Note: Originally published in February of 2016, this article is being republished as applicable still in 2017, in honor of the amazing never-ending list of iconic DJs that have graced our scene with their illustrious art and careers.
Since the beginning of time there have been countless individuals who helped shape the music landscape. In honor of Black History Month, we took some time to honor some of the most iconic DJ’s of recent times:
*Artists are listed in alphabetical order
Hailing from Detroit, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, and Juan Atkins make up this iconic trio that played a pivotal role in the vibrant history of dance music. Throughout their time as a group, and as individuals, May Saunderson, and Atkins helped lay the groundwork for future generations, and undoubtedly has left them all with legendary status. Be it their creative productions or inspiring DJ sets, the Belleville 3 demand the upmost respect from the music community.
Prior to his battle with mental health issues, Benga was at the forefront of a powerful drum and bass and dubstep scene. However, through his will-power and dedication to music, the talented British DJ/Producer returns with a performance at Fabric as well as a fresh EP for 2016.
Black Coffee has proven to be one of South Africa’s finest musical talents. As a globetrotting DJ he sets the standard for authenticity, and provides inspiration for much of the younger generation of South Africa – like the world’s youngest DJ, Arch Jr. With multiple award nominations and a plethora of recent releases, Black Coffee has made a lasting impact on the dance community.
When discussing Chicago House, the conversation can’t continue without mention of Boo Williams. As a 2nd generation innovator of Chicago House music, Boo Williams was involved in an uncompromising effort to bring house music to the masses, and continues to expand the boundaries of the genre and culture. From house anthems like “Party Time” and “Mortal Trance“, Boo Williams will leave a warm legacy for all who have grooved to his music.
Cajmere A.K.A Green Velvet
Under both aliases, Curtis Jones has been a remarkable influence in house and techno. As a producer he’s released hits such as “Flash” and “La La Land”, and is a driving creative force behind labels such as Cajual and Relief Records. Years into the game and Green Velvet shows no signs of slowing down.
Not much more can be said about Carl Cox that hasn’t already. The man is a genuine legend both on and off the dance floors, and is responsible for evolving nightlife culture and taking the musical environment to new heights. He’s been a staple at every major festival around the world, left a legacy through his residency at Space Ibiza, and is a role model for many professional and aspiring artists. Only so much can be said about Carl Cox through text…but if you’d like to learn more then the full documentary about him is the perfect place to start.
It’s safe to say that techno as we know it wouldn’t be the same without Carl Craig. The Detroit native forged an identifiable technological sound that was embraced by audiences worldwide, and played a key role in developing the annual Movement Festival in Detroit.
Another long standing house legend, Chez Damier can do no wrong when it comes to lush house grooves. Since his first release in 1992, Chez Damier has produced nothing but quality music and has made appearances at A-list clubs and unique festivals such as Piknic Electronik, Secret Solstice, Into The Valley, and many more.
Despite recently steeping into the spotlight of the global dance community, Citizenn is well on his way to having a memorable career. Having released on labels such as 20/20 Vision, Moda Black, and Crosstown Rebels, his production catalog has serious depth. He’s riding a wave of positive momentum, and as 2016 continues so will the success and influence of this rising star.
Culoe De Song
Another native of South Africa, Culoe De Song has entered the global spotlight due to strong releases on labels such as Innervisions and Mule Musiq. Add his talents as a DJ to his impressive production skills, and the result is a renowned artist that touches upon every corner of the globe. A relative new-comer on the scene, expect Culoe De Song to make even more waves in 2016.
A true DJ’s DJ, Derrick remains as popular as ever thanks to an uncanny track selection and his strong ability to blend house, disco and funk seamlessly. A pioneer of Chicago’s 90s House movement, dog and shoe aficionado and Smart Bar Chicago resident, Carter has remained at the pinnacle of dance music by doing what he does best: making people dance.
A member of the Belleville Tree, Derrick May is credited with meeting Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson in High School and later developing the futuristic variation of house music that would become techno. Although May has taken a long hiatus from production, his reputation remains as strong as ever, thanks to his role as the techno’s creator and his ability to keep Detroit’s techno sound alive and as relevant as ever.
Brooklyn born and Chicago based, DJ Heather has an astute ear for house music. Like many DJ’s, DJ Heather learned the art of programming early on, and it translated to a wealth of knowledge behind the decks. With world-class programming combined with superb mixing skills, DJ Heather remains one of the finest selectors in the United States today.
