Amir Interview: Too many DJs don’t want to take the crowd on a musical journey

Read our interview with legendary crate digging DJ Amir before he touches down at 2022NQ in Manchester on Saturday 2nd November.

Jimmy Coultas

Date published: 28th Oct 2013

Being a DJ these days is a lot different to the way it used to be. Long before CDs and MP3s it was all about dusty vinyl, predating a time when the internet ensured a plethora of identikit DJs mining the same source material and abandoning the true craft of educating and informing your audiences.

One DJ who stands true to these old school values is Amir, one half of legendary crate-digging production duo Kon & Amir. Steeped thoroughly in the hip-hop principles of using DJ skill and knowledge as a means of maintaining the connection with the past, he’s a selector that goes beyond simply playing an obvious ensemble of records you’ve heard countless times before. His productions and compilations have evidenced this manifesto brilliantly, epitomised by the Off Track series with Kon (stream Vol 2: Queens on Spotify above).

Saturday 2nd November he will be bringing this turntable flair and finesse to Manchester, headlining a very special collaboration between Kat records, So Flute and No Fakin in 2022NQ. We caught up with him beforehand to talk the lack of quality in modern rappers, his passion for elongating the story of Strata Records and what to expect when he hits Manchester.

Hi Amir, thanks for speaking to us. You’re due to play Manchester shortly, is it your first time in the city? What can people expect from your DJ set?

Thank you very much for having me in your wonderful city! This is not the first time I have been to Manchester but the first time I have played there solo. What you can expect from dj set is a mix of disco, funk, funk, and a lil jazz.

Musically you’re renowned for going deep into the vaults. Do you feel your purpose as a DJ is to educate as well as entertain?

I definitely feel that it is a great part of my purpose to educate the masses on music and culture.  I think the audience expects you to go deep and educate them; at least in Europe and Japan but not so much in the States.  

When I have someone come up to me and say “what is that song… it is so dope” or whatever to that effect it is like having all the hard work of digging deep for good music and spending your rent money on records all worth it! Too many djs don’t want to take the crowd on a musical journey they just want to play the current hits.

What other DJs do you feel uphold this tradition and role? 

I feel am trying to uphold the tradition and role of a true dj but it is a challenging role! There are a lot of amazing DJs out there that I look up and admire that are just killing it. I am just trying to add on to the culture.

You’re also renowned for your crate digging, will you be spending time doing this when you’re in the UK? If so what hotspots will you be hitting up?

Well, while I am in the UK I will def be doing crate digging for sure. That would be like going to NYC and not trying some great pizzas! For me nowadays, I visit my friends in the UK who have amazing and uber rare collections to ‘dig’. I go through many private collections and do trades or buy.  

What is it you look for when searching out a break?

When I am looking for a break I look for a break that is more 30 seconds! I mean I want the whole song to be good; gone are the days where I buy records for 15 or 30 seconds breaks.

On the topic of re-presenting new music, how do you feel about the way in which the Strata back catalogue that you re-released and got behind last year was taken on? Is it something you’d like to continue doing in the future?

I feel how I have re-presented the strata catalog is keeping true to their mission and tradition. It has been very important for me to do that and tell their story correctly. The story of Strata is an amazing one and it needs to be presented to the world properly. It is a huge task because I run my label by myself but I love what I do and I don’t see me doing anything else.  So yes, I def want to keep doing this in the future for as long as I can.

What’s your current thoughts on the state of the hip-hop scene as a whole in 2013, and what emcees are you feeling? 

Wow, my thoughts on the current state of hip-hop as a whole in 2013 is that the original essence of it has been lost to commercialism - just like what happened to disco and jazz at some point. What I see now as far emcees is a joke. For the most part, people all rhyme the same; have the subject matter and same cadence. No originality anymore and it is sad.  

You know I was the VP of Fat Beats and I was there from 1997-2005. I worked many, many legends and up and coming great emcees so it is hard for me to see what is going on now as representative of I what consider good hip-hop. The only emcee I am kind of feeling right now is probably Kendrick Lamar.

And finally what else lies in the future for you?

What is in the future right now is working on a Strata documentary film. I really think the story of Strata needs to be told properly and on film.  So look out for that in the future.  Besides, that I hope to be in Europe more often and DJ more.

Like this? Try Preview: Yasiin Bey aka Mos Def @ Stylus, Leeds.

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