Last week DJ Boi Jeanius competed with some of the top DJs in our region and won the Red Bull Thre3style USA Midwest qualifier held in his hometown of Chicago. Red Bull describes “The Thre3style pits the world’s best DJs in a competition that values technical skill as much as the ability to thrill a dancefloor.” It’s a selective and intense competition, DJ’s are chosen to compete by a panel of experts including DJ Jazzy Jeff, Four Color Zack, DJ Hedspin, Scratch Bastid and Z-Trip. Boi Jeanius advances to the USA Championship in Phoenix, AZ. where 12 of the country’s best compete and the winner goes on to represent the USA in the 2015 Red Bull Thre3style World DJ Championship in Tokyo, Japan.
When Boi Jeanius was just 18 he landed a spot on the # 1 Dance station, 103.5 Kiss FM, as the youngest Live Radio DJ in Chicago’s history. He has also has been featured on 107.5 WGCI and 95.5 La Mega and was named Latin Mixx’s “Best Mid-West DJ.” Boi Jeanius is known for his battle background and has nightclub residencies all across the country. Recognized by Nike, Red Bull, Skullcandy, Mountain Dew and Native Instruments, Boi Jeanius continues to rise as a top DJ worldwide.
He currently teaches at Scratch DJ Academy in Chicago. Scratch was founded in 2002 by Jam Master Jay of Run DMC and CEO Rob Principe. It is an amazing place and Jeanius’ work there is one of the reasons I originally had questions for him. I attended their first open house and believe my son was one the Academy’s first students. Studying at Scratch enables the student to learn from working DJs that are killing it such as Boi Jeanius, DJ Zebo, ToadStyle, Big Once and more. Scratch is a tight community and the teachers are generous and committed and can save the aspiring DJ tons of time and help them to avoid some of the tricky situations that await. Stay posted to 1833 as we have mixes coming from Scratch Academy’s excellent DJs.
Listen to Boi Jeanius’ winning set here.
What was it like at the Concord Music Hall on February 5 when you competed in the 3Style regional qualifier?
It was nerve racking. Being in the green room with the rest of the competition and discussing how we each had prepared for our sets left me really anxious to get on stage and get it over with. I don’t really remember much about my performance because it felt like I kind of just blacked out and did it. I remember selecting the order we were set to perform, then the next thing I knew I was on stage setting up. It was very surreal. I was stressing about the first 2 minutes of my set cause it was pretty complex. I knew if I got through that, I would be ok. My goal was to just hit my set that I’d practiced and hope I didn’t lose focus. I looked up and I was 4 minutes in. I couldn’t believe it. It was such a blur! I looked up at the crowd and at that point, I’d found my element. After the event, I had so many mixed emotions. I was very excited to win but upset that we all couldn’t move on. We ALL put on for Chicago. I was just really happy to be selected for the event. I feel we changed how people saw and heard how DJs will DJ from now in Chicago and reintroduce what “The Art of DJing” really is. The love was overwhelming. There is a lot of pressure when it comes to being chosen to represent Chicago in the US finals, that’s huge! It’s happened twice before (Big Once and Trentino) and I’m really proud to put the city on my back in Phoenix.
How are you preparing for Phoenix?
I had to take a break and get away for a little bit. Preparation for the Chicago regional was extensive and really took a lot out of me. I’m going to let my brain recharge. What I learned is to practice patience and let it come to me. I listen to a lot of music on the regular and as of late the first thing i do is dissect the song and try to figure out a way of how to flip it. It’s almost too much fun. It takes over your every day, I’m going to prepare by letting this first win blow over and slowly fade away into the dark again until Phoenix.
Classes at Scratch Academy could seem expensive to those on a tight budget. The teachers do give way more to the students than the 2 hour class a week. Why would you say Scratch is a good investment?
Before it becomes a “career” or a “passion” I think it begins with an itch you have to scratch if you love music. The basic concept of DJing is not difficult at all. If I can persuade anyone who is interested in DJing to come to the Scratch Academy and be taught how to create, practice, and perform the art form that is DJing, I would say make the investment. Here at the Scratch Academy in Chicago, I can proudly speak for myself and the rest of the instructors on our team and say that we really love and enjoy the craft. Going above and beyond is part of US! Our work isn’t done until your are satisfied. Our mandate is to spread the interest and knowledge of REAL DJING! There is never an end to learning so why not learn from the best!
Are there any things that you have learned as a result of teaching at Scratch?
