“14 Philly DJs to watch
Philadelphia is a city bursting with music history, and DJs are an important part of our story. The list of world-renowned DJs who claim Philadelphia as home spans a multitude of decades and covers nearly every genre of music – from hip-hop to electronic, underground to mainstream. Jazzy Jeff, Josh Wink, King Britt, Questlove, Cash Money, Rich Medina, Cosmo Baker, RJD2, the late DJ AM, even Diplo (though he long ago gave up his Eraserhood roots) are just a few of the big-name DJs who have exported the Philly brand-name worldwide.
Not everyone can be a household name though, and there are quite a few Philly DJs who are quietly making power moves in their respective music circles. From house to techno, rap to disco, ambient and beyond, this list forecasts the up-and-coming DJs you need to keep an eye out for – those who are releasing music, running their own labels, rocking the best parties, and continuing the rich history of Philly DJs who are soon to welcome a Mural Arts sanctioned DJ mural by Shepard Fairey. You may be only vaguely familiar with some of the names on this list now, but definitely stay tuned as each of these artists continue to make moves both on and off the dance floor.
Here are my top 14 Philly DJs to watch for:
Coolout has been DJi-ng and making music for years, exploring everything from hip-hop, to house, to latin and ambient sounds. With his latest Disgo project, Coolout combines all those styles together for a blend that is “faster than hip hop, slower than house, still 4-on-the floor”. His tantalizing Soundcloud contains over twenty remixes from the last year alone, most available free download, including takes on everything from Janet Jackson to Meek Mill. With a stated goal to "spread the gospel" of his genre-bounding music and original tracks and live shows lined up, Coolout is on the move.”
- Chris Burrell
Arts collective and lifestyle blog LoweFactor has recently teamed up with Philly rising star DJ Cool Out to drop “Disgo Sessao 1,” an ethereal and high-floating mix of electro and house that blends in just the right amount of hip-hop. Think of it as a wild head trip that packs plenty of heart as it proceeds. 32 tight minutes of beats, the track features uptempo(ish) renditions of D’Angelo, Tinashe, Potatohead People and so, so much more.
LoweFactor’s own Jared Lowe described the mix just so:
“Disgo” is a contemporary, genre-defying take on the disco music movement doused in deep house beats, with elements of soul, funk, retro, and rap. It’s “faster than hip-hop, slower than house, still 4-on-the floor.” “Sessao”, which is Portuguese for “session”, signifies the full collection of the “Disgo” sound.
- Scott Heins
“Coolout’s Disgo Remix Of Janet Jackson Is ‘Alright’ With Us
We at SoulBounce are getting hip to the “Disgo” sound created by Christopher “Coolout” Davis. “What’s Disgo?” you ask? A sound defined by Coolout as “faster than hip-hop, slower than house, still 4-on-the floor.” The Philadelphia-based DJ-producer-artist also puts the sound in the “more future, less retro, still funky and soulful” box, noting such SB faves as Pomo and Kaytranada as contemporaries.
After an intro like that, how could one stay away from the Coolout/Disgo Remix of “Alright” from the masterpiece that is Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814? You’ll be happy you took a swig of this Kool-Aid. Upon pushing play, the tune immediately packs some serious bass. Within moments, the kick snare melody gets accented with handclaps and Ms. Jackson’s angelic voice, which sounds as crisp as in the original rendition but occasionally delivered in a cappella smoothness.
Despite a moody tempo and some deeper, darker elements, “Alright (Coolout/Disgo Remix)” remains a feel-good jaunt forward with this retro rhythm. Add it to your collection via a free download on SoundCloud or support the artist at Legitmix.”
“What does it mean to be digitally literate in the world of Hip Hop?
University of the Arts London journalism student, James Childs, is exploring some of the ways in which digital technologies have impacted upon, and are influencing, the practices of the Hip Hop community. He is doing so in order to explore what digital literacy means in an holistic sense, what are the different forms of digital literacy that a creative community displays and how might their experience help other artistic communities to understand their own evolving relationships with digital technologies? What does it mean to be digitally literate in the world of Hip Hop?
For his first article James spoke with Fatawu Issah, a Hip Hop enthusiast and fan.Fatawu aged 25 has been listening to Hip Hop since the 90s and has witnessed a change in the culture that has been influenced by the impact of digital technology and social media.