DJ Jazzy Jeff
There are many turntablists in the game, with Dj Jazzy Jeff being among the elite. Many will know him as the DJ from The Fresh Prince, but his musical career extends far beyond his appearance on the popular television show. His record selection is equally impressive as his talent on the ones and twos.
Connect with DJ Jazzy Jeff on Facebook
As a member of Chicago’s duo Phuture, DJ Pierre’s name is synonymous with Acid House, a genre he has helped create and innovate over the span of more than three decades. While Acid has never died, it is going through somewhat of a resurgence in no small part thanks to DJ Pierre’s no-holds-barred sets and his work with Phuture, including a much-talked-about Boiler Room Chicago set. The duo made their return to Movement’s Hart Plaza last year, laying the foundations for 2016’s announced Acid House stage where DJ Pierre is set to perform.
DJ Premier of Gang Starr
Gang Starr was arguably one of the most prolific hip-hop groups of all time…*cue argument here*. But regardless of opinion, there’s no denying that DJ Premier provided the supreme foundation for all of Guru’s flows. As a producer and turntablist, DJ Premier will go down as one of the legends with a major influence of the hip-hop scene.
Donlad Glaude has a relentless energy while spinning with an infectious energy transpiring among the dance floor. As he slams big room anthems to the masses it seems like the biggest party ever, and no one is having more fun than Donald Glaude himself.
As a founding father of techno, DJ pioneer, quick-mix master, musical ambassador and label owner, Eddie’s impact on dance music is eternally entrenched in the history books. Fowlkes received his first mixer in the distant 1978, beginning a career that is still going strong now. He was one of the first Detroit techno artists to travel to Berlin in 1990, a trip which ultimately culminated in a record deal with Tresor and 25 years of globe-trotting gigs.
Felix Da Housecat
Born Felix Stallings Jr., Felix Da Housecat is regarded as a prominent and influential member to come out of Chicago House’s second wave of artists. Able to blend resolute acid with techno and to incorporate elements of electro-disco in his sets, he gained fame through personal productions under a variety of aliases and as owner of Radikal Fear Records. Felix has continued to remain at the top of the world’s dance music touring circuit, with performances under several aliases including Aphrohead at ADE, Razzmatazz Barcelona, Pacha Ibiza, Spybar and Verboten all in 2015.
The Godfather of House Music. His influence and legacy in every aspect of music and culture will have a profound effect for the rest of time – after all, he does have artistic tributes in his name throughout the country. Gone, but not forgotten, may he rest in peace.
Founder of Farris Wheel Recordings, Gene Farris is part of a second wave of artists to come out of Chicago as a global ambassador of the city’s vibrant house music scene. His resume includes an eight-year residency at Chicago’s infamous Boom Boom Room and a four-year stint in Amsterdam, accompanied by strong releases on Cajual, Relief Records and Defected just to name a few, as well as successful collaborations with Cajual/Relief boss Cajmere a.k.a. Green Velvet.
Forward thinking in music and fashion, Honey Dijon has lived quite a life. As a DJ she can often be found at the most exciting and prestigious clubs around the world, and is an icon and role model for many aspiring female DJs.
Make no mistake, Jamie Jones and Hot Natured, the label he began with friend and fellow producer Lee Foss, have been rightfully credited with the launch of a new hybrid of house music. Warmer, infectious and iconic, their signature sound has gone on to pave the way for Jamie’s career, propelling him to the top of dance music thanks to a successful series of releases and the ever-popular Paradise party series.
His philosophy and outlook on music and life is paralleled by none. From his early days in Detroit, Jeff Mills has evolved to cosmic heights showing that he truly is one of the best artists to grace the earth. From designing his own drum machine to having exclusive exhibits at Le Lourve, there are few things that The Wizard hasn’t accomplished.
From afterhours in Berlin to the terrace at DC-10, Jus Ed brings with him the same level of commitment and enthusiasm to the dance floor. As a certified vinyl guru Jus Ed will leave listeners in blissful anticipation for the next piece of wax to emerge from his crate, and is known to expand minds in the best of ways.
Kenny Glasgow may have cut his chops at afterhour venues like Comfort Zone, but with over two decades of experience since, he’s become a staple on the global DJ circuit playing premier venues on a weekly basis. Even a mutual departure from Art Department hasn’t stopped Glasgow from continuing his mission of delivering quality electronic music.
