It has been said before and I will say it again, the backbone of hip hop is the DJ. The DJ is widely considered the most vital of the four pillars of hip hop, and in recent years has been all but removed from the scene. Yet, a track built by a DJ typically has much more substance then those built in pro-tools and on a drum machine. The DJ brings unique perspective to the hip hop sound. They have collected a vast catalog of sounds and classic albums that can be shuffled through to find the perfect sound. The samples, the scratches, the breaks and beats, from Kool Herc on up, there are few who do it better then DJ Revolution.
Revolution, a member of The World Famous Wake Up Show, released his first album In 12's We Trust back in 2000. An album similar in structure to the his forthcoming release, In 12's featured some of the best underground talent at the time. Since then Rev has put out several mixtape, and a couple albums filled with breaks. Yet, over the years the popularity of the DJ has faded a bit and has nearly left the scene completely. On September 30th, Rev will try to correct the current path of hip hop with King of The Decks and help from Krs-One, Qbert, Planet Asia, Defari, Evidence, Jazzy Jeff, Termanology, and many more.
Recently, Revolution was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.
Orange Alert (OA): There seems to have been a swell in the popularity of 'turntablism' in late '90's that peaked around 2002 and the release of Scratch. What is the state of the DJ today, and how does this relate to your new album?
DJ Revolution (REV): The DJ and DJ'ing as most of us knew it back when you are referring to has been splintered and sub-divided into many groups that are all under one 'DJ' umbrella. Celebrity Dj's, Wanna-be Dj's, Electro-hipster-burnout Dj's. The only thing that is common among the majority of these many groups is the lack of Hip Hop or connection to the Hip Hop community. The sad part is they learned all of the traits they possess, the so called skills they rely on professionally and things like their fashion and ability to act like they are cool, even the way they talk from Hip Hop Dj's and the culture that they created. Most of them abandon these things or hold on to them only to get accepted when they get what they need or reach a certain point in their career. The popular DJ of today is also disconnected from the MC in a way that has made the music take a serious turn for the worst. I wanted to re introduce and reconnect the DJ with all of these things on my new record. Especially the MC. I needed to do this by making a straight up rap album with a DJ influence. In order to make people understand what a DJ does, and that we have more to offer than playing silly vegas clubs or being tokens in commercials i had to make all that we do accessible to the average Hip Hop fan. The DJ's will easily get it and absorb the progression of skills and production value. But because MC's have not really featured real Dj's on their records and most artists have little or no scratching on the albums they release, i had to serve it up on a nice plate in the context of a meal that looks appetizing so i wouldn't scare em away. Hopefully they like it.
OA: Speaking of "King of Decks", what an all-star line-up! How did you select the artists that you wanted to work with?
REV: It was a well thought out process. I needed to figure out which artists would complete certain visions i had for songs. I also had to figure out which artists would give me something to fit the album without me giving them to much direction. As a producer I always like to let the artists be themselves but at the same time i needed them to fit whatever they were gonna do into the context of my album, which had a theme and a purpose. Its not just a compilation. For instance the song with KRS was planned out long before i contacted KRS. It was completed in my head with him as the cornerstone of the song as soon as i heard the sample i used. Overall i got A+ performances from all of the people on the record. Even the songs that didn't make the final cut of the album came out great and it was hard fro me to decide which ones wouldn't go solely due to the amount of music you can fit on a CD. I think picking the right artists for the right beats and concepts is the difference between an average compilation and a classic album full of great performances.
OA: When you DJ for someone like Rakim or Kayne live on stage how do you restrain yourself from just tearing up the track?
REV: Its quite easy. There is a time and place for everything. People came to see the artists perform the songs they know the way they know them. You just have to realize that its not about you. Its about whatever artist you are supporting and the fans that paid to see them. As a DJ its your responsibility to be the backbone of the show and make sure everything goes according to plan. If the artist gives you a window to cut shit up, then you take it. Otherwise its the easiest thing in the world. You just sit back in the cut, do your job and enjoy sharing the stage with someone. It can be stressful at times due to the pressure of certain situations and some artists are easier to work with than others. For instance, the difference between working with Kanye and Rakim was night and day for many reasons i wont go into. I just did my job and let the experience unfold.
