The Best DJs of 2013

Over the summer, people got really aggy over our selections for the best DJs of 2013 at that time. The main point of contention had to do with the fac

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Complex Original

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Over the summer, people got really aggy over our selections for the best DJs of 2013 at that time. The main point of contention had to do with the fact that they assumed it was skills over everything. If that's what made a DJ "the best" in 2013, we'd see a total shift of who's truly on the forefront. In times where the CEO of Beatport admits to not even caring how the music is played, just that what's coming through the speakers pleases him, that makes our jobs harder. Are we strictly looking at skills, or doing what we've always done on DAD and considering the sum of each selector's parts? Matching two beats is easy, yet vital, but isn't what makes a DJ "the best." We're looking at the movements these artists have made in the year: do they run a record label? Are they making moves outside of the EDM scene? Did they have a particularly prolific year in a number of different lanes? The onus is on DAD to gather all of that, and take a hard look at who truly stood heads above the rest in their respective fields. At times it isn't pretty, but if you're a realist, you can't deny it. Here are the best of 2013.


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Highlights: Producing for Kanye West's Yeezus album, releasing his own album, Aleph

Gesaffelstein was a part of the French revolution in dance music this year. His flex with the Bromance crew is known, but 2013 found him making a number of serious strides, from mixing the I Love Techno2013 compilation to having his production featured on "Black Skinheads" and "Send It Up" on Kanye West's 2013 album, Yeezus. Once we heard Aleph, though, all of that seemed to pale in comparison. He weaved a truly impressive array of sound, from that hard Bromance techno vibe to more downtempo, laidback flavors to straight-up West Coast G-Funk-influenced bangers. Dude had a banner year, and even if the mainstream truly slept on his work (how did these outlets neglect to hype Aleph after his name being on Yeezus?), we know the real.

Calvin Harris

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Highlights: Making lots of money, breaking records

It's weird; Calvin Harris spent 2013 living off of the fruits of his 2012 labor. He dropped 18 Months in October of 2012, and saw the singles from that album do amazing things, including breaking Michael Jackson's record for Bad by scoring eight Top 10 hits. He also topped Forbes' "Highest Paid DJs" list, clocking in at $46 million (which also found him on Forbes' more general "Highest Paid Musicians" list). He spent time touring worldwide, won a Grammy for the video for Rihanna's "We Found Love," and found out that 18 Months has been nominated for a Grammy as well. All of this, and he's purposefully said he is planning on making less-commercial music. We'll see how that goes, although with the monies he's made so far, he can afford to let his freak flag fly.

Dillon Francis

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Highlights: "Without You," hitting damn near every festival, MTV love

Seriously, anytime you looked at a festival line-up, you'd be surprised if Dillon wasn't booked. Dude's just that damn good on the decks. Even outside of that, he's a touring machine, and seems to forever be on the road. It's hard to imagine that he had time to drop a truly impressive trap remix of Justin Timberlake's "Suit & Tie" or that he knocked out intense originals like the Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs-featured "Without You." That single let the world know that, although Dillon can be full of jokes, he has a side that's untapped, one that we feel will be featured on his highly-anticipated album for Mad Decent. Dillon also performed at MTV's Comic-Con "Geekend," even being featured on an episode of Guy Code. Dude's a character, but he also has a soft side, and he'll be a leader of the EDM scene (if he isn't already).


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Highlights: Signing with Ultra, BANNED 2

Flosstradamus started 2013 off with a bang in the form of BANNED 2, a mixtape they released via torrent. Proper unheard of, but it makes sense considering how well they've done in cultivating a presence via these Internets. They also took their talents to Austin, where they had their own SXSW showcase. That stop was just a part of their massive 2013 gig schedule, which including an impressive debut at this year's Ultra Music Festival. They didn't hit the main stage, but with the way they turned up, we have a feeling 2014 might be (could be?) a main stage year for the HDYBYZ. On the music from, the duo not only remixed Major Lazer's "Bubble Butt," but they also knocked out a remix of Flux Pavilion's "Do Or Die," as well as putting out the massive "Crowd CTRL" with DJ Sliink on Fool's Gold. Even those feats were nothing compared to the real news, that they'd linked with Ultra Music, who released their Yellow Claw collaboration "Pillz," as well as their latest single, "Mosh Pit." Their 2014 is looking bright, and should be even bigger than what they did this year.


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Highlights: His two Solitaire mixtapes, his Rinse FM show

Oneman is one of those DJs that we'd like to just be in the room with when he's mixing. He gives off such an infectious vibe, it's hard to not get into the groove... and that's before even mentioning his track selection. He's occupying that blend of hip-hop and dance music that DJs like Flosstradamus are doing, but from a more UK angle. You heard it in both of his superb Solitaire mixes, where there are no holds barred and everything is welcome. Whether it's on his Rinse FM program or in the Boiler Room, Oneman has properly defined skills over name.

