Since the birth of hip-hop music in the late ’70s, the DJ has held the revered position of gauging what is hot musically. DJs with large enough listenership can dictate what songs will receive airplay on a daily basis, which has the potential to make or break an artist’s career.
Recognizing this, and the many other facets of the art form, has become a mission for Mike Zafiris and David “Click” Cox, founders of the Stylus Group, and the Toyota Yaris DJ Spinfest, the largest profile event celebrating the diverse range of disc jockeys in Canada, taking place at various venues across the city this weekend.
“(DJs) are the backbone and foundation which a lot of urban music is created on,” Cox says, “Hopefully, the awards will give DJs & Artists on all levels a sense of pride and fulfillment for the hard work they put forward.” Former DJs themselves, both Zafiris and Cox now enjoy careers in the music industry in different incarnations, all while retaining a love of the craft.
“We’ve seen some DJs get a lot more ‘shine’ after being nominated and/or winning,” Zafiris explains. “They were already superstars in their field. Our event just re-affirms that point.”
DJs from every major market in Canada are represented, each given their chance to shine at a number of events in the city including: The MUDJ Soundclash (where Toronto’s top hip-hop DJs duke it out on four turntables, attempting to outdo their competitor with their respective playlists); a keynote address from prominent New York DJ Green Lantern (who has blossomed from the clubs into other media ventures, such as TV and video games); and, at its apex, the now sold-out awards ceremony on Monday at the Capitol Event Theatre.
While some music critics dismiss awards shows as nothing but back-slapping rituals, the participants of this event are quick to argue otherwise.
“Sometimes you don’t realize what you have accomplished until you win something like this,” explains Sean Law, two-time winner and Toronto hip-hop staple. “It shows that people recognize the work you do and it makes your work that much harder (over) the years to come.”
DJ Lissa Monet, nominated in the best female DJ category, champions the need for the community to unite. “It gives us the chance to know each other better and maybe build and form strong alliances and event opportunities in the future.”