Last night I had the unhappy experience of seeing the great DJ Spinna play to a crowd of about 12 people at an overpriced bar in the Meatpacking District.

I understand that these are uncertain times – we are living in a ‘world on edge’ (according to the Economist), the stock market is ‘cratering’ (according to the New York Times), and even crazy ass Jim Cramer is pleading for fiscal conservatism. But there is something fundamentally wrong with a society in which an artist of DJ Spinna’s quality can’t get more than a handful of people to pay to see him. As the kids say, SMH.

So I think it’s high time for an appreciation post. I don’t have the time to go into a full breakdown of Spinna’s long career, but there’s a pretty good bio on his site www.djspinna.com.

I personally became aware of him while I was living in NY in the late ’90s. That was the golden age of independent hip hop here, and Spinna was probably the scene’s most influential producer, and I saw him play many, many times back then. It’s sort of sad to think about how little ultimately came of that movement, but it felt good at the time, launched a few careers (Mos Def, Kweli, even Eminem in a way), and produced some excellent, timeless (in my opinion) music.

So here’s one of my DJ Spinna jams from back then. The vocal featured Kweli & Apani B, but somehow I think the instrumental captures the vibe of that time better…

DJ Spinna – Timezone (instrumental)

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It’s taken from Spinna’s 1999 album Heavy Beats Vol. 1 and since the label it was released on folded, I’m pretty sure it’s out of print. So feel free to download the whole thing here… If I’m wrong about the out of print thing, let me know and I’ll take it down…

But Spinna never stuck to strictly underground hip hop. His beats were sourced from lots of places and over the year’s he’s produced a lot of great remixes for old soul, jazz, and R&B. I think there’s perhaps no better example than his epic remix of J5′s ‘We’re almost there’. A summertime cookout staple to this very day.

Jackson 5 – “We’re almost there” (DJ Spinna Remix)

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And last but definitely not least, here’s a live set from a couple of summers ago. This probably gives a better view to Spinna’s landscape than anything else. There’s a couple of janky moments at the beginning where the audio cuts out, but after that it’s good.

DJ Spinna – Live at Plan B July 2006

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Check out:
Spinna on Myspace
This interview with Spinna & Bobbito on their ongoing Stevie tribute Wonder-full. Here’s a sample:

Why do you think the parties are so highly regarded?

Bobbito: We’ve had people faint in the crowd. We’ve had people have orgasms in the crowd.
(DCist chuckles)
I’m dead ass. I’m not even joking. Spinna and I have cried in the deejay booth. It’s a very deep and emotional party.

Spinna: It may not be the man himself but you’ll capture the same type of emotions as you would at his show.

Support great music.

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