The hip-hop yogi: DJ Drez
Wed, Nov 18, 2009 (4:30 p.m.)
East meets West in the music of DJ Drez. The LA-based DJ (born Steven Bradley) has worked with the Black Eyed Peas, Eminem, Wu Tang and KRS-One, to name a few. On November 20 the hip-hop B-boy turned producer, DJ and, surprisingly, yogi, will be bringing his unique brand of worldly music to Las Vegas at the Brass Lounge for Soundations. Drez chatted with the Weekly about teaching yoga, spinning sitar samples and dancing Grover-style.
While you’re popular in the underground LA scene and have played around the world, how would you describe what you do for Vegas people that might not recognize your name?
The trip with me is I DJ everything from underground hip-hop shows to big music festivals to yoga classes, because I play a lot of sacred, indigenous music and classical Indian music. … My stuff will be kind of hip-hop, dubstep influenced, but all very kind of world music. … What I’ll be playing [in Vegas] will be a mixture of everything I do. You might hear some classic hip-hop songs and then I might go into Marvin Gaye and then maybe a reggae song. Then I might play some indigenous kind of world music, but remixed. I go all over the place.
There’s a worldly feel to your productions. What is your process with incorporating live instrumentation?
When I first started making beats however many years ago, I sampled a lot of music, whether it be traditional African music or classical Indian music mixed with jazz or soul. Then I’d just bump it up with some hip-hop, drums and stuff like that. So, it started with just finding old records. Then, I started to incorporate musicians; I may have an old sitar sample from a record, but then have somebody rap over it, or have live bass with live flute, or different percussion instruments. Nothing is really taboo for me.
You’re a certified yoga instructor and DJ for yoga classes. How does that work?
First of all, I’m a yogi. Yoga’s a very big part of my life, but the connection there is I’m very influenced musically by the East, mainly India. … I started giving my music to yoga teachers and it caught on…. I DJ yoga classes now. I’m not playing straight up hip-hop, but I’ll play some instrumental hip-hop beats with traditional Indian instruments over them, and it makes sense.
Do you ever instruct a class while you’re DJing?
I’ve never done that. I don’t think it’d be a good idea. I’m very much hands-on, walk around the class and try to pay attention to detail and whatnot. The way I was taught is a very traditional. My personal practice is one with no music or just very traditional sacred music, very calm. Nothing too distracting. When I play for classes, I always play with an instructor teaching and I’m just doing the music.
Do you ever bust out the cardboard and B-boy anymore?
It’s been a long, long time. I’ve been working on this new Jahta Beat album, which is a series of albums that I do that are Indian music with hip-hop and downtempo. The way I tested it was the other night, I was dancing with my little boy and we went through the whole thing nonstop. I do still dance occasionally, but it’s more Grover-style instead of B-boying. But I still love it. My main influence is watching dancers. I love nothing more than for a circle to start while I’m DJing at a hip-hop club. I’m hoping that’s what the Soundations night is going to be.