GrandMixer DXT: On Pioneering, Preserving, and Progressing the DJ Culture

GrandMixer DXT is not just a legendary DJ; he’s a walking anthology of beats, breaks, and insightful commentary. As we celebrate 50 years of Hip Hop, who better to wax poetic on its journey than one of its most innovative turntablists? From the early days of “cueing out loud” to the philosophical depths of what Hip Hop could and should be, DXT is still scratching beyond the surface. 

GrandMixer DXT: The Name, The Change, The Legacy

Raised in the Bronx, GrandMixer DXT often shopped at Delancey Street, setting the stage for his own Bronx tale. Initially going by “D Street,” he gained notoriety as a three-card Monte hustler who took “everyone’s lunch money.” Simultaneously, he was part of a school band—Derek, Shevin, Timmy—giving him dual reasons to be “DST.” However, life had other plans. In 1992, grappling with the devastating loss of his brother and a soul-searching hiatus from the music industry, the name evolved once more. “I came back as DXT, which just meant change, you know, an unknown future.”

GrandMixer DXT’s First DJ Experience

GrandMixer DXT found inspiration close to home. “There was a group in my neighborhood called TNT Disco...they were the first DJs I saw with, you know, column speakers, a mixer, and two turntables. ” However, it was a fateful encounter at a Kool Herc party that DXT knew he’d stumbled onto something. “It was special,” DXT remembers, as if he’s reliving that moment. “I never was around loud music that loud unless I was at a concert.” Beyond the volume, it was the palpable energy in the room that captivated him. “He [Kool Herc] was a star, you know, it was impressive.” But the heart of it all? “The music…it spoke to our souls. Through some strange magic of some sort, we reconnected to the rhythms…we were sun dancing.”

Setting the Turntable: DXT’s Top Contribution to DJ Culture

GrandMixer DST in London, 1982 (Photo by Janette Beckman/Getty Images)

GrandMixer DXT doesn’t hesitate when asked about his number one contribution to Hip Hop and DJ culture: Turntablism.“My approach to the turntables was to look at the turntable as a cuíca, you know, a percussion instrument,” he says.  Rooted in his identity as a drummer, improvisation was natural for DXT. Inspired by Grand Wizzard Theodore’s ‘cueing out loud’ technique, he took scratching to the next level, delving into improvisation and soloing.

In his iconic role in the film ‘Wild Style,’ DXT unveiled his “good time” scratch, a technique that, “pretty much set it off.” He explains that hours of relentless practice led to the technique which became his sonic signature. “I started going beyond the basics, scratching beyond basic ideas and techniques.” 

“The most important thing overall for a DJ is to know the environment you’re in, to recognize what the energy is in the room.”

What really sets DXT apart is his holistic approach to DJing. “The most important thing overall for a DJ is to know the environment you’re in, to recognize what the energy is in the room.” He suggests building a ‘selector’s mentality,’ capable of reading a room and adapting on the fly. “Having a sense of timing is critical,” he adds, noting that the best DJs must be versatile enough to cater to any style of music.

The Defining Moments That Shaped GrandMixer DXT

Two defining moments stand as the highlights of both his life and career. “The best moment in my life was the moment I decided to become a DJ,” he recalls. His decision to go “full blast” with DJing was crystallized after witnessing an epic battle between DJ Kool Herc and DJ Smokey in the 70s. While Smokey lost, he still went home to his almost completely abandoned house, “He put his speakers outside and played until the sun came up. I was in after that. I was like, I want to do this. Cause that was just so cool.” 

“The best moment in my life was the moment I decided to become a DJ.”

Music ran in the family. “I grew up in an entertainment environment,” he says. “My mother is a singer, so the DJing part just became another device in the band. It was easy for me to make that adjustment.” Whether it’s the thrill of an intense DJ battle or his familial roots, GrandMixer DXT’s journey in music is part of who he is.

GrandMixer DXT’s Dream for the Future of Hip Hop

In the next 50 years, GrandMixer DXT would like to see Hip Hop and DJ culture “actually become a culture and not an idea of a culture.” While he acknowledges the billions generated by the industry, he dreams of seeing that wealth go back to its roots. “It’s 50 years later, and there’s no Hip Hop hospital, no Hip Hop law school, no Hip Hop educational, cultural centers,” he laments. However, it’s precisely because of this that DXT sees an open field of possibilities—a chance to finally build those institutions and show what Hip Hop culture can really offer to the world.

GrandMixer DXT’s Message For Today’s DJs

GrandMixer DXT sees the current emphasis on speed and technique as just the opening act, a setup for DJs who are willing to break the mold. So, listen up, aspiring DJs: GrandMixer DXT’s inviting you to create the future. And in his eyes, that future is anything but one-note.

However, don’t mistake DXT’s criticisms as cynicism. He’s got skin in the game, preparing to unveil something that he’s clocked nearly a thousand hours practicing for. It’s a technique so challenging that he believes it will be a generational shift. “It’s probably gonna be for the next generation of children, not the DJs today.” He embodies what DJ culture should strive for: an unceasing drive to push the envelope and elevate the craft.

GrandMixer DXT on the Records That Made Him

When asked to pinpoint one record that defines him as a DJ, GrandMixer DXT bursts into laughter. “There’s no single record,” he insists. “What defines me is a collection—’Just Begun,’ ‘Shaft in Africa,’ ‘Baby Huey Listened to Me,’ and more. Back in the day, we played these tracks in their entirety and sang along; that’s a part of Hip Hop that’s lost now.” DXT’s approach to spinning isn’t about dissecting every tune into bits, but rather, it’s about honoring the tradition. “Certain tracks you don’t chop up; you play them the way they were intended.”

“I’m not here to play for the DJs in the room; I’m here to ride the music, to feel the crowd’s energy and adjust.”

His mindset led him to create a set called “Let the Damn Records Play,” where he deliberately avoids scratching and chopping to educate younger DJs who, in his eyes, are too focused on impressing their peers to understand the elements of song arrangements. “I’m not here to play for the DJs in the room; I’m here to ride the music, to feel the crowd’s energy and adjust. That’s what being a DJ is all about,” he concludes.

GrandMixer DXT Says #ThankYouDJs

In wrapping up, GrandMixer DXT extends heartfelt shoutouts to the architects of his career and the broader DJ culture. From DJ Rob the Gold, who schooled him on the scene in Mount Vernon, to the iconic Kool Herc and Smokey, who fanned his passion into a full-blown vocation. He’s also got love for Disco King Mario and the sound system sorcery of the Collins Brothers, Mark and Jay, and DJ Hollywood. More love goes to Grand Wizzard Theodore, Jazzy Jay, and the fleet-fingered Imperial JC, not to mention DJ Terrible T from Connecticut, who proves that talent knows no zip code. For DXT, the respect spans geographies and genres—it’s all music, and these are the names that helped shape his craft.

Check out GrandMixer DXT’s legendary tribute to 50 Years of Hip Hop on his Instagram.

Don’t miss out on paying tribute to the DJs who have helped shape Hip Hop culture. Feeling inspired? Join the Serato HH50 movement and create your own routine using #ThankYouDJs and #Serato hashtags – and don’t forget to tag @serato so we can help you share the love.