The Working DJ Blog: A day in the life…

When your work day (or night) doesn’t start till 10 PM, it’s easy to go mad during the day. I’ll admit that I’m a late riser on the weekends. I like to tell people that I live on West Coast time. Still that leaves a good 10 to 12 hours before I clock in for the night. How do I fill that time? Here’s an outline of a typical Saturday in the life of this working DJ.

After eating some lox and toast, I jump into emails and admin work. I like to bang this stuff out early to clear my headspace for more creative endeavors later in the day. Emails sometimes are the bane of my existence, but they are an essential tool to keep the business operating. More on that another day. The good news is that on a Saturday, the admin tasks are always light. That leaves plenty of time for music and exploration.

I prefer to practice earlier in the day. Things seem to flow a lot more freely and with less distraction. Practicing as a DJ has always been a strange concept to me, but it’s been essential to get through the inevitable plateaus. Since much of what you do depends on the energy of a crowd, when you’re spinning records while staring at a wall, things just don’t make the same amount of sense as they would when you play out. But still, you can get a general idea if something’s working.  That’s why I tend to work more on fundamentals at home. I’ll freestyle scratch different samples over the same instrumental beat for an hour, trying to mime the lyrics. I still hardly scratch at gigs, but my goal is only to keep getting better. After all, it was the scratch sound that got me into this in the first place.

I try to have fun with my practice sessions because it’s a rare opportunity to play completely for myself. I’ll work on word-play tricks and ideas that’ve crept into my head over the week. Sometimes this stuff happens spontaneously at a gig, but it’s time spent in the lab working on a feeling or concept that’ll increase the chances of it happening live. Lately I’ve been working on different ways  to make quick BPM changes. There’s always that time when you’re stuck at a certain speed and need to get somewhere in a hurry without losing the floor (or you have to go there in order to not lose the floor).

Before I hit play, I have to set up my mixer as I had it out the night before. It takes only a couple minutes to plug in my Pioneer S9 to my permanent home setup (2 x Technic 1200 MK2s) plus a powered QSC K8 speaker. My 2018 wishlist is to grab another S9. It’s a huge advantage to have a second set of decks. My practice time has gone up considerably. Having to burn time on either end to set up and break down your gear is a HUGE hinderance to creativity. By the time I’d have everything out of the cases something would inevitably pull my attention in another direction.

I have three identical sets of the basic cables (XLR, USB, power adapter). There’s a set that stays in my gig bag, another set in a backup bag, and a set always plugged in at home. This ensures I will never forget anything without even having to think about it. Systems like this are everything when you gig four to five times a week with different equipment needs for each. They keep me from going crazy. I don’t do checklists. I’d rather just know everything is where it needs to be.

The night’s gig is at Good Life upstairs. I am slated to spin solo for four hours, which is a first for me in this venue  as usually I am paired with another DJ doing 30 minute back-to-back sets. The B2B thing is great because you feed off your partner, and I think you can get a away with going a bit harder as you get a chance to recharge every 30 mins.

The prospect of four hours at the controls for a packed floor is both exciting and a little bit stressful. I know I’ll need to pace myself wisely. Go too hard too early and I’ll leave myself nowhere to go, except off a cliff. Knowing my tracks and their energy levels is everything.

I’ll go on to spend a majority of my day in Serato organizing tracks and improving the crate structure I’ve been building on for the past few years. I’ll also check the charts for anything fresh that I know I’ll need to play. “God’s Plan” by Drake is an example.

I’ve done a lot of work in Serato over the past year to organize my dance crates by energy level. My system is basic (LO, MID, HIGH) and it helps a lot to set the tone for the night. Once I get a feel for how the floor reacts to certain tracks I then get into more genre specific crates, mostly genre or era related.

I recently built a crate called D.A.N.C.E which is specifically designed for sets at Good Life. After a couple of years of regular gigs there I’ve gotten a feel for what works and what doesn’t. For one, the 2000s to early 2010s are pure gold. That stuff works with multiple generations, and when things get played out, it’s a decent jumping off point into the newer trap and turn up stuff.

Then there’s reggae and dancehall, some of the best dance music ever recorded.

The floor fills up fast on this particular night. Good Life has built a reputation for offering some legendary hip hop nights (PVRPLE, Fresh Produce) but they also do great house nights, too. Downstairs happens to be one of those house nights. If anything, that makes my job easier. I know there will be absolutely zero crossover, and hip hop heads will only have one option … me. (On a side note, I’d LOVE to spin more house nights).

