“If everybody runs away, who sticks around to change it?” By “it” DJ E-Clyps means the dance music community. The house and techno culture isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. DJ E-Clyps is an artist giving the music business a dose of reality that it needs. With roots in hip-hop, the DJ and producer ventured into the world of electronic music thinking the grass was greener on the other side. However, he quickly realized the dance music community had its own set of challenges to overcome. He’s used his artistic platform to give voice to issues within the dance music community and is calling for others to swim against the current to help push underground culture forward.
“Let me get into some PLUR vibes. Where things are more peaceful. There’s no beef, nobody is getting beat up. Let me come to the more chill side of the track,” says DJ E-Clyps, or “Clyps” as his friends call him, when he recalls why he changed musical tracks. “[I got into it] and realized it was almost worse. In hip-hop, if there was confrontation it was dealt with directly. […] Dance culture, a lot of the same things happen but they’re never dealt with, never addressed fully.” 2020 was a year that brought a lot to the surface. From the deafening silence when it came to speaking up at a time when racial tensions were at their highest during the Black Lives Matter protests to the slew of sexual abuse cases from high profile artists, the dance music community is going through an uncomfortable yet necessary change, much like the rest of the world. DJ E-Clyps hasn’t been one to shy away from speaking his truth; however, he’s had to choose his battles.
“We know this is completely wrong but don’t say anything because ‘So-and-So’ is of high importance, or you can’t talk about this or they won’t book you anymore,” says Clyps. “You can’t say this because ‘So-and-so label’ won’t work with you anymore.” Blacklisted is a word no one wants their name associated with let alone an artist trying to climb ranks within the dance music circuit. Silence hurts and creates a false notion of acceptance perpetuating a less than desirable culture. “If we let these people run us out then they got exactly what they wanted versus if more stood up then we can get rid of the bad apples,” encourages Clyps. “We can get to what music should be. I don’t like talking about ‘we need to take it back,’ no, we need to go forward. Let’s quit reminiscing about the 90s and 80s.” The artist goes on to challenge the industry as a whole: “What is it going to take for us to move forward?”
It kind of taints the entire standing of what electronic music is based on. Like if these things are based off the PLUR concept: Peace, Love, Unity and Respect. Alot of these things shouldn’t be happening.
DJ E-Clyps comments on issues surrounding sexual abuse within the music industry
Holding each other accountable is an important step to clean house, and one of the first issues is misogyny and violence against women. “The music industry as a whole has a problem with that,” says Clyps. The hip-hop and electronic music producer is alluding to prevalent cases of sexual abuse within dance culture. “You can’t just look at the person. You have to look at the people who co-conspired. Where you have managers, agency, label reps, and other DJs who will help cover all this up because they all benefit from this person’s success. […] for something like this to be happening for years there was a lot of sweeping under the rug.”
An attitude of indifference or convenience can often be the culprit to cycling vicious behaviors. The question then becomes, how many know and hear stories or rumors, but choose to stay silent? The right thing isn’t always the easiest, simplest, or fastest thing to do, but it certainly is the most courageous.
“There was a point maybe like two years ago where I was just ready to hang it up because it seemed from the very first release I did in house music I ran into a wall of nonsense,” describes the DJ and producer. “I was at a point where I was like ‘I don’t need this. I don’t have the time for it….but I had to step back and look at it from another perspective.” Mindset matters and, for an artist, building a strong foundation for mental health is crucial in an ego-centric industry. DJ E-Clyps highlights three reasons that have kept him in the game. “Number one, the vast majority of people in dance culture are in it for the right reasons it’s just really badly represented by the few. So, do you rob these people of a great experience that most of them don’t even know what you’re going through?.” “Two, do you take music away from them that they’ll greatly appreciate, and three, do you want to stop doing what you love because there are a bunch of idiots in the way?” His answers? “No, no, and no.”
He recently released his third album Vintage Future II a feat in itself as LPs aren’t the typical focus for electronic artists. Their work usually leans toward releasing EPs or singles at a higher frequency. “I released a digestible record. I didn’t do a bunch of extended mixes and DJ friendly versions. This album is for the people. It’s not to impress DJs. I don’t care about being on the DJ chart,” DJ E-Clyps confesses.
Blackout Tuesday was a collective action to protest racism and police brutality. The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor sparked the online movement, but DJ E-Clyps was standing by to see what would happen on June 3, 2020; the following day. “You end up meeting a lot more people who really want to do good, but some of them aren’t in the position to do what’s necessary, and the ones who are in a position to do something typically haven’t. […] There haven’t been any serious negotiations to make things better there has just been a lot of statements to kind of blow it over.”
He goes onto say how those in a position of influence with the ability to move the needle haven’t quite done so. “You have a lot of prominent Black artists in dance music who will endorse these institutional forms of racism because it benefits them,” says the artist. “You can’t just point fingers at white people. You have to look at people. This is a ‘people problem.’ […] Here you’re talking about people who are clearly in a position to make some changes that didn’t.”
Dance culture is taking steps that can easily be taken back.
Talk the talk, walk the walk. DJ E-Clyps on the reality of seeing real change happen: BLM is a movement not a moment
If you’re asking what has he done to tilt the scales toward a balance, well he’s one to make sure his actions line up with his values and talk. “Starting a legacy fund for some of these pioneering artists in house music,” Clyps shares. If it were up to him, this would already have happened; however, he’s well aware of the intricacies of corporate America “It’s a conversation that I’ve had for the past seven or eight months. Everyone wants to make it seem like it’s that difficult. If you built these massive empires on the backs of black music and black artists, why don’t you put money into that? Clearly, you have it, but then it’s like ‘oh, we’ll just get the fans to donate.’ No, why are you going to punish the fans with something that benefitted you? A conversation that doesn’t end with a solution is just a conversation.” He knows the road is long, but he’s willing to keep pushing down the path using his platform to spark change.
