The Current DJ Scene

The Current DJ Scene

Today's DJing

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.

Sunset Music Festival 2016

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.

DJ Trayze @ Scratch Academy Miami

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.


It happens every year @djmagofficial

A video posted by Dillon Francis (@dillonfrancis) on


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.

There’s a lot of talk lately about what DJing is becoming. I’ve seen it evolve a lot over the years. I started DJing when I was 13, scratching vinyl and playing strictly hip hop, winning championships. The DMC judges thought I was pretty good at it, but think my definition was narrow back then. I remember when my aunts and uncles found out I was a DJ they assumed I was the guy talking on the radio. So to define who we were, we called ourselves turntablists. We wanted legitimacy. As I grew up I got into more sides of the craft. Party-rocking and mastering different musical genres. In the early 2000’s I was Serato’s very first endorsee. I remember talking to Jazzy Jeff and AM about Serato: was it stable enough? We also had to convert all our music. DJing was becoming digital. Then Kanye hired me to tour with him, because he learned how to perform from Common and Kweli who had real DJs too - shout out to Dummy & Ruckus. We went on an Usher tour and Kanye wanted me to bust solos. My routines were too specialized so I had to make new ones that this new audience would understand. I started seeing the bigger picture. Then I got into electronic music. I remember seeing Mehdi, Boys Noize, Feadz playing on CDJs and thinking: these guys are turntablists too. Surkin was the first guy I saw DJ on Ableton in a way that felt like true DJing too. Now there’s a whole new cast in electronic music, and it’s still exciting to me. I’ve seen a lot of fads come and go over the years. And I don’t think my way of DJing is the only way. I wish I could also play like Carl Cox and DJ Harvey too. But I have my style and it’s my passion. I love standing for something that means something, as Pharcyde would say. When you come to my show you know you’ll see me cut. And take risks. DJing is about taking risks. I represent #RealDJing #YouKnowTheDifference
— A-Trak