5 American DJs who rule the dance world
Today marks the end of one of the longest, most arduous election cycles in our nation’s history — and certainly the most bizarre. Today, November 8, we will decide whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will lead our nation for the next 4 years. As millions of voters head to the polls to pick who will become America’s next leader, we’ve picked 5 DJs who are leading the nation in moving dance music to greater heights.
Our criteria in compiling this list draws from a number of factors, including impactful live performances, quality of production, recent accomplishments, and overall legacy.
5. RL Grime
Henry Steinway is a unique stateside talent. After creating a significant imprint in the electro house world as Clockwork, Steinway shifted gears in 2012. Under his side project “RL Grime“, Steinway became a pioneering figure in the trap genre.
RL Grime has long-since usurped Clockwork as Steinway’s primary focus, and he has remained the most creatively-authentic artist in a largely derivative genre. Steinway shrouds his trap-driven project in an air of mystery, crafting dark releases which are structurally simple, but expertly crafted.
RL Grime DJ sets, too, have an umbral sensibility to them, as he weaves harrowing electronic music and rap into mixes set to an ominous visual production. The project’s cultural influence speaks for itself: his fifth-annual Halloween mix has amassed over a million streams in less than two weeks, while “Waiting,” his recent collaboration with Skrillex and What So Not, is approaching 700,000 streams in less than a week.
4. Porter Robinson
Most DJs couldn’t accomplish in a lifetime what Porter Robinson has at age 24. Having already established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the dance music realm, Robinson made the difficult decision to defy the mold which popularized him to honor his own authenticity. The result of the producer’s internal struggle, his 2014 debut album Worlds, speaks for itself.
By going against the EDM grain, Porter Robinson opened an entirely new creative avenue, leading him to construct one of the most scintillating live performances in the industry. The mellifluous nature of the young producer’s album is beset beautifully afore the spectacular visual productions of the Invisible Light Network, while Robinson’s edgier live edits prove that he still possesses the capacity to purvey truly raw, visceral music. There’s a reason that hordes of fans flock to whichever stage Porter Robinson occupies at each festival he plays.
Bassnectar has perhaps the largest, most dedicated cult following of any American dance music figurehead. Indeed, Lorin Ashton’s legions of devout supporters are far more fervent in their advocacy of their leader than the majority of Clinton and Trump’s support bases. Ashton, who thoughtfully publishes his political and spiritual musings on his own website recurrently, has a longstanding reputation as one of electronic music’s most prolific performers and producers.
This year, amidst his seemingly perpetual touring schedule, Bassnectar established the inaugural Bass Center festival – a three day event in Colorado centered around his inimitable live show. On top of his ever-expanding performative advancements, Bassnectar released his twelfth album, Unlimited, in June of this year.
Like Bassnectar, Kaskade has spent more than a decade establishing himself as one of the United States’ most beloved DJs. Since debuting in 2001 with “What Can I Say,” Ryan Raddon has created an indomitable legacy within the nation and beyond. The Chicago/San Francisco-based artist has continued to earn headlining spots at festivals for years, and his position is unlikely to change anytime soon.
Though Kaskade exudes an air of humility, the ever-candid producer never thinks twice to humble others when he sees fit; Raddon most recently chastised the LA Times for negatively portraying rave culture as a fertile ground for drug induced fatalities. For the publicly sober figurehead to call the war on drugs “a farce” carried a unique gravity and sincerity.
From a production standpoint, the fervor which Kaskade caused in October when he reprised his famed partnership with deadmau5 to release “Beneath With Me” proves that Ryan Raddon has not become stale as he becomes more seasoned.
Realistically, who else could top this list? Skrillex‘s impact on dance music requires no explanation. Sonny Moore could headline any festival he desired, and collaborate with any musician he saw fit. Given the number and variety of international events he’s closed out and artists he’s joined in the studio in the last year alone, it’s apparent that Skrillex cashes in on the aforementioned capability dutifully.
The Grammy-winning producer is ubiquitous on lineups globally and may objectively have a more extensive and diverse list of collaborators than any other living artist. It’s daft to fault the OWSLA label-head for his mainstream endeavors when he continues to support underground artists, just as its difficult to fault him for producing commercially appealing tracks when he refuses to abandon his heavier roots. Though merely six years have passed since the release of his debut EP, Skrillex is indisputably America’s most impactful DJ.
Third Party Candidate: Claude VonStroke
We would be remiss if we didn’t give an honorable mention to Claude VonStroke in this list. After all, he is officially “America’s Best DJ” of 2016. Since founding Dirtybird in 2005, the San Francisco-based DJ has continuously succeeded in his mission of fostering a wonderfully weird dance music subculture. This year, VonStroke began a hip hop-infused side project under his real name, Barclay Crenshaw, and hosted the second annual Dirtybird Campout — a unique festival in southern California which revels in a Peter Pan-esque mentality, entreating attendees to embrace their inner children. Crenshaw’s vision for dance music is one of the genre’s most bizarre, and it’s picked up steam to a degree that even he probably didn’t imagine it would.