Out of the gate, 2000s R&B seems like a logical choice. The room is filling up. I want people to get comfortable with the space. Maybe they’ll grab a drink or two before really dancing. At the end of the day, I know my main role is to keep people drinking.  I lean on familiar tracks from Ashanti, Mary J, Aaliyah, The Fugees, Rihanna … you get it. Once a critical mass is reached, I see the need to ramp it up and get people grooving. J Lo “Get Right” lines up nicely for this. Then it’s all systems go.

A couple of requests come in right off the bat. The first one is Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack.” 1,000 % unexpected, but I fucking love it. Anytime I get this request, I will absolutely play it. That song at the right moment always bangs, and this was the right moment. It then launches me into a whole mix of similar era tracks. Shaggy “It Wasn’t Me,” Skee-Lo “I Wish,” and Ice Cube “You Can Do It.” All hit nicely, but I don’t want to overstay my welcome. The key is keeping people from pigeonholing you into one specific theme.

I had already gotten a request for “Toxic” by Britney Spears. I nicely shrugged it off but there’s no way Good Life would be the venue for that … or at least I thought. 15 minutes later the group sends someone else up to ask for it (a common tactic to make it seem like more people want to hear it than actually do). I realize this is a pretty large group and their energy is really what’s building the early dance floor. But still, Britney at Good Life? I texted my buddy who does sound  for approval. He said to go for it. So I hard echo out of whatever 95 BPM cut I was on. Let it mellow for a second, and drop “Toxic” on the one. The crowd eats it up. Nice.

The change was perfectly timed. I was peaking in the 95-105 BPM world and needed to wash things clean. At 72 BPM and a shuffle “Toxic” was a great jumping off point to new things. “Rehab” next hit so flat that I cut out after 8 Bars to something a little more on brand. It’s funny how fickle a crowd can be with a novelty. Stay there too long and you’re toast.

The “Toxic” move launched me back up the BPM latter. As I was building it back up MIA “Paper Planes” was the highlight. 10 years later this track still combines the perfect level of indie clout with pop sensibility. Also I got tremendous satisfaction from dropping Queen’s “We Will Rock You” to lead into “Tipsy,” and not going down in flames.

Then I got some love from industry folks.  Crews from the Milky Way and City Tap, both places I’m fortunate enough to spin at regularly, came by to say hi. Anytime you see a familiar face in a room full of a few hundred strangers really levels you out and makes you feel human again. This is what carried me through the rest of the night.

Four hours barely existed. Before I knew it I was playing “Welcome to Jamrock” at 1:53AM and the lights were up. Just another day in the life.

Here’s the full track list (including the edits I use) from my Good Life set on 2/17/2018. All 149 tracks in total.

