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The Most Creative & Imaginative DJ Mixes Re-contextualizing Music

Updated on November 18, 2015

The following DJ mixes showcase the most creative and imaginative sets that I have encountered so far in my career as a DJ and crate digger. The purpose of the list is to display what a DJ can potentially do that goes beyond the more common approach of mixing from one song and into another and nothing more.

The craft of a DJ always has the potential to be more than just the familiar point A to point B curation of music. In the right hands, a DJ mix can be a sonic work of art that re-contextualizes music and sound while challenging our preconceptions of where it all is suppose to fit.

If you know of any mixes that fit this description and I've yet to include them on this list, please do let me know so I may remedy that. No one particular genre of music is focused on here. The music genre range is wide in this list and can potentially be anything, with the exception of EDM and today's Top 40, which I've chosen to exclude. Enjoy this collection.

THE GAME CHANGER: ROADIUM SWAPMEET MIX TAPES IN LOS ANGELES

In 1988 I bought a mixed tape from the Roadium Swap Meet in Los Angeles. To this day, it still stands as the greatest DJ mix tape I have ever heard.


This mix tape has served as my personal standard in music re-contextualization and DJ mixing. It was a fast-paced mix of hip hop, electro funk, miami bass, with intermingled blends of disco, oldies, soul, R&B, radio public service announcements, children's story/nursery rhyme records.

Some blends I remember from it were Afro-Rican's Give It All You Got mixed with Lipps Inc's Funky Town and Jerry Butler's He Will Break Your Heart as well as Sam Cook's Chain Gang---Biz Markie's Make The Music With Your Mouth mixed with Soul II Soul's Keep On Moving---2 Live Crew's Dirty Nursery Rhymes mixed with De La Soul's Me Myself & I as well with a childrens nursery rhyme record featuring that Nick Nack Paddy Whack, Give That Dog a Bone, tune.

The tape, to the best of my memory, was either a generic Panasonic or Sony cassette you could easily find at any store back then. The tape itself was unlabeled (no DJ or music credited) but its plastic case contained a shabby Xeroxed copy of the artwork from DJ Unknown's Let's Jam 12" single sleeve cover, but had his name covered up with the title Funk Mix 8. I hope this rings a bell to one of you because much to my regret, I lost this tape.

I've been listening to other Roadium mix tapes from the late 80s created by Dr. Dre (yes, the N.W.A. guy) and DJ Tony A. Their mixes are similar in style to that Funk Mix 8 tape. I suspect one of those DJs created it. These other Roadium mixes are phenomenal too. These were created on two turntables, and I suspect a multi-track recorder. Inspiring stuff. These tapes are the reason I became a DJ.


Dr Dre & Tony A's Bust It Mix Tape Side A intro

Dr Dre & Tony A's Megabass Side B

Dr Dre's 20 Foe 7um Swap Meet Mix

Hi-C & Tony A's Roadium Mix Tape

Dr Dre's 86 In The Mix Mix Tape

Dr Dre's U Got Ganked 1987 Mix Tape

DJ Tony A's 88 Boom N Bass Roadium Mix Tape

Hi-C & Exclusive DJ Tony A's Mix Tape

Dr Dre's 85 Live Mix Tape

Dr Dre & DJ Tony A's Jam (Jack Move part 1)

Dr Dre's Criminal Mix Tape

Dr Dre & Tony A's Skanlist Intro

RICK SKI & FADER GLADIATOR

Extreme, and I mean EXTREME, rare groove soul, funk, and old school break beats from around the world. "Super-funky, hard-to-find, weird and crazy breaks, beats & songs from all over the world. For fans of Funkvergn├╝gen, Product Placement and On Track. Rick Ski (LSD) & Fader Gladiator (Firma) present Part 2 of their legendary Breaks-Bonanza series." - humrecords.ch

Released on Blutleck Records in 2007.

THE PRODIGY'S LIAM HOWLETT

The Prodigy's Liam Howlett, more well known for creating those classic rave/break beat tunes like Smack My Bitch Up, Outta Space, and Firestarter, also put out an amazing back-to-the-roots bold and unapologetic turntable mix set called the Dirtchamber Sessions Volume 1 featuring a wild hodge podge of classic hip hop, electro funk, soul, funk, punk, rock, modern breaks, acid, etc. He also has a couple of mix tapes, one called The Mental Mix, the other titled East London Rave Mega Mix. It's all mixing you can't help but bop your head and grow a big smile to. .

