Sometimes showing off is entirely appropriate. If you’ve got a killer turntablism routine, by all means unleash the Kraken on them bitches. Case in point:

But what good is it to play records using only your eyebrows and right pinky toe when the songs aren’t beatmatched and the selection has no logical flow? Similarly, it’s great that you wowed babygirl on the dancefloor when you broke out that Matrix backbend move and held it for three minutes while simultaneously doing the Kid ‘N Play Kickstep with her…including the entwined leg hop thing at the end. Kudos. But see, you dropped the ball at dinner when all you could talk about for 30 minutes was you, you, and YOU. A DJ can play an entire three hour set without using a single effect or beaming videos directly into the crowd’s brains, but if the music is tight and the transitions are smooth, everyone will love it. And guess what? She’ll be closer to loving you if you just display some common courtesy, make her smile as much as possible, and let her know that you’re feeling her. In other words, keep the basics front and center.

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A Dream Come True: Robyn’s Song

We’re never all good…or all bad.

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Rihanna’s been on my mind a lot lately.  I mean, it’s been kinda hard to escape her during these last couple of months and…OK, it’s been hard to escape her during these last couple of YEARS, but lately it seems as if Robyn Fenty is one of only five celebrities that any media outlet wants to talk about.  And matter of fact, her name is still all up in the muphuckin’ mix when they’re talking about two of the other godsdamned four.  So yeah, currently 60% of all pop culture news (read: garbage) is about Rihanna.  Shit, a lot of regular news is about Rihanna right now.  On the real, I heard on NPR that if the Supreme Court had struck down the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that the president was gonna talk that talk, repackage the shit as RihannaCare, and push it right on through Congress.  Yep.

Now properly contextualized, it certainly should not come as a shock that the woman who dominates any media vehicle capable of showcasing an image would also be occupying a lot of real estate in my brain, even without me knowing it.  I mean, that’s the only explanation that I can think of for why she would show up in my dreams, engaged in a loving, committed, and playfully affectionate romance with yours truly.  Well, there’s the fact that she’s a terrifyingly fine ass woman with more sex appeal in her left nostril than most women have in the midst of their most powerful, self-induced orgasms (yep, I’m on to THAT shit), but that’s beside the point.  I am absolutely not a Rihanna stan.  I appreciate her as an artist, as a personality, and as a beauty, but I in no way suffer from the illusion that I possess some kind of personal relationship with Ms. Fenty.

Still, the mental experience of having said relationship felt AMAZESAUCE.  It seemed so real in fact that I decided to write a song about it…kinda.  Actually, “Robyn’s Song” is really a dedication to Rihanna from a dude who has the same experience that I did, but ends up affected in a fundamentally different way.  Instead of saying, “Wow, that was fantastic.  How sad that my real dating life is somewhat less interesting, but I should really get out of bed now,” he wakes up with a heavy heart and a profound longing for a lost love that never was.  He feels deeply for her, wishes nothing but the best for her, and in his heart and mind, he’s truly linked to this unattainable star.  Meanwhile, she’ll remain the object of his unrequited affection from now until Rihanna turns good again, AKA forever.  Ahhh, love: you gorgeous, horrible, heartbreaking thing.

Here’s hoping that you listen to this with the object of your stalking in mind.  Enjoy, and devil fingers salute!

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Beauty and the Beast: Part I

A Beauty in Brooklyn

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For a person who’s as social as I am, I can function quite nicely as a lone wolf.  It ain’t uncommon for me to go out midnight marauding by my damn self, whether it’s because I just need some time alone with the man, the myth, the legend (that’s me, for those of you keeping score at home) or everybody else was just lame as hell and couldn’t motivate.  The kid will make something happen if that is what he so desires, and it was on just such an occasion that I met one of the most interesting characters that I’ve come across in New York.

I was fresh from downing my second or third Five Points (think Long Island Iced Tea but for people with class) at 67 Orange Street in Harlem, walking down Frederick Douglass Blvd.  By the way, I mean literally walking down the middle of the street – Five Points is no jizzoke – when my gaze ran across this slim, caramel woman with a whole lotta gams and, to literally top it off, close-cropped blonde hair.  She was working at the beer garden across the street.  (Yes, there’s a beer garden in Harlem.)  Before my internal cop could say, “Move along.  There’s nothing to see here,” I saw her see me.  Then she did the unfathomable: she yelled out, “Come on in!”  Apparently, my internal perp was still a bit skittish, ’cause I yelled back, “Who, me?” as if I were getting fingered blamed for some crime that I had yet to commit.  “Yeah, you!”  Was the retort, complete with hands-on-hips action.  My ass was across that pavement before you could say, “Lederhosen und hefeweizen.”

We became fast friends.  I say “fast” because within 10 minutes Shahi was asking me to accompany her on a boat party the next day.  Oh, and I say “friends” because within 11 minutes Shahi had disclosed that she was married to a man who was back in Toronto.  But she needed somebody to go on this cruise with her!  And it was going to be so much fun ’cause it was a soca themed cruise!  Yay!

Have I mentioned, dear reader, that I get seasick like it’s my government job and that I HATE soca almost as much as I HATE reggaeton?  How about the fact that I can swim about as well as the sperm of a 75 year-old former cyclist?  No?  Well, yeah.  All of that.

