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“Damn, son, where’d you find that?” asks the befuddled father over and over again on the online mix-tape, BANNED, by the two Chicago DJs known as Flosstradamus. It’s the voice of the generational disconnect that has fueled rock ‘n’ roll since the 1950s while at the same time signaling a game-changing agenda. The duo, making their Chattanooga debut at Track 29 on Tuesday, are out to redefine electronic dance music.
Within a year, Curt Cameruci (Autobot) and Josh Young (J2K) have accomplished just that by mixing hyperkinetic rhythms with the slow drag of trap. “It’s all about building these tensions and then releasing it and chilling it out. And maybe even the buildup leads up to some crazy synth or some 808s or laid back bouncy music,” J2K said in an interview on the Discobelle Records site.
Trap, first developed in the seedier sections of Atlanta, combines hip-hop’s tempo and song structure with dubstep’s accelerating and dropping drum tracks, along with dub reggae’s thunderous, throbbing sub bass. The name comes from the streets, houses and corners where drug dealers and their customers congregate. Trap has since become the foundation of every flavor of EDM and Flosstradamus is widely regarded as the force behind the shift.
The two have been working as club DJs since 2005, but their reputation exploded last summer following their remix of Major Lazer’s “Original Don” (the source of the befuddled father’s comment). Along with that, in the classic rock ‘n’ roll tradition, they were accused of inciting a riot last summer. Playing a set at a Chicago block party called West Fest, they reportedly brought the revelers to such a fever pitch that it took the Chicago Police Department three hours to restore order. The duo was subsequently banned from the festival. In a tweet following the incident they told their fans, “I’m (sic) extremely upset about this, but will refrain from going on any rants or tirades. Just know that we have you on our back Chicago, and we’ll be back VERY SOON!”
One of their fans complained they were using the incident to hype their reputation. They’ve vehemently denied it, but they’ve since released two on-line mix-tapes stamped BANNED—the first last October and a second in February.
The first tape was described by their label, Fools Gold, as “an interesting set of EDM, trap music and Southern rap, resulting in an explosion of boomin’ bass lines, rolling synths and amped-up vocals that will get any dancefloor crunk.” At just over 30 minutes, it moves swiftly with amped-up synths spiraling into overdrive before fading back into the trance-like groove that’s the glue in their sets.
Talking about the origin of their wide-ranging mix, Autobot told Hype Trak TV, “In Chicago, a lot of the radio stations play urban hip-hop from all over the world. We heard music from the Bay area and we also had the New York hip-hop as well as Southern hip-hop. That’d be on the mix shows with house music being played all the time, too.”
That they spent their youth with their ears pressed to the radio is evidenced by the deep, raspy, over-amped male voice regularly interjected in the breaks between the tracks in their rapid-fire mix. If CHR radio sounded like this, it wouldn’t be hemorrhaging listeners.
One of the reasons for their sets’ exuberant kineticism is that they are no longer solely reliant on other people’s music. After eight years working as club DJs, last year the duo began interpolating their own compositions into the mix. “We switched over to Ableton Live,” said J2K, explaining the shift in their approach in a 2012 interview. “It’s still a DJ set since we play other people’s music as well, but remixing and reconstructing our own music is the new live element on our end of things.”
Autobot is the tech whiz with a degree in interactive multimedia, but they’re very much a team and work closely together on the mixes. Autobot handles the sound while J2K works the blazing strobe lights he’s synched with the beats, maximizing the aural and visual assault on the senses.
As for the future, J2K would only say, “Ha, I only know what we’re going to do—and that’s keep making newer, weirder songs and keep trying to push the boundaries of this shit.”
8 p.m. • Tuesday, April 9 • Track 29 • 1400 Market St. • (423) 521-2929 • track29.co
Richard Winham is the producer and host of WUTC-FM’s afternoon music program and has observed the Chattanooga music scene for more than 25 years.