DJ Craze Joins United States of Bass: "I’m Preparing for That Set Like It’s a Battle"

There’s your favorite DJ, and then there’s your favorite DJ’s favorite DJ. Aristh Delgado, better-known as DJ Craze, is the latter. The three-time DMC World Champion and Time Magazine’s 2001 “America’s Best DJ” has spent his celebrated career racking up awards and accomplishments.

Craze, who grew up in Miami, has a laundry list of praise from all over the music industry. And from giving Red Bull Music Academy lectures to hitting the road with Kanye West for his Glow in the Dark tour and even starting a record label called Slow Roast Records with fellow DJ Kill the Noise, he's earned it.

We caught up with the wax murderer for a one-on-one in preparation for what will undoubtedly be a battle-ready set at Gramps on October 24 for Red Bull Music Academy’s United States of Bass. 

New Times: Tell us about your record label, Slow Roast Records.
Aristh Delgado: Slow Roast was founded about six years ago. It’s me and Kill the Noise’s label. We started off just being fans of each other and he had shown me this EP that he had worked on, back when he made drum and bass. He was trying to do something different and I told him it was amazing — let’s put it out together. He decided we should start a label and that’s how it was born. We like the same kind of stuff so we’re always looking for new styles and we wanted to just put out stuff we liked. The direction is what do we like and what do we think is going to be next.

And Slow Roast is still distributed by Fools Gold?
Actually no. We used to be a subsidiary of Fools Gold for like three years, but now we’re doing our own thing. We’re distributed by SEED world wide, but now it’s just us. Actually A-Trak wanted to sign Kill the Noise to Fools Gold first, and we just wanted to do our own thing, but he was so cool he offered to run the label so we can get a feel for how it works.

So you and A-Trak are pretty tight. You guys go way back. How would you say your friendship has influenced each other’s careers?
Yeah that’s my lil' homie. Shit man, it’s been great fuckin' growing up with him. When we were battling, the reason I wanted to start a crew with him was because I was scared of him. I was like, 'Okay, I beat you this one time, but I don’t want to have to deal with you again, so join our crew and let’s just fuck everybody up.' It was a dope learning experience practicing and growing up with him. We both kinda did our own thing but we’ve kept in touch and we still have mad love for turntablism and the art of DJing.
You mentioned you joined up with A-Trak because you were scared of him, but you’re the kind of turntablist that does the New Slaves routine just fucking around, puts it online, and its got a quarter of a million plays and hits the front page of Worldstar all in one day. How does that make you feel as a DJ?
Well, I mean it makes me feel great first of all. It makes me feel awesome that people still feel a certain kind of way when they see something like that, like sometimes I look at some of these DJ’s and I don’t understand what people are so hyped about. It’s like the DJ game has become a cheerleading game. It’s not really about skills. First and foremost I was amazed that it got so much love, my Twitter feed was nuts. Deadmau5 was tweeting at me, and true story that shit was just supposed to be a promotional tool for my single with Trick Daddy. Turns out no one gave a fuck about the single and they were all just hyped on the New Slaves routine. I was glad that people still respect and appreciate the art form.

How has Miami’s style and culture and Miami Bass influenced your style and helped you shape what you play?
Well growing up in Miami pre-internet days, you grew up with what was on the radio and what you grew up with was Freestyle music and Miami Bass. That just kind of helped make me want to become a turntablist. I used to look up to DJ Laz and the songs that I really fucked with were Miami Bass songs with a lot of scratching in them, like Magic Mike, Jealous J and Jock D. Those were the main dudes. Those guys were my main influences. They were a big part of why I went into turntablism. Growing up with Miami Bass was all about booty shaking and the party. That kind of made me a club DJ first, and a lot of DJ’s would get into that but they wouldn’t know about club rocking. So growing up with that influence first helped me understand rocking the club and being a good turntablist.

When you play in Miami, do you do anything special? Kind of like a hometown hero set? How is it different playing here for you?
Definitely. Especially with the big Latino community, anytime I’m in LA or Miami or Dallas, anywhere there’s a Latino community I play more Moomba and Reggae and more Miami Bass. I’ll definitely play more Miami Bass and take it a bit further. If I play that stuff in LA they’ll get “I Wanna Rock” and the big ones, but here I can play Poison Clan and stuff and they’ll be like whoa, I know that song. You can’t really do that anywhere else.
So with that being said what do you plan on bringing to Red Bull Music Academy’s United States of Bass show at Gramps?
Shit, I’m preparing for that set like it’s a battle. I wanna rep Miami hard. Everybody they got has played a pivotal role in the booty shaking club scene. Sliink with his Jersey club, Egyptian Lover with the old school electro. They got a lot of representations of what booty shaking club music is. I’m gonna bring the fast mixing, fast cuts, the turntablism with the Jock J and Magic Mike vibe. I’m going to show them a proper DJ go-off.

As you mentioned, it is kind of a cheerleading contest these days. No names and no shade necessary, but how do you feel about these DJ’s out here pressing play and top lining festivals while there’s real DJ’s like you and A-Trak and DJ Shadow out here? It’s become more about how many social media followers they have and not so much about putting on a show the audience is going to remember and appreciate.
Honestly it used to make me feel like shit. I was like, what the fuck’s wrong with everybody? I was one of those old heads like, 'I can’t believe everything these people like is shit, and this is shit, and he’s shit and his personality is shit and they’re all shit!” I was on some real hating shit, until I decided to be like, “Alright, cool fuck it,” and I’m just going to put out the New Slaves routine and really show people what I do instead of complaining.

I was doing this mix with Four Color Zack, and I stumbled upon this skit from a 50 Cent record that we put in the mix, and they asked him the same question. I grew up in a different era and a different culture. I can’t expect the kids nowadays to understand how I feel because they didn’t grow up listening to what I listened to and checking out DJ AM and DJ Shadow and all these excellent DJs doing it for real. They go to the clubs and they see dudes pressing play with their hands in the air and to them that’s a good DJ. I can’t tell people what a good DJ is anymore because I’ve acknowledged the fact that I’m older so instead of going out there and going, "Yo, I’m a fucking real DJ!” I’m just going to show and prove it. Just keep bombing with some dope shit to help them understand what the art form is about.

Red Bull Music Academy Presents: United States of Bass with Uncle Luke, DJ Laz, DJ Craze, Egyptian Lover, DJ Assault, DJ Sliink, and others. 10 p.m. Saturday, October 24, at Gramps, 176 NW 24th St., Miami; 305-699-2669; Admission is free with an RSVP via Ages 21 and up.
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All around d*ckhead, listens to entirely too much music and has a self proclaimed encyclopedic knowledge of the subject. Never has his own pack of cigarettes. Affinity for all things synthy and retro