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DJ Whiz teaches fundamentals at Sophie’s Artist Lounge

Host Elaine Cha (left) receives instruction on how to perform a "scratch" from Darian Wigfall also known as DJ Whiz.
Miya Norfleet
St. Louis Public Radio
Host Elaine Cha, left, receives instruction on how to perform a "scratch" from Darian Wigfall, also known as DJ Whiz, at St. Louis Public Radio.

In 50 years, hip-hop has become one of the most popular music genres in the world.

At the beginning, however, hip-hop artists had to find their own way to audiences by way of block parties and club appearances. Despite the genre being blacklisted from popular radio and music cable stations, hip-hop grew and provided a soundtrack for political movement in Black communities across the nation. The recipe for the new music form was simple: two turntables for the disc jockey and a microphone for the emcee.

Being a disc jockey — or DJ — is not exclusive to hip-hop, but the way the vinyl records and turntables were utilized (or, as some claimed, “misused”) drew ire from contemporaries in the 1970s. Now, DJs are just as critical as the emcees on stage and are superstars in their own right.

St. Louis on the Air host Elaine Cha (also known as DJ Communitae) poses with Darian Wigfall (right) after a short DJing lesson.
Miya Norfleet
St. Louis Public Radio
" St. Louis on the Air" host Elaine Cha (also known as DJ Communitae) poses with Darian Wigfall after a short DJing lesson.

Today, technology makes it easier for professionals to move from gig to gig, but performing without vinyl takes away some fundamental sensory cues of the craft. That’s according to Darian Wigfall, who performs under the moniker DJ Whiz.

Wigfall told St. Louis on the Air that DJing requires more than just hearing. “DJing on vinyl — you [can] just feel it slide across the slip mat, and you can see the needle jerking back and forth, even though it's staying in the groove,” he said. “It's kind of magic to be able to do it with vinyl. I think it gives a person a better feel for what we do as DJs.”

Wigfall has DJed since he was in high school and by time he was in college, he was spinning records at parties every weekend. Along with performing at clubs across St. Louis, he now teaches private DJ classes in his home studio and at monthly workshops at Sophie’s Artist Lounge with DJ Chris Brown. The workshops are part of Kranzberg Art Foundation’s yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.

“We're going to teach all of the pieces of a turntable and a mixer, how they plug in together. … We'll also teach skills like blending and what we call ‘beating down the record,’ which is basically calculating the beats per minute of a record. Then you can blend using that technique. We’ll also teach a little bit of scratching.”

For more on DJ Whiz’s DJing workshops, and to hear host Elaine Cha try her hand at scratching, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast or Stitcher, or click the play button below.

DJ Whiz teaches DJ fundamentals at Sophie’s Artist Lounge

Related Event
What: Elemental: DJ workshops
When: Every last Wednesday of the month
Where: Sophie’s Artist Lounge, 3333 Washington Ave., St. Louis, MO 63103

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org

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Miya is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."