I Wanna Be Down (Clean / Aca Out) Brandy 88
If Your Girl Only Knew Aaliyah 88
Passin by Me Pharcyde 90
Be Happy (Durkin Edit) Mary J. Blige 91
Rock The Boat (DJ Dynamite edit) Aaliyah 93
I Feel It Coming (Dirty) The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk 93
Fu-Gee-La (SHORT EDIT /ACAPELLA OUT) The Fugees 90
Ain’t That Funny (Short Edit) Jennifer Lopez ft Ja Rule 94
Why You Wanna (Clean Intro) T.I. 96
How We Do – DJcity Throwback Edit (Dirty) The Game ft. 50 Cent 98
Wild Thoughts (Scooter Remix / Maria Intro / Clean) DJ Khaled ft Rihanna & Bryson Tiller x Santana 98
Juicy Booty (Audio1 Edit) (Dirty) Chris Brown feat. Jhene Aiko & R Kelly 96
Dance With Me (DJ Tanner PL3 EDIT) 112 98
Girls Wanna Have Fun (Intro – Clean) Usher ft. Young Thug 94
Stay Winning (Nick Styles Intro Refix-Dirty) Wale 97
You Be Killin Em (DIRTY-SSM Edit) Fabolous 94
Get Right – DJcity Throwback Edit (Intro) Jennifer Lopez 97
Rich Girl Eve/Gwen Stefani 98
Rock Your Body (Menegaux Quick Mix/ Beatbox Outro) Justin Timberlake 101
Too Close Next 100
Return of the Mack (C & J Street Mix) Mark Morrison 95
It Wasn’t Me (Clean Intro) Shaggy 94
Disco Inferno (Clean Intro) 50 Cent 97
Shake Ya Ass [Explicit] Mystikal 98
Senorita (Super Short Edit) Justin Timberlake 98
Beware Of The Boys (Remix) (Cyber Intro) Punjabi MC feat Jay Z 98
I Wish (Intro) Skee Lo 98
Heavenly Break DJ ELI ESCOBAR 102
Watch Out Now (DJ A-L Big Pun Blend-Clean) The Beatnuts & Big Pun 100
Jenny From The Block Jennifer Lopez 100
You Can Do It – DJcity Thorwback Edit (Dirty) Ice Cube ft. Mack 10 & Ms. Toi 100
Talk Dirty To Me (Melo D EDIT) Jason Derulo 100
Work It into Worth It (Segue / Clean) Missy Elliot / Fifth Harmony ft Kid Ink 100
You Know You Like It (DJ Snake RMX / Intro) AlunaGeorge 98
Me & U (Short Edit) Cassie 100
Toxic-intro-clean Britney Spears 72
Rehab (DJ Dynamite edit) Amy Winehouse 73
GDFR (Intro – Clean) Flo Rida ft. Sage The Gemini 73
Look At Me Now (feat. Lil Wayne & Busta Rhymes) Chris Brown 73
Make It Rain (Dirty / Super Short Edit) Fat Joe ft. Lil Wayne 75
Collard Greens (feat. Kendrick Lamar) ScHoolboy Q 77
Beamer Benz Or Bentley (Dirty Intro) Lloyd Banks feat Juelz Santana 80
Live Your Life (Dirty) TI ft. Rihanna 80
Rubberband Man (DIRTY-Isaac Jordan Quick Edit) T.I. 78
Krippy Kush (Remix / Spanglish / Dirty) Farruko, Nicki Minaj, Bad Bunny, 21 Savage & Rvssian 82
Plain Jane (Dirty / Intro) A$AP Ferg 85
Get Back (Dirty / Donk Hook Only) Ludacris 86
Teach Me How To Dougie (DIRTY-Jason Bee Intro) California Swag District 85
I Think They Like Me (RMX / Clean / Short Edit) Dem Franchize Boyz ft Jermaine Dupri, Da Brat & Bow Wow 83
Slow Motion (Dirty Cyber Intro) Juvenile 86
Paper Planes Dirty M.I.A 86
My Drink N My 2 Step (Dirty Intro) Cassidy feat Swizz Beatz 87
Blame It (Dirty Cyber Intro) Jaime Foxx feat T Pain 88
Flashing Lights Kanye West Featuring Dwele 90
Umbrella (Feat. Jay-Z) Rihanna 87
Jumpin Jumpin [Drew Pierce Edit] Destiny’s Child 89
Let Me Blow Ya Mind ft. Gwen S Eve 90
In Da Club 50 Cent 90
Drop It Like It’s Hot Snoop Dogg Featuring Pharrell 92
We Will Rock You (Deejay Irie Tipsy Edit) Queen 88
Tipsy J-Kwon 93
Murder She Wrote (PLUV Intro EDIT) Chaka Demus & Pliers 95
Heads High (Kill Dem Wit it RMX / Diggz 2017 Short Edit) – 5A Mr. Vegas 93
GASOLINA Daddy Yankee 96
Like Glue Sean Paul 98
Freaks (DIRTY) French Montana ft Nicki Minaj 96
Ayy Ladies (DIRTY-Donk-“Hook First” Short Edit) Travis Porter ft Tyga 96
Choppa Style (Dirty) Choppa 100
Back That Azz Up (Dirty Intro) Juvenile 96
Nolia Clap (Alternate Intro / Twerk / Super Short Edit) TWRK 100
Blow the Whistle (Original Mix) Too $hort 100
Love Like This – DJcity Throwback Edit (Intro) Faith Evans 101
Be Faithful (Original Mix) Fatman Scoop 101
