The new way 

DJ Spinna knows there's no place like home. Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., the DJ and producer has publicly declared on many occasions that he loves where he lives. And he should, the borough is the perfect place for a guy who gets booked as a hip-hop DJ one night and a house DJ the next. From hip-hop to electroclash, Brooklyn has been a cultural incubator, where music movements grow up before getting exported to the rest of the world.

Spinna came up as a successful hip-hop DJ, but he's also made impressive inroads as a producer, garnering significant praise for his hip-hop work and crossovers into nu-jazz, house and even pop music. He's done remix work for two famous Michaels (Michael Jackson and George Michael), had a presuperstar Eminem guest on one of his tracks ("Watch Dees") and established a reputation as the go-to underground producer for his work with J-Live, De La Soul, Sadat X, Mr. Complex and others.

His latest album, "From Here to There," follows the mix-CD success of "Raiding the Crates" and the phenomenal three-disc, old-school set, "Strange Games and Things." Rather than another entry into the mix-disc column, "From Here to There" showcases DJ Spinna as a producer. Beginning with braggadocios hip-hop and ending with funk-laden house, the album is cohesive; his ear for sounds and his ability to make them work together is finely tuned.

Though Spinna's production is the foundation upon which "From Here to There" is built, the album also benefits greatly from the DJ's instinct for talent. He embraces artists rarely heard outside of the underground scene; and whether he's working with brash lyricist Rise, sultry vocalist Vinia Mojica or his longtime collaborator MC Kriminul, the focus for Spinna is making quality tracks with the right collaborators.

Via some of the telling lyrics from Rise on the track "Tune You Out," Spinna allows rarely heard criticism of hip-hop marketing, both mainstream ("There's pork in my Jell-O? Probably in my Starburst, too. I can't even trust my candy, how can I trust you?) and underground ("Some cats think that because they independent, they real").

Such creative leaps may mean a drop in his album's marketability, but hey, his label isn't called Barely Breaking Even for nothing.

More by Mike Blakely


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