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.