Artist of The Week: Ant Blue Jr Is The Artist Reclaiming House Music
“I’m just trying to use house to bring it back to black people… it was made by black people. The top DJs right now are capitalizing on the sound and there’s just not representation of color. I’m making music to put more people back in that space.”
On Friday, April 26, people stood in line to fill Lot 45 for SHADES OF BLUE, a curated night of music headlined by STONIE BLUE and his brothers, BRNDN BLUE and BLUE THE GREAT. When I met up with STONIE BLUE (Ant Blue Jr.) before the precursor event to his project, BLACK HOUSE BROWNSTONE, he excitedly explained, “My parents are coming all the way from Dallas.”
As a red haze settled across the maximum capacity of bodies dancing and voices singing, SHADES OF BLUE marked another accomplishment in the impressive rise of multifaceted artist, Ant Blue Jr. His creative career dates back to 2012 when he bought a one way ticket to New York City. He interviewed, got the job, and immediately began working as a street style photographer–without a single item of luggage in the entire state of New York.
While gaining momentum through his photography, Ant Blue Jr.’s art community foundation provided a seamless transition into the music scene. He explains his shift into DJing as simply “natural.” Although the area of Dallas where he grew up championed sports over art, his early years of burning and selling CDs at school provided the groundwork to his music database. He laughs, “It was so natural because all the music I was selling in high school I still had on hard drive. I pull from the old songs I used to download, and then download new stuff.”
Ant Blue Jr.’s mixture of southern drums and current taste has led him to perform across the globe in places such as South Korea, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Japan, and even Brazil. Regardless of his addiction to formulating song structures and producing his own signature sound, his main ambition lies within reclaiming the genre of House. Check out what he has to say about 2018’s top DJs, how Metro Boomin inspired him, and what it takes to become a DJ below. Plus, listen to his new EP, BLACK HOUSE BROWNSTONE, premiering today on Milk.
Can you tell us about one of your first experiences with making music and becoming more than just a fan?
I think once I started DJing the more I was understanding song structures and just understanding what made people dance and what people liked. Kind of breaking down how songs were made and that made me want to get into producing…music is just addicting. Figuring out how it’s made and making it– even if you’re making terrible stuff it’s just fun to make a bunch of noise.
What was your first show?
It was this place called Brass Bottle in Bushwick and my friend owned the bar at the time. We could always just sign ourselves up because he was the owner. So, we did a party there and I DJed that place. It was a really really bad set, but good enough to get booked again at a place called SOB’s in the city. From there, I just kept playing and playing and got better over time.
Why do you feel you were drawn to becoming a DJ?
I never had the vision, “I’m going to become a DJ.” It was something I decided to do that day and it just kind of snowballed into bigger things. You know when people have to find their passion? It literally just chose me.
You said you started playing at bars, but when did you begin experimenting with making?
I would say in 2016. I probably DJed for two years and then I went to a show that Metro Boomin had, and he was only playing his songs. So I had the thought like wow, if I want to be good at this, I need my own music. You can have all these hit songs, produced by you, his show was just inspiring to me– so I tried to build that formula into what I’m doing.
What music influences your style? What genres and/or eras do you pull from?
I pull from southern drums and drum patterns and house music I’m listening to now. Just trying to make stuff I would listen to for real for real! Just pulling a lot of drum patterns and chill house sounds haha.
Would you say your style is house?
Not necessarily because I have other music that isn’t that. I think I’m just trying to use house to bring it back to black people. It was made by black people, but now when you look at the lists, “Top Paid DJ” or “Top DJs of 2018,” there’s like one black person, which kinda makes me sad. The gentrification of a genre… that was once made by our people.
Like Larry Levan and Paradise Garage?
Yeah, that era and then Chicago and Detroit House– Moodymann. I don’t know. I just get sad when I see those top DJs of the year, “The top 50,” and the whole sound is just electronic and dance. There’s people in hip hop that aren’t listed, I mean they have their other platforms, but they’re just not as big as the main platforms that are getting notoriety right now. I feel that shift has been happening for a while…90s, 2000s, like Avicii… all sorts of people.
What is your ultimate goal with your craft?
I think right now it’s to be able to play in different countries. That’s a lot of the reason I make house right now because it’s such a broad sound. Every country there’s a crowd that listens to that. I was making my first project, Move Me, to specifically go play in Europe. This [new] project is to retouch on that.
When you’re creating a set, what goes into the process?
I have a database. If I hear anything good that I haven’t heard before, I’ll just download it and add it to the collection. I also have folders of parties that I’ve played before. When I first started I was preparing sets, but it never stops. You’re always listening to something, you’re always trying to find new things to put in. Then, once you have these catalogues you have party sets and I start to jump around from other parties. It’s like a chaos of randomness. But I know the songs are good, because I picked them for those certain situations. It’s like an unlimited catalogue of stuff that works and stuff that I like.
Do you ever improvise on site to fit the crowd?
Sometimes, if it’s a themed party, then I’ll play to the theme, but if it’s open format I’m usually playing for myself. Then I’ll take hints if a certain group is dancing I’ll focus on the people that are dancing. Because I want that to affect every body– and so the crowd helps by dancing. That’s usually who I aim at… The people that are willing to have a good time vs the people that are on the wall– they don’t care they’re just here checking it out.
What would be your advice to someone who wants to become a DJ?
Just do it, just start. I feel like everyone listens to music, everyone grows up knowing what their favorite songs are. If you can hear it, spend the time on the controllers and know what you’re doing, then you should do it. It’s like a video game! If you like video games, you’ll like DJing. It’s like the people are your score– to make the people dance is the game.
Check out STONIE BLUE’s newest release BLACK HOUSE BROWN STONE and stay tuned to Milk for more new music.