Arts & Entertainment, Music

Finding Inspiration in Other DJs


Lesson time 16:52 min

Questlove pays tribute to pioneer DJs and highlights their unique techniques.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Aba Shanti-I • The GOATS • Larry Levan


[MUSIC PLAYING] - There was a DJ that I saw in London that did the most magical, awe-inspiring set I've ever seen. And his number-one weapon was silence. And when I was like, yo, if you can make people have conniptions for what you're not playing, then either that's really good drugs or there's a science to what you're doing. And what I recognized early was his presentation was so unique, so what I took from him was his use of echo, his use of reverb, how he stressed certain words in a song. The thing was he was only using one turntable. - How you feeling, one and all? How you feeling? Let's give praises out to the Lord, God, . Today, the . [REGGAE PLAYING] QUESTLOVE: Even then that was mind blowing-- the fact that when the song ended and he would slowly-- first of all, his back was to the audience. His name is Aba Shanti-I. He's a dub DJ. He played like reggae songs. And he played these songs, and then when it was over, he'd just lift up the needle. And that's when people would explode because the music would be so loud, people would almost have like colonics on the spot. Like there was much bass, they would hold their stomachs. [REGGAE PLAYING] They looked like they were in pain, but they were in ecstasy. And as a first-time observer, I'm looking at my manager like, what's going on here? And he's like, I don't know, but we need to steal this trick. And he would just slowly take the record off the turntable. He'd walk over to his-- he'd have his record collection up, similar to this. Walk over to the record collection, and then you don't know what record he's about to play next. So then he pulls-- he'd let you see him pull the album out and he blows on it. And then he puts it on the turntable. And there's just like the suspense of what is he going to kill us with? Like he just had them in the palm of his hands. And then his EQs were on the side, so you saw him turn the bass down and the mids down, and kept the highs up. So then he would play the instrumental of the song, and you would just hear the tins. And all the while, he's doing some Patois in echo. And then he stops it abruptly. He turns up the mids, and the people are like, yes, yes! So now, it's loud. And mind you, we're in a church. We're not even in a nightclub. We're in a church. So already, this is like feeling sacrilegious I mean, now, anything goes this year, but this is back in 1994, where it's sort of like, wait, can we come inside the cathedral and have a DJ session? And you know, he's wearing these robes and everything. He's a shaman. That's what he looks like. And so he lets that play for about three minutes. And then when his arm does this, the audience knows what's about to happen next. He stops the music. And then he looks to his right, and he turns up all that bass. Now, mind you, everyone-- thousands of us-- inside a cathedral with these speakers as big as this record collection behind me, sur...

About the Instructor

Ahmir Thompson—better known as Questlove—is an iconic DJ, the drummer for The Roots, and the “coolest man on late-night,” but his first love is collecting and mixing music. Now the Grammy winner is sharing his passion with you. Explore DJ techniques, expand your musical vocabulary, and learn how to glide from genre to genre—including hip-hop, neo-soul, jazz, R&B, and more—to curate your own perfect playlist.

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The iconic DJ and Roots drummer Questlove teaches you how to be a better DJ, deepen your love of music, and make a perfect playlist.

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