Asking the question, how has digital technology impacted Hip Hop, Fatawu replies “It has changed how many people can be involved. Currently there are so many people within Hip Hop who have made it through their own buzz, without signing to a major record label. Before, using a professional studio would cost a lot of money but now with technology there are apps and programs were you can create music without an instrument.” He then gave an example of an artist who had done this.
The Rise by DJ Coolout
DJ/MC Coolout, made an entire eight song album ‘The Rise’ through the use of 16 apps on his smartphone using the Android mobile platform – Coolout described the process, “There were no outside instruments used and I tried to stay away from standard plug-ins. It was hard resisting the temptation, but I wanted to represent the sound of Android as much as possible.” Kirn (2011). Listening to the album you can hear the Android sound in the music, but the putting together of the project is very organised and creative, making it an excellent and stand out piece of music. Fatawu continued saying “He was quite big and made money from it, his hype came from social media and it was also on iTunes, he didn’t need a record label. Digital technology changes how it is made but not the sound, because the sound is a reflection of the artist.”
Asking whether the impact of digital technology was good or bad, Fatawu explained “It is good because you can make money and a fan-base without needing a record label. But it can be very costly. Also music has become so diluted due to the fact that everyone is doing it, and I think people are taking it less serious. For me to find a good artist I have to look through 10 to 15 bad artists before finding a good one.” I then asked him has this increased diversity among the artists in Hip Hop. “Yes, but in terms of culture, it has always been culturally diverse. The music has now become accessible to everyone. Hip Hop is no longer catered towards urban black youth, but is aimed at a much larger audience. The message in Hip Hop has changed, in the beginning artists were like journalists reporting what was in their area, but the message has changed to be more entertainment based. It’s become more commercialised, everything has been inspired by Hip Hop. Even films that have nothing to do with Hip Hop feature Hip Hop music, it’s now more entertainment than message centred.””
- Jo Morrison
“An All-Android Hip-hop Album, and the Tools Used to Create It
From an eBay-purchased Atari ST to your phone, you really can make electronic music however you like, wherever you like. Generally, I’ve therefore been skeptical of gimmicks like all-iPad albums, particularly as it seems fairly obvious that such things should be possible. On the other hand, albums produced entirely with less-obvious, less-popular options may lead to more unexpected solutions. And they can both prove my ultimate thesis: you should use whatever makes you happy. If a few extra tools help with that, superb.
Plus, who am I to walk away from potential flame bait?
In this case, an all-Android album from Philadelphia DJ/MC COOLOUT aka Christopher Davis carries another surprise: it’s a damn solid hip-hop album. Some quirky flare from COOLOUT is amplified by the lo-fi aesthetic of the recording technique, making use of the internal mic on an Android phone. With creative sound design, it’s firmly rooted in hip hop, but takes a nicely experimental direction.
I find that it’s fun listening, and whether it’s your musical taste or not, the listof apps the artist has compiled will be a godsend to anyone who’s got an Android phone and is looking for ways to make it more musical.
The album is free, and a no-brainer download – it’s some really good stuff. (See also a non-Android remix of music from the excellent label Stones Throw.
THE RISE by COOLOUT
There’s some musical thinking behind these choices here – Android becomes a return to what the artist loved about simple digital samplers of yore. COOLOUT tells CDM:
I used a couple of different workflows. The cool thing about Android is that most of the audio apps aren’t as feature-heavy as iOS. Coming from the days of using mono 12-bit samplers with no effects, it was easy to use all the techniques of layering and chopping I’ve known for years. Most times, the instrumental track was completed fully on the phone and I then tracked the vocals in a standard DAW later using the Android device as a microphone. There were no outside instruments used and I tried to stay away from standard plug-ins. It was hard resisting the temptation, but I wanted to represent the sound of Android as much as possible. I only used outside compression on the vocals, all the other effects like delay and filters were from Android apps. If Froyo didn’t have such huge audio latency I probably could have tracked the vocals all on the device.
Another great thing about recording using an Android device is that I was able to write all my lyrics in Google Docs (shout out to Count Bass D for putting me up on that) and have them directly in front of me while recording vocals.