I learned committing to others and being approachable. I’ve been alone as far as me pushing my career. I had some help along the way with some friends and managers that I’ve had (Angie Rodriguez aka @onlyang) but it hasn’t been easy sharing this love of the art form with others. I used to keep this really close to my chest because I felt that no one could really appreciate a real DJ’s craft. Opening up to my students and shedding light on a subject they don’t really know exists is a weight off of my shoulders. Watching their world change when they land their first beat match is a high I could never match by DJing alone. I learned that teaching is something I really love and enjoy doing. It’s something I feel, especially now a days, NEEDS to be brought to attention. I learned that I have a voice and it echoes with each one of my students.
How do you define a good DJ? There’s so much more to it than I understood before being exposed to Scratch?
I define a good DJ by judging their song selection and song placement. I believe a good DJ doesn’t have to know how to MIX, I think they should have a strong understanding of music and its energy in combination with knowing when and where to play certain songs at a gig. Playing a song at 11:30 PM as opposed to playing that same song at 1:30 AM provides different energy levels that could either make or break your performance that night. Timing is key even when you aren’t mixing.
How did you learn to DJ? Who was your inspiration?
My brother was definitely my biggest influence. His music taste was very interesting to me. Growing up, he listened to everything from Selena to Etta James – Jay-Z to Cajmere. It didn’t matter to me if it was the hottest song out, all i knew was my brother was listening to it and that was cool enough for me. He was always listening to dope music. The songs that we heard on the radio back then… It wasn’t so easy to get your hands on music. He always did. I thought that was so dope how we always had the latest songs on demand. We would take trips on the bus to a Sam Goodie or Tower Records to get music. I always saw the records there. He always was on point with his selection. I remember us trying to line up a song that was playing on the radio with one of our cassette tapes. We thought it was the coolest thing! I remember being around 11 or 12 when we would ride in the car and the Lunch Mix on B96 was on. My brother always knew which song was coming on next. I was kind of amazed. I asked him how he knew what song was about to begin playing. His response was always simply: “I just do!…You hear the next song in the background, that’s how I know”. I would watch Spring Break on MTV with all the people dancing on a beach. I would watch for the girls in the bikinis and the performances. One Day I saw “DJ SKRIBBLE” and saw that he was doing what I heard on the radio, live on the TV. He was mixing the music together. He was on the microphone and controlling the crowd. I thought that was the coolest thing ever. I never really knew much about DJing… It was mysterious to me. You kinda had to search for it. That alone was interesting to me. It was really rare for me to catch Live DJing if it wasn’t on MTV so my attention shifted from girls in bikinis to who was DJing and how they were doing it.
Can anyone be taught to DJ to a level acceptable for say playing a house party?
I believe so. If you take an understanding to some basic DJing and song selection, that is all you really need to rock any party.
What talent do you think some of the best DJs share? Rhythm, musical taste?
An ear for music, eye for opportunities, confidence and discipline. Taking yourself seriously is very important. If you carry yourself as such, there is no denying your approach to a potential client. Having the preparation/practice to back that up is also a reflection of your discipline. A lot goes into just organization of music and having the energy to practice. Your preparation takes dedication. Understanding your craft and having respect for the art form is definitely something I believe we can all agree on.
I’m amazed at all the music a DJ knows. How do you stay so informed? Any key sources for new music?
This is the fun in my DJing now. I love finding new producers, artists, remixes, or tracks that are archived and possibly bring back to life surrounding it by current music. It never ends! You can’t let the music that you don’t like discourage you from finding GOOD in the pile. You NOW have an unlimited amount of resources to find music. It’s a shame to not utilize the tools provided. DJ City is my main site when it comes to mainstream music. They are always on top of it and have relationships with trusted industry DJs to provide feedback. It really brings a unique take to “Digging” almost makes it easy for the DJs using the service to trust DJ City to always provide them with quality. I embrace technology all the way, but I still prefer going straight to the source and ask people directly what they like and see what they say. You have to listen to the people
Do you produce? Is producing necessary these days?
