Celebrity DJs? Really?

I live out here in the Midwest, and I generally prefer to drink in the kind of places that have a good Muzak installation or a jukebox rather than some d-bag spinning records (or, god forbid, iPods), so I don’t really have any concept of the celebrity DJ.

Not to reveal too much about myself, but I definitely wouldn’t pay any extra to get into a place because some particular d-bag was behind the wheels of steel. If I just happened to be somewhere, and DJ So and So just so happened to be behind the wheels of steel, then so be it. But that’s it.

A few years ago, my boy Fitz and I went to one of these aging hip-hop artist package deals. I can’t even remember who all was there a this point, but there were three or four reasonably well-known artists playing, all for like five dollars. Slick Rick may have been the headliner. It seemed like a good deal, until the sets actually began.

Live hip-hop kinda sucks anyway, and I’ll spare you bitching about it any further for some other day, but the part of the show I found especially bothersome was Biz Markie’s set. At the time, I was aware that big name DJs were playing sets on CD turntables, but I wasn’t aware that they were charging for that shit it as if it was an actual concert.

The thing is, he wasn’t even doing much mixing or scratching and whatever else it is DJs do (there was a lot of dramatic dancing behind the turntables, which I understand is key). He basically put together a CD of songs that were popular 5, 10, and 15 years ago and let each one play for a minute or so before he hit the skip button.

Shit, I could’ve done that.

Obviously the idea was that you were supposed to get off more so on the recognition of whatever song was playing than whatever skill was involved (in this case, none at all) in cueing it up on the PA. And that’s the thing about DJing these days: unless you’re into silly, Asian bullshit like turntableism, what real skill does it take anyway?

Hence I wasn’t surprised to read the other day, in the New York Observer, that celebrity DJs are all the rage now in New York. A few of the most prominent of them are Mark Ronson, the trust fund baby who produces Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen, the son of the guy who invented the Troll Doll (I know), and the son of the chinaman who started the Benihana chain of restaurants.

Their value as DJs doesn’t lie so much in their ability to spin records (as if) as it does their ability to attract their vaguely famous friends, like the woman who played the white whore in Hustle and Flow, to any given bar or restaurant, which drives an insane amount of business. (Admittedly, I’d go pretty much anywhere I thought a chick like that might be.)

Of course the quote-unquote real DJs are pissed because they have to take jobs playing at bars in the ghetto for way less money, but I suppose it could worse. I mean, they’re still basically getting paid to stand there and play records.

  • Fernando

    first

  • outya’self

    zzzzzzz…..zzzzz.

  • thoreauly77

    co-sign. it’s pretty much bullshit. i hate when you write things like “chinaman” and “asian bullshit” though; i know it’s just to incite commentary, but it’s a really tired schtick bol.

    anyhow, reall dj’s will always be able to find a gig, and if spinning records is your gig, life could be a helluva lot worse…

  • Fernando

    Ha,

    Good post Bol. There is nothing more lame than going to a show only to have some lame DJ take up 1/2 an hour spinning some random songs and trying to hype up the crowd.

    I get it. It doesnt take that much skill to play old Tribe Called Quest or Pharcyde records as if they are some hidden gems nobody knows about and you are sooooo cool for exposing us to them. Or even worse, the crappy asian Dj’s than spin crap you have never heard of and would never listen to coming straight out of their 200GB Ipods. And worst of all, the constant HYPE Dj’s that scream so damn much trying to hype the crowd and throw in so many damn mix and scratching sounds that you cant even hear the song.

    Dj’s for the most part suck (nullus). I can recall very few songs that have been made better by the presence of a DJ. Maybe a few Outkast songs from AtLiens, and some EPMD or GangStarr cuts. But not enough to make it a staple of every Hip-Hop show.

  • gerald n. the birdman

    As a long time hip hop dj/turtablist, I could disagree with your perception of dj’s but I wont’. The dj is not a musician. He cannot compete with a live band. The turntable is only slightly more of an instrument than bongos or the timpani or whatever. Live hip-hop blows cows!

  • S.Y. Young

    I always thought the famous dj thing was weak. one time when i was like 19 i paid like 30 bucks to go to the club where dj clue was djing. Mind u, this was the same club we went to every week and it was usually 10 dollars, but now its an extra 20 just because clue is there (is he a TI?). Anyway clue ended up playing the same damn songs any other dj would play and it was a pretty average night.. most of the girls were busy trying to blow him and the weed carriers, so the bigger crowd was pretty much pointless.

  • dduubbzz

    Yo bol..shorty in Hustle Flow could get it any time any day

  • Hip Hop since 79′

    I saw Biz Markie DJ at the Hardrock in Dallas in 2003… the crowd loved it.
    His selection of music was on point and he vibe was nice. Sister’s were looking good and very friendly…

  • Hip Hop since 79′

    gerald n. the birdman Says:
    Live hip-hop blows cows!
    ^^^^^
    The ROOTS, Busta Rhymes, Doug E. Fresh, Stetsasonic, and Lupe; all put on some good shows. I saw Skillz when he was Madskillz and the cat was out of control.

