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.