Dubspot Podcast #18: DJ OP! (DECON, I Love Vinyl) Exclusive Mix +Interview

Dubspot Podcast #17 – DJ OP! by Dubspot (Tracklist below.)

DJ OP! is a man concerned with soul. And while he doesn’t limit himself to soul music, everything he plays has got an element of that in it, as exemplified by the mix he laced us with today. Ranging from neo soul, to UK Funky, to kwaito, it’s a path across the globe in warm feelings at an uptempo pace. As a deejay growing up in Brooklyn, OP! found his first inspirations and successes in hip hop. This brought him to South Africa after college, where he worked at Johannesburg’s first commercial youth-oriented radio station, YFM 99.2. Beyond DJing, he’s had a long time involvement in music labels and is currently label manager at DECON Records. To hear his styles in a live setting, you can always catch him as a resident at I Love Vinyl, a twice-weekly party held at New York’s Le Poison Rouge and Southpaw. But you can bump this mix right now on the train, at home, or wherever you like. While you listen, you should read what he’s got to say about South African music, hip hop today, and vinyl culture in his interview with Dubspot:

What’s going on with South African music right now?

There is so much great music coming out of South Africa right now. But it has been this way for many years. Only now is South African house, Kwaito, and hip hop starting to get world wide recognition. I was fortunate enough to live in South Africa in the late ’90s deejaying at the radio station YFM in its first year of broadcasting. So I was able to learn about Kwaito artists such as TKzee, Brothers Of Peace, Bongo Maffin, and others. I was also able to be around influential deejays like Fresh, Monde (R.I.P.), Vinnie da Vinci, Oskido, and others. And I saw the growth of hip hop in the country too, with artists such as Amu, Mizchif, Spex, and a gang load of others. I have seen the music grow to develop new and exciting talents with hip hop artists like Tumi, Zubz, Proverb, Prokid, Ill Skillz, and 5th Floor; electronic soul artists like Zaki Ibrahim; deejays like Kenzhero, Bionic, Romz Deluxe, Switch, C Live; house and Kwaito artists like DJ Cleo, Black Coffee, Culoe De Song, JR, Brickz, Mujava, Mzo Bullet, Rythmic Elements, DJ Sox, Tira, Mahoota, and many others. I am seeing house sounds from South Africa influence UK sounds and starting to have impact on other global music sounds. I am happy to see the vast sounds of the country influence the music of the world.

How does your hip hop background shape your music selections?

Hip hop was the gateway to me learning about so many different genres of music. When I was a kid, I used to dig through my father’s vinyl and I would find all of the samples that were used in hip hop songs in the ’80s and ’90s. As I grew older, I started to find some of those same samples in house, drum n bass, broken beat, and other electronic based music. Drum samples, vocal loops, chords, etc. Those sounds where able to help me open my mind to other genres, but also aided in expanding my hip hop sensibilities. So I now can play a set that is a mixture of various genres (hip-hop, disco, house, broken beat, soul, dancehall) but play them from a hip hop perspective – always blending beats, at times cutting and scratching, fluctuating tempos and still keeping it head nodding, grooving, and soulful.

Do you find more value in the styles that early hip hop breaks were drawn from than current hip hop?

I find value in both. I grew up on 80′s and 90′s Hip Hop so I have a certain affinity to that sound. But I am equally as excited about sounds that push them limits via technology in electronic based music. There is still new hip hop and R&B music that excites me just as much as finding old disco records that I have never heard before. I do think that with every generation, the filter for good music is becoming a bit watered down. There are not as many gate keepers protecting the sound from the decline and acceptance of wack music from the general public. The rules break down (or change depending on your perspective) over generations, but good music still prevails through out it all. I focus on playing good music regardless of time period and genre.

What makes for good hip hop?

I am a beat driven person. So I will always listen to the production of a track. If it has emotion, depth, space and groove/swing, I am initially attracted to it. But for as good as a beat is, if the emcee isn’t doing justice to it, then it can ruin an incredible beat. There have been times where I have preferred to play an instrumental of a song because the lyrics and flow were horrible. Good hip hop should be able live beyond its time period. Too much music today is made to last for a single song radio life span (3 months or so). Good hip hop should be able to be played years beyond its time period and still be able to invoke the same response and feeling.

What’s the attraction to vinyl?

I started out deejaying with vinyl. In fact, one of my I Love Vinyl deejay partners, DJ Scribe taught be the basics of deejaying. When I used to lock myself up in his studio for hours on end, I would dig through all of this records trying to figure out how to make them all work together. Between his collection and my father’s collection, I became addicted to vinyl. As I started to shop and dig for vinyl, the addiction became even more serious. I am not a vinyl nerd. I don’t have every rare limited press 45 or 10″ record that ever came out. But over time, I have been able to build a substantial collection that I am proud of.

My current attraction to vinyl is that once you pick out what you are going to play, you have to stick to it and make it work. For the I Love Vinyl party, I carefully choose the records I want to play. But that is a risk since we live in a Serato/Traktor age where you can have your whole collection in front of you and play what the “crowd” wants instead of taking the crowd on a musical journey based upon your selection. It makes you play a bit more from your soul and gut instead of playing from the requests of a few drunk girls who want to “hear something they can dance to.”

What’s Decon‘s wax situation?

Decon still presses wax. Not every title is pressed. But artists like Gangrene (The Alchemist & Oh No), 88-Keys, Chali 2Na, and others have had double LP wax pressings. Decon is moving towards more speciality vinyl. When Decon was pushing the Nneka release, there was a gate fold double 7″ release. Last year, Decon pressed up the Gangrene Saw Blade EP, which is actually cut like a real saw blade with semi-sharp edges. It is one of the most interesting pieces of vinyl I have seen. This year, Decon is doing 4 color picture disc vinyl for Greneberg (Roc Marciano x Gangrene), Pusha T, and Jay Electronica. The idea is to make vinyl collectable for DJ’s and fans so it has more value and worth to the customer.

What does a label manager do?

As label manager, I am responsible for overseeing distribution, manufacturing, marketing, radio/street/digital promo, artists relations, event management, touring, etc. I work with a really strong team of people that are all passionate about the music and culture so I am able to do what I do because of the focused team effort from the Decon staff. And I work with some great artists who are very hands on with their careers so we are able to execute plans and sell records because of the relationship that is built between the artists and the label.

[Photo by Clay Williams]

DJ OP! – Soulful Mixizm

1. In The Now – Olivier Daysoul (Oddisee Original)
2. In The Now – Olivier Daysoul (Duke Hugh Remix)
3. Show Some Appreciation – Zed Bias feat. Jenna G
4. Party Hard – Donae’o
5. Webaba – Culoe De Song feat. Busi Mhlongo (Black Coffee Remix)
6. Special – Maddslinky feat. Omar (At Jazz remix)
7. I Need It – Roska ft. Anesha
8. Heartbeat – T. Williams feat. Terri Walker (Mosca Remix)
9. Truth – mdcl feat. Sy Smith (Seiji Vox Twist)
10. Weedkiller – Seiji
11. Mugwanti – DJ Mujava
12. Heart Is Breaking – TY (Diverse Concepts x Chesus Vocal Mix)

  • Gloria Daniels
  • 6/24/2011

Congratulations OP!

  • djkenzhero
  • 6/24/2011

Big up

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[...] to New York, he joined fellow record collectors and DJs including Ge-Ology, The Twilite Tone, OP!, Jon Oliver, and I Love Vinyl founder Scribe to form the all star, dynamic sound system behind the [...]