When you think about DJing, the first thing that probably pops in your mind are the big electronic dance music artists that play these extravagant premier festivals. Electric Daisy Carnival, Ultra, Stereosonic, Tomorrowland, just to name a few. Now while these electronic music festivals do play an important role in the DJ scene, it barely scratches the surface of the whole culture of it.
Why does a photographer like me care? Aside from doing photography, I have a passion in DJing as well. It has been a big part of my life right beside photography ever since I attended Identity Festival back in 2012. That's where my curiosity in DJing came from. Electronic Dance Music was literally the only thing in my music library at the time and it became the only thing that I wanted to spin. Starting college around the same time just expedited my drive even more since there were many other students like me on campus who listen to EDM. Being a DJ for the on campus student radio station made it even more awesome. But as my undergraduate years progressed, my outlook on DJing drastically changed. It went from me just wanting to drop heavy electric bangers to exploring the art of genre mixing turntablism. This transition showed me to appreciate the roots of this art form and how its influence on hip hop has paved the way to what we now see as the modern DJ. Unfortunately, not many are aware of this impact.
Where The Divide Starts
The more enveloped I became in turntablism DJing, the more it bothered me about people's unawareness to this part of the DJ scene. That's like someone saying they're a big hip hop fan but then not know who's J Dilla. All this connects into another ongoing debate about what we consider a real DJ. Everyone has a different definition of what they define as a DJ and what they think they should be doing in their position. Just from my experiences of photographing different DJs, I've seen the distinct divisions between them. This is especially true for those that are not representing the commercialized EDM scene DJs. They're often overlooked or even forgotten since they don't appear in the mainstream. But the one question thats been the main center of attention is, who do we consider the "best" DJs?
DJ Mag's annual Top 100 DJs poll has been one of the most notable attempts to answer this question. For those that don't know, DJ Mag is one of the largest and most popular online music publications that produces DJ related content. Their Top 100 DJs list has become the worlds largest music poll, garnering over 1 million votes in 2015. Seems like a pretty plausible poll, right? Not really. Instead, it became the center of criticism from both DJs and fans. Here's a video posted about a week ago by DJ/Producer Dillon Francis, who in my opinion, explains the whole problem behind DJ Mag's poll perfectly.
What Should We Do?
So how should we classify the "best" DJs? Popularity, wealth, skills, number of followers? To be quite honest though, it's entirely up to you. Even better, WHO CARES!? We're the ones that listen and appreciate these figures. You're likely not going to change your appreciation for your favorite DJ whether they made it onto the list or not. With so many DJs out there there's just too much contrast to even compare them to each other. Think of it as comparing an apple to an orange. They're both fruit but they're just too different. Is a DJ at a festival any better than your local club DJ? Not at all. Both of them have their own niche and style. They do what works for them. Learn to appreciate all aspects of the scene so you can develop an appreciation and better sense of understanding. With all this being said, I'll leave you with some wisdom posted awhile ago by the one and only A-Trak (Fool's Gold Founder & Former DMC World Champ) about appreciating one another in the scene.