Technical note – it’s not so much Froyo (the Android OS release) that adds latency as a lack of low-latency performance from handsets. The API also lacks the structure you might like for low-latency applications, though if you’re a developer, check out the AndroidWrapper class Peter Brinkmann wrote for libpd for Android, which presents a useful workaround for any audio app.
COOLOUT music is good stuff; see the full site (including the Android album, via Bandcamp): http://cooloutmusic.com/
The apps (with Android Market links, though there are other ways of getting to them, too):
Virtual AmpMusicGridElectrum Drum MachineJasuto ModularEthereal Dialpad [see CDM coverage] MicDroidPureData/RjDjGuitar: Solo LiteChordbotVirtualSynthesizerBrainwave TunerMusical BubblesSilicon Oxide [retro virtual analog drum machine] Buddhist Instruments, Tone Dialer (I think that’s this one) PP-Electone
Our previous round-up of Android apps – well worth doing, I thought, because these apps have been harder to track down than those for iOS: Useful Music Tools for Your Android Phone, and a New Sketchpad Joins Groovebox
…and earlier this month, a Game Boy (and iOS) favorite making its way to an all-Android release: Nanoloop Comes to Android, with its Lovely, Minimal Music Idea-Making Interface
And, of course, if it is iOS you’re interested in (or you swing both ways), you can find all our coverage: http://createdigitalmusic.com/tag/ios/
Or for all things music mobile – regardless of platform, don’t miss the exceptional, 24/7 online news channel for mobile music apps, the fire hose of news for this growing genre: http://the-palm-sound.blogspot.com/”
- Peter Kirn
Best Hip-Hop Album
The Long Goodbye by Coolout
Coolout wasn't kidding when he called it The Long Goodbye—it took almost six months after the album dropped for him to pack his bags and go. Recently relocated to Philly, Coolout spent 10 years tending turntables and making beats with a keen ear for old-school idioms and new-school flavor alike. Goodbye is a mature, sophisticated sonic exploration of a man's relationship with his surroundings—for better or worse. Combining boom-bap party hooks with jazzy space soundscapes on songs like "Leaving" and "Love Affair," Goodbye is a high-water mark by which the city's progressive hip-hop community will judge for some time to come. SEAN L. MALONEY
- SEAN L. MALONEY
Coolout keeps it real on his latest, The Long Goodbye
By Sean L. MaloneyFebruary 19, 2009Music » FeaturesPhoto: Eric England
Next-School Is in Session Coolout
Christopher "Coolout" Davis may be a fixture on the local DJ circuit and one of the go-to guys for a good time on a Saturday night, but he is first and foremost a musician. Well, really he's better defined as rapper-producer-musician, a hyphenated hip-hop auteur, a real-deal renaissance man with a self-contained recording rig. After 10 years behind the turntables and gigs at almost 40 different Davidson County nightclubs, Coolout is about as close to a household name as a local urban artist is bound to be in this "country" town. He has rocked more clubs than most can name and bounced more booties than most would care to count. But like many independent artists in this town, he would prefer not to be defined by his day job.
The Long Goodbye, Coolout's latest self-released album, is a futuristic slab of rap pragmatism for people who prefer an intellectual challenge to a fistfight in the parking lot. Built around a core of Fender Rhodes and dub-style delay and decay, The Long Goodbye stands out as Nashville's only contribution to next-school hip-hop for 2009. Goodbye is the most au courant genre piece in a scene that's—at best—a step or two behind the national learning curve. Where as most of the rap in this city can be lumped into the "tediously tacky crunk retreads," "dudes that pretend they're Kanye" or " '90s New York nostalgics" categories, Coolout delivers a mature, modern set of songs that have more in common with fringe-dwelling UK producers like Quantic and Bonobo than Gangsta Grillz Vol. 438, 972 or secondhand Roc Raida tapes.
Synthesizers flow in and out of the soundscape like oceans on an alien planet, ebbing over a bedrock of funky bass lines, understated percussion and kick drums that boom in all the right places, slipping occasionally into jazzy glitch-tronica on songs like "Over Your Head." The tracks feel wide open, embracing a dynamic sense that is missing from from the over-compressed world of contemporary music. Think about "Live Your Life," the T.I./Rihanna juggernaut that's all over the radio (it should be on the Beat Jamz right...about...now) with its cluttered, screechy Scandinavian synths and its blown-out binary code. Now imagine if you let each zero and each one find their own way, determine their own place in the universe, rather than push them all into the red and over the event horizon. If pop music is the singularity—the point in a black hole where time and space collapse and both become irrelevant—then The Long Goodbye is the Hubble Telescope: floating through space, steadfast in its mission to capture the beauty and chaos of the cosmos. Or something like that.
