How to DJ Hip-Hop, when coming from a very strong background of DJing Electronic Music.

Discussion in 'DJ' started by thethirdperson, Aug 12, 2016.

  1. thethirdperson

    thethirdperson Producer

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    I've been DJing for more than a decade and I can do most everything in terms of electronic music. Everything from Trance, Hardcore, House, Psy, Dubstep, Breaks, DnB, Techno the list goes on. I can spin on CDJs, as well as vinyl and can even mix on 3-4 decks simultaneously

    That being said I've been getting more and more into producing Hip-Hop and it's hybrids and I would like to know more about learning that style of DJing, I've tired a little bit but never really understand what I'm doing. I know with most electronic music it's all about being able to blend things seamlessly sometimes with transitions lasting for 2+ minutes but with Hip-Hop that doesn't ever seem to be the case. What constitutes a successful Hip-Hop DJ set, what are some of the key differences in between those two styles of DJing? Anyone with experience (especially those who can do both) I'd love to hear your input.
     
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  3. krameri

    krameri Member

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    I DJed both dance music and hip-hop, among others like 'retro', in clubs from 1990 - 2015. As you've observed already, the overlays you did with dance music don't matter with hip-hop, especially when you're playing to a dance floor. The tempo difference between one song that's working the floor and the next song that will keep them there, are often too far apart to do that. When I retired from it last year, the DJs who came after me just pressed play 90% of the time. They weren't lazy... that's just the reality for a club DJ spinning hip-hop now. The crowd doesn't care about the technical end of DJing when it comes to hip-hop, but it still requires the skill of 'reading the floor' - which is about the only reason many DJs haven't been replaced by software. It was different in the 90s, but those days are gone.
     
  4. Producer

    Producer Producer

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    That being said.It's the truth :dj::break:
     
  5. subGENRE

    subGENRE Audiosexual

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    With hiphop its kinda like djing dubstep. Not really about long blending transitions like with trance. Also with hip hop, blends=acapellas over instrumentals. Transitions are more like tables brakes, eq tricks/flips and reverse spins etc. short with abrupt transition tricks
     
  6. Strangelove

    Strangelove Noisemaker

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    Here's my 2 and a half cents

    I'd consider myself a fairly successful HipHop DJ as it's paid my way thru life for the last 20 years

    In that time I've seen many EDM based DJs making the switch based on trends shifting or their gigs drying up due to over saturation. I can honestly say only around 5% have made a successful transition, because spinning HipHop isn't drug music (unless u count weed)

    This means the crowds are more demanding, have shorter attention spans and will turn on you in a minute if you fuck up. The bpms change a lot, so it's not a 4x4 kick driving the MDMA for a whole night. You can't rely on a big drop to save a boring mix that every other DJ is playing.

    What I believe has made that 5% successful is their love for the music, meaning they have a big enough knowledge of what tracks work and can go back as far as the crowd they're playing to needs. This plays into what Krameri says about reading the floor. When something isn't working, you need to get it the fuck off and get something on that will work ASAP, and I'm not talking about dropping the latest Drake joint and calling it a night.

    My mantra has always been "give them what they didn't know they wanted", meaning that odd track from a few years ago or even last week that no one really talks about, yet has some sort of personal connection. That's the kind of shit that separates the average guys that make a few buck to ones that make a living off it

    Anyway, that's my opinion
     
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  7. thethirdperson

    thethirdperson Producer

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    @Strangelove " give them what they didn't know they wanted", I know exactly what you mean. There's nothing better than dropping track after track of stuff your audience has never heard before and still see the dance floor packed.

    I think I should clarify my question though. What are the more technical aspects of DJing hip hop as it relates to the heads, you know? I'm well aware of the idea of reading the crowd. I've just always been curious, not just because of what I'm producing nowadays but because if you throw a crate of hip hop records in front of me, I have absolutely no idea what to do, except to pretend to know how to scratch and beat match. Especially considering the fact that most tracks have shorter intro's and you don't want to have two tracks vocals clashing. What do you practice when you spin at home on your own, just for fun? (Totally a joke btw) or do you just have a mirror in front of your decks and see what tracks get/keep you moving to see what would work best on the crowd?
     
