Given the current #OscarsSoWhite debacle, I’ve actually been waiting for someone to say the same about dance music. It’s obvious that there’s an appalling lack of gender diversity within the DJing community, but no one’s ever really commented on the subject of race.
Until now, that is.
Enter techno DJ Juan Atkins, who wrote a lengthy post on Facebook about how The DJ List was racist. When he visited the website, which currently changes rankings based on internet searches and overall buzz, he was displeased to find that only two black DJs were listed – at #99 and #100.
As a woman of color myself, I don’t take the word racism lightly, which is why I found Juan Atkins’ words confusing. When I visited The DJ List’s website I discovered that not only were there no black techno DJs at the previously stated rankings, Carl Cox was the #1 Techno DJ worldwide! It could be that Juan Atkins’ rant shifted the rankings as it was picked up by multiple news sources (at the point of publishing Derrick May and Jeff Mills were both on the list), so I decided to shift my focus to other lists as well, since he never specified exactly where he was looking when he observed these standings.
Upon looking at the overall Global DJ list, yes, it’s clear that white males dominate the top of the list, but I don’t think there’s a system in place that’s preventing minorities from thriving. In fact, DJing is becoming even more racially diverse since EDM is a global phenomenon. And just because someone’s not black doesn’t mean they’re automatically white. Steve Aoki (#11) is Japanese, Ummet Ozcan (#40) is Turkish, Laidback Luke (#44) is Filipino, the Krewella sisters (#46) are Pakistani, Walshy Fire and Jillionaire of Major Lazer (#49) are Jamaican and Trinidadian respectively, KSHMR (#50) is Indian, Deorro (#53) is Mexican, and Aly & Fila (#63) are Egyptian. Yes, that may only be 10 out of the top 100 current influencers according to the fluid poll, but there are so many other successful DJs I can think of who also aren’t white (Jamie Jones, Green Velvet, Mr. Carmack, LTN, Hotel Garuda, Candyland, etc.). There may not be an equal representation of races, but I’d like to think that those who are present in this industry aren’t being attacked, treated without respect, and disenfranchised as a whole either.
The point I’m trying to make here is that there it’s naive to take one cross section of dance music and apply it the whole without digging deeper. Sure, Juan Atkins has probably never even heard of Ummet Ozcan, KSHMR, or Aly & Fila, but they exist, and in even smaller percentages than black DJs nonetheless. I’m not saying that he should get to know the DJs I just rattled off, I’m simply saying that it’s dangerous to claim something as racist without doing the proper research and excluding all other minorities to make your case. Racism is a very serious issue, especially given the current state of affairs in the US right now, and I don’t see where the horrible things going on in society are taking place within EDM. I actually applaud the dance music community, for not only welcoming different races but for also not being plagued by the same bullshit Hollywood is currently going through. Though, if I’m wrong, and there artists out there who feel as if they’ve been discriminated against by promoters or club owners because of their race, then please reach out and let’s start a community-wide dialogue. No person deserves to be belittled because of the color of their skin (or their gender/sexuality), and we as a global community we should continue to bring these issues to light to change them.
Photo: Resident Advisor