When it comes down to it, the case can be made for pretty much any recognized DJ as to why they should be included in the DJ Mag Top 100. That being said, it is incredibly difficult to select only 5 worthy of a vote. Once you realize that the “rankings” are more akin to a popularity contest and that many of the slots will be given to shoo-ins, the moment will come to make your vote count. After weeks of deliberation, I established my criteria and made my selections for this extension of DA‘s Where My Head’s At.
My DJ Mag Top 100 picks illustrate the DJs that have earned my vote in 2012; they are not necessarily my favorites, nor are they exactly who I believe is “the best.” My votes will go to DJs whose contributions to dance music hold the most weight, and to those who have had an over-the-top impact in 2012. Agree or disagree, every vote counts, so here are mine.
1. Carl Cox
Approaching age 50, Carl Cox has seen it all. During the age of rising electronic genres, the veteran has stayed true to techno just as he has been for decades. For many DJs, breaking through in the American market has been easy, but Cox has been long established at the dance music mecca – Ibiza.
If you’re caught up in event production or have been victimized by artists marketing techniques, think back to where this all roots back to – dance. Not only dance, but parties that last long throughout the night and into the mornings with nothing but the DJ in command and a gathering of people looking to party. Carl Cox has been a major icon in the true dance world. His career is not a fabricated marketing ploy, nor did he ride the wave behind a pop-figure.
The greatest way to measure skills as a DJ is digging deep beneath the commercial nuances. Dig deep enough and you will find Carl Cox. All the great facets of Cox’s legacy remain, and 2012 is just another year that he deserves a top vote.
2. Erick Morillo
Another veteran and dance floor extraordinaire is the man known as Erick Morillo. This master of house music was around far before many of the new-generation DJs were even born. The term ‘house music’ is thrown around without meaning, but Morillo had defined the genre as a pioneer. When trance and techno had homes overseas, Morillo fostered house, not as a generality, but as a subgenre.
His production and DJing skills remain authentic and are translatable through decades. David Guetta receives the bulk of the credit for dance music reaching the United States, but Erick Morillo had been playing the same games in the 90s as he does in 2012. His fans enjoy his current hits just as they do his oldies, proving Mr. Morillo had been ahead of his time and deserves credit as a house music visionary.
Voting for Erick Morillo is voting for consistency, staying true, and not selling out. Morillo defies any and all of the reasons a dance music fan can resent the scene today. 2012 has been a year scarred by deception, and as one of dance music’s standing hopefuls, Morillo deserves extra respect and a slot at the top.
3. Dada Life
It is always something special when a DJ comes to represent more than music, but a lifestyle of their own. That’s what Dada Life has done — and their cult following of banana-eating, champagne-drinking fans explains it all.
Their heavy-electro sound has always been big, but when “Happy Violence” took off in 2011, it was clear these guys would come into 2012 full-force. “Kick Out The Epic Motherfucker” and “Rolling Stone T-Shirt” have been unavoidable most shows this summer, and the dancing and chanting that ensue when dropped is inescapable. Their music videos are among the most entertaining, keeping fans clinging to the care-free rules of Dada.
A vote for Dada Life is a vote for the rarely-positive direction of popular electronic music. Great productions and live sets aside, Stefan and Olle keep dance music fans engaged and refreshed unlike other big names that we have become bored with.
(Editor’s Note: They’re awesome in person too.)
4. Thomas Gold
Don’t remember where Thomas Gold ranked on last years list? That’s because he didn’t. One of the biggest snubs of 2011, Thomas Gold has mastered all things house music and deserves a spot among the greats. The German has established himself as the elite bootleg master, and has earned his mashups the title of ‘GoldLegs.’ Take a look at a Thomas Gold set list — a lengthy and jumbo list of tracks — and you will understand the effort that the man puts into DJing.
It isn’t often that a single live set will leave such a great mark on the scene, but Gold’s Escape From Wonderland set has had fans buzzing since Halloween. If you are a critic of stale sets and DJs who press play, you appreciate what Thomas Gold delivers day in and day out.
Simply said, Gold does everything with integrity and soul. He is one of the rare DJs that can withstand criticism and is impossible to debate against as an important player in modern dance music.
For years, American festivals limited the main stage headliners to the likes of Tiesto, Armin van Buuren, and David Guetta. And for a while, it seemed as if the elite top three would never be cracked. Whether you want to believe it or not, there is no denying that Afrojack has ascended into that stratosphere. We saw this coming, but it was confirmed when the towering Dutchman closed out EDC NY sporting a t-shirt that read “Holdin It Down.”
Musically, Afrojack is now in the same league as the David Guettas of the world, with his production talent in high demand across all genres of music. Anyone who thought 2010 and the release of “Take Over Control” would be his defining moment as a producer was wrong — he just hasn’t stopped cranking out hits. In addition to the dozens of brand new tracks that he has been boasting on tour, he has a full length studio album lingering in his hard drive that should be project him further into superstardom when released this fall.
Behind the decks, Afrojack’s stage presence is unmatched; slugging back personal bottles of Grey Goose, chain smoking cigarettes, and often cursing at his fans, he makes throwing the most wild of dance parties seem casual. There is something about his demeanor that trumps the best of them, and the talent factor speaks for itself.