Beats & Pieces: June 2019
I read an article the other day where a scientist spoke about AI and the future of music. I found it intriguing and at the same time pretty laughable. I’ve learned a thing or two about music, throughout my life and even more so, the psychology and business side of things over recent years.
To sum things up, the implications of the article were that music would soon be created and curated by AI and that music as we knew it would soon be obsolete. The author did a good job of poking holes in the scientist’s theory and I highly doubt we have anything to worry about. If there is one thing I’ve learned from my own experience, research and talking to some heavy-hitters in the world of music business and tech, is that these algorithms are great tools, but they are no substitute for what a human can do. Maybe one day they will be able to, but I’m not holding my breath when it comes to the arts.
I really hope not, because as DJs we are pretty much live music curators and editors. Most DJs would agree that there is something else you tap into when you play for a crowd that can steer the direction of your sets. There is a symbiotic relationship between you, the music and the people that is special. If you’re relatively successful you will be able to tap into this energy and probably take it for granted at some point until the DJ Gods smite you with an empty dance floor or dead venue.
Even superstars in their own specialized lane attest to altering their selections depending on where and when they are playing. Laidback Luke has some great YouTube content that speaks specifically to this point. When he plays in Brazil for example, he stays away from tracks that have similar and traditional rhythms heard there. You could easily think this might be something that would appeal to them, but experience taught him that they’ve heard those styles their whole lives and are looking for something new and straight forward. I totally get it. It’s paying attention to the finer details like this that make you worth your salt as a selector.
It’s like the club owner of my first regular gig (also my good friend’s Dad) said to me after I had played there a few weeks. The venue was a lounge at a golf course, and it was pretty much a golf crowd till the young drinkers in the city took it over for the evening on the weekends. He pulled me aside, and complimented me on my work so far (as good managers do), before offering this one piece of advice.
“JT. You see this?” he said as he grabbed a piece of his grey hair. I nodded. “When you see this – no Snoop Dogg.”
Funny thing is, soon I’m going to be saying this to one of my younger colleagues only flipping it. “When you see this.” (grabbing some grey hair from my JT Jonah Jameson-like locks) and say, “When you see this…More Snoop Dogg.”
What I like to do in this recurring spot is highlight some music that doesn’t quite fit in the box of the major genres featured here or tracks that just popped onto my radar. It allows me to fill in the gaps and spread the word about music, production techniques and other assorted things that need their shine.
First off is a remix of a Jay-Z classic by Jean Tonique. Dust off that bottle of Tanqueray, mix it with something fizzy and pretend to be classy for a minute as you bounce to this laidback, midtempo joint.
Yesterday as I was going through tracks on the record pool, I got a taste of what I think will be trending music-wise in the near future. Tempos are starting to speed-up in Hip Hop and R&B most likely linked to the popularity of Latin, Dancehall and Reggaeton vibes. I feel like tastes are evolving and maturing and the days of the slow revolution and mumble rappers are numbered.
Years from now I think we will look back at this trend in urban music and liken it to the Glam Rock of the 80s. Name your top 3 Rock bands of all-time. If Poison or Motley Crue are in that list, you might as well go cop a Lil’ Yachty t-shirt, get a face-tattoo and pop a Xan.
I feel like we could be in for a Boom Bap Renaissance and B.O.B.’s latest album ‘Southmatic’ may be a sign of good things to come. Sampling the Partridge Family’s ‘I Think I Love You’ (a la Nice and Smooth’s ‘Hip Hop Junkies’ circa 1991), with a LL Cool J chop over the iconic drum break of Melvin Bliss’s ‘Synthetic Substitution’ (heard on such classics as Wu-Tang’s ‘Bring Da Ruckas’ and Naughty by Nature’s ‘O.P.P.’), results in some classic material. Peep game.
JT James is a DJ, producer and writer based out of Vancouver, Canada. He has produced several projects in the genres of hip hop and electronic music under various aliases such as James Divine, Track Nicholson and Sandy Villanova. He is currently the DJ in residence at The Roxy, in addition to writing and producing content for DJ World and YouTube.