GLOBAL FRESH: Indie-View w/DJ Just Dizle
Words by Jay Balfour
Just Dizle is a workmanlike DJ. He’s not flashy or famous, but he’s consistent. It’s an approach exemplified by the Parisian hip-hop fanatic’s digital footprint, which is brimming with eclectic mixtapes that opened the door for his current country-hopping tour schedule. “From 2005 to now, I have more than 200 mixtapes online,” he tells Indie-Life, holding court at La Colombe in Fishtown. “That’s more than 6 million downloads. For me to be able to grow, it wasn’t easy.”
A little over a decade ago, Dizle’s fascination with Philadelphia was purely musical. “I loved the scene in the early 2000s,” he says. “The type of DJ I am, I like to go to a city just to check the vibes. I used to come to Philly like every six months.” Later, Dizle met and married a Philadelphian living in Paris, and his connection with the city is now two-fold. He also name checks Jazzy Jeff alongside DJ Premier as his musical idols, noting of the Philly legend: “In terms of longevity, he’s still rocking it like he just started.”
Though Dizle is one of Paris’ foremost hip-hop DJs, he admits to a slog in breaking through stateside. “The biggest gigs in my career come from my mixtapes,” he says. “Usually I tend to go where people say I shouldn’t go. It might be hard, but it’ll be off my own hustling.” Dizle jokes about an early-career tactic of pretending to be his own manager via an alternate email address, a way of injecting an air of accomplished professionalism into his then-fledgling notoriety. “From 2001 to 2004, I sent over 300 mixtapes to everybody, [like] MTV and stuff,” he admits. “I was thinking, ‘The worse that can happen is they say, “No.”’ Once you got the attention, it’s a wrap.”
After fortunate breaks at BET and Skratch magazine, Just Dizle got his due, wedging himself fully into the American hip-hop industry by appearing alongside Snoop Dogg on “Rap City,” showing up as a guest on Sway’s “Shade 45” morning show, and finding ever-larger platforms for his live performance and mixtapes alike.
As a DJ, Just Dizle is an encyclopedic curator with simple ambitions. “To me, there’s just two kinds of music: good and bad,” he says. “I just like to share what I like with people.” Some of the turntablist’s most prominent mixtapes are deep studies into a specific artist’s catalog, like his discography-spanning explorations of Bob James and Roy Ayers’ influence on hip-hop and R&B. His exclusive mixtape for Indie-Life, “Hardly Working” displays Dizle’s love for Hip-Hop.
“I don’t prepare my sets because I’m comfortable with my musical knowledge,” he confesses. “Usually the three first songs I play tell me where I can take them.” Of course, he’s also practical and shares a matter-of-fact method of approach when it comes to flooding a dance floor: “The girls gotta be happy. If they ain’t happy, nobody’s gonna be happy at the party. Guys will follow. Sometimes guys are on the dance floor, and they don’t care about the music. But when the girls are dancing, they’ll dance also.”
Dizle’s experience with dance-music is familial as well. “My dad has two nightclubs,” he says, referencing his father’s businesses in his home country of Cameroon. “[He] used to write songs; one of my uncles used to produce songs also. I was into music since I was a kid.”
Now, Dizle is raising his own three children—who are nine, four and two—with a similar enthusiasm for music. While his own hip-hop icons are first-wave innovators, Dizle’s oldest has taken to Kendrick Lamar, the self-serious Compton lyricist who has reinvigorated California hip-hop in recent years. Following the release of Lamar’s widely celebrated 2012 debut good kid, m.A.A.d. city, Dizle’s son cried foul that his father was getting to see Lamar in concert without him. “I had to call the promoter and beg him to let me bring my son to the show because I never saw my son so stressed,” Dizle recalls with a smile. “I took him. Just the look on his face … I’ma tell you, I won Daddy of the Year for maybe 30 years in a row that night. That little kid loves what he loves. He was so passionate about it.”
Visuals by Mzizi Media