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The Thing About Hip-Hop DJs…

Ah yes, fresh from my week and a half long jaunt in Hollywood, I happened to come across this hilarious post at what could be the funniest site I’ve seen in a while, Hot Chicks With Douchebags. Seriously, if you wanna laugh, check out that site.

But anyway, there’s a post there called “The Thing About DJs,” and it reads as follows:

Here’s the problem.

DJs can play a great role in the club experience. Being a DJ is not auto-douche, and many are extremely good at what they do. DJs are entertainers. DJs can create and facilitate a great club vibe.

What DJs are not, however, are musicians. They are a trade. And the problem lies when they try to confuse the two.

I’m talking to you, trust fund ecstasy taking DJ pseudo-artist. Learn what a seventh chord is. Learn what the “circle of fifths” is. Learn to play an actual instrument. Until then, you are no more a musician than a printing press is an author.

You are a facilitator. A middle man. A bureaucrat in creative drag. An intermediary disguised as producer.

Even the great postmodern artists learned how to produce traditional classically trained art. Warhol was a graphic designer. Picasso and Dali learned classical realism before experimenting with form. DJs desire to tap into the societal myth of “rock star” without having to bother with learning the chords or put in the creative energy in coming up with any music on their own.

And I understand that.

Who wouldn’t want the benefits of being rock-star famous without having to have the musical talent or creativity to back it up? It’s auto-fame without merit. Like characters out of Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron, they give hope to the talentless by spreading the wealth equally, no matter one’s innate abilities. They offer a gateway to fame through random egalitarian lottery.

Get the right haircut and hold a set of retro 80s headphone to one ear and you too can stand on a pedestal and play the star.

But therein lies the problem. They want to roll out of bed with perfectly tussled hair at 1pm, turn on their iPod turntable with the retro-analog speakers and call themselves an artist. But no amount of carefully placed tribal tatts and stubble will turn you into a genuine production point, sample-boy. You are an empty vessel set to other people’s beats. A shell of human form emulating the authentic under the rubric of postmodern refraction and reinvention. Because you’re not willing to put in the work that will lead to genuine inspiration.

I’m not saying you DJs don’t have your place. You’re like my aural waiter. You bring me the sonics, and I appreciate it. If I could tip, I’d definitely go over 15%. Provided you play some Fishbone and De La Soul.

Know your place, sonic proletariat, and all will be well in the witching hour.

Put on delusions of grandeur, claim the role of creator instead of what you really are, an ambulatory iPod with a stupid haircut and no health insurance, and God will keep you out of Israel forever.

My initial thinking was that a hip-hop DJ could be not be lumped into the douchebag category. But then I gave it some more thought, and really, why not?

Over the past few years hip-hop has elevated the DJ to near iconic status, to the point where DJs are putting out mixtape albums with regularity. They’re appearing on award shows. They’re on TV shows. They’ve become personalities bigger than the on-air radio personalities they were once limited to. In their own right, they’ve become veritable “rock stars,” if you will.

But what do they do, really?

DJ Khaled, who actually can make tracks, didn’t even produce a song on his last album. Just saying. Not every hip-hop DJ falls into that category, but it seems like the ones who’ve been hot over the past few years really don’t do anything except promote their own brand with the music that other artists (read: creative people) give them.

A friend of mine used to say that nowadays a mixtape is like a digital business card. You meet someone out somewhere, you don’t hand them a business card, you hand them a mixtape, in the sense that it lets the person know this is what you do and these are the people you fuck with. But your mixtape is filled with creative content that comes from elsewhere, so you’re just that medium by which the music is being transmitted. And yet it’s your name on the front of that CD. But without that music your mixtape has no legs, so what really is your value beyond just being a tool to spread the gospel?

Not every hip-hop DJ makes mixtapes, and everyone does different things, so they don’t all fall in the douchebag category. And the turntable is an instrument, when used in a musical way (i.e. Turntablism). But the gist of the douchebag article was that Itunes playlist-type DJs these days act too self-important, too much like rock stars, when they’re really just the supporting act to the real creative people. And I think that argument holds some merit, even when it comes to hip-hop DJs.

I encourage you to list in the comment section the DJs who you think are douchebags.

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