The Art of the Mix with DJ Prime

This is a look into the world of deejays — how they prepare radio mixes and how they spin for a live audience. The subject of this interview is the nationally syndicated deejay, DJ Prime, a good friend of the blog and one of the most popular deejays in and around the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia area.
— Bill Bodkin

It’s never easy performing in front of anyone, especially a bar or club crowd. You are providing the soundtrack to their evening — and you better make it amazing.

Now we’ve all seen the bar bands who play all your classic hits or the deejays who play only the Top 40. It’s a tried and true formula, and we have to admit they do provide a good time at the bar.

However, if you’re a deejay like DJ Prime, it’s a whole different ballgame.

“A band probably has 100 songs they know and they can choose 25 to play a night. For me, I have tens of thousands of songs to pick from. I play for four hours and you’ll hear over 300 different songs, sometimes only 15-20 seconds of a song.”

The numbers seem mind-boggling, but for deejays like Prime, this is a full-time job.

As a reporter on the scene for years, it’s always boggled my mind how deejays come up with their mixes at each show. These aren’t just playing a song all the way through, this is mixing, scratching, mashing-up, adjusting speed — seamlessly blending songs together as if they were a scene in a movie.

This is the art of the mix.

To discover the art behind the mix, this reporter turned to DJ Prime, for whom the art of the mix is his life’s work. Literally. The New Jersey native has performed at clubs all over New Jersey, Philly, New York City and various spots throughout the U.S.. He’s opened for Dane Cook, Chris Brown, Sean Paul, Snoop Dogg and Method Man. He’s the official mixmaster for the Bamboozle Fest and is nationally syndicated in almost 20 states and Canada.

However, for Prime no show is the same. Whether it’s spinning at the NBA All-Star game or Tuesday nights in South Amboy, N.J., at Pub 35 or his weekly radio gigs, every gig, is a new experience for Prime.

On the Radio:

Prime is heard on the radio all over the country, yet its his local gigs that we’re going to focus on, in particular his weekly spot on Hit 106’s Hit Mix at 5 p.m.

Every Monday and Thursday during the Top 40 station’s drive time show, Prime gets a dedicated amount of time (15-20 minutes) to unleash a mix that is both highly unique and highly infectious.

“It’s all improv,” said Prime. “I don’t pre-meditate mixes. The first song is something popular that’ll keep the audience’s attention then I just look at collection and just go.”

While they may not be pre-meditated, there are some special mixes Prime does that embody a theme. His most popular ones being his “Benny” mix for the beginning of summer 2009, his Michael Jackson tribute mix and his West Coast Hip-Hop Mix in honor of Snoop Dogg playing the Stone Pony. The mixes can be found by clicking here.

Live and In the Moment:

While radio drive time is created at his home studio, his live shows are all done at the spur of the moment — there’s no pre-meditation at all. For Prime, after he chooses his first song to spin, it’s off to the races.

“You have to feel a room out. A song or mix that could’ve got a huge reaction the night before, might not tonight. You gotta play different sets for different rooms.”

Using two Technics turntables, a Rane mixer and a computer program called Serato, Prime is able to mix, scratch and pump out a variety songs for his massive library. What’s interesting about Prime’s rig is that you will see him simultaneously fiddling with his laptop and using his turntables. It’s literally old school meeting new school — digital working hand-in-hand with vinyl. The program allows Prime to scratch, adjust levels and mix songs to others with the proper “beats per minute” on the fly. (It definitely beats the “old school” way of counting beats per minute which involved tapping your finger and using a stop watch.)

The rig combined with Prime’s experience and massive music collection are what makes Prime and deejays like him different from the rest.

“There’s a big difference between deejays who perform and deejays who play songs in their entirety. Some deejays just play the same pace all night. [Gigs are] like a roller coaster, if it only goes up the whole time or down the whole time, there’s no excitement, no build, no anticipation, no payoff. You gotta mix songs based on tempo to seamlessly mix one vocal into the next”

The Conclusion:

While deejays made their names diggin’ in the crates back in the day, guys like Prime are combining today’s technology with their experience as deejays and their musical knowledge and intuition to create mixes that can combine music from all different genres into the memorable soundtrack of your night out.

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DJ Prime (www.djprime.com) is a nationally syndicated deejay who performs at clubs throughout New Jersey, Philly, Connecticut and New York City on a weekly basis. He can be heard in the tri-state area on Mondays and Thursdays on Hit 106 (106.3/106.5) during the Hit Mix at 5 p.m., hosted by Matt Knight (you can download all his hit mix shows for free) and every Saturday from midnight to 2am on 103.5 KTU. DJ Prime has come a long way since his first meeting with B&B’s Bill Bodkin back at The Green Room in Seaside Park, N.J. on Memorial Day 2005 when he was simply known as “Ocean County’s Hardest Working DJ.” He’ll return to the Jersey Shore in 2010 at Jenks, Bar A and The Seashell. For bookings, contact Johnny Marc of Upper Level Entertainment: Johnny@UpperLevelEntertainmentGroup.com or (732) 952-3049.

Bill Bodkin is the owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

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