Hype Beast: DJ Nesh

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I’ve know DJ Nesh for a short while, but even then, always as the kingpin of KL’s hip hop DJs. I’ve spent weeks at Raw Bar at Solaris watching him and each time he spun there during his short stint, he performed beyond expectation. Always stepping up the game. His music selection is never predictable. His technical skills are top notch.

Given that I’m into hip hop in a big way I wanted to share. So I passed him a mix comp I put together: Afta-1, Ty&Kory, Blu & Exile, Ill Poetic, Muhsinah, The ARE, Onra, Samon Kawamura… It was nerve wracking. At JUICE we judged each other based on our musical tastes. We’re anoraks like that. It was a relief when Nesh later sent me a text message with his golden seal of approval – a thumbs up.

Next time we met up, it was after a heavy downpour. Perfect weather for reminiscing and talking about the good times way back then we started on how we got things rolling as a DJ.

Even in school Nesh was already hitting the ‘DJ’ title playing events such as Teacher’s Day. Graduating to shopping malls, it wasn’t long before he was getting an education in the clubs, starting off with the unenviable job of karaoke DJ in Damansara Uptown. The title meant playing what the punters chose to sing and calling out for the next table. Those are the breaks.

But it led to the bar downstairs and it was here that Nesh got some learning biding his time cleaning CDs and records, dismantling the turntable, setting the system up back again until his mentor at that time, Melvin finally decides it was time for Nesh to get down to business. SWV’s ‘Right Here’ and Montell Jordan’s ‘Somethin’ 4 Da Honeyz’, the first 2 songs that Nesh beat matched. That was it.

Nesh’s secret history. Most local urban music fans will remember Nesh as the guy who rocked Nouvo. I’m about to get into it when Nesh stops me. “Don’t talk about Nouvo unless I see your face in MOS.” It was good natured chiding but it conceals a small measure of frustration and seems to come with frequently having friends and fans effuse about his hey days, but not support his efforts at MOS in the present. him in the present.

This is the real world and Nesh is about keeping it real. While other Djs might shrug the lack of encouragement or pretend like it didn’t happen Nesh has channeled his disappointment into creating an old school night at the Deq in MOS in the hopes of bringing back the good old ol’ days when he was the talk of the town and rocked the night like no other. Sadly the turnout so far has be underwhelming. But it’s only a matter of time, and here at JUICE we are already registering the ground swell.

He’s enthusiastic. “I wanna bring back that era. Not only was it the ‘it’ party, but music back then had substance. For example, if Flo-Rida was to come out with ‘Elevator’ back then… get out of here man!!” I have to concur.

Nesh explains, citing the extent of control club DJs had over the music back then. He believes that today people radio listeners in particular are so consumed by the idea that the hottest hip hop and RnB are those that get plenty of radio airplay. Which would make the formulaic pop of Flo-Rida and the Black Eyed Peas the shiznit. And they ain’t. they are plenty quality cuts out there old and new. They just aren’t getting heard. Is there a solution? Nesh’s answer seems obvious, yet as many times as I’ve said it myself ,format radio doesn’t seem to grasp the patently simple concept.

“Play good music. That’s it. It doesn’t have to be underground music. Even I can’t take 3 hours of underground music. Imagine 3 hours of boom bap! Don’t be narrow-minded about everything.”

He is equally as real when it comes to his peers- DJs who toe the line, play what they are told to play. He calls those who doesn’t step up as “chicken shit” and “no balls.”

“We got a lot of up and coming technical DJs, but what’s the point if you don’t incorporate it in your daily club routine? So far I’ve seen all these DJs are doing the same thing and playing the same music. I admit I do that too, but the difference is I lay down the scratches, man. You gotta be different. You gotta put it out there dude. When you get to that point, you start introducing quality music to them. Then you show ’em what they are missing on,” Nesh preaches.

Ain’t that the truth. But does Nesh practice what he preaches? I ask him.

“I’ve been scratching even more.”

At The Deq one night to check Nesh, The Rebel Scum’s WordsManifest and I could hear as far as from the entrance scratching on every track.

“I just wanna make things interesting. I can’t just stand there and keep pushing the fader to the next song,” Nesh insists.

Lesser types might have folded under the pressure. Gone with the flow. Played what they are instructed. Or what’s easy. But growing up and hanging around with people who surround themselves with quality music is Nesh’s survival tactic. From his family to scene creators he calls friends like Vandal, Qumran and Illsteez.

One important thing that everyone should know is that “They did not go through the era and see the changes,” as Nesh puts it. Nesh helped built the music scene because whether you like it or not, he was there to take it to the next level. Of course he plays commercial music to survive, but he knows how to flip and mix the goods into his set.

As indie rock has gained more dancefloor cred and turned TAG and LapSap into household names, the collective attitude (clubs, bars, radio) towards selling out the urban scene means DJs like Nesh, no matter their contribution, haven’t got the same rep.

Nesh is philosophical. “You can call me whatever you want, but don’t diss the music.” At 30-plus years-old, Nesh just wants his peers to keep it real and not ride on trend. Sure you’ve got to make ends meet but money isn’t everything. If Nesh put paper first, he would be driving a Beemer, but there’s a bigger picture.

“When there’s a will, there’s a way. All you gotta do is push.” Everyone’s
pushing commercial, push something else,” he urges. Nesh’s passion for his work and music is nothing to doubt.

I asked if I’d ever see a DJ Nesh mix CD on music store racks. His answer is a sign of the times. If the support was as mad as the “Nouvo days” he would be releasing quality mixtapes every month. But now he’d be considered too hardcore or too soulful for the new generation. Instead what he sees himself doing in 10 years time is to get into the DJ teaching scene and educate. As we concluded our catch up with his last words to me are “Don’t let hip hop die.” Legend.

Nesh spins at Euphoria by Ministry of Sound’s mainroom on Wednesdays for Milkshake and the rest of Fridays and Saturdays at The Deq. Hit up www.euphoria.com.my for more.

Image Euseng Seto

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