Friday, September 7, 2012
[Hiphople] "Spotlight" - DJ Dopsh (Part I)
How many artists are there that release an album as a DJ in the Korean hip hop scene? If you count, it’ll all be under five fingers, at most ten. This proves how much DJs in the Korean hip hop scene aren’t valued as artists and with generations passing, this is becoming even more of a critical issue. And just recently, young DJ - DJ Dopsh - released his turntabelism album through Grandline Entertainment. In the interview we had with him, he didn’t dream of there being a revival of the DJ scene, but for him to have the public gain more interest in DJs. We raise the question if DJ Dopsh and the album he released - ‘Dope N Fresh’ - will garner the attention of the listeners. A bright and confident DJ, let’s hear DJ Dopsh’s story.
LE: Nice to meet you. We ask that you introduce yourself first to readers of Hiphop LE.
DJ Dopsh: Hello, my name is DJ Dopsh and I recently signed with Grandline Entertainment. I was formerly a member of Soul Company and I recently released an EP album titled ‘Dope N Fresh’...yes, I’m just a person like that of sort.
LE: Is there a meaning behind the name DJ Dopsh?
In my life, I have two teachers. It’s kind of awkward to classify them as teachers when I learn from them each month but any who, I have an older brother who goes by DJ Wegun and also a teacher who goes by DJ SQ from Vitality. I learned deejaying from the two of them and the two actually have very different styles - they’re the highest you can find in terms of quality. For SQ hyung, his style is kind of sticky should I say? His scratches are easy going while Wegun hyung on the other hand has very clean scratches that drop right on the beat. While SQ hyung’s style is Dope, Wegun hyung’s is more Fresh. This is why my album is titled ‘Dope N Fresh’ and I wanted to express my respect to the two, so I combined Dope and Fresh together. That’s also how I came about in using the name Dopsh. If you look at it in perspective, you can say the name portrays the style that I’m aiming for. In combining the two styles, it embarks me becoming better than the two hyungs... it’s that kind of meaning.
LE: I see. Should we go back to the very beginning then? How did you start music?
Originally there were deejaying lessons in Soul Company and I had went to receive lessons. I learned from Wegun hyung first and before I went there to receive those lessons, I listened to a track that Wegun hyung participated in. The track was called ‘Coasal’ from Loptimist hyung and while listening to it, I thought, “Ah, it would be cool if I did deejaying” and right then, I had the opportunity to receive lessons so I learned.
LE: Then how old were you when you learned?
It was when I was 20, so 2009?
LE: After learning from DJ Wegun first, when did you start learning from DJ SQ?
As soon as lessons were over. The lessons were exactly 2 weeks long and SQ hyung's house was near ours. Wegun hyung told me, "Learn from somewhere near home. It's probably annoying to come all the way over here anyway," which resulted me learning from SQ hyung.
LE: But can deejaying be learned from solely lessons? It would seem that learning would take extremely long...
I learned later when I joined Soul Company that the lessons weren't profiting and they quit after a month. They also did rap lessons at the time separately but due to not enough participation, they quit that as well.
LE: When you look at the lyrics for “Dopshit Remix” by Jerry.K, it mentions how you were from LA. I assumed that you learned deejaying from LA and came to Korea, but was it the other way around where you learned deejaying from Korea and went over to LA, yes?
Yes. I went to Daewon Foreign High School and I was in the study abroad class. Without any of my consent, I had no choice but to study abroad and I ended up studying at a school called USC located in LA; I learned deejaying before I went to study abroad there. I learned the basis (of deejaying) enough to teach myself and left Korea, so I’ve pretty much practiced by myself during my time there.
LE: Aside from deejaying, when did you cross paths in listening to hip hop then?
I, along with the peers of my generation, started similarly by listening to Epik High’s second album, ‘High Society.’ After listening to that album, I along with Ugly Duck and Lil Boi were all in same position where we all started from listening to that album. When I first came across the album, I had thoughts like, “Ah, this is really fascinating” and “This is really fun music.” At the time then, Soribada had songs up for free so I started listening by finding music from there.
LE: In Korea, hip hop is heavily influenced by the music that emcees lead. There are a lot of people who will say they will pursue as an emcee when claiming to go into hip hop, so why did you, DJ Dopsh, choose to DJ over the paths of becoming an emcee or a producer?
At first, I wanted to rap too because it was the most straightforward path that didn’t cost any money and was the easiest for someone with a student occupation. For a DJ, the money you would need to purchase standard equipment is 500,000 won (roughly $442 USD) to 1,000,000 won (roughly $884USD). In considering these factors, you have no leisure financially and so I did rap at first, but I didn’t have much talent. I like writing but I lack a lot talent-wise in rapping itself. But ever since I was younger, I liked touching machinery and I heard a lot from people that I had a good rhythm sense. With the combination of these two factors, I thought that deejaying was meant for me and I decided to learn after laying down a conclusion.
LE: Then did you not have any troubles purchasing your equipment at first?
I received it as a graduation gift from my mom. Instead of receiving money from my mom and going to clubs to get girls like other kids, she thought that I’d stay home if she bought it for me and that I’d eat at home more often. I convinced her slowly in talking to her about it..she said to me, “Okay” eventually...
LE: Did you receive the full set as a gift?
No, I just received one turntable and a mixer, the very basic and cheapest one. I started with that.
LE: What do you think is the basic charm to deejaying as a DJ?
