Diplo and Mad Decent crew have come a loonggg way since they first set up shop at what is now PHILAMOCA in the early 2000s.
A trip down memory lane for Diplo, where the sidewalk outside PHILAMOCA still bears the Mad Decent stamp.
The Mad Decent Block party, which originally was a raucous street party that closed down the five-point intersection at 12th Street, Spring Garden, and Ridge Avenue, has exploded into a nationally touring summer sell-out.
Big up to Sean Agnew (pictured here in Elmo costume with a handle of Captain Morgan, also a former WKDU DJ) and R5 Productions for their biggest show to date, and for handling the event like the champs they are.
We took in the sights and sounds of the Friday madness, catching sets from Major Lazer, Philly’s own Dirty South Joe, Zeds Dead, Keys N Krates, Allison Wonderland, and Giraffage.
Playing the right track at the right time is one of the most important aspects of DJing. I asked some of my favorite DJs that spun on New Year’s what they played at MIDNIGHT to see what songs ushered in 2015 !!!
I made an end of year list that doesn’t suck. In terms of methodology, I started by choosing 9 albums because the covers looked cool on a grid. There was also a ton of good shit outside of albums, so then I created the other categories and capped the entries in those categories by descending odd numbers (9-7-5-3-1).
Critical reviews & ratings are arbitrary (see: Pitchfork), but rankings are arbitrary as fuck, so for each category I put all the entries in alphabetical order.
DJ Sega is one of the most unique and groundbreaking artists to come out of Philly. He was one of the original artists signed to Mad Decent and has remixed the craziest variety of songs with the Philly club sound that he helped pioneer (e.g. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Theme – DJ Sega remix). His set at the EMM was absolutely INSANE. My jaw was on the floor as he pulled out track after track of unexpected / WTF goodness. Sit back and listen to his set and read our chat about the start of his career, current projects and the original Mad Decent HQ.Yeah, we talked about the Diplo beef too…
DJ Sega: I’m alive…that’s what counts. Right now, I’m in my hometown Philly. I’ve been staying in South Philly lately.
CB: How did you first start getting into music?
Sega: I was born into music. My parents were choir directors and my father was a DJ in the Nicetown area for almost 40 years, playing classic soul, funk, hip hop and other feel good music. My little sister and I grew up being a little competitive when it came to the music we collected. We competed on who would get an album first. My first tape was James Brown 20 All-Time Greatest Hits and the first album I had was Bad by Michael Jackson.
CB: Were you DJing before you started producing?
Sega: My production came before I took DJing seriously as a career. I received an email survey asking for feedback on this music production software called Acoustica Beatcraft. I gave my ideas and then received an email saying that not only did they use my ideas, but that they were giving me the software for free also. I cut and edited samples in a wave editor and made music for my own entertainment. I was going through a lot in that year and needed an escape. That’s where my imagination and the producing came in. This is my 10 year anniversary of producing!
CB: What was some of the first club music you listened to?
Sega: Baltimore club of course. I first heard it in my Dad’s car. He ran into the bar and left me with the radio on for a few minutes, and that’s when I first heard “Doo Doo Brown” by 2 Hyped Brothers & A Dog. I must’ve been about eight! Later, I was in disbelief when I went to a teen night at an arcade up by Erie Ave and they were playing club music. They had the events in the laser tag area – so it was neon paint and black light all over the place.
I knew the sound, but to experience it in a club for the first time with a sound system was incredible! The bass under my feet, the breaks in my face, the girls on my lap – but we won’t talk about that. I still remember the songs that were played that night but I had no idea I’d be making it myself.
CB: Then you started spinning gigs? How did you learn to DJ?
Sega: I’ve always played in front of a live audience and never really “practiced” before. Not because I’m on some Allen Iverson stuff – I’ve just never owned equipment to practice on. You have DJs out there that have all the equipment and only want to look good having it – they don’t really love this stuff.
CB: How did you take your career to the next level?