Wait (The Whisper Song) (DJ AM Intro) (Dirty) Ying Yang Twins 102
Whistle Song-clean-intro Juelz Santana 100
Touch It (DJ Organic Edit) Busta Rhymes 102
Salt Shaker (Clean) Ying Yang Twins ft. Lil Jon 102
Got Your Money Ol’ Dirty Bastard 103
Bend Ova (Dirty) Lil Jon ft Tyga 103
Yeah! Usher Featuring Lil Jon & Ludacris 105
This Is How We Finesse (Audio1 Throwback Blend / Acapella Out) Montell Jordan vs Bruno Mars 105
Finesse (Remix / Dirty / Intro) Bruno Mars ft Cardi B 105
Suit & Tie (Dirty-Short Edit – Aca Out) – 9A/10A Justin Timberlake ft Jay-Z 102
The Motto (CLEAN-Nacho Vega Edit) Drake ft Lil Wayne 101
Im Rollin (Fresh Den A Muthafucka) (Beat Junkie Sound edit) (Dirty intro) Meek Mill 103
No Lie (Intro) Sean Paul ft. Dua Lipa 102
Never Leave You (Diggz 2017 Short Edit) – 7B Lumidee 100
Get Busy [Menegaux Short Edit] Sean Paul 100
Ting A Ling (Dirty / Super Short Edit) Nicki Minaj ft Shabba Ranks 105
Express Yourself (Short Edit / Aca Out) – 9A Diplo ft Nicky Da B 108
You Remind Me (Clean) Chris Porter 104
Truffle Butter (Intro – Dirty) Nicki Minaj ft. Drake & Lil Wayne 105
Fade – Jordan Crisp Clapapella Intro (Dirty) Kanye West ft. Post Malone & Ty Dolla $ign 106
One Dance (Intro) Drake ft. Wizkid & Kyla 104
Turn Me On Kevin Lyttle 106
Tempted to Touch (Diggz 2017 Cutdown) – 7A Rupee 106
Mercy.1 Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz 70
Pony (Extended Mix) Ginuwine 71
Ni**as in Paris Kanye West & JAY Z 70
Formation/Humble (2 bar intro!!) Beyonce vs Kendrick Lamar 75
HUMBLE. (Dirty / Intro) Kendrick Lamar 75
Grove St Party (DIRTY-Jason Bee Intro) Waka Flocka Flame ft Kebo Gotti 70
Homegurl (DIRTY-Intro) Bone 75
Laffy Taffy (Clean Intro) D4L 77
Walk It Out (Clean Intro) UNK feat Outkast & Jim Jones 80
Snap Yo Fingers (Clean CK Intro) Lil Jon feat E 40 x Sean Paul 82
All I Do Is Win (Dirty Intro) DJ Khaled feat Ludacris Rick Ross Snoop Dogg and T Pain 75
Black And Yellow – DJcity Throwback Edit (Dirty) Wiz Khalifa 82
God’s Plan (Dirty / Intro) Drake 77
Rockstar (Dirty / Intro) Post Malone ft. 21 Savage 80
Dance (ASS) Anthem (Risk One Segway) 80-91bpm (DIRTY) Big Sean & Nicki Minaj / DMX 80
Good Life – Reed Streets Remix (Dirty) Kanye West ft. T-Pain 92
Rude Boy Rihanna 87
Make It Clap (CLEAN-Intro) Busta Rhymes 91
Snake (Clean Intro) R Kelly feat Big Tigger 92
Africa Toto 93
No Scrubs TLC 93
Welcome To Atlanta (Dirty) Jermaine Dupri ft Ludacris 96
The Next Episode Dr Dre 95
Lemon (Rihanna First / Clean / Short Edit) N.E.R.D. ft Rihanna 95
Bubba Sparxxx ft.Ying Yang Twins – Ms. New Booty 97
Bubble Butt Remix Major Lazer 97
IDFWU (BJS Dirty Intro EDIT) Big Sean feat E40 98
FDT (Intro – Dirty) YG & Nipsey Hussle 97
R.I.P. (feat. 2 Chainz) Young Jeezy 97
Gas Pedal (Dirty Intro) Sage The Gemini feat iamsu 98
Rack City (Dirty Intro) Tyga 99
Get Low Lil Jon And The East Side Boyz 101
Party Up (Dirty / Short Edit) DMX 101
Doo Wop (That Thing) (Clean Intro) Lauryn Hill 100
Ride Wit Me Nelly 102
Bodak Yellow (Transition 100-63 / Dirty) Cardi B 126
No Problem (Dirty-Intro/Outro) Chance The Rapper feat Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz 136
Big Pimpin’ Jay-Z 138
Ignition (Remix / Clean) R. Kelly 132
My Boo Ghost Town DJ’s 130
Birthday Sex REMIX (CLEAN- Uptempo Remix) ( Jeremih ft Pitbull 129
Calabria (Victor Menegaux Horn outro) Enur feat. Natasja 126
Danza Kuduro (feat. Lucenzo) Don Omar & Lucenzo 130
Love In This Club (Audio1 2017 VIP Mega Blend / Clean) Usher 72
Shawty Is A 10 (Rmx)_3(DMS Intro) Dream ft. Fabolous 73
Swimming Pools (Donk Hooks Only Edit) Kendrick Lamar 74
Young Forever (DIRTY-DJ Fabian Edit) Jay-Z ft Mr. Hudson 70
Welcome To Jamrock (Intro) Damian Jr Gong Marley 77
Thriller Laugh Sample Michael Jackson 118