I would like to take a moment to recognize one of the most integral pieces of the hip hop puzzle: the DJ. We’ve all seen DJs who bring the party to higher and higher levels of movement and energy with their song selection and transitions, and we’ve all also seen DJs who are the only people in the room getting hype off of what is coming out of the speakers. This weekend, I saw an impressive array of DJing skills over Friday and Saturday night that reinforced for me exactly how important this elusive figure of hip hop is.

Technic 1200 turntable

Friday night, I went out with my fellow Goddista, El La Katrina, to a local bar in Madison that usually has someone spinning a good combination of hip hop, soul, funk, anything with a good groove. Katrina and I are both coming off of injuries and were worried about getting too hype and going all out, but we wanted to support our friend Vilas Park Sniper who was DJing. Little did we know, there were two DJs spinning that night.

VPS got the crowd warmed up, created a nice and easy crescendo to transition into Friday night. Katrina and I sat pining for the dance floor as the energy in the room began to cluster there. Just as dancers were starting to let loose, the second DJ came on and completely cleared the dance floor in a matter of two songs. The folks who came to dance sat staring awkwardly at each other, and those who came to drink felt no urge to release their alcohol-induced energy on the dance floor. The awkward ballroom couple determined to dance no matter what genre gave up and sat down. Katrina and I had no problem sitting and relaxing instead of tearing up the dance floor on our injured legs. Even the standard tracks that get white people who can’t dance hype fell flat on the, let’s face it, largely white Wisconsin crowd because the song order simply made no sense.

The importance of flow for a DJ is not something we think about unless it’s lacking; we expect our DJs to guide us through the night. Each song should be the logical progression between those before and after. You can have technical skill and hard drives full of music, but if you don’t know what to play when, you will lose your audience. When the first DJ came back on, he was able to save the night in less than two songs, pulling out a crucial string of dancehall that you couldn’t help but get down to.

Saturday night, I went to the Uptowner in Milwaukee to see my TBB crewmate from New York, Danny Dan the Beat Man, on the decks for the after party for Center Street Daze. His collection and selection are not something that you get to hear every day; his skills come straight from the teachings of the likes of Herc, Theodore, and Flash. The Milwaukee breaking scene showed their support, cyphering and grooving to the classics that Dan was dropping. Mijo from Motion Disorderz and I started a battle against a couple of all styles heads, throwing goofy burns to slow jams. I’m sure Mijo’s antics alone made it to onlookers’ Vines and Instagrams.

Bgirl Edukate and Danny Dan the Beat Man Dusty Fingers DJ

A few MCs even got on the mic to rhyme over Dan’s beats. It was a refreshingly organic display of hip hop elements coming together to create in a shared space. I returned to Madison inspired by the energy that Dan was able to draw from each of us into a collective buzz based more on building than booze. Our community needs more events like this, more moments like this, and I hope that as an aspiring DJ myself, I’ll be able to connect people through my music.

So, thank you to all of the DJs out there who keep us moving, vibing, and reaching those energy levels that connect us all in the spirit of creation and music. Special shout outs to Danny Dan the Beat Man and Vilas Park Sniper for filling and fulfilling my ears this weekend.


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