Words by Alicia Pei Wen Kang
Mixing the latest hip-hop hits with decade-old equipment isn’t the most common method in the modern era, but DJ DM Wright makes it look easy. The 26-year-old carries a passion for seeking out tunes of any genre, though he especially craves new tracks in his chosen style: hip-hop.
Wright owns an impressive, expanding collection of more than 350 vinyl records. “It keeps me open to new and different music I’ve never considered before,” Wright says. But the records are more than just a hobby. Wright sustains his music production by sampling parts of tracks on those records and editing them with an older sampling machine, an MPC 1000. “I don’t really use software. [The MPC] has a lot of possibilities if you really master how to use it, and I still want to fully utilize its potential.”
The MPC 1000 is a 64-track sampler/sequencer and is often used by DJs to create beats for their tracks. This old-school approach still enables DJs to create professional quality beats, including advanced sample editing, sequencing, effects, drum kit building, chopping, multisampling and program editing.
Many DJs in the field use other variations to create beats like the Maschine or Ableton, which have a newer touch and feel. These new machines require less effort compared to the old-school MPC 1000 because the software includes more presets. Working the MPC 1000 may be a little challenging for many individuals, but Wright appreciates the quality that the equipment is able to produce.
“When I tell people that I make beats, they ask what program I use. And I don’t use programs besides the MPC 1000, which is kind of just an all-in one thing that I have along with my turntables and my record collections…”
But his passion didn’t begin with vinyl or the MPC 1000. It began on wheels. “Skateboarding introduced me to hip-hop about 15 years ago — skate videos and video game soundtracks particularly,” Wright says. “It helps me listen better to the message behind the music.”
Skateboarding combined with his love for dancing to give Wright all the tools he needed to be a successful DJ. Eight years of breakdancing and popping — a quick, jerky type of street dance — helps Wright create music that makes people groove. “When I make something, I want people to move to it. I want people to dance to it.”
The former T-Pain world tour dancer doesn’t identify himself solely a hip-hop producer. “I like playing any good stuff regardless of their ages. When I’m producing music, I don’t like to limit myself to a set genre. I just want [my music] to make my listeners dance. That’s what motivates me.”
Wright currently co-hosts with local artists at a monthly hip-hop event, “Freshen Up” with the Des Moines Social Club, and he’s scheduled to DJ in a number of break-dancing competitions and hip-hop celebrations in Des Moines. When asked about his future plans, Wright says he would like to become a resident DJ at a few local nightspots and continue pushing the unique style the local scene has to offer.
“I know [other DJs] try to travel to another city to get started, but I don’t think there’s a need. It’s really been growing so much here within the last few years and I see so much potential in our local artists,” Wright says, “We just need to let people know that we’re more than another Midwestern city.”