The Prodigy Presents The Dirtchamber Sessions Vol 1

The Prodigy's The Mental Mix

Liam Howlett's East London Rave Mega Mix

STEINSKI & DOUBLE DEE - CREATORS OF THE LESSONS MIXES

Steinski & Double Dee

More info pending.

Steinski & Double Dee: Lesson 2: History of Hip Hop

Steinski & Double Dee - Lesson 3

Steinski & Double Dee: Lesson 3

OPTIMO: TWO DJs FROM BRUSSELS

What can I say about Optimo other than I wish they had more mix CDs like Kill The DJ available. Courageous all the way through. What type of music is in it? Answer: A strange yet coherent mix of soul, techno, post punk rock, indie rock, rare groove, break beats, new wave, disco, children's choir music, electro funk, rockabilly, house music, garage, big beat, EBM (electronic body music), and overall deeply obscure stuff. This one is a gem. Optimo is a couple of DJs reigning from Brussels, Germany.

Optimo: Kill The DJ Part 2

DJ SPOOKY (THAT SUBLIMINAL KID)

Words to describe the Under The Influence mix: Cinematic, deep, intelligent, and beautiful. This is a sonic exploration into the many faces and tempos of the raw break beat. You can hear the influences of free jazz, funk, soul, reggae, dub, hip hop, fused into modern genres related to the break beat variety. It opens up with an ambient soundscape and lures you in into a steady and unpredictable progression of breaks, jungle, drum & bass, and hip hop. The link provided here leads to only a portion of the mix. Find the actual CD if you can to listen to the entire thing in its seamless perfection.

MIKE RELM: RADIO FRYER

Mike Relm is a very, very dangerous man on the wheels of steel. Good luck pigeon-holing him. A skillful turntablist from California's Bay Area, he is better known for his prowess with creating mash-ups and manipulating audio and video via the use of turntables and Serato.

This Radio Fryer mix, as I understand it, is a bit rare. Showcasing the art of the trick-mix, this set is a fun and unpredictable mix session coursing through with music genres such as hip hop, jazz, turntablism tricks, 80s new wave, liquid jungle, electro funk, children's music records, garage, KROQ alternative classics, grunge, freestyle, TV & movie themes, b-boy breaks, rare groove, dialogue records, classic rock, and 50s rock & roll.

FOUR COLOR ZACK

Four Color Zack was required by Redbull Turn2style to mix together at least three music genres within 15 minutes; he instead mixed in a great multitude of genres. Imaginative through and through and with a lot of personal style. Genres he covered: Hip hop, punk, drum & bass, funk (boogie), house music, ska, dubstep, electro funk, Miami bass, R&B, electro funk, rock & roll, and new wave.

DJ MICHAEL TRANCE

An Orlando club promoter once told me that the only DJ that can scratch over house music is Bad Boy Bill from Chicago. (Respect to Bad Boy Bill, by the way)

This promoter obviously has never witnessed some of Los Angeles's and Orange County's true underground DJs spinning and SCRATCHING house music and techno in Southern California.

Michael Trance is one of those DJs. I've been listening to this dude since the early to mid 90s or so. This is what happens when you splice elements of hip hop turntablism with house music mixing.

R.A.W.'s 1993 Classic Hardcore Jungle - KPWR 105.9 FM (Power 106) Power Tools Mix Show

Michael Trance Live @ Powertools 106 FM Memorial Weekend 1996

RC1 & DJ Teazer - Early 90s House & Techno Mega Mix - KPWR 105.9 FM (Power 106) Power Tools Mix Show

BIG APPLE PRODUCTIONS MIX SERIES

The Big Apple Productions records were a series of mixed plates (records with full DJ mixes pressed on them). They are somewhat rare now. Each one is a musical collage digging deep in both familiar and relatively obscure classics in dance music from the 1980s, and some from the early 90s. What you will hear in these mixes: U.S. garage, disco, soul, funk electro funk, hi-energy disco, rock, classic b-boy breaks, house music. A lot fun play with acapella overlays, breakdowns, creative vinyl record manipulation, and exploration into some unexpected music genre combinations.

Big Apple Productions Volume 1

Big Apple Productions Volume 2 by Latin Rascals

Big Apple Productions Volume 3

CUT CHEMIST

Cut Chemist, DJ and turntablist for the hip hop group Jurassic 5, and occasional mixing partner with DJ Shadow, is a mad scientist of music mixology and adventurous crate digger with a flair for the funky, the abstract, and left field. This is my favorite mix by him: The Litmus Test. The rhythms change and dig deep through funk, jazz, global soul, blues, big band swing, b-boy sounds, and all around hip hop left field sounds infused with intermingled turntablism tricks. This is what we call the break. Dope-dope-dope and unpredictable.

