DJ Trauma: 5 Albums That Changed My Life
DJ Trauma made like Carmen Sandiego and set his sights on jet-setting across the globe after a woman he used to date made the vow to visit 30 countries before she turned 30. Now, the spin master (born Tayari McIntosh) is dropping an album at the top of next year titled Where In The World Is DJ Trauma?, a project he promises will be all about “good vibes” and “traveling the world.”
During his day off in the midst of warming up the crowd for comedian Dave Chappelle’s residency at Radio City Music Hall in New York, the Manhattan native (who went to college in Atlanta and currently resides in L.A.) stopped by TIDAL HQ to talk about his forthcoming record and curating the vibes for Beyoncé and JAY-Z’s push party. He also shares five albums that changed his life below.
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How did you become a DJ?
I grew up in Manhattan, New York like 23rd Street and East River, and everybody in New York did something in hip-hop. I couldn’t rap, I sucked at graffiti, I danced a little bit but I was just aight. Some of my best friends in high school were DJs, and I went to Bronx Science [high school], so I was kind of a nerd. I was into electronic and technology. They was like, “You could be a DJ too, just save up for the equipment.” So I worked, saved up that summer and got the cheap joints. It was $300 for two turntables so I had basic shit. That’s why I started building my record collection. It wasn’t until I went to college and I started DJing in a cafeteria. I went to Clark Atlanta University. Me and my boys used to share $74 once a week to DJ in a cafeteria, but in college, that was still money.
How did you meet Dave Chappelle?
I like to say it was my karma ‘cause I went to a brunch when one of our friends was having a baby then I bumped into my boy, Corey [Smyth], who worked with Dave and he hit me two weeks later like, ‘You want to do these Dave shows?’ He came to Atlanta, and Atlanta’s my town, so I took him around. He loved what I was playing ‘cause I didn’t really know anything about him except what I would see on his show, like the type of artists that he [would have perform]. I was just playing straight backpack hip-hop. I played Slum Village, and he loved Slum Village. The funny thing is, he listens to so much music. Everybody knows that he loves hip-hop but he loves so many different songs. He’s always putting me on to records. My job is to create a vibe [at his shows] so when he comes on, it’s warm, friendly and people are ready to just have fun.
How does one land a DJing gig for the Carters’ push party?
It was a little bit of luck and positioning. I moved to L.A. just to do different things because I kinda did everything I felt I wanted to do in Atlanta, and I’m the type of person where I’m always trying to be a good person and be chill. So my boy was like, ‘I want you to do this party for my friend. Can you do it?’ So I did [Beyonce’s] cousin’s birthday party, and they were there, and I had ‘em dancing all night ‘cause you know, I was in Atlanta for so long, I know all the South music. So I played all the Houston music and I was supposed to do Kelly Rowland’s husband’s birthday party but then they couldn’t have a DJ. She was like, ‘Well, can you give us a playlist and I’ll pay you?’ I’m like, ‘I’m not gonna charge you for a playlist, just keep me in mind for a good party.’ Then next thing you know, [I DJ'd] the push party.
Any particular song that got the crowd hype at that party?
I played ‘The Bunny Hop,’ which is a song from [Lousiana trio Da Entourage] and everybody started line-dancing from there. It’s such a Houston, New Orleans type of song. L.A. DJs don’t know that song.
How important is knowing your audience as a DJ?
It’s huge. If I was gonna put it in percentages, I would say 60 to 70 percent. You can play the same records but it depends on how you play ‘em according to your crowd. Like I did a crowd at Lavo [in New York City that was] a hip-hop party, but the crowd was all white. There’s a different way you play records [for them] than you play for a black crowd. It’s small and technical but it makes a difference for black crowds, people talk in a mic, they slam records but for white hip-hop crowds, you have a more continuous flow. It’s just what they’re used to.
Why the name DJ Trauma?
In high school, I had a nickname called T-Squared because I used to take mechanical drafting [in school]. It was just more nerd shit. I was like, ‘I need a different name. That’s not hard enough.’ So I used to throw a party at this spot called Ethiopian Vibration in Atlanta, and it used to be packed to the rafters, had no A.C. It used to be so hot, people would be drinking and passing out [then an ambulance would come]. It didn’t say ‘Ambulance,’ it would say ‘Trauma’ and it pulled up, picked the people up and gave them oxygen or whatever they would do to make sure they were good. I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the name,’ and I wanted it to be a T because my real name is Tayari so that’s how I got it.
When can we expect your album?
The album is gonna come out in January. Especially in these times, there’s a lot of people talking actively about political stuff. Like even if I do talk political, it’s still gonna be that vibe of like, let’s have a good time ‘cause if the world is being shitty to you, let’s just party our pain away.
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Stevie Wonder, Hotter Than July
This is one of the albums my parents used to play, and it really introduced me to music in general. I grew up in a household that was very conscious and was definitely active in the Black struggle. This album had a lot of different elements, especially the song for Martin Luther King. My parents were very active in trying to get that [to be a] national holiday so that was the first album that they used to play in the house all the time. I mean it’s Stevie Wonder, so every song is jammin’.
Boogie Down Productions, By All Means Necessary
That album was the first time I listened to hip-hop. I used to be a kid and tape songs, but that was the first complete album that I bought and used to listen to on the train to school everyday. That was that first album where I really got immersed in hip-hop culture, really started digging into different albums. Like I said, my family was real conscious. It was the album that I could listen to in the house and my father would be like, ‘Okay I get it. Hip-hop’s cool.’ Whereas with other stuff, he’d be like, ‘What is this noise?’ KRS-One’s lyrics were just dope, and I think he had a mixture of everything. You have the conscious stuff but then you had ‘Jimmy.’ He had a good mixture for someone who was super young.
A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory
I had just left home and just got to college, and it was an album that kind of brought my like-minded friends together ‘cause if you were listening to Low End Theory, you were on the same vibe to me. It kind of connected me to what ended up being my crew in college. I was always a big nerd in high school, but I was in the honors program at Clark Atlanta University and I just remember three of my homeboys, who were like, ‘Yo you gotta listen to the Tribe album.’ First Tribe album, I thought it was cool, but I wasn’t into it like that. When I heard this one, I just remember listening to it during an honors retreat over and over again. That’s my favorite group of all time.
De La Soul, 3 Feet High and Rising
I’m a kid from Manhattan. I was a kid who lived on the Lower East Side. I used to hang out at the Village. What [De La Soul was] talking about on 3 Feet High and Rising spoke to me personally. Hip-hop was just so Brooklyn, gold chains and my parents were not having none of that. It always seemed far away when I was young, and it was never really about me. They used to talk about being in the Village even though they were from Long Island. They wore the paisley shirts, the Doc Marten shoes. That’s what all the kids in my neighborhood were wearing so I vibed out to that.
N.E.R.D., In Search Of
I was straight hip-hop all day every day, but In Search Of was like hip-hop, rock and R&B and all these elements that matched up together, and at that time, you weren’t really hearing anything like that. Plus, it was the Neptunes. The beats were insane, the melodies were insane and it definitely inspired me to want to throw a party that I used to call “Heaven,” where it basically was a movement to try to bring like-minds, artistic minds, together from hip-hop to rock to disco to house to reggae to EDM. Because of that party, my music knowledge expanded. That’s why [this album] was important to me. I used to play it over and over, and they had this song about giving head, “Brain.” My girlfriend hated that song.
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