OA: Last year I saw Dj Craze and Klever perform here in Chicago. Craze used vinyl and Klever used a laptop and rubber mats. In my opinion, Craze's performance was more genuine and had less problems. Klever had trouble finding files and his songs started and stopped several times. Do you use vinyl or a laptop on stage? What would be the argument for each?
REV: There is no argument. Using a laptop puts my sets far and above anything that is possible with vinyl. I cant speak on the sets you happened to see, but rest assured if you know what you are doing and have experience you should be able to put anyone using just vinyl to shame and completely rock the party. If not, you have NO business using the computer. It is a tool for professionals. Don't get me wrong, i love vinyl. Still rock it from time to time and still blow lots of money collecting it. Maybe vinyl might be better for just straight battle routines or some quick prepared sets but for rocking extended sets at a club there is no comparison. Digital rules.
OA: You have been working on The World Famous Wake Up Show for quite sometime. What is the hardest part of doing the show? How long do you see yourself working with Sway & Tech?
REV: When the show was live on the air, the hardest part was actually finding a way to squeeze everything we wanted to do into a 2 or three hour period. Artists, music, interviews and special segments. I'd say no, the hardest part is struggling to stay on the air at a station that really doesn't care about the show, us or the real Hip Hop Community that supports us. Its a fight and requires more patience than i have. tech is the glue that keeps the show stuck on the station. I have nothing to do with them because i feel like they've been waiting for us to die off for the last 5 years. We get no cross promotion, no involvement in station events, no attention from the the programming department. Shit, we couldn't get a key card to get up to the station when we were live every week. Its also hard now that we were ORDERED to pre-record the shows by the station. They started freaking out over some new ratings technology and pushed a lot of panic buttons. Asking all the specialty shows to pre record and cut the talking, limit the guests and do our best to throw in some familiar artists. Commercial radio sucks. But hey, at least they still got a spot for us.
OA: What's next for Dj Revolution?
REV: Next for me is a year long grind promoting this record. Lots of touring, more installments in all series of my mixtapes. Making more music for TV and film and hopefully taking a vacation before my head explodes!
OA: Coffee? If yes, where is your favorite place to get a cup?
REV: yup. Balcony cafe, West LA, CA.
OA: Who has been your favorite MC or DJ to perform with?
REV: Evidence. Cuz ive known him for 10 yrs and i think its just like hangin' out a stage with a homie practicing and playing some cool ass music for music people that know his shit.
King of the Decks
1.) Intro f/Jazzy Jeff2.) King Of The Decks f/ Sean Price & Tash 3.) THE DJ f/ KRS ONE (mp3)4.) Do My Thing f/ Guilty Simpson & Royce Da 5' 9" 5.) LADJ (skit) 6.) Funky Piano f/ Bishop Lamont, Crooked I, Styliztik Jones 7.) For The Kids (skit) 8.) The Big Top f/ Special Teamz 9). Start The Revolution f/ Boot Camp Clik 10.) Scratch Nerds (skit) 11.) Invaders from the Planet Sqratch f/ DJ Qbert 12.) EY! f/ Joell Ortiz and Termanology (Produced by DJ Revolution & DJ Numark) 13.) Casualties of Tour f/ Rakaa Iriscience (produced by Marco Polo)14.) Damage f/ Blaq Poet & Bumpy Knuckles 15.) Willie Lynch f/ Styliztik Jones and KBimean 16.) The Biggest Up f/ DJ Premier (Skit) 17.) Blow Da Spot f/ Strong Arm Steady 18.) School f/ Planet Asia19.) Spit Ridiculous f/ Defari 20.) Pro's & Con's f/ Evidence 21.) Calling Haul (Skit) 22.) Man or Machine 23.) The Set Up f/ Sway & King Tech24.) The Re-Match f/ DJ Spinbad
For more information on DJ Revolution please visit his website.