In the middle of All Star Weekend, on Feb. 16, New Orleans played host to the top DJs in the world at the Global Spin Awards, hosted by T.I.
The ceremony, founded in 2012 by Shawn Prez, a Bad Boy Records executive and founder of the marketing firm Power Moves Inc., honors the top DJ talent in the music industrys. It featured stars like Dave Chappelle, DJ Khaled, Master P and B.o.B. as performers and presenters.
Prez first came up with the idea in the late 1990s, after realizing the importance of DJs to creating hit records.
“We always started our records off by putting them in the hands of the DJs,” he says. “The DJs, they are our litmus test—is this record a hit or not? Unfortunately, the artists and the industry as a whole never recognized the DJs for their contribution to breaking music, and to culture, and to entertainment.”
While visiting a bunch of awards shows, Prez saw that despite the key role of the DJ, they never received recognition.
“When the artists would get onstage, they would thank everybody, but they never thanked the DJs,” Prez remembers. “They never thanked the ones that was there with them before there were a household name. I felt that this was the most unrecognized influencer in the music industry. And it just was time to give them a platform to not only be recognized by the artists that they break, but also by their peers.”
First-time host T.I. agrees with Prez. “DJs, they’re the gatekeepers,” he says. “They’re the cornerstones of the hip-hop community. The way people find their new artists and hear their favorite songs first is through the DJ. As an artist myself, if the DJs decide not to play our records, then you don’t have a voice. They’re our extension.”
This year, DJ Clark Kent received the Lifetime Achievement Award. He calls the experience of receiving the honor “humbling,” especially since he’s been a supporter of the Global Spin Awards from the beginning.
“I’m a DJ, so anything that’s given to the DJs, or anything to represent what we do behind decks, I’m a part of it,” he explains. “And this is probably the most important thing that DJs have.”
Kent, who was one of the founding forces in competitive DJing with his Supermen DJ crew, believes the art form is making a resurgence. He points out that early in hip-hop’s development, the DJ was the primary figure, but was later overshadowed by the emcee.
“But now, the DJs are the actual artists,” he says. “I think it’s a beautiful place for DJs to be, as long as they take the craft seriously and try to elevate it musically and make sure that they actually give a damn about what they’re doing.”
Another key award this year was the Breaking Barriers Award, which was presented to DJ Spinderella, of the famed group Salt-N-Pepa.
“I’m excited I’m getting that Breaking Barriers award,” she tells me. “You know how huge that is?”
Spinderella, who lives in Dallas when she’s not on the road with her group, is happy that she is able to inspire other women to follow in her footsteps.
“When I see the women on the turntables say I’ve inspired them to DJ—I get that just about all the time—if I can be that person that spearheads the movement, I’m glad to be it,” she says. “Using Salt-N-Pepa and myself as an example, we’re not just a great female hip-hop act. We’re a great hip-hop act, we’re a great act in music. When you’re nice, and you can roll with whoever, man or woman, you deserve to be acknowledged in that way.”
Prez explained why Spinderella was chosen. “When you think of a Breaking Barriers award, you’d pick DJ Spinderella, because she was a DJ before there was room for female DJs to DJ,” he explains to me. “She was such a trailblazer. She did it with a lot of class and a lot of style. It made young ladies say, ‘Hey, I can DJ. It is something that’s achievable, and it’s something that’s achievable on the highest level.’”
It was Spinderella herself who best summed up the need for the Global Spin Awards.
“The DJ is has been holding this whole music thing down for ages. Hip-hop started with the DJ. So it’s only right that they get recognized.”
If you weren’t lucky enough to be able to attend, you can see the ceremony on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 10 pm ET on REVOLT TV.