Kate Kilpatrick picks the city's top 12 DJs--and tells what makes them so great.
New Orleans may have the best jazz, Memphis the best soul and New York the greatest MCs.
Philly, though, has the best DJs.
Our DJ legacy, if someone ever decides to document it, would fill volumes.
From old-school legends like Cash Money and Jazzy Jeff to contemporary prodigies like King Britt and Rich Medina, Cosmo Baker and Kenny Meez, Hollertronix and Dave P, Philly DJs stand tall on their reputation as the best party-rockers on the planet.
But the golden age of Philly DJs may be coming to an end. Some in the game say the new kids can't mix, scratch and blend like their predecessors; that they haven't learned their history; that they never tuned into Lady B, or heard Captain Boogie sound-blast in the school yard, and therefore don't know what a good DJ is. That's because they're young, and instead of spending their lunch money at the mom-and-pop record shops, they're trading mp3s.
For the oldsters, names like DJ Ghetto, DJ Groove, Disco Rat and Grandmaster Nell elicit intense waves of nostalgia, like when a grown man stumbles upon his collection of action figures from a bygone era, complete with all his favorite heroes.
But we believe Philly still has the best DJs. Whether battling or touring, spinning Baltimore club or electro, pushing mixtapes or breaking radio jams, representing West Oak Lane or Fishtown, our DJs know good music, and they're not afraid to show it.
And thanks to them, someday we too will reminisce, piecing together memories from Hands and Knees or White Ts and White Belts parties where we krumped, jumped, two-stepped, twisted, winded, grinded, popped and percolated all night long, wringing the sweat from our hair as we left the club. We'll speak longingly of mashups and mixtapes, and we'll glorify the good ol' days when kids were having Wu-Tang dance battles in school yards and roller skating rinks across the city.
But hold on. Let's not get nostalgic so soon. Because the warriors of good music with their superhuman powers to keep us on our feet all night long are all around us all across the city. And at least for now, they're ours to play with.
DJ Aktive: Best Tour DJ
Hometown: West Philadelphia.
Growing up in a historic Philly DJ family, Aktive was in high school when his cousins DJ Doodles, DJ Ghetto, DJ Kid Swift (Schoolly D's partner) and DJ Evil Tracy helped him hone his skills to be the youngest member of their Action Figure Crew. He started off as a battle DJ, long before landing tour gigs with Kelis and Nas. Today he's also a member of the respected Skratch Makaniks DJ crew.
Artists he's toured with: Kelis, Nas, Musiq Soulchild, Floetry, Busta Rhymes, John Legend, the Roots, Mario, Ne-Yo and Sterling Simms.
On touring: "Being a tour DJ, you gotta be more of a showman. You gotta do tricks and talk on the mike and keep the people entertained, because a lot of people are looking at you."
On up-and-coming talent: "DJ Amir has potential. DJ Omega--he's real young but puts out good mixtapes, and he's got a morning TV show on Channel 10. And DJ A-Run--he fills in for me sometimes in the clubs."
On Philly DJs: "The scene is good, but it needs to come back more to the craft of DJing. Nobody's really as technical as Philly DJs. The world still looks to Philly for DJs--there's a certain respect. Jazzy Jeff and Cash Money to this day are still touring. They still hold the torch. But now you have a lot of DJs who don't know their history."
PW's Summer Guide 2014