Tune in and turn up

When it comes to channeling raw energy through music, Chicago-bred kings of the turn-up, Flosstradamus, have the game locked down tighter than Cersei Lannister‘s long internment in the High Sparrow’s dungeons. The duo’s reverberating mashup of EDM, sprinkled liberally with Southern trap tropes, is exactly the kind of scintillating, high octane fuel a bacchanal-inclined college kid (or anyone really) needs to justify stumbling out of a party well after dawn has broken – it’s called the “Original Don” defense, and it actually works.

Before the two were tearing up festivals the world over, they were Josh Young, better known as J2K, and Curt Cameruci or Autobot, two music-obsessed Chicago kids who met by chance through the city’s underground scene. From there they would rub elbows with talents ranging from Diplo to A-Trak, Iggy Azalea, Waka Flocka Flame, Chromeo, and many more. There’s also the fact that Kid Sister – Kanye West’s one-time protege – is Josh’s older sister. It’s a small world, right?

In fact, Floss’s impassioned musical evangelism is one of the many reasons that trap music, a genre once looked upon with horror by suburban communities across the nation, has found itself front and center in popular culture.

Even though the day of their performance was hotter than Satan’s bowels after a run-in with habanero hot wings, we traipsed on over to Panorama Festival and caught up with the pair right before they hit the stage to bless the HDYNATION with a set. While sweating profusely, we talked about their fledgling record label, HI DEF YOUTH, the Chi meets ATL connection and that dreaded word, appropriation…


So, how’d you guys meet?

We met in Chicago because we were both doing similar parties. We had a mutual friend who said we should check each other out which led to us starting our own party. The party thing evolved to making music and that evolved into doing festivals and that evolved, and everything kept growing from there.

Did the music making happen right away?

Kind of, we would work on our sets together because that was our thing. We were also doing multilayered mixes so we’d have like four turntables set up and do a bunch of different layers on each one. It was at the time that mashups were really popular so we ended up making some of our songs live just by mixing records together and adding our own production over the top.

Can both of you scratch?

Yeah a little bit. When we first started Flosstradamus it was purely vinyl only and then we upgraded to Serato and the technology evolved from there. There are some other DJs we like that are surprising with scratching because they don’t neccessarily incorporate it in their sets that much but they can. DJ Snake and Mercer, and a couple of those other Parisian guys are great.

You guys incorporate a lot of trap elements in your production, given it’s considered a pretty Southern trope how did that happen?

Chicago is a home for cross pollination because we’re in the middle of the country so we draw from everywhere. Plus we have our own version of trap, drill music. Drill is a little slower but it definitely comes from the same culture. Even though trap is from the streets of the South and drill is from the streets of Chicago the production is the same, the instrumentation is the same, the tempo of drill is just a little slower.

We’re music fans first and foremost so we consider ourselves DJs before producers. We would always play Southern trap music from Atlanta and Texas at our parties but we’d mix it with the stuff from Chicago like Crucial Conflict, and then we’d mix that with juke music or house music or techno. All of those genres fit together because those were our influences and that’s what we were hearing.

About four years ago when we started making original productions we would take from all of those influences so instead of just doing mashups we were using those sounds to make original songs. I think that opened the door for a lot of kids to know about trap music. A lot of kids didn’t even know the term trap music until they heard it from us, so we had to differentiate what we were doing from what had existed for years before.


Do you think you made trap music friendlier to a larger demographic?

All we really did was remove the lyrics which maybe made it a little more accessible. Trap music in general carries energy, whether it’s chill or turned up, there’s energy. Removing the lyrics just made it more palatable to everyone because what’s left is the energy. Maybe there’s a few lyrics that say, “turn up,” or something and of course everyone wants to turn up and forget what’s going on.

About three years ago we went down to Atlanta to get in the studio with some of the rappers who had influenced us and it was amazing because we were nervous about whether they’d be into what we were doing or they’d be like, ‘yo you’re appropriating our culture and sound,’ but they didn’t think about it like that at all. They just liked the progression and that the music was moving forward. Guys like Waka and Travis Porter [Ali, Quez and Strap] were actually really eager to have something fresh because they were hearing the same beats over and over again, so when we flipped things a little they were stoked to be part of it.

What’s the story behind your label HI DEF YOUTH?

As DJs we’re curators so we were always hearing news music and getting stuff from artists who have like 100 followers on Soundcloud, but we had no way of really breaking anyone. All we could do was play their stuff in our sets to try to get them more known, but other than that we had no outlet besides sending stuff to Fool’s Gold or Mad Decent. The label was our way of creating an avenue to release the things we love and build community and family around that.

What’s the next wave in music?

It’s cool because I think the next wave is every wave. There isn’t a specific thing now; if you’re a hip-hop artist you’re singing R&B now while still rapping. If you’re an EDM dude you’re making chill EDM stuff and high energy stuff. Everything is getting smeared together in a good way. We’ve been around for the time there was a genre of the moment and then it gets played out and there’s a new genre. Now everything is just up for grabs; fashion is up for grabs, music is up for grabs. The attitude now is how can you take this little bit of cool  and that little bit of cool and make your own thing out of all of it. That’s what the new shit is.

We just look at it like if you’re afraid of what’s going to come next it will hinder you and then you’re like one of those grumbling old heads. We’re in our thirties and we try to embrace everything, no matter what it is. Any culture, any race, any kind of music, whatever it is, embracing new things makes the world better and that’s what we’re trying to do. You’ve got to move with the times and be unafraid.

For more festival coverage check out the best street style from Lollapalooza.

Words by Stephanie Smith-Strickland
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