DJ culture, what is it and why does it matter? In fact what is a DJ? In the purest sense its just someone who selects, curates and plays music. Meaning someone that doesn't even seamlessly mix/blend music via the many different methods specific to certain styles into one long continuous stream of music for people to enjoy can still be a DJ. Radio DJ's that play music as an integral part of their shows are very much what the above describes. 


 

But if you're not a radio DJ generally doing this kind of thing within any other context would pretty much garner great stigmatization. Especially if you were just using cassette tapes,  CD's or in this day and age digital music files off a computer. For some reason even hired party DJ's that didn't even mix the music and just talked between tracks that use vinyl were given greater credibility just because of the medium that the music they played came on and the equipment they used to play it with (even if they were using dodgy belt drive soundlabs). They were still in essence professional DJ's since they were getting paid to play music at parties and functions. 
  

 


But DJ culture obviously became much more glamorous as disco culture (which was the "club culture" at the time)  and HIP-HOP culture (eventually also various types of beat-centric R'n'B) pretty much placed DJ's near the center of them and created sub-cultural legends of DJ's. 



 HIP-HOP culture  eventually becoming a different segment of the same club culture too, but obviously the focus on DJ's within hip-hop culture was not to the same degree because you obviously also had the superstar rappers). 
 


 

It wasn't until these scenes came along that the need to mix music was then seen as a pre-requisite skill  for being a serious DJ outside of radio.  It just so happens that the most direct hands on/tactile and most robust enough technology required that was able to do this still involved vinyl on vinyl turntables.  Even when the cassette tape came along there was just no way of being able to mix music in the same kinds of way within the technological means we had. The use of Vinyl has always been a large part of DJ culture, even going back to the days of Motown.  When you look at it that way it’s a little easier to see why vinyl is so synonymous with DJ culture. This use of vinyl and turntables eventually extended over into rave culture in the UK whilst house music (and garage music  before it was even called garage music) was something that mainly existed in the US in a more disco, groove and funk orientated forms. Obviously you had all the mainstream discotheques playing disco and 80 music too over in the UK before the more underground taints of the rave scene arrived.    
 


 
 Maybe many of us are confusing DJ culture with the club cultures that helped to create all the more modern perceptions and requirements of mix style DJing that set the precedence for the superstar DJ to become a reality? Also as a consequence the process of manual beat matching also became something that was considered to be an essential part of being a serious "mix DJ" despite not being essential to what the true definition of a DJ is.

 

As for DJ culture being a fad or trend, DJ's have been around for too long for it to be something that was merely a fad or trend. There will always be people there to select, curate and play music that will take it more seriously than others might. However the fads and trends in terms of sound happens to a certain degree within the actual specific music genres and within other contexts with the shifts in the popularity of genres themselves.

 

HOWEVER! The role of the mix DJ seems to be evolving, especially with the direction of evolution within  electronica based dance floor styles specifically designed and produced to be seamlessly mixed and recombined against the backdrop of the latest technology for DJing. Ok, many snooty hardcore dance music bods will be rearing over the fact I'm just about to use the term EDM. But at least it will help people that aren't into the whole thing not think and form thoughts of various traditional "world" music that people dance to also. Rock'n'roll music when it first started out was a dance music, at least more so then it is now but I don't really play rock'n'roll in my sets.  EDM does get a lot closer to describing the styles (spanning many genres) that I play. But having said that I wouldn't have any trouble dropping a less mainstream sounding personal re-edit of a heavily percussive groove based momentum rolling track by someone like Four-Tet which might predominantly use acoustic instruments and very few electronic sounds if the feeling and mood was just right in the direction I wanted to take in any given set whilst riding a groove or "vibe".

 

I think "EDM" has gotten to a point where even DJ's of certain mix styles kind of strive to creatively recombine and alter sounds as they mix as a DJ. They're kind of already experimenting with sound against the context of stripped down rhythmic, groove driven tracks designed to make people dance. So elements of production type thoughts are already starting to creep into the DJ mix discipline, especially when you've played the same track so many different ways in many different combinations, you'll inevitably start to play with the sounds if the technology you have allows for it.

 



  Its not until you've tried to turn your hand to some production that you realize that many sequencing techniques and sampling effects actually helps to create the totally different sounds  for some records that can be found in other records and instrument sounds in their unaffected states too. If you're not producing there's only so much creative potential to be found within a two turntable metaphor. The problem is the way a lot of DJ technology has been designed (until more recently), its been specifically intended to work within a two vinyl turntable like setup. (or more if you were inclined to) which does seem to be intentionally done to limit the live real time creative potential. For the main part they seemed to be trying to prolong the retention of the process of actual manual beat-matching too, although from what I can gather it has been made vastly easier to do with CDJ technology and many DVS that include a sync button. Its for all these reasons that the arguments often get muddled up and in parts for good reason given the way that DJ equipment for mixing music has evolved technologically and how deeply entwined the scenes of club culture are with many modern perceptions of a "DJ culture". I also think the lines of producer and DJ are starting to blur a lot more and I reckon we'll start to see more energy and thought being put into dynamic real time live remix/production performance styles for them to also start to be more common place in place of the need to put the time and thought into beat matching. 
 

 

Many people who consider themselves to be DJ's (and many people who don't actually DJ) will have different perceptions of what a "DJ culture" is. There'll be many sub groups within this DJ culture who will share some of those perceptions. In the purest essence of it regardless of the difference in perception and regardless of how subtle or great, there is a "DJ culture". Mainly for the reason that people who feel they are DJ's with common interests are actually having this debate on a forum to begin with. There'll be many DJ's who have shared the same experiences and taken similar learning curves, and the fact that many people can actually relate to certain things suggest there is a common grounds of a shared experience of a "DJ culture". So whether you like it or not there is a "DJ culture", and within that "DJ culture" there will be sub groups with shared as well as differing perceptions and opinions about it and as to what makes a "DJ" a worthy operator of "DJ" equipment for the purposes of conveying what they might hope to communicate for the purposes of entertainment and entertaining others.


 


 This is not meant to belittle "turntablists" in any way. But essentially "turntablists" are still a type of DJ as they provide the music and sounds using DJ equipment. Before hip-hop culture came along to then adopt the DJ equipment for playing hip-hop records on and spinning dubs for live MC's/rappers as part of their culture too, all the exact same types of equipment was used for playing disco and house records prior to the arrival of hip-hop culture. However they took the DJ equipment and started to mix and use records they liked in a different way which then created the "turntablists"/scratch DJ style of mixing to allow for more interesting quick fire transitions and track bridging whilst moving between records. All the same disciplines of beat matching still remained.  However the focus on these hip-hop style record transitions became more intense for scratch battle DJing to become more of a pronounced part of it all. Can it truly be said that scratching is really using the turntable like a musical instrument? Or is it more like manually sampling with highly co-ordinated rapid precise movements of vinyl records in combo with precise mixer cross fader manipulations and the creation of impressive rhythmic scratch sounds which takes a lot more energy and effort to produce then a straight up percussive instrument? 
 


 

There's also the fact that the concept of DJing, the culture, the cultures that are linked to it and the music that's played within it all originally centered around the pursuit of recreational activities or otherwise known as people enjoying themselves. Sure it might eventually turn out to be a job for many of the people involved regardless of what style you DJ (even including the styles of scratch mixing for some). But if there isn't enjoyment coming from it in some way I reckon it kind of loses its meaning.