Saturday, October 24, 2009

Welcome to the DJ Booth. Let me Introduce You to DJ Jahsonic

Photo by Sexy Fitsum/iLLIMETER

Need to catch some ZZZZZZZZZZ's? Head over to DJ Jahsonic's crib, because that is where you'll most likely catch him when he's not spinning. This District native dug his DJ roots in college, via a friend who he grew up with in church and another from Philly, the City of Brotherly Love. A city where he swears "They must put some kind of 'DJ Skills hormone' in the city water supply along with Flouride. I watched those two guys get down for about a year then I decided to give it a go myself."

You'll scope DJ Jahsonic a.k.a. Jamil Hamilton often at the National Arboretum, with a good book and his iPod, but he's also a sucker for a good tea house. As a true Washingtonian he's in-the-know on just about every hot spot in the District, not only because he's most likely DJing there, but also because he's rockin' their gear. He's a regular at Major in G-town and those dope glasses you never see him without are care of See Eyewear, also in G-town.

Jahsonic sees music as the common language between us, and he lauds Theo Parrish "the DON of emotion in DJing" for his "potent and visceral" DJ sets, along with Sam Burns, Timmy Regisford and Ron Hardy as his inspiration for introducing him to the concept that it's not just what records you play, but how you play them.

If you haven't peeped his turntable skills stroll into Marvin on any Monday night and you'll hear the cool grooves he dishes out to the neighborhood locals who truly know when to hit up the deck on a weekday.
_ __________ ____ by Sexy Fitsum.
Photo by Sexy Fitsum/iLLIMETER

So avoid the bridge and tunnel, step into the DJ booth and let me introduce you to DJ Jahsonic.

What are you currently listening to in your car/at home/ on your Ipod?
N'Dambi "Pink Elephant", Robert Glasper "Double Booked", Raekwon "Only Built for Cuban Linx II", Shafiq Husayn "En A-Freeka" and Patton Oswalt "My Weakness is Strong" which was recorded live at the GWU Lisner Auditorium. Oh and anything by Black Milk or Guilty Simpson (best rapper name EVAR!)

Are there any upcoming albums that you can't wait to hear?
Georgia Anne Muldrow "Early" and whatever those crazy West London dudes (Daz-I-Kue, 4Hero, Afronaught et al) have in the pipeline. I hear there's a new Silhouette Brownm (look 'em up!) album coming out, which would be a very, very good thing

Who would you like to see release another album?
Mos Def and Talib Kweli need to stop messing around and do another Black Starr. Oh and I can always use more music from Omar.

Tell me more about your philanthropic endeavors or extracurricular activities.
My philanthropy is limited to the occasional DJ workshop for kids and tutoring in after school programs. The remainder of my efforts are focused on building the scene for quality music here in DC. That means lots of gigs where you don't get paid a lot and people may not understand what you are doing initially. That's ok though, because in the end I always end up bringing new people over to the light.
What is your heritage?
I am an African-American. My mother's side of the family are from the sea islands off the coast of South Carolina, where the population is mostly gullah: a subset of African-Americans which retained a significantly higher than average amount of their cultural links to Africa and the West Indies - (where they took slaves to be "seasoned" 'read:broken' before bringing them to America for sale). I don't know that much about my father's side of the family.

How has technology impacted the equipment and the state of music?
The positive: Less lower back pain from carrying dozens crates of records. And the ability to have your whole library with you, which allows you to rock any crowd should the need arise.The negative: Too many 'wavies' aka new jack dudes who think because they got a bunch of mp3s off bittorrent and a laptop, they know music and what it takes to move a crowd.

In order to be a successful DJ you have to be in tune to what the people are feeling. How do you stay in touch with what's hot and what's not?
I have a multi pronged approach. I listen to a lot of podcasts (Giles Peterson in my preacher, rabbi and sensei), I do a lot of reading like (Waxpoetics, Shook and some select websites are the "bibles"), and I spent a lot of time talking with other djs and music heads. The other important thing that I always do is consistently endeavoring to stay attuned to what I call "real music". A lot of stuff is trendy but won't be remembered past it's "sell by" date, aka until the next fad (I'm looking at you autotune) comes along. Quality is timeless and that's what I keep in my crates, both real and virtual. I think people feel that.

Lil SoSo Productions
Are there any companies, sponsors and/or labels that you are associated
I work with Lilsoso productions which is my managment company. Most of our events are sponsored by beverage companies. As far as record labels go, I did some work with Sanctuary Records (run out of a now defunct club of the same name on H St. NE) back in the mid 2000s.