I used to and still do on occasion. Not to be an ARTIST but to incorporate it into my live DJ sets. I’ve released some of these remixes but I like to keep them close to me, because if anything else, I can still play my versions of these songs. I actually can’t sit in front of a computer and try to be creative or to stay relevant. It feels forced to me. When I produce, the most important thing is workflow. If I can’t even get started then I really don’t have the attention span to keep moving forward, so I always just go back to DJing. In today’s age, there is no way around it. It’s definitely a priority!! In the words of DJ Klever “It’s no longer a DJ’s game… It is a producer’s game”. I feel like nowadays, the art of DJing is no longer appreciated by the mainstream. There is a whole underground of REAL DJs Doing REAL DJING but it is unfortunate that this very skilled group of DJs don’t get the shine like they should. So the other way to get your demographic’s attention or keep their attention is to produce, but just like DJing, not everyone is good at it. It’s an often held misconception that all DJs are producers or know how to produce. The DJs that crossed over into a producer’s world, I salute you. I eventually want to make production my main cause, I don’t plan on DJing for the rest of my career.
Can you describe an ideal gig or perfect night DJing?
My ideal gig would be 2 turntables, a mixer and all of my records on a rooftop in Chicago. The setting would create the perfect gig cause i know exactly what i can and need to do to have a successful night. Using real vinyl would limit the party a bit but good music is never old. The atmosphere is the most important in order for all of the extra pieces to fall into place. Sigh… I’ve yet to encounter that party, but if there are any promoters interested in paying me to bring out my records and some homies, it would definitely be worth the dent in your wallet.
When you play clubs, how planned are your sets?
I’ve learned over the years not to come into a club with anything planned. I have the basic generalization of a party before I go in but every party is different. I really enjoy reading a crowd to see who’s actually in the room. That’s the only real way to get a feel for what I’m going to play. Weekly parties share the same idea. You might already know your crowd, but again, different people are there, or the same people are there and you can’t really play the same songs you played the week before. Having planned sets are more for showcasing in my opinion. I try to stay away from any routines when I play live. There is no fun in that.
Can you name a couple favorite DJs?
I have a lot of favorite DJ’s for different reasons. Might be their style of play, or DJ background. I like a lot of DJs for their flow behind turntables. There are few that I would trust and enjoy at a party tho. Tough Question. There are too many to name. My top 5 would go like this:
Jazzy Jeff (Philadelphia)
Timbuck 2 (Chicago)
A-trak (New York)
Phillip Ferrari (New York)
How often do you get sick of songs as a radio DJ and how do you deal with it?
Very often, but it is a job, It’s really not all its cracked up to be. The position is definitely powerful and you get handed new music all the time but, 90% of the new music you receive is trash or cannot be played because it’s too new, or doesn’t fit a radio format. The songs that do make a playlist are either burned out already or again, are trash. I have to remove myself from the equation and just remember that people live a normal life and are not listening to these songs everyday or playing them every night. I keep it fresh by finding really good remixes or creating a remix so that I’m not restricted to the “Radio edit” only. When I do that, I also create a platform for a possible unknown producer that might be looking to shoot for radio or clubs. I find a lot of gems on Soundcloud and get a lot of really good content from the DJ community that I’m involved in.
Any new favorite tracks?
I’m not really feeling the new wave of music out right now. I feel like there is no originality in any of the music that is in the mainstream. There is a lot of good and a lot of bad. It’s become a struggle to find something new worth playing though. The hilarious part of this whole question is that I’m trying to include a lot of Young Thug and BEATKING (Houston) in my sets no matter what the occasion, simply because its fun and I like to have fun when I’m playing out. I’m more interested in the underground scene, especially in Chicago. G-Scott from Gary is a promising MC with a story to tell along with his entire 3B ENT camp. Saba & Pivot Gang are new to my Playlist but I’ve been listening to him for a while now. Treated Crew has a large group of really talented artists that I listen to and play out live. Chicago’s Scene has grown in the last 2 years. I think they finally understand that you have to play the game to get in, then start building your brand and utilizing all of the resources provided for you once you’re in. I’m backing anyone that has a plan and quality music that fits a structure so that it’s easy for me to present to other DJs.
What advice to DJs early in their career?
DON’T DO IT! just kidding… A thorough understanding of song structure AND your music library is the absolute key to anyone that is interested in DJing to have a successful career. There is a way to get started, and having the basics down is very important. In other professions you might get away with skimming through the small print, but getting behind a set and in front of a crowd will let you know really quick that DJing is more than pressing a few buttons. Be a student and learn as much as you can. DJing is applied learning, so practice as much as you can. Keep if fresh, and be original!!
Anything you’d like to promote?
Just quality. Know when you see my name, it represents quality.
Be on the look out for my artist: G-Scott (@gscottking) and Isaac Levario @isthatisaac88! We Represent the 3B ENT camp and my Treated Crew Fam (@TreatedCrew) have a lot in the works.