The Litmus Test

Disco Is Dead

The Audience is Listening

Rare Equations

BAD BOY BILL & RICHARD HUMPTY VISSION

If you grew up in or near the Los Angeles, CA area during throughout the 1990s then you would have likely come across KPWR 105.9 FM's (AKA Power 106) Power Tools mix show with Richard Humpty Vission late in the night on weekends. Humpty Vission quickly became a big name in the L.A. underground scene by being the only DJ on broadcast radio during that time showcasing creative and pushed-to-the-limits quick-mixing of underground house music and techno.

His collaboration with Chicago's house music DJ/turntablist Bad Boy Bill on House Connection 2 is one of my all time favorite house music mixes. The tempo is a little faster here than most house music heads today may be used to listening to now, but the aggressive and seamless quick-mixing of hard house, disco filtered house, disco drops, jungle, and the occasional break, while topped with a scratch or two, is infectious and exciting to listen to. Not your typical house mix here.

HOUSE CONNECTION 2

DJ SHADOW

Besides hip hop and electro funk pioneer Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Shadow is another DJ, turntablist, and crate digger that I consider a mixing master in the re-contexualization of music and sound. His record collection must be a holy grail of rarities and obscurities of uncompromisingly good music of multiple genres. He is one of those DJs that, try as you may, cannot be pigeon holed when it comes to music.

He is also credited for being the pioneer of the trip-hop music genre with his early productions on the MoWax record label.

He has created wondrous music stitched together by esoteric music samples that only a seasoned crate digger in dark basement record caches would be able to produce.

Each of his mixes are entirely unpredictable--the work of a DJ that mixes straight from the heart. With that you are left with DJ mix sessions that are live sonic re-arrangements of reality, performed within an auditory exploration that is inspiring, thought provoking, theatrical, and makes one re-think our preconceptions about music and sounds in general as to where they belong and how. Take a listen--this is what I call cinema for the ear.

Live! In Tune And On Time

30 Min Boiler Room Mix

DJ SHADOW & CUT CHEMIST

What do you get when you place two master DJs/turntablists/crate diggers in the same room with two mixers and four turntables and their personal collections of obscure funk and soul 45 rpm records? Answer: Legendary DJ mixing magic, 100% live. Nothing short of amazing are their performances on both the Freeze (Brainfreeze) and Product Placement shows. Recommended as well: DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist's The Hard Sell and also The Renegades of Rhythm shows on DVD and CD. Enjoy---this is our culture--this is hip hop's fundamental elements. Behold.

Freeze (AKA Brainfreeze)

Product Placement

Renegades of Rhythm Part 1

2 MANY DJs (AKA SOULWAX, AKA THE FLYING DEWAELE BROTHERS)

2 Many DJs, comprised of brothers David and Stephen Dewaele, from Belgium, I consider the most exciting DJ duo up their with the likes of Optimo as well as DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist. If you are lucky enough to find and pick up one of their As Heard On Radio Soulwax mix CDs and read through the song/track listing in a set, you may come to the same thought that first crossed my mind when I did, "These guys are dangerous."

So far, in my 30+ years of listening to DJ mixes, I find 2 Many DJs to be the most bold in applying Afrika Bambaataa's eclectic music mixing and taking it up to another level in its art form.

Who else have you heard put together a coherent and seamless music mix session so left field and unpredictable that features a combination of techno, disco, hip hop, soul, house music, reggae, funk, R&B, country, rockabilly, miami bass, electro funk, post punk rock, break beats, new wave, indie rock, drum & bass, new beat, electroclash, classic rock, metal, even cheesy pop (while still being palatable to the underground ear) dialogue and public service announcement records, and countless other odd fusions? Nothing is safe when it comes to what 2 Many DJs can do with music within the mix. This isn't just a listening session; this is an experience you wont forget. This is what I call freeform mixing. Note: Their As Heard On Radio Soulwax CDs mixes add up to the double digits in volumes. What I have listed are only the few mixes I could find that are playable online.

Z-TRIP

What I love about Z-Trip is not only his daring skills as a turntablist, but also for his penchant for blending together hip hop with rock/metal music. Much respect to this guy here for representing hip hop culture.

DJ JAZZY JEFF & SCRATCH BASTID

I don't remember how I came across this mix, but I'm happy that I did. Fun and daring as Jazzy Jeff and Scratch Bastid take turns on the turntables mixing an unpredictable session of anything that just plain sounds good and will make you move. Hip hop, R&B, rock, soul, new wave, classic dance anthems, and so much more.

