Release Date: Feb 19, 2016
Record label: !K7
Genre(s): Electronic, House, Downtempo, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance, Neo-Disco
Moodymann is an outspoken and confrontational bad-ass, a press-averse Motor City militant who's definitely not afraid to piss people off. He's also a brilliant producer of often-transcendent music—are there any songs in the house universe more spine-tingling than "I Can't Kick This Feeling When It Hits"?—and a magnetic, discerning and, at times, downright fun selector, mixing up soul classics, roller-skate bumpers, bluesy and dusty house, and various deep Detroit-isms with apparent glee. In other words, the artist is a man of many, er, moods—and over the 75 minutes of his mix for !K7's first DJ-Kicks release of 2016, we're treated to both somber and starry-eyed versions of the the man born Kenny Dixon, Jr.
Despite a dance music career now stretching into its third decade, it’s rare for the man born Kenny Dixon, Jr. to grant an interview. But in 2010, Moodymann sat down for a now-legendary talk with the Red Bull Music Academy, and while the bon mots he drops across its two hours are legion—"My bitches and my hoes is my MPCs, my SP-1200, my bass, my keyboards"; "Detroit is a dying city; well, I’m going to die with that motherfucker"; "Hell, I thought Kraftwerk was four niggas"—whoever watched the video came away with only one image: The entourage of African-American women who walk in with him and twist his unruly afro into braids onstage and then pass Hennessy around to the audience.
Moodymann has a singular approach to DJing. His sets span the entire history of African-American music and his hometown of Detroit. Plenty of DJs might reference hip-hop, soul, disco, house, techno and new wave as influences, but few would try to cram them all into one set. His persona behind the decks, effectively an alter-ego of Kenny Dixon Junior, is a complicated one.
There is a distinct and knowing difference between those who know music and those who understand it. Those in the former tend to embrace the trivial minutiae surrounding styles, artists and eras, always quick to display their seemingly endless knowledge and often voluminous music collections. In the case of the former, these individuals possess both the former’s subject matter knowledge, but also an inherent understanding of music’s potential affecting the whole of the mind, body and soul.
Two decades after fellow Detroiters Carl Craig, Claude Young, and Stacey Pullen were among the first contributors to !K7's DJ-Kicks, Kenny Dixon, Jr. adds to the series with a largely low-key, genre-spanning set. The selections suggest that the mix, or most of it, was knocked out long before its February 2016 release; not one of the tracks was first issued later than 2014.
What does Detroit mean? The bleating of the disaster-oriented media trills out the wasteland narrative, with its sympathy aimed squarely at the physical artifacts of the city, often ignoring the people left behind. Ruin porn isn’t new anymore — it’s the totality of today’s Detroit, internalized into coastal psyches as the city where humans don’t exist but legions of collapsed buildings do. It’s fitting that the depersonalized sounds of techno sprang out of Detroit’s empty streets.
Right off the mark, Detroit icon Moodymann made known that his crack at the long-standing DJ-Kicks compilation would be about creating something accessible rather than presenting a collection of rare and hard to find tracks. The mix starts off stridently, launching into soul (Yaw's "Where Will You Be") before rolling through a bit of hip-hop; early in the set, Moodymann lands on the elusive Jai Paul's "BTSTU" and works in what is arguably one of Flying Lotus' best tracks, "Tea Leaf Dancers. " Rather than having his DJ-Kicks entry move through a gamut of genres progressively, exploring each and seamlessly rolling into the next, the mix follows jumps from track to track, often exploring a previously highlighted genre, which gives the album a long, drawn out feel.
The beat-based releases of 2016’s first quarter have lent dance fans fresh inspiration (in the form of new LPs, EPs, and mixes) to leave comfortably overheated New York apartments in favor of frigid warehouse spaces and sweaty clubs. If the intellectual side of 120-BPM-area music is more your thing, never fear — this assortment of heady releases is also perfect for enjoying while prostrate on the couch in your preferred pair of headphones. Whether you’re in the mood for a soulful journey through space and time curated by Motor City icon Moodymann, or more of a cross-country road trip to the Sonoran sounds of rising producer Avalon Emerson, there’s something here for everyone.