DJ WXXDS arrived on the scene in 2016, first as a producer of friends’ rap albums. He was right on the cusp of what he describes as the “golden days of the world in D.C., just before the pandemic” — between 2017 and 2020. DJ WXXDS describes producing music his whole life, a skill he evolved during his time in the District.
His love for music production quickly transformed into a craving for more artistic autonomy, inspiring him to lean into layering his own beats with the vocals of more seasoned lyricists. DJ WXXDS became a mainstay at Mt. Pleasant and Adams Morgan house parties, including at the Cheshire, an underground back-alley event and creative space.
These days, DJ WXXDS is a web developer and software engineer by day and can often be found spinning on the top floor of Selina Union Market as its resident DJ. District Fray caught up with him to take a deep dive into the creative process behind the often misunderstood art of playlist design and the influence of his yoga practice on how he now chooses to build community.
District Fray: What’s the first step in your creative process when building a playlist?
DJ WXXDS: Every demographic is different. When somebody books an event, I’m looking at all the tangibles and what they’re telling me about the event. [With] DJing, every moment I have with people, I want them to move around and smile and be happy. Every time I press a new button, I’m looking for instant gratification. Did they like this? Are the people looking happy? If I was a comedian looking at the crowd, [I’d ask] “Did they laugh?”
How do you adapt to the fluctuating vibe of an environment in real time?
I keep a base of 30 to 40 song I know people will love. [Though], because it’s a more information and technology [heavy] era, I can hook up to an online database like TIDAL. Once I get a sense of the crowd, I can pick songs in relation to [what] made them happy. For example, at the end of the evening I know people are winding down and they just want to hear chill shit, so I throw on some R&B. If the song worked, [I play the] next R&B song. If the song didn’t work, then we’re going back up and playing some trap [music] or something else to get a reaction.
How often do you lean on filler songs until you can recalibrate the vibe in the room?
I do that all the time. A song is about three to four minutes — you got [that amount of time] to assess the crowd. Are they having fun? If not, you go somewhere else. And that affects the flow of the party; I’m a crowd pleaser, but most D.J.’s come with an entire set ready. They don’t think about what the crowd wants to hear. And most times that works out. But at a place like Selena that doesn’t really work. Fifteen people could walk in who are not the demographic you made the music for. And then you [wonder] “Why is nobody dancing?” Well, you picked a whole set before you knew who the f*** was gonna be there.
What informs the way you think about constructing a playlist?
I’m actually a web developer and software engineer. That’s what I do for my day job. It relates to the technical part [of DJing]; when you’re programming software, everything is basically a loop and an array of information. When you’re DJing, you’re looping tracks and figuring out algorithms to make people dance.
What advice do you have for someone interested in learning how to build better playlists?
I would tell a person to ask your friends what music they like, then start your research and development based on what they tell you. That’s how you curate.
What DJs inspire you?
There’s this guy who’s based out of Europe called Mike Nady. I’ve been to two of his parties. Every time I was blown away by the layers of genres. He’ll start off the night with basic hip hop. The next hour, [he’ll transition to] house music and make people dance. The next hour, [he’ll afrobeat and drum and bass. As far as right now in the DMV – TrillaKay. She knows how to control the crowd and that’s what it’s all about.
DJing is clearly an art form. Would you agree?
It’s definitely an art. [There’s] some technical things you got to get into before you call yourself a DJ. You gotta learn how to loop. You gotta learn how to read a crowd. You gotta learn what to do if you f*** up during your set — that’s important. It’s artistry and it’s music, but you shouldn’t [DJ] if you’ve never learned the technical stuff; otherwise, you will just be creating low vibrations.
I know you’re a yogi. How does that inform your DJing?
The old me would have gone to a part to get people to come to my parties, but the new me, the more mature me, goes to yoga to get people come to my parties. The vibration of the parties is happy people there. The people are not coming to look for somebody to have sex with or get f***ed up. They’re here to dance, have a drink and [enjoy] a good time. I’m very conscious of the influence of music when it hits the air and what it can do to you. If you do yoga, you’re doing it because you want to heal ailments, relieve stress or just move your body.
Follow DJ WXXDS on Instagram @wxxds.x
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