New York's rising star, DJ Excel, spun for the Fourth of July, American Independence Day, at Bangkok's Q Bar. Hailing from Boston, DJ Excel the Mixmaster has come a long way since futzing around with his cousins' turntables at age 14. His latest mix of Beyonce's "Deja Vu" has topped the charts and his party mix "Hook Me Up" has sold more than 50,000 copies. Excel spun in Bangkok as part of his Asian tour with stops in Tokyo, Taiwan, and Shanghai.
Born Marcus Roberts, Excel started his career as a rapper but soon found his calling while mixing on his friend DJ Audi's radio show "Another Def Jam" on Boston College radio in 1990. His first album, "Situation", came out in 1995, and spearheaded his career, taking him to New York City and Europe where he spun for three years.
Upon returning to the US, Excel returned to the studio, producing mixes with Chris Brown, the Pussy Cat
Dolls, Sasha and Beyonce. He is now based in New York.
His true passion is mixing styles from old school to newer hip-hop for a fast, fun sound. This sound gathers heavy influence from a childhood spent listening to music styles ranging from pop, '80s rock, his family's Caribbean music, his mother's Motown classics, and of course rap. These influences are ever-present in his mixing style, and taught him to keep an open ear, while he continuously searches for innovative sounds, turning more recently to Latin and Arabic beats.
Weekend had a chance to chat with the DJ before his show.
How did you pick the name DJ Excel?
It rings a bell, when you think of the word excel it means to be greater than, to surpass, and I've always wanted to be the best at whatever I do.
What do you think of Bangkok?
I love the energy, I love the spirit of Bangkok. I feel like I'm at home. Of the cities I like to hang out in, New York, Miami, Vegas, Tokyo, Bangkok is right up there. I feel very, very comfortable. This is right up my alley; this is cool.
How has your Asian tour been going?
It's actually refreshing. I love it; I'll be back. The kids know their music, they are up on their techniques, they're up on the latest equipment. In some respects they are actually ahead of the game in New York because it's fresh to them, there aren't as many boundaries here as there are there, so I feel more free, you know, I can be myself.
What's different about DJing in the club versus the studio?
I like both. The studio is cool because you can be very creative, you can control the environment. When you're DJing live, you really have to feel out the crowd, you have to connect with the environment.
Do you have a favourite track that you've remixed?
Its funny, they're all like my little children. Sometimes your child will do something that makes you proud, and you have that moment with them, but you love them all. At this point I have done so many that I'm happy with the whole body of work, and I just hope that everyone enjoys them all. They're all beautiful.
Where do you think that hip-hop is going in the years to come?
I've just seen it come full circle, from rapping about nothing to something, so I think the music is going to change. Hip-hop music will sort of morph into something else, it's going to become another genre, it's not going to be hip-hop anymore.
Where would you like to see hip-hop going in the future?
As with anything, old is new, new is old. So you have to reinvent it, put a little twist on it. I just think rappers have got to be a little more creative in their lyrical content. I'd like to see some rappers have fun with the lyrics and make it enjoyable as opposed to being about money and clothes and girls and violence, you know? I want it to be fun again.
What has been the most challenging thing in your musical career?
Staying focused, not giving up. That's really the key. It's a cliche and everyone says it, but you know what, the key is staying focused.
What do you do when you are not in the studio?
I watch mindless television programmes like "Flavour of Love", "I Love New York" and game shows. I also love to read; I read a lot of books.
What's your favourite book?
Believe it or not, it's the Bible.