The point of having influence is to speak for those who don’t [have a voice]. It’s not just to be popular and rack up a bunch of followers so you could poke your chest out and say ‘Look what I did.’ That is the reason of influence, but social media culture has turned it into something else.
DJ E-Clyps, a dose of reality: Don’t get it twisted, influence has always been around; even before social media
You see a lot of these artists having meltdowns lately because they feel like they’re not being respected in the community. They haven’t been given their proper due, but then the next question is: who did you help? If you’ve been in this industry for over 20 something years, and the only person you’ve helped is yourself, are you really surprised that no one respects you?
DJ E-Clyps keeps it real, reality can be a tough pill to swallow.
Self-preservation is a natural human instinct. You look out for yourself because no one else has you back like you. When you’re on an airplane, even flight attendants tell you to first put your oxygen mask on in case of an emergency before helping others. However, in the music industry, this notion has become somewhat twisted. The mindset has become you need to not only look out for yourself but step on others in order to get where you need to.
For DJ E-Clyps, it doesn’t have to be so. “You put your mask on, you get oxygen. Now you reach over, you help them put it on. They get on their oxygen, and guess what? More people survive,” he says. “You didn’t diminish yourself by helping someone else because guess what, when you land, the person you saved will now pay homage to you for saving them” That’s karma ladies and gentlemen.
Do good, but don’t pour from an empty cup. “Do I want to exhaust all of my resources that I deplete myself of all my resources in order to help someone else? No,” DJ E-Clyps cites. “However, if I put myself in a good position to then help people, that’s kind of the thing.” He also goes onto talk about the saturation of house and techno artists and not having enough seats at the table that has created cannibalization within the market. “There’s been a culture of mediocrity sprinkled into the system. People don’t aspire to make hit records, people aren’t aspiring, for the most part, to do things that are Grammy-nominated because it’s frowned upon,” he says. “It’s like once you aspire to be successful you sold out, and now you’re going commercial. It’s like how? When the majority of all the house and techno anthems that you’ve grown to love are at one point commercial records.” Need receipts? “Gypsy Woman,” “The Whistle Song,” and “I’ll House You.”
A lot of people talk about the music business not understanding that there are two words in that: there’s music and there’s also the business. A lot of people don’t want to do solid business which is why there’s this culture of desperation and mediocrity sprinkled in the mix.
DJ E-Clyps on why if the underground culture pushed forward there’d be more opportunities for others to get invovled & less cut-throat attitudes
It’s almost like a bad breakup. Everybody broke up with the culture, and now we need to have makeup sex….Somebody needs to just make the first move…and just hug it out…
Playing nice in the (house and techno) sandbox
One of the things that attracted Clyps to house and techno was the eclectic inclusive environment. “When you went to raves in their earlier stages you heard all types of music in the same night. You heard acid, deep, drum and bass, jungle, trip-hop, downtempo…[…]…Now everything got segregated,” he shares. “Now, it’s like house is greater than techno, then techno people are like ‘techno is the best’ When did we become so divisive?” So, what needs to happen to take the dance music community to a new era? “To truly bring the culture to the next level the first thing we have to do is realize that, somewhere along the line, we forgot what we came into this for in the first place. It’s almost like a bad breakup. Everybody broke up with the culture, and now we need to have makeup sex….Somebody needs to just make the first move…and just hug it out…It’s toxic and it’s sad because it runs people away from the culture.” Brush the dust off of you Kandi and get those PLUR vibes going.
Keep in mind why you’re doing it in the first place, and don’t let anything deter you from that. The second [tip], if this is meant for you, no one can stop you from doing that. That’s how I’ve been able to survive through all the nonsense.
Imparting some words of wisdom to aspiring artists
DJ E-Clyps is resolute in his journey, “had it been up to those people who really wanted to see me fail I would never have ended up on Dirtybird or on Ultra,” he says. “However, it is not up to [them], and me coming from a violent environment in my mind I had it made up that I’ve seen worse than what anything in this industry could do to me. If you don’t have the capacity to kill me there’s nothing you can do. All you can do is what? Send me an e-mail or gripe in my inbox and that’s the best you can do, alright let’s go” His bulletproof mindset has helped him build resilience and character. “If something is meant for you, that comes from the universe…[…] that is up to the creator that is not up to a human,” he shares. “A human cannot stop you from what you’re destined to do, and if one little nudge from some annoying person makes you want to quit then maybe it wasn’t for you.” When the going gets tough, the tough keep going.
While it’s important to remain steadfast, he also encourages artists to create balance in their lives through other mediums. “Photography helps me balance things out. It taught me to appreciate the little stuff, and that was my release from music. I would tell anyone who’s serious about music [that] when the thing that you love becomes your job, you need to find something else to get your mind re-settled.”
Grow a more sense of appreciation for other people, and if you don’t mean them well, leave them alone.
DJ E-Clyps serving up a dose of reality: Lead with compassion and kindness.
What’s next for Clyps? He has his eyes set on signing to a major label. “I feel like the thing that will push house [and] techno music, and all of the underground culture forward is when we start reaching outside of our typical circle to make these great collaborations that just should happen.” Clyps points to bountiful successes from the likes of MK, Channel Tres, Black Coffee whose collaborations have benefitted the dance music culture. Their names and music have landed on ears that otherwise might not have been exposed to electronic music. Why does this underground artist want to land on a major? “Let’s be honest, in the underground culture, there’s no budget to do that,” he shares. He recognizes the influence established music labels have in creating unexpected artistic collaborations, and it’ll him get closer to one of his ambitious goals: a really, really hot collab with Missy Elliott. As they say, dream big or go home, right?