Clockwork / RL Grime

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Highlights: That Jamie Lidell remix with Salva, the Infinite Daps tour, huge releases on Dim Mak & Fool's Gold

You have to love how this guy can occupy two spaces with an equal amount of amazing. Whether it's electro house or trap, the man known as Clockwork and RL Grime is out here doing it. He came correct with an epic remix of Jamie Lidell's "What A Shame" with Salva, which built upon the work they put in with their "Mercy" remix from 2013, and he hit the road with Baauer, Ryan Hemsworth, and Jim-E Stack for the Infinite Daps tour. Dude kicked off 2013 early with a huge single for Dim Mak, then came back towards the end of the summer with his High Beams EP for Fool's Gold. Dude knows how to keep it consistent, and has been steadily building upon his lore with mixes, intense live sets, and quality production work. Another name that is sure to be on the forefront of the EDM scene going forth.


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Highlights: Bringing back Duck Sauce, Fool's Gold, ADIDAS, being the shit

A-Trak's one of the more important figures within the EDM scene for the simple fact that, while you might not always hear about what he's doing, he's always there. Before bringing in Nick Catchdubs for the Fool's Gold Radio show on SiriusXM, A-Trak was holding that down on his own. He dropped a number of solid remixes for Phoenix, Kavinsky, and Jack Beats, and made good on the rumors about Duck Sauce returning. His supergroup with Armand van Helden netted two well-received singles in 2013, and their QUACK album is on the way. A-Trak is also a touring DJ who has played at a plethora of the biggest festivals in 2013, as well as representing for the Fool's Gold crew during their numerous one-offs and special stages during the year. Add onto that the work he's done with ADIDAS, and being the man behind the Infinite Legroom travel blog and we wonder how he's got the time.


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Highlights: Signing with Universal/Republic, being Tiesto, enormous Hakkasan LV residency

Tiesto is practically the EDM godfather right now. It's his shadow that everyone seems to be dwelling in, and even if he doesn't have a truly historic year, you can't fault what he's done. Tiesto brokered a 20-month residency at Hakkasan Las Vegas, a massive move that keeps him in one spot, and gets him out of the Ibiza cycle. He also signed on with GUESS for a second collection of his clothing line. On the musical tip, his Musical Freedom imprint did everything from bringing forth talents like Danny Avila to branching out into the trap scene. His Club Life, Vol. 3: Stockholm compilation brimmed with a grip of his own material, and we got word late in 2013 that Tiesto had linked with Universal/Republic to release his next studio album, and with singles like "Red Lights," we can hear that Tiesto is set to move into the mainstream like never before. Tiesto's even dipping into Hollywood, helping score a TV police drama that's in development. Oh, and he's also one of the highest-earning DJs in the world. If you expected him to fizzle out, don't worry, he'll be around for a while.


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Highlights: Jumping feet first into the non-dubstep world, that All Gone Pete Tong mix CD, his "Disco Set For Judie"

Skream's pedigree in the dubstep scene is well-known. Over the years, he's been slowly moving from dubstep into the overall bass music scene into more of a house thing, and while many of his fans saw the writing on the wall, one of the bigger stories of 2013 was when he officially announced that he wasn't going to be spinning dubstep out for a bit, to focus on house and disco. It'd be easy to say "hey, this is bullshit and he's going to fail" if he wasn't so good at what he does. Why else would Pete Tong call on Skream to help mix part of his All Gone Pete Tong Miami 2013 compilation? Skream's on it, and has the chops to prove it, from the disco-tinged, Daft Punk-influenced "Rollercoaster" or his well-received "Disco Set For Judie" from back in May. Just find a Skream set on the Boiler Room (well, one that isn't the infamous set from SXSW 2013) and you'll see why we're always captivated by Skream whenever he hits the decks.


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Highlights: His set at Ultra, his I AM HARDWELL tour, winning the DJ Mag Top 100 DJs poll (no, really)

Even before we heard the "rumors" of Hardwell hitting #1 on the DJ Mag Top 100 DJs poll, we knew he'd be there. There isn't a DJ that properly describes the EDM sound in a festival setting better than Hardwell. He proved it back in March during his explosive Ultra Music Festival set, one that took over Twitter chatter during it's live stream. Then he made sure to recreate its intensity whenever he touched down, be it at TomorrowLand, TomorrowWorld, or during one of his many I AM HARDWELL tour stops. He's a force to be reckoned with on the boards as well, with tracks like his Laidback Luke collaboration "Dynamo," or his MAKJ collaboration "Countdown" exploding in the dance. Hardwell's #1 in the world's heart, and you can't help but acknowledge both his story and his impact on today's scene.