But this overt modernity comes as a surprise if you're a regular attendee of The Boom Bap and Funky Good Time, the monthly dance parties Coolout promotes with the help of Case Bloom and the BPM the Street crew. The Boom Bap brings the classic boogie-down sound of '90s underground hip-hop, while FGT serves up dusty grooves of rump-shaking funk. Both nights revel in retro sounds and feature round robin-style DJ sets that put scumptuous sounds and dance-floor destruction ahead of the platter pushers' egos and the audience's desire for familiarity. Both draw from dee-eep catalog and classic anthems, perfect for head-nodding, trainspotting or, y'know, just dancing. It doesn't matter if you don't know the difference between Mobb Deep and M.O.P., or if you can't tell "Flashlight" from "Funky Broadway"—it's a classy way to party for listeners of all levels. Seriously, it's not as nerdy as I make it sound. My wife loves Funky Good Time and she couldn't give a fuck about first-pressing 45s.
The lyrics on The Long Goodbye carry over the party vibe while managing to stay grounded and actually talking about—gasp!—real shit that regular people have to deal with in the real world. Topically speaking, Goodbye tackles two Big Bs: breaking up and being broke. But Coolout doesn't overshare, like some cryin'-in-yer-Heineken/Atmosphere mopey back packer, or treat women like just another warm hole to crawl into. In a rare move for the hip-hop genre, hyperbole is kept to a minimum, supplanted by a very adult view on the give and take of modern life. A track like "Love Affair" with its lilting chorus of "I deleted your number, ignored your emails, complained to my friends in too much detail" won't go down in the annals of pop music pillow talk, but damn if that's not the way things fall apart in this digital age. "Leaving" is a Dear John letter to Music City, detailing why he wants to cut out for greener pastures after years of false starts and dead ends, but it's not just a laundry list of complaints. Each line belies a fondness for the source of his frustration, and you begin to wonder if he could really leave his hometown. It's a classic conundrum that hits home on many levels.
One of the best things about Coolout's rap style is his verbal economy. His stories are succinct, the themes are plainly stated, and the language is sparse enough that the listener can bring his/her own experiences to the table to fill in the details. His vocals have a distinct timbre—rough-hewn, mellow and musical—that lends the lyrics their breezy vibe and conversational tone. The Long Goodbye is like a lazy chat with an old friend on a relaxing Sunday afternoon—the drama is downplayed and there's never too much information. Coolout doesn't really brag, doesn't really boast and he may or may not be intercontinental when he eats French toast. You'd have to ask him yourself about breakfast, he doesn't mention that on the record. Again, with the lack of over-sharing and the whatnot—though it's tough to complain about a rapper who doesn't rely on the "listing of luxury consumer goods" or "listing all the issues my shrink wants me to discuss" tropes that can make so much of the genre soul-crushingly redundant.
One of the only disappointing things about The Long Goodbye is that our chances of hearing the songs in a live setting anytime soon are very slim. One of the occupational hazards of being a professional DJ is that all of your weekend nights are booked solid, and the nights you have off are the nights that people don't go out to shows. It's a double-edged sword for an artist like Coolout—do you get a normal, 9-to-5 day job and play shows on a regular schedule, or do you pass on the shows for a steady gig playing music late into the night? I personally would opt for the latter, but not-so-secretly kinda hope that Coolout will go for the former. The idea of hearing these tracks boom over a big system with a room packed full of people is really, really appealing.
Until that happens, though, we'll be content to catch Coolout at work behind the decks at Blue Bar, Cabana or any of the myriad other spots he's known to rock. We'll put on his records as we leave the club and let the bat tower fade in our rearview mirror after a long, sweaty night on the dance floor. We'll keep on humming the hook to "Love Affair"—cause it's catchy to the point of infectious—and we'll make a point to annoy the ever-lovin' shit out of Coolout until he steps out of the DJ booth and onto the stage. It'll be worth the wait.
- Sean L. Maloney