As his biography states, Kenny Larkin truly needs no introduction. As one of the early pioneers, much of the current state of techno can be attributed to his dedicated efforts in Detroit. His musical productions have found homes on esteemed labels such as R&S Records, Plus 8, Planet-E, and Warp Records, and he will always have a formidable place in dance music history.
Love, Respect, and Admiration. Kerri Chandler is a man of the people and one of the best ambassadors for house music. For a man of such immense talent, he remains one of the most humble DJ’s of our time, and his sincerity radiates far and wide. There’s no dance floor he hasn’t seen, and no heart he hasn’t touched through his music and personality.
An influencer since the mid-80’s, Larry Heard has a reputation that reaches far and wide. He has a quintessential house sound with releases that have found homes on labels like Trax and Tsuba, and was responsible for hit releases such as “Missing You” and “Can You Feel It”. If there was a dance hall of fame, Larry Heard would be in on the first ballot.
Unfortunately Larry Levan passed too soon on this Earth due to sudden heart failure in 1992. Prior to his untimely death, Larry Levan left a major impact in dance communities such as New York, especially with his involvement in Paradise Garage.
From Rex Club to Panorama Bar, Lil’ Louis is one of the greatest DJ’s to walk the planet. From new cuts to classic grooves, it’s always an exciting experience to see what he has planned for his sets. And surely we can’t forget his contribution to the music community with his chart topping track “French Kiss“.
“Mad” Mike Banks
As one of the members of Underground Resistance, Mike Banks has been a major player in the techno community. Without his efforts, who knows where we’d be today. Underground Resistance was more than just a techno group, they were making a social and political statement that came to define an era.
Every city has certain people that helped shape the atmosphere, and Marques Wyatt has certainly had a major influence on Los Angeles. As one of the visionaries behind DEEP, Marques Wyatt has made the scene a better place through quality deep house, and has extended his nightlife vision to the city of Angeles and beyond.
MK (Marc Kinchen)
Marc has been in the game far longer than most people realize. The Detroit-born musician spent years gaining production experience through work with such esteemed musicians as Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Rihanna while maintaining his underground house music sound fresh and timeless. The last few years have seen Marc, better known simply as MK, become as prominent as ever, touring the world over and playing some of the most sought-after stages in dance. We recently caught him as part of Pete Tong’s Los Angeles take-over of Radio 1 alongside Eric Prydz, Claude vonStroke and more and look forward to catching him in his home of Detroit this coming Movement.
Born Kenny Dixon Jr., Moodymann has remained an outspoken black imprint on house and techno for the best part of the last twenty years. A member of 3 Chairs and and owner of KDJ Records, his “Dem Young Sconies” was chosen by NPR as one of the 10 tracks that define the Detroit techno sound. While his voice also lead way to one of the most infectious house tracks of 2011/2012, Oliver $’s “Doin’ Ya Thang”, it’s his energetic DJ sets that have kept him at the forefront of dance until this day.
Few can rock a 909 like Mr. G. Well…maybe Jeff Mills, but Mr. G does it with an elevated sense of enthusiasm. His Boiler Room is proof of this. But skills with a drum machine aside, Mr. G has had a long and prosperous career with a plethora of well received releases and a legacy that will not be forgotten. In an extensive interview with Resident Advisor, Mr. G reveals his vast knowledge of gear as well as the essential elements of emotion when it comes to his music. In short, the man is about as honest and authentic as it gets.
Contrary to what the name may suggest, Octave One is not one, but several artists. Brothers Lenny and Lawrence Burden form the core of the group together with revolving members Lynell, Lorne, and Lance Burden. The group entered Detroit’s ripe techno scene in 1990 and haven’t looked back since, delivering iconic live performances in dozens of cities and festivals across the US, Europe, Japan and as far as Australia. Their live set at Movement Detroit last year remains a crowd favorite and testament to the timelessness of their techno sound.
An unfortunate shooting accident years ago has subdued Paul Johnson to a wheelchair, but in no way has that limited his ability to deliver top notch house and techno to the masses. Be in smooth house jams or straight up techno at 135 beats per minute, Paul Johnson puts his signature stamp on all his music, with his productions being a necessity in all DJ’s playlists. Embodying everything that is right about dance music, Paul Johnson will go down in the books as one of the great producers of our time.
In addition to being heavily involved with M-Plant Records, Robert Hood has made serious strides in the techno community since the beginning of his career. With a knack for delivering quality hypnotic and driving techno, he has the vast knowledge and expertise to take crowds on serious sonic rides. That said, he is known to drop a hip-hop set every now and then, further exemplifying his range and musical creativity.
