If you think a good DJ only pushes buttons and spins records, you're sadly mistaken.
It's 2016 and DJs play more of an instrumental role in hip-hop than ever before. Actually, we owe today's hip-hop scene to the work of the earliest DJ master minds. Long before emcees dominated beats with their vocal talent, DJs were experimenting with hip-hop sounds by scratching and manipulating records to create their own versions of popular melodies. It’s no debate that fore founding disk jockeys like Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and DJ Herc had the most profound influence on the development of hip-hop culture.
So what exactly do they do? DJs act as the A&R's of the party scene; they know how to play what's hot and when to skip out on what's not. The hip-hop DJ's original mission was rocking the house, and their ability to keep a dance floor packed relied on his or her selection of records. That may have been a DJ’s only association with hip-hop music back in the day, but the process of song selection has elevated to take on a much more pivotal role in the 21st century.
Within the past few decades, DJs have been making the smooth transition from behind the scenes and taking their rightfully deserved spots on centerstage. Not only are they responsible for controlling vibes in the midst of a get-down, they now have their say in other areas as well. From hosting artist mixtapes to providing free mixes of some of our favorite sounds, DJs use their influence to make other people’s songs popular. For example, mixtape messiah Dj Drama is credited as the pioneer of mixtape hosting, curating each series of his gangsta grillz mixtapes and packing his tracklists with the best artists hip-hop has to offer. He, The Aphiliates, and those who came before them have maintained an audience-driven model of music distribution in which DJs can use to generate a following.
Shown in today’s music discographies, DJ’s have seamlessly transformed into hitmaking superstars. Dj Khaled, who got his start in the industry by spinning at various nightclubs in South Beach Miami, has more #1 hits than most rappers could ever dream of. Sure, the average hip-hop DJ today spends more time with samplers, computers, synthesizers and drum machines than with turntables, but that doesn’t take away the beauty of the artform! With responsibilities like facilitating good times, orchestrating quality music, and making artists look good (even when it’s easier said than done), it’s no surprise that the DJ is considered the heartbeat of hip-hop.