Sega: I always heard my mixtapes being blasted out of cars and houses, but they were only being sold at one location, one day a week. I started getting my mixtapes into some stores downtown like Armand’s. That’s where I met Dirty South Joe. He introduced me to Diplo and we talked about this new label he was starting at the time (Mad Decent). I became one of first artists signed to Mad Decent and invited their crew to come check out my regular party. Diplo, Switch, Joe and his girl all came to check it out. Switch bought all of my mixtapes that night.
CB: What were those initial vibes like at Mad Decent?
Sega: It was a big creative family – Diplo, Derek (DJA), Paul Devro, Blaqstarr, Rye Rye and me. It was fun and productive and we all shared ideas and helped each other out. Those initial block parties were crazy – 2010 in particular. It was the first year the block party was on tour and also the last time it was at the mausoleum at 12th and Spring Garden. I guess my set ran a little over my allotted 20/25 minutes and I was told to cut the music off. The crowd was in a frenzy, chanting my name and wanting an encore. After that show, I was put on the lineup for NYC.
CB: What do you think it is that drives people wild for SEGA?
Sega: I think that I’m reaching into a part of people that they forget all about. For example, I flipped the Power Rangers theme and when I’d play it out, I’d just see the smiles come on people’s faces. That theme song was how I got into rock and metal. In 7th grade, I caught Headbanger’s Ball one morning and saw the video for Mudvayne’s “Dig”. I ended up remixing that track and when I met Dirty South Joe, that was the song that motivated him to partner up so fast. People couldn’t believe my rock and metal remixes because of the way that the sound was manipulated and even more so that it was coming from a black kid from Philly. That’s what my latest HellaSonix project is about. I decided that since I’m in my 10th year producing, I would go back to my roots and remix everything from Yes to Aphex Twin.
CB: Let’s talk about ‘the tweet’ from Diplo – give me the context around that whole thing.
Sega: I take care of my disabled family members and have been doing so for years. My mother was in two car accidents and my uncle is deaf and mute. I used to come to the mausoleum late and Diplo would ask me why wasn’t I there earlier or more often. I would tell him there’s some shit going on at home. Recently, the city condemned the house my family was living in and I had to move everything out, literally overnight. I was raising money to help – didn’t ask Diplo for any money – and then he tweeted at me what he did. I didn’t even know he had a problem with me. I was just trying to take care of my family with a crazy situation.
CB: And you’ve heard nothing from him since the tweet, correct?
Sega: There was a little bit of back and forth and talks from people telling me he’s contacted them for my number. I got contacted by everybody except from him. People asked what happened so much that I got sick of it and posted everything on a blog in chronological order. I wanted to get past it, but at the same time I refuse to be in that long list of people that bow down or fold to someone, no matter how much power they have. However, I don’t want people to think that everybody at Mad Decent is evil because they aren’t. In fact, some of the crew that works for Mad Decent donated to my GoFundMe page to help my family.
CB: I’m sorry to hear about the whole situation.
Sega: I feel like I had to show that people that no matter how low you think you may be, you still can fight. I’m just glad for the experience. I’ve always been on the DIY tip as far as my career and I can only imagine what will come next. Me going from being Diplo’s first “protege” to a “bum” is an achievement in itself. But why would somebody that high up on the power ladder come at me in front of millions? All while I’m going through shit? There must be something he knows that I don’t…
CB: So what do you currently have in the works?
Sega: I’m always working on music. I have three projects I’m working on right now: the next volume to my Sixer series, a special edition of HellaSonix and my second EP of all original material called, “Is That Your EP Too?” I also play big events and last minute gigs. You have to stay tuned to catch me out because anything can happen at the drop of a hat. One minute I could be here in Philly and the next I could get a call to come out to Tokyo. I love Japan. STAY TUNED!
It was hot in our studio when DJ SYLO and Jansen came through and laid down a two hour set as part of our newly revamped Electronic Music Marathon. These two young Philly producer / DJ / party starters definitely delivered one of the sickest sets of the marathon, dropping everything from MK and Cajmere to Blawan, Jam City, and LOL Boys. They’ve got a ton of stuff going on individually, but have also lit up North Broad Street together with their Pizza Party series as of late. I can’t wait to see what power moves both these guys have in store for the very near future. Listen back to their set from the EMM and peep our chat here:
CB: How did you guys link up?
