Partyrocker DJ Eleven is, above all things, a workhorse. The Oakland native plays all over the globe, sometimes even gigging alongside icons like DJ Premier and Grandmaster Flash. He’s also written for Waxpoetics and XLR8R, and contributes a monthly column for a UK rap publication, Hip-Hop Connection. His mixtapes have been touted by The Village Voice and The New York Times, respectively. And to top it off, The Rub, a booming website he works on (with DJ Ayers and Cosmo Baker) gets heaps of readers daily for the mixtapes and podcasts they put together.
Eleven hustles hard, but was kind enough to lend us some time for an interview. Here’s our talk after he had just gotten back from playing Europe. Bay Area represent!
Let folks know about your Bay Area roots.
I was born in Redwood City but grew up in Oakland. My parents & all of my siblings live in the Bay. I came up DJing in the Bay Area with my crew, Local1200. And, I moved to New York almost 9 years ago. But, I try to get back to the Bay any chance I can.
What mistakes or misunderstandings do you often see young DJs doing?
The three most common mistakes I see young DJs making, are all kind of based on the same thing
1) Playing an opening set at a party in fifth gear. 2) Not understanding the arc of a club night. 3) Expecting things to come too quick. The commonality among all these mistakes is basically being young. Haha. It takes experience to realize that people don’t want to walk into a club at 10:15 and be bombarded by hard house or the same hits from the radio. It takes time to realize that club nights/parties that work the best are the ones that have an arc to them. And, last, it’s not immediately obvious that making a living as a DJ, or having any sort of longevity, is a patience game and takes time & dedication.
What’s the general reaction to Bay Area rap when you play it elsewhere? What Bay Area joints do you play out often?
In New York, the reaction isn’t good at all. Most club goers in New York still don’t give a shit about any hip-hop that isn’t from New York. But, through much of the South, the Midwest & the West Coast, the reactions are much better. I think the joint I run the most often is Too $hort “Blow The Whistle’”.
What country or countries have embraced your sets the most?
I just got back from a European tour and on that run, I was really blown away by the crowd in Helsinki, Finland. It was my first time there & they were so live. I’ve also played to phenomenal crowds in London & Buenos Aires, Argentina.
What made you decide to become a DJ? Tell us a bit about how you got started.
I’ve always loved music and got into DJing during college. My first semester of my freshman year, I was able to get a radio show on the college’s station. So, that was really my introduction. From there, I started playing records at parties around the school and, before long, I was hooked.
You’ve written for Pitchfork, Wax Poetics and XLR8R. How did you begin as a writer and when do you find the time? What article(s) of yours are you most proud of?
The first magazine I ever wrote for was 4080, based out of the Bay. As I recall, someone who was working there asked me to review an album. From there, I kept taking any chance I got to do some writing, usually for little to no money. It was always more about enjoying the process and getting to talk to folks I wouldn’t necessarily have had a chance to.
For that reason, the article I wrote for Wax Poetics on the history of Bay Area is one of my favorites. I also write a monthly column for an English magazine called Hip Hop Connection, which I really enjoy because I can talk about ANYTHING I want. Downside to that is the hate mail.
Talk a little bit about your involvement in The Rub and what other interesting projects do you have in the works?
The Rub is made up of myself and my partners, DJ Ayres & Cosmo Baker. We started the party in Brooklyn just shy of 6 years ago. And, in that time, it’s grown so much bigger & more successful than we’d ever imagined. It’s taken us all over the world! And, it’s still the best party I do.
You gave us a nice little Public Enemy mix of yours (to be posted soon!). Talk about why PE’s music is so important to you?
PE’s music was crazy influential to me when I was in high school, so part of it is that it was important to me at an important time in my musical development. The Bomb Squad was doing production that was light years ahead of anyone else & so dense. And, the combination of Chuck D & Flavor Flav on the mics was magic! It’s really amazing to me that so few of their joints are part of the canon of hip-hop “classics”.
Thanks so much for your time man. We’ll let you get some rest. Peace.
For more info on DJ Eleven, visit www.djeleven.com and/or The Rub.
One thought on “the eleventh hour: interview with dj eleven”
I have just come across the interview and I like how DJ Eleven talks about the beginner mistakes, especially the dynamics of a club night – that is indeed a concept not much spoken about. A night starts out, builds up its momentum and achieves its peak, then starts fading away, and the music needs to be adjusted to this. Many DJs forget this and think they can force people into having good time. I also agree with the comment on the Helsinki crowd, Finland has an amazing music talent and some fantastic venues that many DJs love. Thank you.