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Highlights: "Clarity" ruling radio, producing for Lady Gaga, playing on Letterman and Fallon

No song was bigger in 2013 for the EDM scene than "Clarity." Zedd's the kind of producer that welcomes powerful vocals, and instead of making some kind of EDM song that randomly popped, he truly crafted a huge pop record... and it showed. For a title track of an album that was released in October, this song was a slow burn of epic proportions; video released in January (along with a performance of the track for Letterman), with a massive single in February that found everyone from Tiesto to Brillz putting their own spin on it. That was awesome, but something happened: "Clarity" started to spread, and was hitting pop radio something fierce. The summer of 2013, some 10 months after the song's release, was owned by "Clarity." Luckily, Zedd wasn't done; he had been working with Lady Gaga on her Artpop album, credited with producing three tracks on the project. He also released "Stay the Night," a return to "Clarity" form with Paramore's Hayley Williams, which solidified his place in the lexicon of producers who have problem making awesome crossover material. Pile that onto the fact that he's a good dude, and you have an EDM producer that's not going anywhere anytime soon.


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Highlights: Sweeping the Grammys, running OWSLA, Dog Blood, Spring Breakers, his BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix

Skrillex doesn't have an off-switch, does he? He's continued to spread his sounds (and the sound of his peers) throughout the worldwide EDM scene with no signs of stopping. His 2013 resume includes everything from scoring Spring Breakers and dropping the most-played BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix in the show's history this past summer. It also includes the return of Dog Blood, who ignited the festival circuit with their raucous sound, as well as the release of their Middle Finger, Part 2 EP. You can't count out OWSLA, which has done a lot for progressing the sound of EDM with releases from Phonat, Phuture Doom, and David Heartbreak, as well as partnering up with Noisia & Foreign Beggars' I AM LEGION project and Bromance. Skrillex also swept the dance music Grammys in early 2013, and also netted a huge residency at Las Vegas' Light nightclub. Dude's a legend in the game, and he's not even released a proper full length album (yet).


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Highlights: being a random white dude that's truly everywhere, Major Lazer, Mad Decent

Diplo stays doing his thing. Only a few DJs could keep up being the head of an imprint like Mad Decent, dropping a weekly show like Diplo & Friends for the BBC, be a producer-for-hire with tracks ending up everywhere from Hunger Games soundtracks to Justin Bieber projects, and still have the time to be the center of a conglomerate like Major Lazer. Their second album, Free the Universe, finally dropped in 2013, and that turned into a seemingly non-stop touring schedule for Diplo and the crew. You also have to mention the Mad Decent Block Party, which embarked on its most ambitious journey, touching down in 13 cities across North America. Add his own Revolution EP, and you should already get an idea of what we've known: Diplo be everywhere.


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Highlights: Owning three Billboard charts at the same time, usurping Daft Punk's Billboard chart record

We know, we know, Avicii hadn't even made out Best DJs list for the middle of 2013, but aside from his horribly-received Ultra Music Festival performance and a GQ article that didn't paint him in the best light, he hadn't been having the best 2013. Suddenly, "Wake Me Up," the first single from his debut album True, exploded, crushing numerous Billboard charts (including the Adult Alternative chart), even beating out Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" to hold the record for longest run on their Dance/Electronic Songs chart. "Wake Me Up" made a huge impact worldwide, and even debuted at #5 on the Billboard 200. It's one of the best-selling singles in the UK, and has done a lot push EDM into the mainstream. After extending his publishing deal with Sony/ATV, we can only imagine how far his career will go. Avicii in 2013: a proper benchmark for mainstream success of the EDM scene.


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Highlights: Capitalizing on the "Harlem Shake" meme, remixing AlunaGeorge and Disclosure, "Higher," his hectic tour schedule

It's kind of bugged out when you realize that, while Baauer would have been a "name" without it, the viral "Harlem Shake" video craze from early this year really thrust him into the mainstream, even if people knew the song and the ridiculous meme more than who produced the song. Due to Billboard changing how they view YouTube plays, Baauer's 2012 trap jam hit the top of the Billboard and iTunes charts almost a year after its release. This also netted a Billboard cover story, and some sample clearance issues that Diplo had to clear up. Lucky for Diplo, the monies made from this craze saved Mad Decent from financial despair.

Outside of that, Baauer worked with Just Blaze on "Higher," a track that properly thrust Just Blaze into the EDM scene (and netted Baauer a drop from Jay Z). Baauer also racked up remixes for AlunaGeorge and Disclosure, and is said to be working on his own album project. Outside of all of this, Baauer was in-demand as a tour DJ, hitting multiple dates with everyone from RL Grime to Danny Brown, araabMUZIK, and others, making it so he can do things like throwing out free USBs with music on them. Dude really hit the ground running and has properly rode a meme in his favor. When you think of 2013, you need to include Baauer.

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