SYLO: Earlier in our Temple days, me and some homies were throwing parties under the name SFO – So Far Out ENT. Our CEO, Dubz the Don, was fresh as hell. He and Jansen linked up and that led to me meeting Jansen. SFO parties were wild – the last one we did had 700 kids in it, diverse both in terms of crowd and music.
Jansen: That was when I was still a lost little freshman taking photos and stuff. I started DJ-ing the next year and got my start spinning with this Philly rapper named Tayyib Ali. I was kicking it with him a lot, going to shows and then he just had the idea for me to spin for him. That threw me into the fire in terms of doing a live show.
CB: How did you guys get your first turntable set up?
Jansen: I spent loan money to buy some some tables off Craigslist that didn’t work too well and got a mixer for my birthday. I was lucky because my uncle who used to DJ back in the day was trying to sell his old 1200s, so I sold the shitty Numark ones I had and kept his.
SYLO: I used to go to my homie’s spot in high school and watch this documentary Scratch over and over, it’s about DJing. He had tables too, so we would mess around on those. But he believed in me and sold me his tables for super cheap and I was out. I have vivid memories of listening to “Life’s A Bitch” at his spot.
Jansen: I grew up on hip hop/rap and lived in VA, so I was always into the trap shit and Southern rap, but was also always into some weirder electronic/dance/alternative type shit. I remember one of the first house parties I went to, I heard “Baptism” by Crystal Castles and it blew my mind. I liked them a lot because they were really different, original and hard. Second, and more important, was sometime during my sophomore year when I came across this Maya Jane Coles mix, I think it was like a live set. That mix opened my eyes to deep house and a more mature chilled-out side of house that I still love/play/produce today!
CB: Any reason why you gravitated towards the female artists, Jansen?
Jansen: I have no idea. Alice’s voice with Ethan Kath’s production is so unique to me and Maya Jane Coles is just like a goddess. The track “What They Say” — I saw the light when I heard that record.
SYLO: When I was first getting into club/electronic music in high school, I found Tittsworth – WTF (Nadastrom Remix) on hypem.com. I looked up Nadastrom and found out that they were from DC (I’m from Takoma Park, MD, inside the beltway) AND that they were playing this all ages party called Blisspop @ The 930 Club in a week. We got a crew together, put a bunch of vodka in water bottles and took the metro down to the club.
I remember so clearly THE MOMENT that I stepped into the club – everything changed. You gotta hear club music IN THE CLUB!
CB: Fast forward to today – tell me about the order of what happened between all the different things you guys have going on now.
SYLO: STUNTLOCO was born almost 2 years ago. Sammy Slice had been rocking Silk City on Thursdays for 5+ years and was looking for a young DJ to pass the night on to. I guested a couple times with him as a tryout and made the cut. I’ve been rocking every Thursday since [moved it to the 700 club in March]. Now, the whole thing has grown to the point where STUNTLOCO is something bigger – it’s our movement, it’s our crew, it’s a feeling that’s found across everything that we do. The crew is whoever is rocking with us: me, Matt Ford the MC, Daniel the photographer, Grace on visuals, Benz on marketing, Jansen spinning – it’s mad people, some more involved than others.
Jansen: Yeah so my point of view: STUNTLOCO (inspired by a Hispanic board game) was at Silk City for a while. I had been part of the fam for a while, but didn’t spin it until it moved to the 700 club. Then the Pizza Party just like came out of nowhere in a meeting.
SYLO: It started as this free secret house party, then just kept growing.
The idea was that we needed to throw a party for the people – get back to the roots and throw an ill house party.
We did four of those that were really awesome and then I was skating around looking for a venue for another party. I had thrown in the towel and went to go get a slice at Alessandros. When I saw they had a bar, you should’ve seen my face. The manager was there at the time and the rest is history.
