DJs are assholes. Throw us in front of some turntables and it doesn’t matter if it’s EDC or the small patch of carpeting outside the Manhattan Mall Gap store, we quickly morph into pompous monsters. Mostly, it’s a power thing. We have MP3s and the ability to play them through a large sound-system and you do not, giving us a highly false sense of importance and yes, sometimes a drug problem to boot.
And look — I feel terrible. I’d like to apologize for all of us, as you seem really nice and I bet we’d be super bffs IRL. But there are two sides to every coin. Your side? The interminable onslaught of requests. Of course, like a hooker catching the clap or egregious lip-syncing at a Britney show, some requester interaction comes with the territory. We know this and we try to cope as best we can, aiming to honor the spirit of our Lord AM.
But dealing with an endless parade of song petitioners night after night, month upon month, year after molly-ed out year is enough to turn even the Zen Buddhist-ist of DJs into a spiteful piece of shit. More than that, turning requesters down becomes essential to doing our job. We’d never get through a set, otherwise.
Often, though, saying “no” isn’t nearly enough. Sometimes it even gets you slapped. So DJs have had to get creative. I’ve personally tried numerous, sometimes heinous and despicable methods of dismissal over the years that I’m not necessarily proud of.
So in keeping with my profession-wide mea culpa for our DJ douchebaggery — and as a cleansing of my own soul — I’m going to list some techniques that I and some of my DJ friends have used to avoid taking your requests over the years. These are our confessions. My hope is that this will clarify the fog of mystery that hangs between the DJ and requester, perhaps foster some mutual understanding and maybe, just maybe, give us all hope for the future of humanity and more importantly, nightclubbing. And again, I really am sorry. For all of us. Let’s dive in.
1. The DJ Beethoven
I’ll start with a personal fav: pretending that I’m the Beethoven of DJs, operating this entire sound-driven operation though pulses in the floor. “Can you play ‘Levels?’ it’s my friend’s birthday!” “What!?” “It’s her birthday!” “What, I can’t hear you!” “I said can you please pla…” (quickly turns away and pretends the interaction never happened and that you are apparition).
The truth is, I heard you. Loud and clear. We all did. Rest assured though that the joke will ultimately be on the DJs who use this technique. Due to our frequent proximity to loudspeakers and the fact that wearing earplugs would totally clash with our jean jackets and fedoras, we’ll all likely lose our hearing, and thus our swag, joy and very livelihoods, at some point soon. Either way, I’m sorry. “What!?” “I said I’m sorry!!!!”
2. The “Yes!” *Eyeroll* Move
Perfected by my homie CFLO, in this method the DJ says, “Yes! I will play your request,” to your face, then rolls his eyes at you while you walk away and will never actually play your request. A similar technique, the kill ‘em with kindness is a favorite of DJ Equal’s. “Omg I love that song too! I really want to play it ASAP; I will do my best to sneak it in,” says a DJ who in fact does not love that song and will likely not do his best to sneak it in.
This technique may appear an easy out for the DJ, but while it neatly solves his problem short-term, he is ultimately setting himself up for an unfortunate follow up appointment. In any case, just like the thot you’re trying to bag at the club that night, never trust a DJ who says “yes” too easily. We are all sorry.
3. The “Yes!” *Eyeroll* Move Pt. 2
Upon the preordained follow-up, CFLO does something pretty smart and daring by referencing Janet Jackson. “What have you done for me lately?” he asks with sweet doe-eyes upon your return to the booth.
Most people requesting songs are young women who have likely never heard of “What Have You Me For Lately.” As a result, this method often ends in blank stares after which the requester throws in the towel in a state of utter confusion. Here’s a tip: Listen to “What Have You Done For Me Lately,” love “What Have You Done For Me Lately” and then request “What Have You Done For Me Lately.” I would most def play “What Have You Done For Me Lately.” Would you, CFLO? As usual though, I am sorry for the both of us.
4. The Been There, Done That
My boy Dexter Love told me that the easiest way of nixing a request is the classic, “I’ve already played that.” But the harsh reality is that Dexter hasn’t played it yet, he never will and he’s sorry.
