BIG PRIMPIN' featuring GREEN TEA , TUFF LUV , TEX and MI-NUH CARE at Stone's Place (1255 Queen West), Saturday (October 4). $5. 416-536-4242. Rating: NNNNN
As my conversation with Jeremy Laing wraps up, he says something odd for a DJ/promoter. "You know, until relatively recently, music wasn't really that big a part of my life."
Generally, new DJs spend a lot of time trying to prove that they've paid their dues, usually by exaggerating how long ago their careers started, sometimes bending the laws of time and space to give their CV more credibility.
Laing's approach to the party is a bit different from the mythmaking spawned over the years by the growth of DJ culture and the idea of the DJ as icon. Last May, Laing and his roommates decided to capitalize on their growing love of commercial hiphop, R&B and dancehall reggae, and started throwing queer parties at unlikely rock bars in Parkdale.
Big Primpin' bills itself as "hiphop for ho's and mo's," and attracts art scenesters, hipster kids, anarchist fags and others unfulfilled by both mainstream and underground approaches to dance music.
What's attractive about this event (as well as Laing's new project, the Miami-bass-centred Gina Rok monthly) isn't so much the music, but the sense of fun that it embodies. Instead of standing in the corner scratching your chin trying to decide whether the DJ is rewriting the rules of mixing records, you find yourself dancing, laughing and having a good time.
Known as the House of 114, Laing along with Andrew Sutherland, Mark Buck, Derrick Yong and Francey Russell are, perhaps unknowingly, part of a greater trend away from the DJ as artist and back toward the DJ as enabler.
"We recognized that it was something people wanted that wasn't being offered. We identified a need and created a space for it where people can enjoy it - particularly because the kind of space where hiphop is usually played isn't very inclusive or gay-positive."
This subtle act of changing the venue - and therefore the audience - for music that's fairly ordinary throughout much of the club district has an unexpectedly profound effect. It's a type of subversion, but it's not really a critique of hiphop culture.
The girls who come get glammed up because they feel safe, the fags go all out even though it's Parkdale, and the straight boys are well-behaved and generally well-dressed.
"I don't think I'm really in any position to make judgments about hiphop culture, but I can critique my own appreciation of it. We're kind of poking fun at how much you can like it while acknowledging that it can be pretty terrible sometimes."
Underground dance music in general lost a lot of its sense of fun some time ago, which is part of why the huge surge in interest in DJ culture died down so quickly. Everybody's a DJ these days, which has made dancers realize that long mixes aren't that big a deal if the party's good. What's more important is the dialogue between the person behind the decks and the people on the floor, which comes together in a much more mysterious way than good mixing technique could ever explain.