Dec 17, 2008

"J-A-Y are the letters of his name, Cutting and Scratching are the aspects of his game, so Check out the Master as he cuts these jams......."

"Jam Master Jay" by RUN DMC

For any Hip Hop historian, these words, though simplistic, are far greater in measure in paying homage to one of the greatest legends of the genre. A song, a hip hop anthem, and later a tribute to one of the Masters that helped shape a culture and birth a new definition of the "DJ". RUN DMC are true pioneers of Hip Hop as we know it now, they were the one of the first to take the underground beats, rhythms, and rhymes to the forefront of pop culture, but it was Jam Master Jay that pushed those limits to be broken, he redefined the sound of Hip Hop. He showed the world how two turntables and a microphone could reshape rock and hip hop music, and still move a party.

Too often the DJ is an afterthought, but about 3 years ago, my best friend and I went out on a Saturday night to a new spot, nothing big in grandeur, actually we heard about it through a friend of ours, it was like a basement party actually, and considering I live in the Midwest wasn't expecting much just something new, but there was a moment in which I will never forget that night. At about 2 in the morning me and my Best friend had danced for about 3 hours straight, we couldn't stop (lol) it was like my freshmen year in college, my first dance, senior prom, my HBCU homecoming, all wrapped into one....why? I guess you could sum it up to the soundtrack of my life...every song I had ever loved, lived,and partied too...I heard that night...and gaging from how packed the dancefloor was, seemingly nostalgia was the drink of choice...and we were all drunk~ Now why is this basis of my post, well to me in retrospect, I found that night both spectacular and even more telling about who than why? As me and my best friend left that night with a smile on our face and soreness in our feet, the one thing that we both could agree on that made it all worth it....and yet somewhat perplexed?.... Who was the DJ?

DJ Limelight

That DJ was DJ Limelight, and in my opinion one of the Hottest in the Midwest. His sound not only compliments what's hot on the radio, but he has also managed to provide that balance, by introducing new and innovative artist that seemingly are under the radar. I had an opportunity to interview the man behind the turntables, and wanted to understand how he has been able to define an abyss of followers.

What is your goal when you DJ, is there a specific feeling or thought that you want people to leave with or is it solely about having a good time?

Part of it is about having a good time but, depending on what I’m booked for, my purposes change. If I’m DJ’g a fashion show, the focus is the clothing – not the music. If it’s a comedy show, I’m the fill-in between the acts. If I’m the main act, I consider it a performance. So I definitely want people have a good time. I want people to ask who the DJ was or at least wonder. People remember the DJ only if he or she is really dope or if they suck really badly.

What Role do you feel you play in exposing people to new music/artist that are not heard on mainstream radio?

Hmmm…That’s a loaded question… I do feel like I have a responsibility to expose great music but that’s because I’m a music lover first and a DJ second. The best DJ’s are music lovers that learned how to DJ. What’s considered “mainstream radio” is harder to classify today. You have XM radio, podcasting, HD radio, Internet radio, etc. Even iTunes has the genius sidebar now that will recommend other songs to you based on your iTunes library. I say all that to say, the progressive listener is over hearing the same eight songs dozens of times a day as is the case with traditional radio. I think that’s the main reason the other outlets have become popular. In terms of when I’m playing live or on the radio, I definitely try to sandwich in really good new music along with the recurrent songs..

Name 5 Non-mainstream artists that you think people are sleeping on?

Jay Electronica
Charles Hamilton
Janelle Monet
Tanya Morgan
The Cool Kids

Now that DJing has become more digital, are the two turn-tables and a microphone no longer relevant?

No. Not in the least bit. If anything, the tools that are available to DJ’s now allow us to push the boundaries of creativity like never before. Now I can DJ almost as fast as I think (laughs). With the popularity of iTunes, music blogs and digital delivery methods in general, DJ’s have access to tons of music. I still use turntables to DJ in the same way I would with traditional vinyl..

Speaking of Independent Artist, with Social networks such as MySpace and blogs, do we see a migration away from traditional forms of waiting for the major labels to call in order for these artist to get their music out?

I’d say so. A lot of artists have moved towards releasing their material digitally through various social networks and their Web sites. That’s the case for both artists signed to major labels and those working independently. Artists have circumvented the process associated with dealing with major labels because reaching your fan base in an intimate way is now critical to longevity in the industry. People want to connect with the artists. In some cases, artists have gotten deals by way of the buzz they've created through the various social networks. Even major labels recognize the symptomatic change in distribution channels and have started "independent" labels of their own.

