I've been fortunate enough to DJ for a LOT of rappers and rap shows. Between open mics across the East Coast and sharing the stage with some really good rap buddies, I've been at the helm spinning for hundreds of sets. With that comes a lot of fun, and a lot of reality checks. I felt it was important to share some game with the next class of DJs looking to perform with rappers for the first time. If you're a rapper yourself, pass this on to your DJ if they aren't doing this stuff already.
Learn the Verses
Peace all, Professor SentZ here. I'd like to Introduce the Lab Brief, a short segment in between episodes where we discuss quick, actionable tips and scene announcements that we think you'll enjoy. Today Professor SentZ discusses some ways to maximize your practice routines whether you're a DJ, performer, or play an instrument. We'll also discuss how to manage the expectations of other creatives in the crowd during your sets.
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Booking your first DJ gig is a huge accomplishment. You're leaving that bedroom setup and taking your mildly awkward Milly Rock skills to the public. In the excitement, there's a good chance that you'll forget some things, so I've compiled 8 questions to ask yourself before your debut that will give you a comfier first ride than a married couple that saved themsel.... never mind.
Do I have all of my required equipment?
It's essential to do a walk through of a space, or have a conversation with the venue about what equipment is available, so you can bring whatever they don't have. Some places have mixers, some don't. Some places have mixers that somehow predate disco. The point is, find out before you get there and write a checklist of the items that you need to pack, down to the cables and power strip. You should also use your walkthrough to scout general logistics like booth and speaker layout. If possible, ask if you can come in before operating hours a few days before the event to do an actual sound check, and make sure everything works. Take photos during the walkthrough too so you can reference the layout and booth setup. You can use these photos for promotion leading into the event too.
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.