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Disc Jocks can make hits too - Delano

Published:Tuesday | May 26, 2015 | 12:00 AMCurtis Campbell
DJ Delano Thomas of Renaissance Disco
(From left, foreground) CEO of Renaissance Disco, Delano Thomas, Dancehall King Beenie Man and vibes master of the night, DJ Jazzy T.
Sean Paul

Veteran sound system selector/producer-turned-songwriter, Delano Thomas of Renaissance Disco, recently became Jamaica's first disc jock to receive an award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) for composing lyrics. The award was presented at ASCAP's annual award show, hosted in Hollywood, United States (US), and saw Delano making history while rubbing shoulders with some of the most successful songwriters in the US.

Delano, who started off his career as a selector, proved several local critics wrong when his Ice Breaker rhythm sold over a million records in the US, courtesy of a collaboration with Sean Paul for the single, We Be Burnin', which was also co-arranged by Delano.

Veterans' concerns

Veterans like Max Romeo and Ruddy Isaacs have voiced concerns about DJs who try to play and produce music simultaneously, claiming that the music was being diluted, and the practice unethical. However, Delano believes his success is a testimony that DJs can juggle both hats, while adding to the development of the music industry.

"This has been happening for years especially in the US. We as disc jocks play for millions of persons and we know what people want, so we have a better understanding of what to create as producers and artistes. I know that they are bashing radio DJs for playing their own productions, but that only highlights that some bad apples are in the bunch. The 'clean-hearted' radio DJs will play everybody's production and let every man through the gate," he said.

Delano's award follows the success of the hip hop single, 2 On, which features his writing. The single is performed by American singer-songwriter, Tinashe, for her debut studio album, Aquarius. The song, which features a rap verse from American rapper Schoolboy Q, also features work from Tinashe, Schoolboy Q, Bobby Brackins, DJ Mustard, Jon Redwine and Marley Waters.

'2 On' single's success

The 2 On single, achieved worldwide commercial success since its release in 2013, peaking at number 24 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and being certified platinum by the RIAA. Delano says he had dreams of winning an award of this magnitude dating back to his formative years sitting on his parents sofa.

The veteran also encouraged up-and-coming DJs to maximise their potential without fear of backlash from naysayers.

"When I came out with the Jamaican remixes for songs, artistes used to get upset with me, saying I reworked their songs. But then my Nitro Mix of Bounty Killer's songs charted on the Billboard and people began to appreciate it more, because both the artiste and the producer were benefiting.

Following the success of his Bounty Killer Nitro Mix in the 90s, Delano still struggled to launch himself as a producer due to issues concerned with the actual production process. It was relatively expensive to press records, neither did the DJ possess the necessary resources to catapult an independent record label to the level required to compete with high riding local labels.

Dancehall and reggae's switch to digital technology in the early 2000s gave Delano the opportunity to launch his producing aspirations, and hits followed soon after. Now recognised as a producer, DJ and writer, he says there are official adjustments to be made to his biography and Wikipedia page.

growing with music

"It's nice to wear many hats. I don't think a DJ should limit his/herself. DJs produce music on a daily basis, it's a part of a DJs life and as a musician you should want to grow with music, because some of the biggest producers in the world are DJs," he said.

In total contradiction to the belief of people like Max Romeo and Ruddy Isaacs, who feel that disc jocks should stay in their lane, iconic reggae/dancehall artiste Josey Wales recently highlighted that dancehall itself was birthed by disc jocks.

According to Josey Wales in a recent interview with Irish and Chin Entertainment, godfathers of dancehall music like I-Roy, U-Roy and King Stitt, were all disc jocks. He also disclosed that in an attempt to launch his career, he had to play on a sound system and make his mark as a 'toaster', which was the name given to the style of deejaying at the time.

Overseas-based DJs like Major Lazer, David Guetta, DJ Khaled, Tiesto, DJ Snake, among others, have had major hits in capacity as producers, while Jamaican DJs like ZJ Liquid, Tony Matterhorn, Charly Black, Foota Hype, Supa Hype and Richie Feelings have seen relative success as producers and artistes.