DJ Tiiiiiiiiiip on Successful Promotion and Making it as a DJ in Minnesota’s Thriving Rap Scene – Forbes

Photo by Mike Madison

Mike Madison

Photo by Mike Madison

At their best, a DJ brings people together. Traditionally, they leave last, after tearing everything down and collecting cash (if there is any cash to be had.) From Jamaican dance halls to discotheques and underground hip-hop shows, the craft remains about refined selection and a busy dance floor. Turntablist titans like DJ Shadow and A-Trak continue their longstanding presence, while the rise of EDM and festival circuits has invigorated the idea of clubs as testing grounds for the mind-melting sounds of artists like Gaslamp Killer and DJ Snake. Recent online series’ like Boiler Room and Le Mellotron have given performers—notably DJs—a new space to occupy between live show and internet kick back. So what separates dabbling hobbyists from DJs who actually make a living off the trade?

Turntables and a mixer (in some form) remain the lifeblood of the artform, but as Just Blaze says, “I don’t care if you use pots and pans, whatever you use, just as long as the party rocks, that’s all that matters.” Fatboy Slim remarks: “A good DJ is always looking at the crowd, seeing whether it’s working; communicating with them.” For Minnesota’s DJ Tiiiiiiiiiip—AKA Taylor Madrigal, age 26—communicating with his audience comes naturally. Before and after his parties, he regularly prompts discussions, holding polls on Twitter and Facebook that probe rabbit holes of feedback from his followers. All of this clues him in on how to better curate future events.

Tiiiiiiiiiip makes a living as a DJ and promoter. Since 2014, he has DJ’ed on 4 nationwide tours, including a 10-date, sold-out tour with thestand4rd, a 33-date tour with Denzel Curry, and a 7 date European tour with Grammy-winning artist Allan Kingdom. In Minneapolis, he helps curate and promote major local shows, Red Bull Sound Select events, and launched his own festival when he was 19-years-old, the Audio Perm Block Party. Aside from his distinctly eccentric flyer designs and loud sartorial sense, one of Tiiiiiiiiiip’s biggest trademarks is the network he’s been building for almost a decade. His consistent grind and camaraderie within the Twin Cities’ music scene have helped him transition from being the kid getting his flyers canned at First Avenue to seeing his name (all ten i’s included) on marquees around the country.

In growing his shows from DIY basement and warehouse spaces to upscale clubs and arenas,  Tiiiiiiiiiip has positioned himself to potentially bridge Minnesota’s prominent but scattered live music scene. As one of the Twin Cities’ youngest and most prominent DJs, Tiiiiiiiiiip exercises broad musical taste, having shared stages with Future, Kevin Gates, Wiz Khalifa, Skrillex, The Isley Brothers, New Edition, Babyface, Erykah Badu, and Aaron Carter. This spring, he will accompany Allan Kingdom on the Lines European Tour, just before headlining the Rhymesayers curated Soundset Festival on May 28th. I spoke with Tiiiiiiiiiip by phone as he was shopping for a snakeskin jacket to talk about what goes into making DJing a career, his goals to innovate nightlife culture, and how to keep your hustle creative.

Evan Gabriel: When did you start DJing?

Taylor Madrigal: Technically 2010, but I started taking it seriously around 2014 during The Stand4rd stuff. I was going by my government name, and then I changed my name and it signified my lane into DJ’ing full time.

GabrielTell me about adding the 10 i’s to your name. Was that a way for you to market yourself uniquely?

Madrigal: The older I get the more I hate when things are over-explained. It just seems wack. You have to give people a reason to go find it, that way they feel more connected to it. That’s something that has to happen naturally. It just leaves more to the imagination.

Gabriel: Where did you grow up?

Madrigal: I grew up in Northeast Minneapolis. We moved to the suburbs right before I went into high school, so I was sort of exiled from the people I grew up with. That gave me time to develop my music tastes. I think if I didn’t have that I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. I moved away and I didn’t have any friends or anyone at all to talk to or anything. I didn’t have any type of support system. So I just gravitated towards music. I would just sit day and night, day and night, pretty much every waking hour finding music, and I was making music at the time too.

GabrielHow did you get into promoting around the Twin Cities?

Madrigal: The funny thing is I never ever aspired to be a DJ, ever. I fell into it and it ended up being the best thing. It just goes to show if you get in where you fit in and make things happen, you figure it out down the line. It’s never really going to go as planned. I started a group with my friends, Audio Perm. I would reach out to all these venues and nobody would put us on, no one would book us or do anything for us at all. Why would they? We’re just some random kids hitting them up. They don’t know what our network is or anything about us. So we did it ourselves. If a promoter won’t book you, set up an event yourself.

GabrielIt seems like you still hold true to that principle.

Madrigal: Do anything you can, even if you have to do some s**t that’s weird or looks bad for a while, people will start to catch on. The most important thing you can have is a network. It doesn’t matter how much swag you have or how much you know, it’s all about your network at the start. Even now, I wouldn’t be able to do anything without my network. Everything just happened naturally. I never set out to be a promoter or a DJ. I wanted to be a producer. But sometimes in life, you have to adapt and do what works for you to make a living. That’s what it boils down to.

Another thing that has really benefited me in this past year alone is really learning that no matter how hard I try or how much work I put in, I can’t do it by myself. There are just some things that you’re better off allocating to other people and really putting in the work to find people that you can trust and rely on.

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