Originally published in the Brandeis University Justice
Feb. 14, 2012
The signs on the doors to the Levin Ballroom read, “Strobe lights will be used during this performance.” Let the party begin.
As I walked into the ballroom on Thursday night, a small group of students had already gathered, eagerly anticipating the opening performer of Student Events’ February concert, Basic Physics. When the disc jockey stepped onto the stage, the audience surged tighter together, clamoring for a taste of the hip-hop flavored jams for which the young mix-master is known.
Basic Physics is a one-man operation. The mash-up artist first hit it big in 2010 when his mix “Stuntin’ with a Milli,” which combines songs by Lil Wayne, Phoenix and Pretty Lights, became a hit on YouTube and SoundCloud, a popular music streaming site. At the time of publication, the song has been viewed over 42,000 times on each site.
Since 2010, Basic Physics has released two mixtapes: Nightlife in the Northwoods and Liftoff.
Back in Levin, Basic Physics did not disappoint. The entertainer—that’s truly what he was—played infectious beats featuring many top-40 artists like Katy Perry, Ludacris, Lady Gaga and Maroon 5. He knew just when to let the beat slow down, creating tension in the crowd until the speakers suddenly exploded with the chorus of a well-known song. Basic Physics was clearly enjoying himself as well, singing along to his mash-ups as well as waving his hands back and forth, nodding his head and occasionally encouraging the audience with yells of excitement.
After Basic Physics’ 45-minute set, AraabMUZIK took the stage. An up-and-coming performer, AraabMUZIK was different from any other DJ I had seen before. He didn’t simply take samples of popular songs and mix them together. Instead, using an Akai Music Production Center drum machine, he created rhythms of his own, throwing together beat after beat in increasingly rapid succession. The MPC is similar to a synthesizer; it looks like a large pad containing 16 square buttons configured in four rows of four. Each of these buttons makes a different drum sound. When AraabMUZIK played the MPC, it sounded like he had an entire drum kit in front of him.
This style of performance may seem futuristic, but it’s a natural progression for this performer. According to AraabMUZIK’s official website, “When I first started making beats, I went from the keyboard to a software program and to an MPC. My motivation at that time was just for the fact that I wanted to hear and make my own music. All my old beats on the keyboard were like a good three to four minutes long and as I got better, so did the beats.”
AraabMUZIK doesn’t just use the MPC as a way to get around real musical talent—he knows how to play the drums for real and breaks out a full kit at some performances. But by combining the MPC with other electronic equipment, he has the ability to create heart-pounding beats and add in samples of other songs as well. At the concert, a large screen was connected to a camera that filmed directly over the machine. That way, the audience could see AraabMUZIK’s fingers flash over the keys as they danced to the rhythm.
Throughout the show, AraabMUZIK was immersed in his music. His whole body rocked back and forth as he slammed his fingers down on the buttons, seemingly lost in the musical world of his own creation. Clothed in a dark hoodie and flat-brimmed baseball cap, he looked like a stereotypical rapper or MC.
But his songs had no words and he rarely spoke to the audience. He was too engaged in making rapid-fire beats that washed over the dancers on the floor. For its part, the crowd seemed to love it, grooving to the vibrations and expressing their disappointment when the beat-maker finally left the stage.