What is the most underrated/overated aspect of being a DJ?'
Underrated: Not much. It's a lot more work than people imagine. Especially if you are going to do it correctly. It's not common knowledge that most of us practice our skills. A LOT.
Overated: Clubs in general. If you ever saw your favorite nightclub in daylight hours, you'd run to the doctor for a tetanus shot.

What is a common misconception about DJing?
That it's an easy thing to pick up, parlay into rockstar status and sex with lots of attractive people. Here's the truth. You will pay dues and you will do lots of dodgy gigs until you get into your niche. Until then, the hookups may be weird and you may not always have the easiest experience reaching crowds.

What are your thoughts concerning DJ's and their role in the music
business? Do you think that your work supports or subverts most artist?
DJs used to be the gatekeepers to the ears of the public, both on the radio and in the clubs. Now that the internet is the primary means of obtaining music, there has been a democratization in the way people are exposed to music. This has had the following effects: It has completely unraveled the best laid plans of record companies (Yay!) and brought about the end of the musical megastar (shrug). There won't be another Michael Jackson or Madonna. At least not in the West. Music is a lot more personal for people now, and that's good. Sure there is still the whole tribal affiliation/herd mentality phenomena going on, but that has less to do with music and more to do with the social and cultural environments that people are in. It has also lowered the barrier to entry for artists, djs, labels and everyone else involved with music, for better and for worse.

Who was the first person or artist who you heard growing up which got you hooked on music?
That would be a result my mom's serious jazz collection. I remember very distinctly the Horace Silver and Stevie Wonder records she would play. Then there was James Brown's "Get on the Goodfoot". My grandfather had the 8-track of that single. I still have that 8-track.

What do you think differentiates you from other DJ's?
That's a hard one. DJing for me is a glimpse into my personality and what songs are meaningful to me. When I DJ, I'm sharing party of myself with the crowd. I know it sounds hokey but that's really what it's about for me.
What is your favorite piece of music? What are your favorite albums?
There isn't enough space answer this question completely. I'll just do a top 5 desert album discs. Max Roach - 'It's Time' Max, Abbey Lincoln and his orchestra. This album was made almost 50 years ago and it still gives me chills in 2009. A Tribe Called Quest - 'The Low End Theory' Dropped in '91, still embodies everything that is good about hip-hop. May seem quaintly naive now, but back then it blew people's heads off. Neon Phusion - 'The Future Ain't the Same as It Used to Be'. Opened up a whole new chapter in my musical life story. Namely, the chapter of undeniable drums, and jazz chops that were designed for the dancefloor. Michael Jackson - 'Off the Wall'. Do I really need to explain why? Stevie Wonder - 'Songs in the Key of Life' - same as the above.

What is your favorite genre of music and why?
That's like asking a parent to pick a favorite child. It varies from day to day.

Are there any national/international artists you have performed with?
I opened for Giles Peterson and for Omar a couple of times here in DC. I also did the James Brown tribute party at the Winter Music Conference this past March, which meant sharing a bill with the likes of Djinji Brown, DJ Spinna and other heavy hitters. I also opened for Larry Heard once.

Other than being a DJ what talent would you most like to possess?
I'd like to pick up playing an instrument again.

If DJing never existed where would music be today? What would be
That's a tough one. The main thing would be the culture of DJing, which has been a HUGE influence on music culture in general. The way music has been made since the disco era has usually been with the consideration of whether or not records are "DJ friendly".

Was it difficult to get into the DJing scene? Were you taken seriously?
I payed my dues with crap gigs and not being respected. After a while, I was fortunate enough to meet club owners and promoters who respected what I was trying to do and gave me the space to showcase my abilities.

Wax, CD or MP3/CPU?
All three lol.
Do you have any musical guilty pleasures?
I have forced myself to tolerate some forms of hip-hop that I can't say that I would like ordinarily. I can honestly say I like a little Jeezy and Wayne every once and a while.

Which gig/tour will you remember forever?
I played at Marvin inauguration night. That was the most memorable night I've had in a long, long time. Daz-I-Kue (of Bugz in the Attic fame) and I tag teamed the whole time and the crowd was so jubilant and open....we literally could have gone on all night. It was magic.

1 comment:

Original Najeema said...

This is a great introduction to Jahsonic if you've never heard of him or seen him DJ. You can't beet Marvins! Respect the DJ !