Detroit — it's the birthplace of techno. It's the home of Movement and a burgeoning scene of like-minded festivals that celebrate the city's deep and abiding love for electronic music. Every night, venues across the region host both up-and-coming and prolific DJs, and Detroiters gobble it up.
To some, it might seem sacrilegious to mention the birthplace of techno anywhere in the vicinity of the subgenre known as EDM. It's the proverbial redheaded stepchild. It elicits hisses from purists who shun the form for its perceived corny nature. And, god forbid, one mistakenly refers to a deep house or techno DJ as "EDM." Thou shalt never be forgiven.
Still, it seems, EDM is slowly but surely gaining some respect. It's certainly evolving and getting national attention. This weekend, Mad Decent Block Party will be in town and Diplo, Dillon Francis, I See Monstas, Keys N Krates, Riff Raff, Zeds Dead, and Flosstradamus will perform for (surely) keyed-up, tutu-wearing crowds looking for a raucous time at Meadow Brook. One look at the items that aren't permitted into a Mad Decent show, and you can tell what kind of crowds these are. No pacifiers, massagers, stuffed animals, candy necklaces, or (interestingly) unsealed tampons will be allowed. But perhaps all of that is neither here nor there.
Last week we called up Josh Young of Flosstradamus. He'd just touched down in Philadelphia for a sold-out installment of Mad Decent, where he was gearing up to perform alongside Dirty South, DJ Snake, Gent & Jawns, Mike Taylor, Swizzymack, and Vic Mensa.
He and the other half of Flosstradamus, Curt Cameruci, had just released a new track, "Rebound," earlier in the week, and while it was a departure from the over-the-top records they've been known for thus far, it was still well-received by fans online. Young seemed surprised at that, indicating he and Cameruci were expecting something of a backlash.
"So far the online reaction has been really good, surprisingly," says Young. "We were thinking kids were going to be like 'Oh, this is weak!' Following a record like 'TTU' with something like this, we thought kids were going to hate it, but it seems like they like it. Just like when we play a set, we'll play eight songs that are high energy, and then we'll drop a chill song. It's like they need that breath of fresh air."
Young and Cameruci probably won't continue in that vein, however, and pretty soon they'll be releasing what Young calls the "hardest record we've ever made." That record will feature artists like Lil Jon, among others.
Flosstradamus has also worked with Danny Brown in the past, and Young told us, as soon as we got off the phone, that he'd be hitting Brown up to solidify the plan for some new material.
Young and Cameruci call Chicago home, which, like Detroit, shares a musical history that's rich with electronic music. While Detroit is known for suckling techno at its teat, Chicago nursed house music. Young says they're cognizant of the city's musical background and grateful for it, but he doesn't buy into what the purists are constantly yammering about — the gap between traditional electronic and the subgenres it begat.
"I think from that side of things, you can see people's criticisms of it," Young says. "But the way that we look at it is that this is a music and a culture that has been nourished and sort of incubated in Europe — and all around the world except for America and Canada — for years."
"Me and Curt and Diplo even — we've been touring for a decade now. And for the most part, it's been little 150- or 200-person venues, but now we're coming out to 10,000 people. At Lollapalooza, we played to 30,000 people, so I just feel that it's finally techno, house — all the godfather stuff, all the stuff that the purists love — the evolution of that is finally being recognized in America. All of our hard work is finally being recognized and put on a platform. Our standpoint is more about embracing it than shunning it. Even though we aren't making the more pure side of dance music, I feel like it's being respected and appreciated just as much as commercial dance music is."
The growing respect, or at least adoration, is apparent in the way Mad Decent itself has expanded since its inception. Young performed at the first installment, which was closer to the true essence of a block party than the massive outdoor festival it is today.
"We played the very first Mad Decent Block Party when it was still just a little humble block party outside of Diplo's mausoleum on Spring Street in Philadelphia," Young says. "That was 2008, and we played that with Rye Rye, DJ Sega, and Nadatrom, and Diplo. It was a low-key thing then; it's grown so much since."
Thanks to the growing love for EDM and Mad Decent's ability to remain cutting edge, this year the traveling block party is bigger than ever.
"The culture around the music has grown so much," Young says. "EDM as a whole or electronic music in America has had a massive boom in the last five, six years, and Mad Decent has been a mainstay in the alternative side of that. For every genre of music, there's the people who are just a little bit left of center that are making the more cutting-edge side of it, and that's Mad Decent. We've seen growth on our end too."
Sounds like Flosstradamus will continue to grow, as will EDM, whether the purists like it or not.