It was five years ago that a then-relatively obscure DJ threesome by the name of Droog put its hometown of Los Angeles on the underground dance music map by launching what would become one of the global scene's most hotly tipped house and techno labels.
"The basic idea behind [Culprit] was to have an outlet for the creative energy that was coming from the scene in L.A.," Droog's Andrei Osyka tells Crossfade.
"Something new was in the air here that was also part of a global fresh movement -- the genesis of this sound that has become known as the new deep house -- and we wanted to give our city a voice in this fledgling movement. We didn't feel that L.A. was occupying significant enough of a place globally -- not the way it deserved to."
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Hot Natured, Shonky, Adriatique, and Miami's own Lazaro Casanova are just some of the many international stars studding Culprit's distinguished catalog. And the common denominator?
"Personality (and hopefully) timeless appeal are what we look for at all times," explains Osyka about the label's A&R picks. "The music we sign has to have strong identity -- we are not into functional stuff nor easy trends.
"And Los Angeles itself -- its culture and just the way it feels and looks -- plays a big role," he adds. "Much of the music in our catalog wasn't actually made in L.A., but all of it, just about, feels like it could have been inspired by this city that we love.
"Just being around after ten years and remaining a respected entity would be achievement enough," says Osyka about Culprit's future. "We'd like to continue to grow, in quality of artists and music we attract, rather that size and hype.
"We've also always hoped to inspire a generation of local, L.A.-based production talent to come to the fore. It's starting to happen. We'd love it if at least half of all music on the label in five years' time would come from Southern Californian artists."
Help the Droog boys celebrate five years of Culprit, West Coast-style, when they thrown down tonight at Treehouse with Leftroom Records boss Matt Tolfrey. But first, check the cut to brush up on the stellar catalog with their picks for the five essential Culprit releases.
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Inxec & Matt Tolfrey's Hollywood
"Our fourth release. A record that set the early template for us and was the label's commercial breakthrough, so to speak, by going to number one on the vaunted Beatport Deep House chart. Plus Chris "Inxec" Sylvester and Matt Tolfrey became the two of the most significant people for us, personally and professionally."
Hot Natured's Equilibrium EP
"Lee Foss and Jamie Jones were crucial in the development of the label. Our first-ever release -- and theirs, as Hot Natured. Jamie was the guest of honor at our first two rooftop parties at the Standard Hotel, which became our calling card of sorts, and Lee was a big driving force for the creation of the label in the first place. And both of the songs here were actually made in the small studio room at the house where two of us lived, so this record is personally close."
Shonky's Oasis EP
"Shonky and the whole Apollonia crew have been our friends and a collective inspiration as DJs and producers from day one. Shonky sent us a whole batch of quality tunes -- it was kind of hard to pick just three that made it onto the release. The title song here is a quintessential Culprit summer tune and still one of the label's most popular tracks.
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jozif's Lady B EP
"This is Culprit stretching its creative wings and expanding our range with five tracks that weren't dancefloor-driven but really had that timeless appeal and sounded like nothing else. And it solidified one of the most important artist relationships we've developed in five years, with London-based jozif. He's an artist we hope is part of our family for as long as we are around."
Adriatique's Midnight Walking EP
"Another key relationship is the one we've been building with Adriatique. It's very rare to be approached by artists like them, where the quality and work ethic is so strong that you just know you get the chance to be part of a rise of real dance music "stars" who can go on to become a huge part of the global scene. This is the Swiss boys' second release for us and it's two anthemic tracks that will be referenced for a long time to come."
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Droog and Matt Tolfrey. With Uchi, Jeremy Ismael and Ohashi. Presented by Minimax and Un_Mute. Thursday, July 3. Treehouse, 323 23rd St., Miami Beach. The party starts at 11 p.m. Call 305-674-7447 or visit treehousemiami.com.