I heard a profound statement a while back, that stated, “at this point in time Hip Hop should have evolved into something greater (artform)”, Has Hip Hop or rather music in general stunted it’s growth? Is Hip Hop Dead, or is it the Artist who have killed it?

I’d have to disagree with that statement. The person that made that statement isn’t listening to a wide enough variety of hip-hop. It’s much more than Lil Wayne or whomever the hottest mainstream artists is right now. I don’t think you can listen to Lupe or Talib Kweli and think that hip-hop is dead or hasn’t progressed into something greater than what it was 30 years ago. I think that if hip-hop hasn’t advanced it’s because the people listening to it haven’t advanced. I think Mos Def said it best on “Black On Both Sides...“…what’s gonna happen with hip-hop? Whatever’s happening with us…”. I think that hip-hop is a reflection of the people more so than any other genre of music. It’s a raw reflection of where we are now and most importantly, where we can go. Even looking at it from a historical perspective hip-hop has always been the voice of the disenfranchised community…and the real question is not if hip-hop is dead, but are we? And if so, what are we willing to do for change?

In the area of DJing, it appears to have always been a male dominated industry, what would you say is a reason why female DJ’s are rarely seen or even heard of

It is a very male dominated industry. I think a lot of female DJs have played themselves by using their bodies to get noticed. There’s no value in posing with headphones and a bikini top. I think that’s corny. Simply relying on their body overlooks true talent resulting in no one paying attention to their skills. There are many really dope female DJs out there though. Prince’s DJ (Rashida), Lady Fingaz and DJ Shortee are all incredibly skilled. They don’t use gimmicks – they just DJ.

Do you feel female DJs have to prove themselves more to gain respect of their male counterparts?

Not really. Skills speak for themselves. In some ways female DJ’s have a coolness factor guys don’t because it’s far less common to see a female DJ?


Who are the DJs or Artists that inspire you the most?

Music in general inspires me. As far as artists, I’d have to say Stevie Wonder first and foremost. DJ Jazzy Jeff is the best DJ on the planet to me. I’d love to meet him one day and pick his brain.

What do you believe is the one thing to ensure sustainability in this line of work?

Staying fresh is the key. Reinventing yourself, your style and your sound. Something has to separate you from the crowd.

What have been some of your greatest challenges coming from a smaller market in getting your name out there?

I’d say that it’s much more difficult to make a name for yourself if you’re not in a major market. I’ve DJ’d parties for people around the country and I always hear, “you need to move to L.A. or New York… you need to move out of that market…” It’s not likely that Will Smith or someone famous is going to walk into a club I DJ at and “discover” me and ask me to be their personal DJ.

A lot of DJ’s have made a name for themselves just because they were in the right place at the right time and someone famous heard them – not necessarily because they’re better than me or another DJ from a smaller market. It’s definitely harder to make a name for yourself if you’re not in a major market. I don’t have the location luxury, so I work harder at my craft because of that.

What was your most memorable gig and why? Do you have a ritual to prepare for a show? ( Do you have a song you listen to, to get your gameface on...laugh)?

I’ve played Vegas before and that was unbelievable. Some of my most memorable gigs haven’t been the high-profile ones. I’ve played gigs for small crowds of 100 people right here in Indy that I’ll never forget. I did a Soul Sessions party a few years back that was the best set of my life. I got chills at several points that night. People came up to me afterwards saying it was the best party they had ever been to. Having someone say that to me is incredible.

I have several rituals. I practice before every set. I’ve set up my turntables in my hotel room when I’ve been on the road – it’s that serious. If it’s a big gig, I like to be by myself for an hour or two before I go on. I turn my phone off so that I won’t be bothered. I faithfully use Eucerin cream on my hands before I DJ because I have ash hands (LOL!). I try not to listen to any music before I DJ.

If you were going to the moon or stranded on an island, what would be the one record/CD you would take and why?

“Innervisions” by Stevie Wonder would have to be it. I read that Michael McDonald said that “if God could sing, He would sound like Stevie”. That pretty much sums it up for me.

Name 3 artist that most people would be shocked to find in your IPod, ( I’m guessing a little Hall and Oatts or better yet some Bjork!

Jamie Cullum
The Dave Brubeck Quartet

I know you may get this question a lot, but where did you get the name “Limelight” from?

I don’t get that question as often as you think. It came from The Notorious B.I.G.’s song, “Juicy”…”now I’m in the limelight…” It’s one of my favorite songs of all-time. That line stood out to me from the first time I heard it. I actually went by another DJ name when I first started. Limelight just worked.

Check out DJ Limelight at,, and look out for his new mixtapes! Support Good Music~


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