A Beast and His Teeth

So, did I go?

You’re gonna have to tune in next week to find out.  In the meantime, I’ve included a little something to get you fiends over the hump and soothe the savage beast.

It turns out that one thing that Little Miss Mrs. Shahi didn’t disclose within the first 11 minutes of our meeting was that she can muphuckin’ sing.  I mean, I look up on Twitter one day and all of sudden I see that she’s mentioned me in a tweet with a link and lo and behold, babygirl has auditioned for “Canada’s Got Talent,” singing “Fly Me to the Moon.”  (Watch the audition here.)  As soon as I heard it, I knew that I was gonna have to get in there (Ahem.  AHEM!) and snatch those a cappella vocals, then put ’em on track that I’d build from the ground up.  I wanted to flip it so that it would put a totally new spin on a pop standard…and show Shahi that she wasn’t the only one that can do damn surprises around this joint.

I did this totally without her input or knowledge initially, ripping her vocals directly off of YouTube, so blame any shortfalls on me.  But if you like it…give me like 75% of the credit.  OK, OK.  60%.  Check it!

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Stockholm Syndrome

Back in May, I was listening to two of my best friends ramble on about how I needed to roll on this excursion that they were planning for the summer.  It had been a tough winter, replete with personal and professional drama, and I was told that I needed to reward myself for making it through by going on a crew trip.  We’d party, we’d bond, we’d hang out with pretty girls, we’d embarrass our nation, etc.  It all sounded well and good until they told me of the vacation destination that they had in mind: Stockholm, Sweden.

Cue the Ben Stein face.  “Dude.  Sweden?  Really?  You want me to spend thousands of dollars for a week of blonde women and meatballs?!”  Mind you, I don’t have a problem with either of those things, (although one of them is imminently more appealing than the other).  It was more a question of whether Stockholm had anything else to offer besides Aryan lovelies and spheres of gas-inducing beef.

I need to clear up how wrong I was, for the record.  Literally.  Stockholm in the summer was so much fun that I had to write a song about it.  You can check it out at the bottom of this post.

Of course, it could be argued that the feel-good, synth-hop track that spilled out of my ticker and noggin paints a somewhat lopsided view of things.  I mean, it’s basically all about partying and women…but hey, it’s rap music.  Everybody knows that hip-hop ain’t capable of exploring such profound notions as the grandeur of cultural exchange or delight in the brotherhood of man, right?  Shut the fuck up, Donny.

Seriously though, Stockholm is a fantastic place, full of warm, friendly people.  I think I met one mean person the entire time I was there, and that was a clerk at a convenience store.  Since society apparently values me more than it does her, I’m not even going to count that little unfortunate blip on the Scandinavian radar.  Plus, the gorgeous, extravagantly welcoming women who served as our hosts more than made up for her stank ass.  Tack mycket!

Anyway, I hope you dig the track.  Imagine that you’re in your own happy place as you listen, and you’ll get the feel for what Stockholm means to me now.  Of course with my luck, the next time I go there I’ll get beaten by poliser or blown up by an anti-terrorist terrorist or something.  Whatever.

In the meantime, I miss you, Stockholm.

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Too Soon: My Pain Is Your Pleasure

You do NOT want to be mayor of this place.

One of humanity’s most fascinating and cherished features is our ability to fashion beauty from tragedy.  Such was the case in 1997, when two of my college classmates and best friends died on an Independence Day weekend road trip.

A few of us were in a rap crew at the time (long live The Myth) and decided to pen a song called “On Your Journey (Too Soon)” as a soundtrack to our sadness.  Recently, I decided to completely remake the track so that we could lay down new vocals – the idea was that rallying around this project would give us an excuse to reunite.  After I dived into it though, it became apparent that my emotions had other plans in store.

Let me just say that the last several months have been a dark time for your hero, O my brothers and only friends.  I’ve been in a protracted war with the forces of evil across multiple fronts for a while now, and the nature of the eventual outcome isn’t at all clear.  When the anniversary of my father’s death came around, I could almost taste the darkness that was threatening to envelope me on all sides.  I had to do something.

For me, that something consisted of embracing the pain.  After all, it wouldn’t be the first time that I’d romanced a serious bitch.  It was about time I got something out of this particular abusive relationship.

So, I slightly reworked my verse from the original song and dropped it on the new instrumental.  Thankfully, the lyrics were just as poignant to me in 2011 as they were in 1997.  Now what?  How could I follow that?  Over the course of the next couple of days, I realized that while those lyrics had a specific contextual meaning regarding the death of dear friends, the overarching significance was profound loss and its aftermath.

When I realized this, two new verses poured out, each addressing a different aspect of that unavoidable component of the human condition.  The second verse is about a woman who didn’t know herself and therefore, never fully knew me.  The final one deals with my first and greatest loss – that of my father.  To be honest, I wondered if the whole “black boys need their dad” thing was a little trite, but then I remembered that no one else can tell my story but me…so anybody that mistakes it for a cliché can kiss my muscular ass.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to the fight.  Please enjoy the pain.

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