Posted by Scott Willats
The week before a Canada Day long weekend is always such a tease. Nobody wants to be at work, but the promise of an unforgettable holiday keeps us all slugging away.
This weekend, though, isn’t your typical Canada Day. The Digital Dreams Music Festival in Toronto will showcase some of the best EDM artists in the world. Think of it as the unofficial kick-off to Canada’s summer festival season.
As we gear up for this extravaganza (and if you’re one of bpm:tv’s contest winners, congrats!), I thought it would be good to do a quick background check on some of the headliners who will be packing the crowds at Ontario Place. We start with the Dutch giant known as Afrojack!
For many of us, Afrojack (a.k.a. Nick van de Wall) became a household name after he dropped “Take Over Control.” But there’s more to the man than monster hits. Long before this breakthrough single, he’d been putting in his time, playing small clubs, producing quality tracks without the support of a label, and assembling the kind of resume any DJ would be proud of.
Afrojack is the sort of DJ who was born to headline big fests like Digital Dreams. Beyond the stage showmanship and the relationship with Paris Hilton, there’s a gifted artist who produces anthem after anthem — not to mention a shrewd businessman who has built his label Wall Recordings — home to the likes of R3hab (also performing at Digital Dreams) and Sidney Samson — into an industry heavy-hitter.
So how do you go from small-club DJ to pop mogul? Hard work. Let’s take a look at the product of his labours.
It was evident right from the start that Afrojack was going to be several cuts above the average. Sure, this first track, “In Your Face,” has a few bobbles — but it’s still light-years beyond your typical debut release. That ear for the perfect groove, that innate ability to make the listener’s head bob and hips swivel — it’s not a plug-in you add to your track, it’s the soul of the producer.
This is a perfect track to play at your next party. I guarantee: at least half the people there won’t ever have heard it. It’s a tune that evokes a lot of emotion — and one that lays out clearly the template for Afrojack’s future success. (The B-side, “Waho,” is worth a listen as well.
This next track, “Drop Down” (Do My Dance) was his first real taste of success. Collaborating with The Partysquad helped him elevate his game and earn wider recognition. Here’s where Afrojack found the sound he would grab and hold onto — a sound that would be mimicked and copied for years to come: blending a hard drum line, evocative of UK garage, with crazy off-the-wall sonics. I can’t think of any other producer capable of pulling this off and making it sound good.
Was it the beat? Or Eva Simons? Or the remix by Adam F? All of the above? Or something else entirely. Nobody’s every put their finger on it precisely, but one way or another, “Take Over Control” was Afrojack’s statement: a track that made the dance floors go nuts. The combination of Eva’s angelic voice and that screaming synth: it was a sound DJs and ravers just couldn’t get enough of. And it still bangs!
Simply put, “No Beef” is an anthem. For a while last summer, it was every DJ’s go-to climax track. EVERY DJ. If you were in the big room, you were gonna hear this. While the vocals by Miss Palmer certainly didn’t hurt, it was the collision of Afrojack’s synth and Steve Aoki‘s keys that put this song in a class by itself.
So there you have it; four reasons Afrojack is a perennial DJ Mag Top 100 finisher, and one of 30 richest DJs in the world. If you like what you’ve seen and heard here, I recommend getting your ass to Ontario Place this weekend. Seriously, you haven’t heard “No Beef” till you hear Afrojack spin it live.