11 Best American DJs: For All You Yanks Out There
Diplo performs at last year's Mad Decent Block Party in Chandler.
It seemed like only a few years ago that dance music had a slow, dying pulse in the American scene. Boy, how times have changed. Since 2011, dance music has gone gangbusters with an estimated net worth in the U.S. that’s well into the billions of dollars.
Someday, when our grandkids will read about massive festivals like Coachella, Burning Man and Electric Daisy Carnival (and all of their countless imitators across the country) the way we read and daydream about music events like Woodstock, it would be near impossible for them to ignore the tales of neon-filled bacchanals of face-numbing, mind-blowing dance music. Like it or not, EDM has made a huge impact on American culture.
Obviously, since dance music got a head start across the pond, European DJs and producers have maintained their place in the top of the talent hierarchy. That said, America has caught up to a large degree.
So who are the best right now? What a horrible opened-ended question to have to answer. But someone has to have the chutzpah to stand-up to the challenge. In light of the most American day of the year, here are 11 American DJs we think are pretty legit right now, in no particular order.
The Mad Decent mastermind is probably the most obvious person to put on this list, next to Skrillex (who won’t be on it). Diplo has not only produced countless solo hits, he’s done hundreds of successful remixes and produces for some pretty big names (Madonna anyone?). He’s half of Major Lazer, the mad pimp behind Mad Decent’s record label and touring block parties, a global ambassador for American dance music on his BBC Radio show, and has his hands in all kinds of business in the industry.
Up-and-comer Justin Martin has had a successful year so far, with his track “Party Patty - Function” featuring Ardalan played on a global scale and earning the attention of dance music gatekeepers like Annie Mac. Other tracks like “Princess” (also featuring Ardalan) and “Don’t Go” have achieved inclusion on playlists everywhere.
Bassnectar is famous for his trippy, bass-heavy and deep wobbles. While he’s been able to maintain relevancy in dance music for over five years now, which in dance music is considered to be a success. He dropped a new album in June called Into the Sun, which is fresh music with that refreshing rolling slam of classic Bassnectar melodies.
Los Angeles-based producer Valentino Khan’s summer anthem track “Deep Down Low” has been featured on nearly every podcast I’ve listened to and every show I’ve gone to since it dropped in the spring. His music style is a little all over the place, but it’s a fun listen. Only time will tell if Khan is a future classic or one-hot dance music wonder.
This influential electronica musician and producer is actually old as shit now, but is still making music — good music. Its deep, emotional and ambient, so definitely not your run-of-the mill party soundtrack. He actually told Pete Tong in an interview that he doesn’t even really make music for other people anymore, he just does it because he loves it. And that’s something we can get behind.
Character just released his EP, Ministry, this week, and for being such an unknown, he boasts big, original sounds. His music is artistic, without falling into a tedium. For example, the track “Hello” is faster-paced, has a sort of grimey, rolling bassline layered with harmonic melodies and flashes of vocals and sounds. While the track “Gastro” carries a much slower tempo and is decorated with floating, sparkling synths and orgasmic (literally) samples. His sound is futuristic and definitely someone to watch.
Although I’m a fan of Kaskade’s older music and some of his stuff can get a little preachy (“Disarm You,” “Room For Happiness”) the guy can really craft a hit. Representing the Mormons in the dance music community, Kaskade is expected to drop a fourth album this year (that already has Grammy buzz), he’s got a summer residency in Vegas along with a world tour.
Fast fact: Frankie Bones is credited for bringing rave culture to the United States. So for you dance music haters out there, if you’ve ever wanted someone to point your finger at, this is your guy. While he’s definitely an old-school DJ, he released a mix about a month ago that is banging. To be able to maintain an untouchable freshness after literally decades of changes really separates the pros from the wannabes.
One of the shining stars of San Francisco’s Dirty Bird Records, SoCal-based producer Claude VonStroke has been releasing new, catchy tunes and remixes – including “Make A Cake” and Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money” — that have been getting play time across the globe.
Marc Stout, also know as Mixin Marc, has been a big name in Chicago house for decades, playing at the Windy City’s biggest clubs and maintaining a show on influential radio station B96 for over a decade. He’s started releasing somewhat monthly “My House Is Your House” that are currently on their eighth installment (as of June) and are consistently banging and packed with new music.
Onetime Valley resident and Scottsdale club legend, Markus Schulz is another oldie but a goodie. He recently played Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas and is currently on a world tour. He released new music last month and is able to find that balance between maintaining relevancy to the newer crowds without completely losing his older sound.
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