5. The DJ Helen Keller
In many ways, this is expansion of the Beethoven Technique, a refinement of sorts, the way that man-made global warming is a “refinement” of destroying the ozone layer. Here, a DJ bluffs like he is not just deaf, but also blind and mute. Yes, you may be standing next to the booth, waiting to demand “Single Ladies” because it’s your girl’s bachelorette party and somehow listening to “Single Ladies” is a rite of passage that connects her wedding at an Italian restaurant in Bayonne, New Jersey, to Beyonce’s divine union with Jay Z. The honest truth is that most DJs can see and hear and even feel real emotions, once their hangover wears off. My overriding emotion for utilizing this technique on you is “sorry.”
DJ Mel DeBarge refers to a similar technique, the Superman, where he pretends that he can “see right through you,” almost as if being a dick is a special power. Mel is too good of a DJ to ever apologize.
6. The El DJ Loco
This is one Mel, a proud Dominican man, could pull off while I, a pale, white boy from Westchester, cannot. But I still try it anyway. Here, a DJ perfectly well-versed in the English language pretends that he has not yet mastered the English language.
“I’d love if you could work in Kid Ink’s ‘Show Me!’” “¿Qué?” “‘Show Me!’” “¿Qué?” “Why are you speaking Spanish? You’re wearing a Star of David around your neck and I just saw you type the words ‘Type of Way’ into Serato?” I guess what I’m trying to say is that, yes, I do in fact speak English and lo siento por todo. Maybe I should try Russian?
7. The Challenge
My friend Ryan Dusheiko told me that his chosen technique for avoiding requests is to challenge the requester to a little game. “You can request a song,” says Ryan to an unknowing nemesis, “and if it’s good, I’ll consider playing it. But if it’s bad, not only will I not play it, but I’ll also make fun of you loudly to your face.” Yes, this is slightly mean-spirited but Ryan is technically giving his requesters a choice. Said requester could decline the game and run in the opposite direction (a good move), content with Ryan’s own song selections, which I can say firsthand are always stellar.
In any case, never engage in a DJ’s game. The house always wins. I am sorry to report this.
8. The Denial
This one, mastered by Chi Duly and DJ Fresh Direct, involves a flat out denial by the DJ that he is even DJing in the first place despite the fact that he is standing there, very plainly DJing. It’s bold, I can’t even believe it works and frankly, the DJs who practice this move should not have to apologize. If you fall for this one, that’s really on you.
9. The EyePhone for an EyePhone
A horrible development in the Age of Technology is the iPhone request. In this instance, a requester simply types his or her request into the “Notes” app on her phone and shoves it in the face of an unsuspecting DJ, blinding him with both rage and blindness.
This has become so ubiquitous and hard to avoid that I’ve developed a whole new technique for dealing. I pull out my own iPhone, type “Get the f*** out of my face” into a Note, and hold it back up in the requester’s face. I usually feel empowered in the moment, and terrible about my drooping karma when I remember my actions later during the cab ride home. Indeed, this is a move that would make my mom so ashamed. I am so, so sorry, mom.
10. The Showdown
This, a favorite of my friend Julian Cavin’s, is like a John Ford Western, except with the marked lack of dignity that comes with working in nightlife: Requester stares at DJ. DJ stares at computer. Who will draw first? The thing is, the DJ will never draw first. We’ve done this a lot more than you have and we have the stamina of a Meryl Streep career. We’ll stand there til the sun comes up and never flinch. Just holster your Rihanna gun, adjust your bootstraps and head back to the saloon. Awful sorry, cowboy.
11. The Bait and Switch
Explained to me by DJ MOS, the Bait and Switch is when a DJ asks the requester to scoop him a drink at the bar, takes said drink, but never manifests the request. I’ve also heard a version of this involving money.
Friends: As much as I love both drinks and money, never give the DJ a drink and never give him money. Especially not before he’s played your tune. This is like giving Lindsay Lohan her paycheck prior to her arrival on a set. It’s just bad business. I’m sorry that you want to hear a song so badly as to risk your hard-earned cash on such a thin, ridiculous premise. But I am sorry, either way.
12. The Jurassic Park
And finally from the never disappointing Dances with White Girls, we have the Jurassic Park. “I treat the song request people like they are a T-Rex and I just slowly look behind me and back away,” explains Dances. A brilliant move from a seasoned vet, to be sure. Sometimes the best move is really just to casually excuse yourself from the situation. It helps to have a spacious booth and very long headphone cord. And something tells me Dances is not sorry.
So DJs: Anything I missed? And requesters: What else should we apologize for? Anybody seen or done anything awful in a nightclub that I missed? Tell me about it in a response below.
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Artwork by Andrew Krahnke