People, Places and Things: Chatting with DJ Spinna
Special to Informer | 2/16/2012, 1:43 p.m.
World renown DJ, Producer, Party Rocker, Record Junkie and "good dude", DJ Spinna (Vincent Williams) is one of the busiest and hardest working men in the music industry. His resume is as diverse as the people he's worked with. Some may know him for his crowd-rocking DJ sets in NYC, Europe, South Africa and Asia; production on projects for Eminem, J-Live and Sadat X; the remixes he's done for Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, George Michael and De La Soul; as well as his work with the Jigmasters and Polyrhythm Addicts. Others simply regard him as an important figure in the late 90's underground hip-hop scene.
This week, before his DJ set at U Street Music Hall's "Red Fridays" event, The Washington Informer caught up with the versatile music man for an interview in which he discussed several topics including his feelings on "celebrity" DJ's, the ever-changing music industry, Stevie Wonder, and what draws him to DC.
Washington Informer: You started deejaying at a young age; who or what inspired you when you first got started?
DJ Spinna: I've been playing my dad's records since the age of 3. By the time I was 11 years ago I was practicing with a pair of mixed matched turntables, one Pioneer that my uncle had and a Technics SL-B303. This was before the Technics 1200 came out. I was inspired mainly by local block party DJ's in Brooklyn and radio mix master DJ's including Tony Humphries, Shep Pettibone, Timmy Regisford, Larry Levan. When I first heard Grandmaster Flash's record "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel" in 1981 I was floored and knew that I had to pursue the DJ thing. That was the first DJ routine record ever recorded and he did it with three turntables.
WI: Has it always been two turntables and your SP 1200 or did you ever want to rock the mic?
DJ Spinna: I didn't own an SP 1200 drum machine until 1994 which was given to me by Todd Terry. Prior to that I would borrow or use the machines in the recording studios. However I did record vocals with my group Jigmastas before we actually started making records in 1996. I hated hearing myself in playback. But I think if I decided to rhyme again I would be pretty good. Sometimes I get the urge to write rhymes but my deejaying and studio time keeps me occupied enough.
WI: The music industry has changed a lot since the "Everybody Bounce" days. What do you miss the most?
DJ Spinna: I miss what people would call "real hip hop" being the norm in the mainstream. The industry is dominated by formulaic assembly line produced music that won't last for years to come, and the music sounds extra cheesy to me. There's no soul. I'm already noticing that records made from a certain era are now being celebrated by a younger generation who didn't get to experience it because they were too young. I'm not certain that records made in the last 10 years will have the same effect, unless of course it has substance. Kanye and Jay Z's "Otis" won a Grammy a few nights ago. I hope that is a sign that things will change. Sampling needs to come back.