I just put together a rough live-with-no-edits mixtape for a potential client. A 25-minute 90’s/00’s R&B/Hip-Hop mix consisting of a lot of the tracks I used when I first started DJing 12 or so years ago. Oh, the memories that came rushing back from that time as I mixed my way through. I thought I’d share some with you.
Remember when cassette tapes and Walkmans were still kicking it with Discmans, Mini-Disc players, and a sprinkling of iPods? That was my high-school. That’s the media that I used to hustle for a little bit in grade 9 or 10. I had a different DJ name at the time — Tronix was supposed to be my rap name, because, yes, my friends and I tried to make a rap group — and I bought bulk packs of blank JVC 60-minute cassette tapes to maximize my profit. I even printed out my own tape covers to make things more legit, complete with imagery crafted from MS Paint and ClipArt. Come to think of it, I even made a website, before I knew what to do with a website. (It ended up being an HTML learning experience that I used in social media as I borrowed, altered, and adapted code to make my AsianAvenue profile look better.) But I knew that if I wanted my DJ skills to be known throughout the school, I had to give people something to enjoy, first.
My cousins were always quick to snatch up copies of my mixtapes. They loved them and would show their friends, getting other people to notice. I ended up making three or four editions, and I did sell all the tapes I bought, but it wasn’t as big of a hustle as I thought it would be. I didn’t know what to expect from it, really, other than a small profit and bit of recognition, but I knew it was the start of something I’d keep doing for a very long time.
It ended up catching the attention of a couple of other DJs in the school and made some collaborators as well, a couple of whom I still get together with from time to time. It got me some DJing gigs, both for the school and for parties outside of school. It turned into battling at the DMCs and doing more gigs and events, including nearly every party in my department at university, and eventually made it’s way into friends’ and family’s weddings and production fundraisers. More recently, it even got me a monthly gig at a fun, small-medium club and poolhall, with a group of other talented DJs.
But I’ll never forget that it all came from those tapes. It all came from that tape deck hooked up to that Radio Shack mixer with two mismatched turntables, only one of which, for a time, had pitch control. It came from blowing-out my dad’s speaker systems, which he fixed himself with new subwoofers. It came from the school talent show and 24-hour fundraisers. It came from wanting to be just like A-Trak, the youngest DMC World Champion ever, and the first Canadian to do so.
It all came from a silly little dream, on which I followed through.
Go listen to a mixtape. May I recommend the excellent selections of DJ M-Rock? He makes amazing “best of” mixtapes, complete with scratching, beat juggling, and remixes. Plus he’s one of my DJing mentors, who turned out to be, through sheer serendipity, the son of my mom’s good friends. Ch-ch-check it out.