  • john cochran

    Djs are pointless unless they actually scratch and shit. I went to this wu concert with Kid capri djing. He actually hyped shit up. Its all about what they bring to the performance or party. But half of these guys dont know how to actually spin recorde anyway( drama, whoo kid). I actually agree with you this time, although I myself wouldnt be kickin somewhere with a juke bow playin. Where you be at the saloon?

  • http://myspace.com G.Getta

    ur a fuckin asshole

  • DANJA29

    Last year, I was at a show that was great on the old school side of things. I saw Big Daddy kane, Slick Rick, Doug E Fresh, Whodini, & MC Lyte… not bad for a free show by far.

    And DJing the whoel thing was Kool Herc. Now as respected as he is, being one of the first DJs who got this hip-hop thing rollin’… I was pretty disappointed to see that dude was a record player in all senses of the word. Not that I was expecting him to do a bunch of turntablism tricks and shit like that… but he didn’t even play the songs in any kinda succession or blend or anything of that nature. He literally would play one song and eventually you’d hear another one of a completely different tempo come in. He basically did the same thing anybody else in the crowd coulda gotten up there and done. Shit blew my mind.

    BUT if these dudes are gettin’ paid off name recognition, I guess it doesn’t really matter much, eh?

  • P-Matik

    A DJ doesn’t just stand there and play records. That ish takes skill to make it come off good.

    You are half right though. These clowns like Whoo Kid (aka DJ Start/Stop) and Absolut managed to make a name for themselves but it wasn’t because they had any real skills. Clue was the one that started all of that BS. He used to at least scratch and cut. Once he was down my way and he told one of my boys that he shouldn’t do that anymore because “the ladies don’t like it”.

    That crap he said is a main reason why hip-hop is in the state it’s in now.

  • My Effin’ Opinion

    DJing is no different than blogging in the sense that anyone feels they can get up there an do it … except DJ’s get paid a whole lot more. Another thing, those celebrity DJ that are “disappointing” yous when you pay mad grip to see them are no different than the Jay-Z’s of the world, they already have a name and been doing it for so long that they don’t put that much effort into it anymore, the hunger is gone. They already got a name, they are already got paid by the promoter, so why the hell are they gonna go all out?? They just play the records and bounce.

    Don’t get it twisted though, the DJ is a intricate part of this music we call Hip Hop, every producer started out as a DJ and My Effin’ Opinion is that this music is gonna get back to the DJ being more involved in the songs. It’s the only way to keep the music raw … cats are gonna realize this soon, there’s only so much computer generated shit that one can take …

  • Were Read 2 Def

    U know who is the only rapper worth a fuck live in concert? Jay-Z. He sounded just like the CD. I’m tellin ya, hes the god mc.

  • Dr Flav

    I must say your level of ignorance regarding hiphop is amazing. Congratulate yourself. A basic fact is that DJs were the original draw to the party before emcees. DJs regulate the tempo of the party, complement the vocalist’s performance and expose ears to new music or variations of existing music. You can be a celebrity that starts to spin records or you can become a celebrity by spinning records. I dont get it. MEO, can we get a summary of this shit.

  • My Effin’ Opinion

    9 Paragraph’s in 2 sentences (& Bol’s response)

    Question: Are DJ’s really that important in Hip Hop?
    Answer: Hell yeah idiot, so much so they deemed it one of the 5 elements. It came before rap.
    BOL: oh yeah, forgot about that … good one.

  • Lazy

    I gotta agree with my effin’ except for “every producer started out as a DJ.” i dont think kayne started out as one because he even had to hire out primo to scratch on The Game.

  • jesse lee

    the two people you just mentioned (mark ronson and steve aoki) are good friends of mine and they charge more for a gig than 98 % of all rappers (or any live acts for that matter).
    i know everyone’s on the festivals’ jocks right now but live shows are the new backpackers (just give it another year or two).

  • no

    Lots of “Real DJs” are celebrity DJs.

    Ask Jazzy Jeff, DJ Cash Money, Premier. I’m sure these dudes get $$$ for their time, and they work for it.

    I’d much rather listen to a good DJ than your ignorant ass anyday. Your blog is entertaining enough to read, but give me J-Rocc over your blah blah anyday.

  • http://www.bonfiles.com Bonfiles Lenoir

    Roffle @ John Cochran: “Where you be at the saloon?”

    and yes, DJ’s are a little overated now. Only because it’s a dying artform.

    One of the 5 elements? Sure… but when was the last time you even heard scratching on a current hip-hop track?

  • Malik C.

    Break dancing is one of 5(I always thought it was 4) arts but when was the last time you actually saw someone break dance?

    Sidebar-I’d hardly consider graffiti one of the 5 arts of hip hop. Since is hardly exclusive to hip hop culture or even dominated by it.

  • crackkkkkkkk

    yo dj khaled and dj drama is the best fuckin djs there is

  • Beeyo

    Djs are not what they used to be. These muthafuckas don’t respect they art. They play the music, scream over the track, cash they check and go home. For everybody yellin “Hop Hop is Dead!” or “The South is ruining Hip Hop!!”, how bout we start putting the blame on some these lackadaisical muthafuckin disc jockeys.

