DJs can sometimes be the biggest dickheads in the world when they notice another DJ using something they don't. I started on vinyl, but always considered myself a producer first, so as controllers hit the market, I gravitated to them pretty quickly. In 2008, I grabbed a Hercules RMX and a much uglier version of Traktor, and started spinning out in Brooklyn, New York. Unlike my techno DJ counterparts who could get away with embracing technology, I was bringing this nerdy shit into underground rap and funk rooms with some of the best vinyl selectors in Crown Heights and Bed Stuy. The clowning was real.
One thing I noticed quickly though was that the criticism only came from current, and aspiring DJs. The dancing crowd itself couldn't care less what I was using to play, they just appreciated the selection, and the execution. The biggest thing I began to hear was, "I'm so glad you don't play the same thing every week like DJ XYZ" and that made me put my energy into prepping great crates and practicing instead of worrying about haters. You have to take the same approach. Understand that discouraging figures are going to try to steal your energy and enthusiasm. Don't let them. Ever.
Like it or not, you are competition to other DJs. So when you arrive on their scene, with new gear that's easier to handle and maintain, there's immediately a subconcious threat of replacement. It took me YEARS to get comfortable with records, so there are times where I look at how quickly one can beat match now and I feel frustrated too. But I'm also aware that the technology is a choice, and to censor, or halt the progress of it because of a personal preference is selfish. Period. I loved the Playstation 2 more than any other console, but that doesn't mean I think gaming should've stopped developing there. I can just back and play a PS2 game, without hating on newer consoles if I choose. If you think controllers lame, you can spin on something else if you choose. Problem solved, no one needs to get disrespected.
We're finally seeing the era of controller based DJing offering workflows that aren't possible any other way. Traktor Remix Decks for example let DJs add up to 64 live loops and samples on top of their records, remixing on the fly. This just wasn't an option before. With BPM detection and Master Clock, I can send MIDI timing from Traktor and keep a drum machine or synth sequence running in time with what I'm mixing. We're just scratching the surface of where digital DJing and controllers can take the art and I'm personally stoked to see where it heads.
I think any DJ benefits on certain levels from owning a set of turntables or CDJs at some point. Does it have to be at the beginning? Not anymore. Does it have to be your go-to gigging setup? Not necessarily. But it is nice to learn to beat match manually with a platter, and exploring turntablism, opens up a whole new world of creativity. That said, don't limit yourself if you're not their yet, or if that isn't your path. If you're unsure how much you want to invest up front, and you want to explore controllers to see if this is for you, go for it. If MIDI mapping and mashups excites you more than 45s, embrace that, and be the best at it. I think a general rule of "play on what brings you joy" is the best way to look at this going forward. As long as you keep playing.
Click Here to view "The Rap Pack- Rhythm" Traktor Remix Set
SentZ is a Brooklyn raised writer and producer who hasn't been the same since his 1st Helio phone