Flavorpill WMC: DJ Contra Interview


Since his arrival in Miami, Contra has consistently lent his deft hands and acute ears to the promotion of the city's DJ culture. Originally from DC, Contra first made a name for himself hosting The Underground, a hip-hop/soul/funk shakedown at the venerable indie radio station WVUM. In 2005, he left town to tour as feisty lyricist M.I.A.'s backup DJ, returning a year later to claim regular gigs at Purdy Lounge, the Pawn Shop, and Skybar. Just back from making the rounds with Spank Rock at SXSW, Contra offered us some insight on the Miami scene.

Notwithstanding the onslaught of events this week, what's your general impression of the DJ scene in Miami?

I think more and more DJs here are getting into playing better parties and not just spinning the same old hits for 17 hours. I was happy to see that at the last Money Shot event at Pawn Shop, I dropped some Baltimore house for the first time and it didn't clear the floor. People in Miami are pretty slow to catch on to new music and often venues won't let you spin what you really want. But I've definitely seen some progress and it seems like there is a change of focus. Spots like Buck15, Purdy Lounge, and the Money Shot party, they'll pretty much give you free range — as long as you first spin the hits to get people hyped.

Besides spinning at parties and exploring events, how else are you keeping busy during WMC?

I'm actually working on creating a mixtape/video project with some of my fellow artists coming down during WMC. The idea is to have cats like Egg Foo Young, Spank Rock, DJ Induce, Chromeo, the Rub, and Pase Rock [of Five Deez] create some exclusive tracks and then get some video footage to match — anything from shots in my bedroom to a typical Miami scene at a jai-alai game.

What would you say is the significance of WMC, especially as it relates to the expansion of music culture in Miami?

WMC surely provides one of the only opportunities to hear music that you really can't find any other time of the year in Miami. And anyone here realizes that as WMC has evolved, many of the unofficial parties have been growing more and more and getting more visible. Plus there's a way wider range of music now than there ever was — even Ultra [Music Festival] has become more eclectic.

Are there any performances that you're particularly looking forward to?

I've been really busy, so I haven't been able to get a handle on everything that's going on. I'm gonna play it by ear, but I'm definitely gonna check out the Turntable Lab party at Skybar on Thursday.

Tell us a little about the kind of music you're digging these days.

Lately, I've been listening to New Orleans brass bands, which is basically the funkiest music alive today. I'm really getting high off that sound, but it really irks me when I play it and people may not be conscious enough to respond. The energy in those bands can easily be transitioned to Afrofunk, or some George Kranz and Italo disco, and then straight into booty music.

Where do you see yourself a few years from now?

Thankfully, I've got a great family of talented artists that keeps me going — Spank Rock, Amanda Blank, Bonde do Role, Plastic Little, the Pack, Flosstradamus, A-Trak, Santogold — and as we progress I hope to help them expand the musical horizons here and elsewhere. Most clubs here still want the big hits, but I can get away with spinning stuff like snap music, maybe a little bit of classic rock, and some '90s backpack hip-hop in one set. Still, if DJs stay content with only playing the hits, Miami is going to stay behind the curve. But really, we've had IDM on lock and we have an amazing Latin scene, so let's keep making it happen.

by Omar Sommereyns