Listen Up! DJ Diamond Kuts
‘Twas the season to indulge, friends, but now ‘tis the season to atone. Throughout the month of January, we’ll be bringing you all sorts of Wellness Realness—information and inspiration you can use to get out of lax mode and into good-for-you mode. Or at least stop eating cookies for lunch and skipping your morning run.
Don’t take our word for it, go ahead and ask Nicki Minaj or President Barack Obama–they’ll tell you DJ Diamond Kuts rules. Philly native Tina Dunham has rocked huge crowds on the Obama campaign trail and helped break Minaj in her early mixtape days, eventually producing original music for the superstar rapper.
More impressive to us, though, are Diamond’s regular radio mixes on hip-hop and R&B station Power 99 FM, each one a furious dispatch with flawless between-song cutting (hence the name). While her mixes come in many modes–hip-hop, reggae, R&B–her dance mixes are arguably her most exciting work and perfect workout soundtracks.
We caught up with Ms. Kuts on the phone and talked about exercise, the art of deejaying and things to eat in Philly which are not cheesesteaks (no disrespect to cheesesteaks).
I’m on the radio every day in Philly, but definitely on Saturdays–when I do a five-hour set–a lot people Tweet me saying they’re working out to me. They also download the mixes from my Soundcloud page and tell me they’re working out to them. Even the songs I produce myself, people say they work out to my music. It feels good that I can get people motivated, whatever it is. People have told me “Diamond, you deejayed my party the other day,” and it was a house party they had and they just turned the radio on. Things like that make me feel good.
If I’m in the gym I have to play Patti LaBelle. And the new thing is I have to watch music videos. It makes me forget I’m in the gym, which is important for me. If I can get a treadmill with the Internet on it, I’m watching music videos and listening to Patti LaBelle, Whitney Houston, TLC. I might throw Mary J. Blige in the mix. Big voices.
Beverly Bond is one of the deejays I used to read about when I was young–her, Cocoa Chanel and Jazzy Joyce. I would pick up a magazine and see an article with their names written in it. Beverly Bond is the founder of Black Girls Rock, an awards ceremony that honors women who are doing powerful things in the industry. Jazzy Joyce and Coco Chanel were both deejays on Hot 97 [in New York City], and I really looked up to them because they were in a major market holding it down on the radio and doing it really well. Coming up as a female deejay I looked to them for inspiration.
Know your music
For high-energy mixes it’s all about the BPM and how you bring in the record, and the type of records you play. That’s something I stand really strong by. The type of record and how fast it is. I try and make that high-energy record give you that high-energy feel. And then when I want to slow it down and give you a trance feel, I can do that, too. It’s about studying the music and knowing what you’re about to play and how to bring it in. Being familiar with the music in general.
I play a lot of new music but if I’m not really feeling it, I won’t play it. I won’t play new stuff just to be current if it won’t fit my mix. New deejays won’t understand that. Maybe the tempo is there, but the feel isn’t there. The feel is one of the most important things. As far as breaking new music, I learned early on about sandwiching. You play familiar songs before and after new music so people accept it more easily.
Purpose of deejaying
If I’m really frustrated, I’ll say “I’m going to go do a mix” and just let all my frustrations out. Doing mixes and listening to music, I get a different kind of high from it. Some deejays are competitive. I swear on everything I don’t think like that. I love deejaying. I love playing music. I love going to parties and concerts and getting people excited about music itself. I mean, the props are cool in the end. When you see how well you’re being perceived, that’s great. But I do it because I love it.
When in Philly…
Philly is doing really bad with clubs right now; they’re all getting shut down. But we have some we still love. The Roxy is one. The strip club Onyx is another. As far as eating, there’s a restaurant called Moonlight, a Jamaican restaurant that I like, and a place called Hip City Veg–I like that. I’m low-key, though. I’ll get food and take it to-go, bring it back to the studio and get back to working on music.