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Thursday, May 23, 2024 — Houston, TX

Will a new student DJ please stand up?

Photo courtesy Victor Nguyen

By Victor Nguyen     8/30/22 10:37pm

Editor’s Note: This is a guest opinion that has been submitted by a member of the Rice community. The views expressed in this opinion are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the Thresher or its editorial board. All guest opinions are fact-checked and edited for clarity and conciseness by Thresher editors.

Rice DJs are dead. Long live the Rice DJs.

Seeing the first Texas Party since Fall 2019 happen is both a joy and a solemn reminder. Yet another public has come and gone and yet no student DJ has risen to prominence. It may not seem like a problem, but this is critical. Rice DJs play an integral part in campus social life, but they cannot survive and thrive without the help and advocacy of campus socials and the boldness of potential DJs rising to the challenge.

In the pre-COVID era at Rice, there was a small but very active community of student DJs who played music at publics and large privates. COVID hit and disrupted so many aspects of life, including the Rice DJ community. With no publics on campus for the foreseeable future, there was no way to build interest to take up the mantle. One by one, the remaining DJs graduated or prematurely retired. When the 2020-2021 school year rolled around, I found myself the last of an endangered species, nearing the point of extinction. When I graduated spring 2021, no campus public DJs remained.

Rice publics are uniquely Rice experiences, despite many imperfections. In no other environment will you see hundreds of the nerdiest ex-high schoolers from around the world singing along to Taylor Swift at one moment, throwing it back to Bad Bunny the next and yelling “Beer Bike” during the chorus of that DJ Khaled song before the end of the night. There are traditions to be learned, acquaintances to be met and memories to be made. When the sun goes down and the lights go up, the DJ becomes master of that universe for the next four hours. With a job that important, how can we as a Rice community allow anyone else other than a Rice Owl to be your vibe technician?

When you hire out, you leave a lot to chance. A non-Rice DJ doesn’t know the type of music that excites this campus. They don’t know the Orientation Week songs or the unofficial anthems of certain colleges (i.e. Murts’ love for “Kernkraft 400” or Hanszen with “MMMBop”). But if aspiring DJs at Rice don’t get their shot, their platform, their opportunity, you have no choice but to hire out. While alumni like DJ Friendzone, DJ Chaney and myself all love coming back, we’d also love to see more current students take ownership of a small but critical piece of Rice culture.

For the socials, there are a few ways you can foster this new regrowth. First, fight for making publics free again, administrative red tape be damned. The very definition and origin of Rice’s public parties is that these are open to everyone, free of charge. Publics are egalitarian at their core, and ticketing them only feeds into the elitist image that Rice so desperately needs to fight against. Increasing access and reducing barriers to big social events like these make DJing seem worthwhile because more people get to hear your music and spread the word about your skill. Ticketing kills the spontaneity of a DJ set drawing attention and building momentum throughout the night, among many other negatives. Hold live auditions to test and recruit new talent; provide references and spread the word if any DJs appear competent and need promotion; generally, be the allies that Rice DJs need in order to survive and thrive.

On the flip side, if you are interested in becoming the new generation of Rice DJs, even if this is your last year at Rice, please get some live practice in and put your name out there. Perform live. Be adventurous and bold with what you play, but make sure to choose songs with mass appeal and popularity. When you’re playing to crowds, you can’t be playing only obscure tracks that you like. For God’s sake, diversify your music tastes and inject some global flair. Remixes are welcome as long as you don’t get too weird. Learn to read a crowd and its ebbs & flows. Ask for knowledge and help, even equipment, from those who came before you. Finally, reach out to the socials all across campus about potentially DJing their public. You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to get started, just your laptop, some DJ software and decent music taste. 

All the world’s a stage, and as a Rice DJ, it is yours to own and yours to lose. Take the stage and bring the campus DJ community back from total extinction. Banh Mi’s rooting for y’all.

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