With EDM stars like Tiesto and Skrillex making it big in the mainstream right now, there’s a lot of talk about EDM in the DJing world. In fact, sometimes it can be easy to forget that there’s more to DJing than EDM. But what happens when the EDM trend dies out and the next big thing comes along? Do you want to be stuck only knowing one genre? If you want to ensure your success as a DJ, it helps to diversify, and leaning how to DJ hip hop is a great way to broaden your horizons. After all, without hip-hop, DJing may not even have come to exist in the first place; it was hip hop pioneers like Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaata who first brought DJing into the mainstream in the 1980s.
The Mindset: What’s Different About Learning How to DJ Hip Hop?
While hip-hop involves many of the same elements as other electronic music such as samples, beats, and basslines, the philosophical approach of most hip hop DJs is wildly different than the philosophical approach of most other DJs. In fact, there’s often animosity between hip hop DJs and other DJs because of this philosophical difference. Here’s what hip hop DJ Jermaine Dupri had to say to Forbes Magazine when asked about EMD DJs:
“A lot of these EDM dudes have their sets already recorded, so they don’t really be doing nothing when they get on the stage, they’re just faking the knobs and putting their hands in the air.”
Whether you agree with Dupri or not, he highlights the main difference between hip hop and other electronic music genres: the aspect of improvisation. The Forbes article went on to say:
“Dupri points out that he selects tracks on the fly instead of simply pressing play on a pre-recorded set – and typically adds to his performance by rapping along to his own songs on a microphone, a live element that’s not available at most EDM shows.”
Hip hop is an extremely expressive genre, and to capture that expressiveness, you have to be prepared to do things on the fly. You don’t have to rap, but in order to learn how to DJ hip hop well, you need to get to know the genre well enough that you feel comfortable improvising and straying from your set list if necessary.
Beatmatching in Hip Hop Music
Once you’ve got yourself into the right mindset for learning how to DJ hip hop sets, the next step is to learn some basic techniques. The first technique to master for hip hop is beatmatching. This allows you to transition smoothly from one track to the next without interrupting your set.
The Art of Cutting in Time
While smooth transitions are helpful in keeping the flow of your set going, well-timed cuts are also an essential part of a good hip hop set. In fact, it was Grandmaster Flash himself who popularized the concept of cutting on the beat.
To help with your cutting skills, check out this free video tutorial from DJ Kenya on 4 Essential Transitions (Cutting, Fading, Spinback and Rewind).
Next time in this series we’ll get into some more advanced techniques on how to DJ hip hop, so stay tuned to the Spin Academy blog for the next instalment.
The occupations “DJ” and “lawyer” may sound like the farthest occupations in the world from each other, but in reality, they have more in common than you might think. As a DJ, especially as someone who wants to know how to sample music without getting sued, you sometimes have to act like a lawyer in order to protect yourself.
I know, copyright law doesn’t sound like the most exciting topic to discuss on a DJ blog, but if you’re a DJ who’s serious at all about using samples, you’ve already ventured into a complex area of copyright law, and not understanding how that law applies to you could have some serious negative effects.
The legal aspect of sampling is a big subject, and it applies differently in different situations, so to make it easier to understand, let’s break it down into a few different scenarios.
Playing Samples Live
Live gigs present the simplest situation when it comes to copyright law as, in most cases, the venue looks after all of the legal aspects for you. So whether you’re using a playlist or playing your own compositions (which may or may not involve samples), there’s generally no issue with live performance (assuming you’ve obtained all your music legally in the first place).
How to Sample Music on a Recording Without Getting Sued
Understanding how to sample music without getting sued is a more complicated situation when you’re talking about releasing music in physical or digital form.
Typically, if you’re using samples in your original music, and you plan to release that music to the public, you need to get your samples cleared. How do you get samples cleared? Well, that’s where things start to get complicated.
Clearing a sample usually means getting permission from both a publisher and a record label. Since these are usually large organizations that often change names or get bought out by other companies, just finding out who to contact to get the process started can sometimes be a huge challenge.
If you’re up for figuring out how to clear your samples yourself, check out the Nolo online legal encyclopaedia guide on How to Obtain Sample Clearance. Or, if you don’t feel up for the work yourself, but you still want to make sure you’re covered, you can hire a music clearance expert or a music lawyer to do the work for you.
How to Use Uncleared Samples and Hopefully Not Get Sued
For many DJs, the easiest route is to simply go ahead and use uncleared samples but reduce the risk of getting sued.
According to Nolo.com:
“If you use an uncleared sample, you can lower your risks by:
- making it unrecognizable
- not using the sample as the groove or hook
- burying it in the mix, and
- not using the title of the source music in the title of your song.”
Again, if you’re serious about protecting yourself, you can read the full guide on When You Need Permission to Sample Others’ Music.
Ultimately, this is a huge topic that’s too complex to cover in a single blog post. Suffice it to say that if you’re planning on releasing any music to the public that contains and obvious sample, and you think there’s a chance the record label and/or publisher that owns the original work could find out about it, make sure you do your research to ensure you’re protected. Otherwise, if you’re just learning how to sample music at home or using samples in your live gigs – don’t worry about it and just have fun making music.
Now that you know more about using samples legally, you can improve your sampling skills by becoming a member of our DJ school and checking out our tutorials on looping to learn how to loop samples and mix with them. Also, if you want to make sure you’re acquiring your samples legally in the first place, check out our video on where to get music.
Next time on our “DJs and the Law” series we’ll delve into the subject of remixes to help you figure out how to legally remix songs.