DJ Jazz Jeff & Scratch Bastid - Throw Your Panties Party

DJ BATTERY BRAIN

DJ Battery Brain's 808 Volt Mix, like the Big Apple Productions records (no relation), is one of those mixed plates that were released in the 80s. A mix of electro funk, hip hop, funk (boogie).

DJ Battery Brain - 808 Volt Mix

DJ EFX & MIND MOTION CREW

The Just Freakin mix by DJ EFX & Mind Motion Crew (more than likely created via a combination of a turntable mix and the use of a multi-track recorder) is a fast-paced set featuring electro funk, hip hop, and miami bass within 7 minutes. DJ EFX released another mixed plate on his own called Freshmix Vol 1. Freshmix featured a fast paced mix of electro funk, freestyle, miami bass, funk, and dropped samples from then popular songs from the 80s.

Just Freakin

DJ EFX - Freshmix Vol 1

Sampler's D-Lite

GRANDMASTER FLASH

Hip hop pioneer and DJ, Grandmaster Flash hardly needs an introduction. His creativity in the live re-arrangement of music with the use of two turntables and his flair for dropping cool dialogue record drops in the mix have inspired several generations of DJs like myself to think outside the box in what we do.

The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels of Steel

DJ 3D & TOMMY BOY'S RENEGADES OF FUNK MIX CONTEST

When Tommy Boy Records put out their Mastermix contest, DJ 3D's submission was the winning mix and was quickly sealed as a classic in hip hop's history. Early hip hop and electro funk here.

DJ 3D - Tommy Boy Megamix

DJ MAESTRO

California's DJ Maestro created a masterpiece of 80s bass-heavy mega-mixes spiraling listeners into a fast-paced race of electro funk, freestyle, and Miami bass. More than likely this was put together with the use of a multi-track recorder, that's my guess, but it's too good to deny it's strength as inspiration to DJs to sound like these mixes in a live performance.

New Dance Kraze

Cali Cuts

JUANTIO FX

Juanito FX, from Oakland, CA, put out a series of mixed plate records. The ones I've provided links for are the ones, though they too were likely created with a multi-track recorder, that spurred my imagination as to what a DJ mix could possibly be when performed live. Old school hip hop, Miami bass, electro funk, and freestyle.

True Colors (Ghetto Mix)

Cold In Effect

Don't Stop The Mix

I.B.P Just Rockin

DJ PRINCE ICE

Dopemix? Yeah, dope is right. DJ Prince Ice put this classic hip hop mix together, apparently overlayed on some kind of rhythm track, and it will sure as hell take you way back. Lovin' it.

Dopemix Vol 1

Dopemix Vol 2

CAMERON PAUL

Cameron Paul reached legendary status as a DJ in California's Bay Area in the 80s and early 90s by performing masterful mixing feats with dance music records of multiple genres. One word to describe his DJ mixing: Intimidating. The man could blend music seamlessly and simultaneously incorporate hip hop mixing elements of scratching and quick drops and Kool Herc's Merry Go Round mix technique. He also created amazing multi-track produced mega mixes which he released on Mixx It Records as well as on Hot Tracks Records. He was popular on San Francisco's KSOL and KMEL radio stations. His work includes music productions and remixes that quickly became classic dance music records. This DJ is one my early inspirations in the art of mixing.

Cameron Paul's Late Great Power Mix 88 - Mixx It Records

Cameron Paul 1987 Footage at Club 217

DJ Patty Clover

80s OLD SCHOOL HIP HOP SWAPMEET MIX TAPE - S. CALI 1996 (mixed by is not known)

BITS & PIECES MIX SERIES

I own a few copes of these Bits & Pieces mix plates. I don't have much information about them other than that they are all incredible stitch-works of timeless dance music from the 80s and some from the 90s in genres running through disco, electro funk, garage, new wave, obscurities, and house.

Bits & Pieces 85

Bits & Pieces 87

Bits & Pieces 88 Side A

Bits & Pieces 88 Side B

Bits & Pieces 89 Side A

Bits & Pieces 89 Side B

Bits & Pieces 90

Bits & Pieces 91 Side A

Bits & Pieces 91 Side B

Bits & Pieces 91.5 Side A

Bits & Pieces 91.5 Side B

Bits & Pieces 92 Side A

Bits & Pieces 92 Side B

Bits & Pieces 93.5 Side A

Bits & Pieces 94

Bits & Pieces 95 1/2 Side A

Bits & Pieces 95 1/2 Side B

Bits & Pieces 1998 Side A

Bits & Pieces 1998 Side B

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