Here’s a rare Pizza Party 3 gif:
Jansen: Originally, I had a specially designated “house set” which has grown into this beautiful thing where I can spin warm-vibey-pizza sounding house music – PIZZA HOUSE.
CB: What is a pizza sounding house track?
Jansen: It’s many sounds – Kaytranada fused with Julio Bashmore and a hint of French Express.
CB: One last thing – why pizza?
SYLO: Pizza is the universal comfort food. It’s amazing how many different types of people love pizza.
The whole point is to bring people together. Thank you pizza.
Jansen: Pizza is one of the better things earth has to offer. What’s better than eating a fresh piece of pizza and dancing to some groovy shit? I want pizza right now!
Ahead of his set on the #2014EMM, I caught up with Philly DJ and producer Blueshift to chat about house music, changing tastes (music and otherwise), and the Philly scene. He’s got a release out on the legendary New York label Nurvous Recordings, and was the co-founder of the highly acclaimed French Express blog, amongst manyyy other things.
Chris B: Wassup man, thanks for linking up, and looking forward to having you on the EMM!
Blueshift: Noo problem, man – happy to chat, and stoked to participate!
CB: So, how did you get into house music?
Blueshift: I’ve always been a fan of 80’s music. Even as a kid, synthesizer-heavy stuff caught my ear. I loved Eurodance! When I discovered dance music and really got into it, it was mainly the harder stuff like hard trance and such. Over the years, I just branched out and moved to different genres.
CB: What was one of the first tracks like that that you loved?
CB: As you got older, what was some of the dance-y stuff you got into?
Blueshift: In the later years of high school, I was really getting into music, but listened relatively passively. I remember this one track by Ghost in the Machine called “A Time Long Forgotten” – I listened to that a lot. I think I had a few Hybrid tracks around then, too. College is where I discovered internet radio dance music stations and got into hard house and trance. Stuff like Tidy Boys and Tunnel Trance Force.
CB: So how did you end up moving towards the funky side of things?
Blueshift: Just through changing tastes. I moved from trance, to progressive stuff, and somewhere around 2006/2007 my ear really caught onto the french house and nu-disco sound.
CB: Around that time for me, that was Justice / MSTRKRFT – what was it for you?
Blueshift: I liked their sound, but for me it was the Lifelike/Fred Falke/Alan Braxe crew that really did it for me. Thinking back, the turning point might have been when my friend played one of James Grant’s early Anjunabeats Worldwide shows for me, and I heard Michael Cassette’s tracks for the first time. Something about it just seemed to combine trance, but with a pure 80’s sound and it totally shoved my taste in that direction for the next few years.
Blueshift: I haven’t! I’ll load it up on queue for today 😀
CB: Have you always been based out of Philly?
Blueshift: For the most part. I was in NJ for a couple years for the last year of high school and for college, but moved back around 2006.
CB: I feel like the ‘scene’ here has kind of blossomed recently – tell me about your experiences in Philly – as a resident, as a DJ, etc
Blueshift: The scene in Philly DEFINITELY has exploded in the past two years or so. The caliber of artists coming through now is so great. We have tons of awesome and current acts in on a regular basis, and lots of smaller groups popping up as well. There’s a pretty steady rotating lineup of good gigs. Philly can also be a pretty tough city to get a handle on though; I’ve played a wide range of shows here, from empty to packed, but I’m definitely grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had to play here.
CB: Who are some of your artist homeys in Philly that we should know about?
Blueshift: The Worldtown peeps have been putting out some great tracks recently (and crushing it with their events) **editor’s note: they’re spinning for us on the EMM, too!**,Apt One always brings the heat **also spinning for the EMM**, Les Professionnels are super pro **ALSO spinning for the EMM**, and PS 118 has some really tight stuff upcoming. Maggs Bruchez are also some of my favorite Philly producers.
CB: Where’s your fave brunch spot?
Blueshift: Cafe Renata in West Philly. I’m always there. I’ve also found myself at Broad Street Diner a bunch recently.
CB: I love pork roll – how do you feel about pork roll?
Blueshift: Pork roll is great, man. Blew my mind when I first heard it called Taylor Ham.