  8. thethirdperson

    thethirdperson Producer

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    Also, it should be noted that my first pair of decks that I taught myself on and I used forever were totally a pair of dual CD players who's jog wheels only could manipulate the speed/pitch. So, now that I have a pair of turntables all I really feel capable of doing is beat-matching and usually doing super long transitions. When with hip-hop (for the most part), you at the very most will ever spend 16/32 bars transitioning.
     
  9. django

    django Member

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    I'm another one who's paid my bills from dj'ing hip hop/funk sets over a number of years.

    It's not an easy thing to do properly without vinyl because it's the most responsive type of dj control surface for scratching/cutting in that theres ever been. But thinking like you're using vinyl is the way to go even with software, turn that sync off and feel your way through.

    It's hard to explain technical things in text but knowing your records is the most important thing. If you have 2 bars intro before the vocal drops then you have only got those 2 bars to play with in the mix before you have to mix out.

    2 bars isn't a lot of time for the crowd to realise that you're going to switch up the track they are dancing to, get their head round that fact and appreciate the change when it comes so it doesn't feel abrupt to them. So you can cut in the first beat or two over the preceding few bars to 'mix' that way. That kind of gives people a heads up whats coming.

    I tend to beat match tempos more than not, but if you are jumping from 85bpm to 95bpm say, you can still make it sound 'right' by dropping the new track in on the right beat so the switch still feels ok.

    You can always drop in an instrumental to mix in out of, scratch the out track when you drop the in track, break stop on the 4 and drop in the new track on the 1 etc, just make sure your vocals don't ever ever clash! I have played all sorts of electronic music too for years and I'd say the thing about hip hop, and particularly funk/soul/reggae, any music without a steady drum machine drum beat that you can lock in, is that every mix is a challenge and kind of different. You have to solve all sorts of problems, and some tracks just will not fit together.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2016
  10. thethirdperson

    thethirdperson Producer

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    @django as well as @subGENRE, thanks to you both, that's precisely what I wanted to know, The sort of technical aspects that generally go into playing a hip hop set as opposed to electronic DJs. It's always just really perplexed me what there is to learn and master aside from scratching, juggling and such which are such incredible feats in it of themselves. I'm not totally innocuous about things, I saw Q-bert last year when he was touring with Jeremy Ellis. I really enjoy the stylings of Jazzy Jeff, Kayper, Danny the Wildchild, Shortee, amongst many others. It's just coming from that side of the aisle in regards to DJing generally speaking it is all about the audience not even knowing when one track stops and the next one starts, of course there are tons of examples of people that do other stuff. Where as mixing hip-hop especially outside the scope of instrumentals, the transitions always sounds so damn jarring in comparison and sometimes even a tad bit clashing but I understand that's just how it is. How do you folks differentiate between a mediocre dj and an incredible dj?

    Regardless, people that can't DJ without having to use sync get absolute no respect from me =P
    . . . even though I use DVS via Traktor I have it setup so that I can't see the BPM and it''s only really just there to select tracks.
     
  11. django

    django Member

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    I wouldn't bother trying to be the next q-bert cos that type of turntablism has pretty much run its course, but it might be worth checking out some videos of the old dmc world championships. They are more about scratching but they are still switching tracks. Listen to some mixes and get an idea of how things can sound ok without mixing together. Think of scratching as providing a drum fill and then when you switch it its going into a new section.

    Hip hop Dj culture comes out of the same disco origins as house dj culture but it also comes from the jamaican sound system culture as well. In Jamaica they still do sound clashes where dj's will battle each other by playing tracks one after the other without mixing. This is an aspect to hip hop dj'ing that you should be aware of. You can mix things up by playing pretty much any track from any era in a way that you can't with house music, sets can be far more eclectic. I've been on the bill with world champion turntablists and people who can barely mix, but i'd always rather listen to the guy who knew his limitations but played dope tracks than the guy showing off his flare scratches with bad track selection. That really is 90% of what i'd base it on.
     
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