Uh...what charm is there. I think the charm itself is doing it because it’s fun...the charm of being a DJ is that you stand on stage continuously. While emcees leave the stage after about 15 minutes of performing, you can see a DJ’s performance continuously. You can see at which parts the crowd responds and I can help with leading the crowd to cheer, whether it’s with dropping a beat or creating an impact and adding scratches in between to hype the crowd up. It’s weird to not drop a beat when someone says, “Say Ho~” and that’s where I come in, and it's what I do. I gain slight exhilaration from things like that. There’s that and...I think the sound of a scratch alone is unique. The fact that I can make these sounds with my hands that a producer can’t - that’s a charm as well.
LE: DJ Wegun must have been the first DJ you came across. Is there a DJ you respect then?
From international DJs, there’s a DJ named DJ Q-Bert. He’s the person who pretty much made the skills we use today. There’s him, but the person I choose as my role model is a DJ called A-Trak. He’s the backup DJ for artist Kanye West and he won the world champions at the age of 14 in a competition called DMC, a widely known competition in the DJ world. But now, he turns every song with just a turntable. He can do it all: electronica, funk, old school, and some trendy hip hop of today. I want to become like him and I respect him the most. In Korea, I respect Wegun hyung the most.
LE: Have you ever participated in a competition with other DJs?
No, I don’t find any meaning to them. What I don’t find meaning from it is that there’s not a lot of ways a DJ can appeal in a battle in Korea. This applies internationally as well. The competition DMC itself is dead. Not a lot of people go see it and it’s not exciting. Showing a 6-minute routine there takes 1 year in terms of planning it out and in the suffering one does during that year-long time, I believe that it’s better to prepare an awesome album and make a name for yourself. Rather than having a video clip of yourself as a memory, having an album is better. You can have a larger audience that will listen to you (through an album) and have more ways to appeal yourself in saying, “I’m this kind of a person.” That’s why I honestly think that even if you look at a DJ battle in an international perspective, I don’t find much meaning to it and narrowing it to a perspective in focusing it to a Korean audience, it’s even more meaningless. This is why I’m very skeptical about DJ battles.
LE: But as a DJ, don’t you think that you might want to do it at least once?
That’s why I did a diss on it in a song form with that motive. But...of course. If I did go out into a battle, I don’t plan on losing. I don’t think I’ll lose or be insufficient than others where I go, but I don’t plan on investing my time and youth to doing solely just that.
LE: What brand of equipment are you using currently?
For my turntable, I’m currently using a brand called Technics, a very basic one. For the mixer, I use a brand called Rane and the model I use is the 62 Mixer which came out last April that I purchased and am using today.
LE: This is my personal thought but I feel that DJs have a larger spectrum and variety in their knowledge of music than artists do. You can say that it’s almost a given for them to know since it’s their focus. Have you focused on a specific part to broaden your music spectrum?
I have. The reason is because as I mentioned before, A-Trak can turn any song and it’s because he uses a turntable to do so that makes it awesome. Normally others use CDJs but he uses the skills that only a turntablist can use with a turntable which makes it so awesome. In wanting to be able to do that, I’ve found all sorts of genres in music and listened to them. I listen to everything open-mindedly. The reason for this is because although I didn’t show much of a producing aspect with the album I just released, I want to be able to do so with the next album released. You can look at it like me collecting samples as I listen to different genres in music. Whether it’s classic, funk, country, or Korean folk, I look for everything and listen to them. It’s like taking and collecting samples to broaden my music library.
LE: We’ve talked about a lot of things but what do you think is the most important and ultimate virtue to being a DJ?
I see it as exactly two things. First is skill. There’s skills in scratching as well as mixing. Especially in mixing, you have to mix all skills for juggling scratches and beats in being able to present it in an awesome way - I find that that’s the ultimate factor. Secondly is the music library a DJ knows and has. Knowing a certain song and how vast your music load is, I find it the second most important factor. Because I’m still on the younger end, I do lean more towards the skills side but seeing the path that Wegun hyung walked down, I do have the inclination to lean more towards the (music) library end in fulfilling that portion more. The reason is because with a music library, it’s not something I’ll do for a year or two. With skills, someone will eventually catch up to me and I’ll be caught but a library can’t be caught up to. It expands through how much you look for music and how much you listen to it. I think looking at it in perspective, it’ll be an even more important factor later on...
LE: I think personally that trying to expand your music library will be stressful. I myself being born in the 90s, I come across the music from my hyungs and people older than me, so listening to all of the music from their generation at once, I find that part stressful. I’ve even thought to myself before, “Ah, there’s so much to listen to.” Have you ever received this kind of stress?
I receive it as well. I find that a definite fact. However rather than thinking of it as stress, I think of it as motivation. For example, a song plays at the Brand New Bar in Hongdae and I don’t know it. Then it becomes a new song that I come to know. Through chances like that, I’m able to turn good songs and rather than thinking of it as stress, I’ll think, “There were this many songs I didn’t know about?” and “Ah, then this means that my mix set will be even better with this new addition?” In approaching the subject optimistically, you’ll be able to improve.
LE: That’s true per say but I still find it stressful.
At first, it was stressful for me as well. I started with scratching and I’ve truly done mixing for only a year. I realized that not having a music library was very stressful and at first, it was annoying. “Ah, how do I go about this,” I thought to myself and I eventually decided to set a goal. I decided to listen to a minimum of 10-15 albums per week. Whether it’s new or old music, I found a way to listen to at least that much and since then, I’ve grown to know songs people didn’t know of before. And if it’s a case where I didn’t know a song but someone else did, we can listen to it together. Also, there are times where I know more than the other person. That’s how I eased my stress.
I'll split this interview into 4-5 parts...