  • http://hhfanatic.blogspot.com/ HHF

    I feel you on the trust fund babies with lil skill, the ipod and mp3 DJs, but then again, arranging a quality seemless set that people will crave over and over again takes some practice and knowledge and a lil talent I guess.

  • Beeyo

    Its all Pro Tools fault. Pro Tools killed Hip Hop.

  • http://www.myspace.com/sinistahmoneybagz Sinistah aka Sin Piff

    Pro-Tools aint kill Hip-Hop.

    My Vocal studio is right here in my crib, and i’m an analog to digital dude. witout Pro-Tools some of the hottest collabs would’ve neva happened.

  • Cuban Link

    i fucking hate those people in turntableism, i got like 40 friend requests on myspace from them in cotdamn week.

    also, although i must admit a lot of hip hop sucks live, some of it is great.50 Cent always does some kinda crazy shit which is exciting, Eminem puts on like a real show with either him flying in the air or like some kinda play, which is just sick(Angermanagment 3 was def) and, needless to say, Busta is just absoloutly amazing in concert.

    Wutang Clan is sick when they are together, but seperate they get kinda boring on stage.Ghostface is iight.Method man and Redman are sick together though.In fact, mef is pretty sick by himself.

    KRS-One is also dope live.

  • DirtDoggy

    I went to the dj championships a couple times and that shit is dope, scratch, mix, fade, and pull their shirt over the face, handstands, and scratching with teeth etc…was some good shit. DJ q-bert and those mo foes.

    But the average dj is fuck all, no skill involved anymore.

  • Dr Flav

    Lol, MEO that was classic, sad thing is I did get confused to what I was responding to in the post and that reply you left did help.

  • meenstreek

    Props to the real DJ’s Grandmaster Flash, Kid Capri, Scratch, Premier, Babu…

  • beeyo

    Graffiti has been replaced by skateboarding. And the pro tools line was a joke. Well, kind of.

  • beeyo

    The new 4 elements:
    1.Breakdancing=Snappin, leaning and/or rocking.
    2.DJing= compiling a song list on Pro Tools and screaming your head off over a song. Exclusive!!!!
    3.Graffiti=Skateboarding. Failing actually skateboarding, you can just dress like you do.
    4.Rapping=Rapping poorly.

  • Rizzop

    It is a little overrated, but remember when clue or funk flex used to have that new exclusive shit nobody else had? Shit was cool then, but now all they do is play records. I used to pnly buy Green lantern mixtapes because he would make some hot ass mixes…All these other cats just yell an scream. Downloading has made all that shit useless now

  • youngz

    Bol, u my favourite blogger. Hope xxl is paying you major! DJing is so friggin overrated1

  • My Effin’ Opinion

    @ Malik C.

    Believe it or not but people still breakdance in clubs, but it’s different now. It’s more acrobatic and centers alot around martial arts type shit (like capoeira). You can find this in clubs where they play house/techno music. Over here, they do it every week at the House of Blues. It’s real heavy in Miami too. I guess you can’t really breakdance to today’s Hip Hop so it crossed over genre’s. Some of it is ill (if you can stand to listen to the music)… I’m pretty sure YouTube has videos of this shit.

  • My Effin’ Opinion

    I wanted to mention one other thing. Rapping is the only element in Hip Hop that hasn’t remained underground. Turntablism, Graffiti and breakdancing still exist but you gotta go to exclusive spot and such to witness this. Rap was once like that. In order to hear Hip Hop, you would have to go to one or two exclusive clubs in the Bronx that played Hip Hop, so in my opinion, it’s really not a bad thing that breakdancin’ & turntablism isn’t commercialized. It’s not suppose to be.

  • Malik C.

    So breakdancing how crossed into capoeira now? I’d actually like to see that. Better then seeing people “walking it out”. It just reminds me of a minstrel show for some reason.

  • ACE

    beeyo Says:

    The new 4 elements:
    1.Breakdancing=Snappin, leaning and/or rocking.
    2.DJing= compiling a song list on Pro Tools and screaming your head off over a song. Exclusive!!!!
    3.Graffiti=Skateboarding. Failing actually skateboarding, you can just dress like you do.
    4.Rapping=Rapping poorly.
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    The New 4 elements:

    1.Breakdancing = Baaaaalliiiin’ or Hands up and.. waves, waves, waves, waves HAHA
    2.Dj = Change a track to another track Wow!!!
    3.Graffiti = Paint old cars.
    4.MC = Examples: Mims, Jim Jones, Baby (Birdman), Bone Crusher, Mike Jones (Who?)

  • Harold Crick

    I’ve always been a fan of Cut Chemist, formerly of Jurassic 5 but now on his own. The guy is really talented, finds shit nobody else would use that still sounds cool and looks like a homeless guy. There’s just something about dudes who look homeless but aren’t.

  • ty from linden blvd

    bol u clearly have never lived the hip hop experience….

    biz markie is no joke on the wheels…

  • http://plusgigs.com/ google+ hangouts

    pSKD6C Thanks so much for the blog. Keep writing.

  • http://fightcopyrighttrolls.com/ illegal file sharing

    Say, you got a nice blog article. Really Great.