DJ Rich Medina on the Importance of DJ Education and His Favorite Kind of Party
As a poet, DJ, producer, and record collector, Philly-based DJ Rich Medina has spent the past 20 years of his career educating crowds with more than just a simple spin of a record. His 2005 album Connecting the Dots featured a mixture of spoken word, soul, and jazz. And as one of the masterminds behind long-running international party JUMP N FUNK, he has turned a new generation of club-goers onto the sounds of Afrobeat music. Medina is also one of the main instructors at NYC music production school Dubspot, and was in the first generation of DJs featured on reality show Master of the Mix. We spoke with him about social media, DJ education, and his favorite kind of party. He plays Saturday for Matatu Film Festival's closing party at New Parish and Sunday at PUMA Yard.
You've worked in a Fortune 500 company prior to your career as a full-time DJ. Are there parallel concepts in both of them in terms of work ethic?
I believe that in any discipline one chooses as an occupation, diligence is your best friend. There is no place for complacency as an executive, and there is definitely no space for complacency as a working class artist just the same. Hard work pays off regardless of what it is you do for a living in my opinion.
In 2010, you were selected to compete on the first edition of Master of the Mix. Three years later, a lot has changed in the DJ world. What do you think of the show now?
Smirnoff's Master of the Mix was an amazing experience for me. I learned a great deal about myself as a DJ, and I also learned where I really stand in my peer group versus where I thought I stood prior. The show today is a bit more of a reality show that happens to have DJs in it, rather than a show that challenges each DJ be at their mechanical and instructional best, and taking popular DJs to a larger platform as craftsmen. Season One was far more about the DJ. Now, the show has become a breeding ground for people who don't have followings beyond their regions to compete for money and increased popularity commercially.
You're also a DJ instructor at Dubspot. What's a misconceptions do people have about DJing when they first start the class?
One of the primary misconceptions I see as a DJ instructor is that the programs being taught will do the work for you, and that analog records are a thing of the past.
What do you think is important to note in the education of how to become a DJ?
One of the most important things to note is that a digital program will indeed allow someone to become a DJ without owning records at all, but a digital program will never explain that practice makes perfect. Many students want to immediately rely on the aspects of the programs they are learning that do certain types of work for them, rather than learning mechanics, and studying the music they believe they want to play once they learn. You can't make a healthy meal in a microwave, you can only get full. Eating like that seven days a week will only give you one day's worth of nutrition. The body can't survive like that. Figuratively speaking, neither can a DJ who wants any kind of success.
With over 20 years in your career, what do you think of the influx of social media?
I'm a kid from the generation that saw brick car phones and cell phones replace rotary phones. Then, we saw digital communications like email and Instant Messenger and beepers and such become the method of the day. Today, people live vicariously through each other's social media pages and shared interests with people you may never actually be able to see face-to-face. It's amazing and overwhelming at once as an artist, but you have to roll with the times and adapt, or be left behind, plain and simple.
Do you think some DJs are sharing too much of themselves with these outlets?
Yes. There are some people who make every moment of their day an "experience for the world to see," which I think is false advertising, and will in time be bad for their brands and careers.
You've thrown myriad parties throughout your career. What type is your favorite to play at?
I love an atmosphere that has solid sound, solid sound men, a full dancefloor, fast and friendly bartenders, and a calm but clearly designated security staff. Without those elements working in tandem, it's pot luck whether or not an event can have longevity.
What's next for you in terms of production? What are you currently working on?
I'm always in the woodshed to some degree, but my touring over the last two years has honestly forced me to make production third in line to DJing and my other creative/educational desires. Still, what's next for me is my new LP, finishing Ranjit's LP, which was lost on a dead hard drive that we recently were able to recover in full, and whatever opportunities come my way that can help me reintroduce myself to the world of production. Otherwise, you can check out AfroBeatles, MJFela and The Marksmen to see what my partners and I have been up to since released my first LP in 2005.
What are you looking forward to seeing/doing at the Matatu Film Festival?
I'm looking forward to seeing some interesting film, meeting some talented directors and actors, networking, and rocking their closing party! The Broaklyn Organization is really onto something special with these events, and it's an honor to be a part of it.
Do you think you'll ever delve into the film world like your friend Bobbito did?
Perhaps one day I will explore the world of film and make something of my own, but in the moment, I'm juggling anvils and candles as it is, so that has to wait. Today, I have a hard enough time taking a good iPhone photo (laughs).