For both dance music and hip-hop, the DJ is the backbone. Over the years, however, as money poured into both scenes and corporate interests were tied ever tighter to the biggest names, the emphasis on a DJ's skills and originality has been cast aside for carbon copies who just go on stage, push buttons, and turn up. EDM has found DJs become uber-personalities, with arms outstretched but very little in the way of showcasing talented selection or incorporation of tricks. Instead of fading out, the DJs with actual skills on the decks didn't disappear—if anything, they've gotten more vocal about their plight.
Last August, A-Trak asked that fans begin to recognize the difference between #RealDJing and what some of these EDM acts are doing. DJ Craze dug a little deeper and put together a set centered around Kanye's "New Slaves" to make a serious statement about the state of DJing. This summer, though, he took it a step further, linking up with Four Color Zack to add their 2¢ on the game as a whole, putting together a 32-minute opus that not only highlights their precise cuts and stellar selection, but also features routines that will make you laugh out loud while also being like "truuue!"
We caught up with Craze and Zack to get their thoughts on the current state of the DJ game, their intentions with this mix, and the future of what their union could be for the DJ scene as a whole. As an added bonus, they even dropped a collaboration as well, which you can check out after you dive into the mix and conversation.
Over the last few years, I’ve seen both of you advocating for the #RealDJing heads out there. What lead your shared frustrations with the f*cksh*t turn into such a focused project like 2¢?
Craze: I've always had that b-boy mentality when it comes to DJing, so I've always hated the fuckboi shit in DJing since the battle days.
Four Color Zack: Yup, talking shit in a creative way, that battle mentality, is all a huge part of where our style of DJing comes from.
Craze: For me this project was something I wanted to do with Zack for fun. I used to love hearing mixtapes with a lot of thought and effort in them, and Zack does this with his mixing, so I thought why not collaborate on this mix and make something awesome for the culture.
Four Color Zack: It's really meant to keep the conversation going of what good DJing is to us. I don't really get bent on how other people succeed, but there's some disconnect between what is celebrated as the end-all pinnacle of DJ talent and what else is out there. For example, if the rapper Bangs was hailed as god of all emcees and had hordes of fans who are brand new to the industry or rap, you might have a few folks who have been around the block before disagree.
For those who might not be as involved in the scene as you are, can you break down both of your backgrounds as DJs, and how the way you came up differs from the EDM acts headlining these festivals?
Craze: I come from the battle DJ days. The DMC days...[having] skills was the most important thing back then. Most of the DJs/producers headlining festivals nowadays make music and people come to see them for that reason only. There's a few DJs/producers who still rep the culture and kill it.
Four Color Zack: It's certainly not true for all DJ acts, but there are swarms of them that would most definitely not be putting any energy or attention to music if there wasn't fame in it. I grew up playing guitar in punk/metal bands and fell into DJing from there, so up until even the last number of years DJing was never something anyone I knew did to make money or get fame. It just wasn't on the table at all, no one ever wanted to fake it or cut corners. Music is about the process, about having fun and creating feels.
Is it fair to say that things like the DJ Mag Top 100 DJs list is something you guys just don’t even put any stock into?
Four Color Zack: It's just not for me. I'd actually respect it more if they changed the title to something more accurate like "EDM Industry Top 100." I mean really, there are very few truly skilled DJs that make it to the list, but there are maybe some great businesses and brands, management teams, and some impressive "let's build fam"s. Thanks, but I won't be trading in a World Champion trophy for a mention any time soon. Craze, say what I'm saying in a much more blunt and crass way please, talk that shit.
Craze: Yeah, that's pretty on point, haaaa! Let's be real honest when we talk about DJ Mag Top 100. It's a popularity contest and people have known this for years. It's nothing new. The only people who take it serious are promoters and management companies who wanna use the name to get better bookings and more money for their DJs. It's all money orientated, not talent.
There are a number of interesting things layered in 2¢, from the Blades of Glory dig at Young Thug, or using Dej Loaf lyrics to say some DJs don’t have skills. How long did it take to break down the different routines and segments in this?
Craze: Me and Zack went back and forth shooting ideas and mixes to each other. We did a bunch of mixes and we picked the best ones. Overall, the whole thing took a couple weeks of actual work.
Four Color Zack: I think it only took as long as it did because we kept going on tour. But making connections and jokes and routines like that is really second nature to us. It's part of the creative process. It's a blessing and a curse; your brain doesn't turn off.
Do you think that the EDM scene will ever properly embrace what DJs like yourselves do? I mean, A-Trak shows off skills, but many of the heads going to see him are mostly unaware of what he was doing as a turntablist as a teen. Would it even make sense for EDM heads to embrace #RealDJing, or would it make more sense for heads to just try to re-establish real skills on a larger level?
Craze: I think the dance scene does embrace DJs like us when we dumb it down. You can't go full-on with skills at dance shows because that's not what they're there for...they want to dance. I think it would make more sense to re-establish skills on a larger scale because people are ready for something different. I mean no disrespect (even though the mix is kinda taking shots), but most DJs are good cheerleaders right now and it's effective, but what I see as a proper big stage DJ show could be way more than that. It just has to be executed right, and that's what me and Zack plan to do this coming year. Bring skills to the main stage with themes and stories to make the people feel more than just "turn up."
Four Color Zack: The great thing about scenes is that they are constantly changing. As the crowds get more experienced or bored of what they've been doing year after year, there are opportunities for new ideas to be introduced. I'm optimistic. It's not the crowd's job to automatically know everything that is possible, it's our job and our privilege to introduce them to it and get them excited about it. Then at that point they can make their own decisions if they are into it or not.
Guys like Shiftee and Enferno are doing their E.A.S.Y. thing. Is this the beginning of some kind of CAFU (Craze and Four Color Zack United) kind of continued project?
Craze: We are definitely gonna make a proper show and try to bring the art of DJing to another level. This is the beginning of something big.
Four Color Zack: Unless of course the Hardwell diss leads to our tour bus mysteriously getting run off the road.