Extraordinary producer, DJ, and record label owner, Ron Trent is a master of his craft. Throughout his musical endeavors he’s worked extensively with artists like Chez Damier, and more recently began working on the AIRA Series on Rawax – a string of releases centered around the new Roland equipment. Since 1990 Ron Trent has been at the top of his game, and in 2016 he still appears to be as talented as ever.
Roy Davis Jr.
Davis grew up in Chicago and was influenced by the likes of Lil’ Louis, DJ Pierre and Farley Jackmaster Funk. A true music producer, he has achieved charting success with singled such as “Gabriel,” “About Love” and “Who Dares To Believe In Me.” His resume includes work for Daft Punk’s label Roulè and productions for Mary J. Blige, Seal and Morcheeba just to name a few. Nearly thirty years after his industry start, Davis remains a popular touring DJ with gigs at fabric, Spybar Chicago, The Warehouse Project and Berghain/Panorama Bar in 2015 just to name a few.
There’s not much to say about Troxler that hasn’t been mentioned already. Eccentric, outspoken and immensely talented, his production record includes releases on some of the world’s most iconic and recognized labels including Crosstown Rebels, M_nus, Leftroom and Get Physical. As a previous member of Visionquest (with Ryan Crosson, Shaun Reeves and Lee Curtiss), the former RA Number 1 DJ established “Need I Say More“, Movement’s most anticipated after-hours, and facilitated the release of countless quality tracks by other producers. Since, he joined forces with The Martinez Brothers and founded a vinyl-only label of cultural heritage named Tuskegee while continuing to champion the role of underground house and techno within the world of dance. In a world with many faces, Seth’s stands out due to a penchant for truth, quality music and a deep passion for his craft.
Seven Davis Jr.
Texas born but California raised, Seven Davis Jr. found house music as a gospel vocalist and passionate jazz listener. Signed to Ninja Tune, he released his first album “Universes” this past year to a great reception and has recently added collaborations with Four Tet, Julio Bashmore and Hot Chip. This past fall he made his Essential Mix debut alongside Ninja Tune founders Cold Cut, in celebration of the label’s 25 Year Anniversary. As of writing, the world of house music is awaiting Davis’ second album, currently in the works.
A true innovator from Detroit’s second wave of techno, Pullen has remained the forefront of his music career for the past thirty-five years thanks to a mix of passion, love and one-of-a-kind talent. Originally a protégé of the Belleville Three, Pullen has gone on to start his own label “Black Flag Recordings“and influence a flurry of other artists since. His heavy touring schedule continued in 2015, bringing him to every major hotspot of techno in the world and beyond including a residency at Marco Carola’s infamous Music On party series in Ibiza.
Sterac aka Steve Rachmad
Widely considered one of Amsterdam’s dance music pioneers, Rachmad’s abilities as a producer, remixer and DJ have seen him release work both under his own name and as Sterac, an alter-ego that dives into the depth of darker, deeper techno. His production work has seen him earn praise by Ricardo Villalobos, Joris Voorn, Adam Beyer and Ben Klock, while his high-energy performances saw Rachmad leave his home in Holland for gigs in at Movement Detroit, Tresor Berlin, Berghain/Panorama Bar and Output amongst many others.
Theo Parrish was born in Washington D.C., but raised in Chicago where his passion for music was first ignited. His DJ career began at the early age of thirteen, when he began spinning tracks and producing music before finally enrolling and graduating from the Academy for the Arts and Kansas City Art Institute. In 1994 Theo moved to Detroit and the rest his history – he was an integral part of 3 Chairs and became known for his extensive range of productions, re-edits and genre-hopping DJ sets, often landing him in the Top 100 Resident Advisor poll with good reason. His reputation as a top-notch artist has kept him touring through the years, with gigs in Italy, France, Japan, Holland and as far as Australia all in 2015.
As it happened with many influential DJs of the 80s, Terry‘s popularity abroad took him to playing heavily in England and Europe as early as 1988, where he was arguably better known than back at home in Brooklyn. An excellent producer in his own right, Terry’s early working is considered a milestone in the development of progressive and modern deep house, earning him a Grammy Award nomination. Todd’s latest record label venture, Inhouse Sessions, has released work by Kenny Dope, Louie Vega and Sound Design and recently announced the launch of a brand new radio show.