Conventional hip hop logic holds that the DJ is enduring a long slow slide towards California Condor status. You could theoretically argue that things have gone downhill since Kool Herc essentially invented the genre. Serato has brought every amateur out of the Pioneer Speakers. Rappers can and do play live shows from CDs. Computer production means that everyone can make their own beats. And no one but Mac Miller really cares much about scratching. Point is: we can safely to say that guys like Eric B will never command top billing again. Yet if you’re paying attention, the DJ is nearly as important as it has ever been. They still break records, they nurture local scenes, they are dart-throwers and dot-connectors.
A good DJ is a curator, a preservationist of culture and a force prodding it to evolve. They can serve as traveling ambassadors for scenes at large, big-upping unknown talents and ensuring that no one forgets the legends. In the rap world, there are few breathing better than House Shoes, who has spent the last decade and a half digging up every last molecule of dirt in the D and exposing it to the light. A close friend of Dilla, he’s been instrumental in safeguarding his legacy from two-bit hucksters and Hamiltons, while tirelessly putting on for Detroit rap — which never fully gets the national attention it deserves.
Since re-locating to Los Angeles, Shoes has carved out his own path, hooking up with the vinyl monsters at Tres Records and rocking countless live sets and parties. He may be the best addition to LA this side of Ramon Session. On June 19, he drops his debut album, Let it Go, on Tres, featuring all-original productions, one of his more unsung skills. In honor of the record, he’s released a free retrospective compilation, The Makings Of, featuring bleak snuffed-oxygen instrumentals being asphyxiated by grimy Detroit rappers. If you like this sort of thing, you will very much like this sort of thing. Best accompanied with a blunt, an airhorn and a police siren.