BBQ food 

Barclay Crenshaw built an empire from nothing. Is he the next unlikely hip-hop superstar?

Claude VonStroke came from obscurity to win Best DJ over the Chainsmokers. Can he pull off the same trick in a new genre with a new stage name?

Blood is running down a guys arm. He shoves his way across the terrace of the Airliner in Los Angeles, a soggy cocktail napkin blooming red under his nose, and bumps into a girl bending over the ledge with a cigarette dangling off her lip. Another girl hands out Jell-O shots to her friends. There are always too many people at Low End Theory, the weekly, world-renowned Wednesday night gathering where beat devotees come to bob their heads and get their intellects blown by producers, DJs and rappers. But on this frigid, winter evening, the club is swollen more than normal, and with lots of newbies. Theyre here to watch one of their favorite home producers, Claude VonStroke.

There is only one problem. Claude VonStroke isnt taking the stage; Barclay Crenshaw is. I actually forgot to do the thing I was supposed to do in the beginning. I said I was gonna do hip-hop, but then I get really good at home, says Crenshaw, the man behind the VonStroke moniker. Possessing a lovable teddy bear vibe, he athletics a bushy beard and an infectious grin. Tonight, in honor of debuting the first hip-hop album he recorded, which is self-titled, hes garmented in a custom-made, khaki safari-style short suit with Hunter S Thompson spectacles. Im definitely more nervous about such projects because Ive never done it before. But the first videotapes I bought were rap tapes and when I started building music at 11, it was with two jamboxes videotape splicing, rapping, beatboxing.

Turning his back on house music even temporarily could be unwise. After all, thats the genre Crenshaw built his small but admirable empire on. Starting with the launch of his Dirtybird label in 2005 and release of his debut Beware of the Bird a year later, he has now fell two other full-length albums, played festivals all over the world( and, with Holy Ship, on water) and thrown his labels own Campout Festival as well as BBQ parties that draw over 3,000 attendees. Last year, he won Americas Best DJ in a DJ Times annual poll, watching off EDMers such as the Chainsmokers and Kaskade.

When[ the Chainsmokers] come on the radio with my children in the car, I turn it down and tell, I won Best DJ over them, he says, his eyes crinkling as he lets loose one of his frequent chuckles. They cant believe it. But[ winning] was all due to my fans. They only crashed the poll.

Of course he is nervous about alienating them. It is never bitterly cold in LA, but at the Griffith Observatory the night after Low End Theory, its so chilly that tourists are bundled up in scarves, mittens, hats, the works. Crenshaw is tired and in a sweatsuit after a long day running a successful independent label while getting ready to leave on a new tour and juggling household responsibilities is hard work but the air, so crisp it nearly snaps, is invigorating and the city is glittering like a jewelry box. Its been years since hes driven up to the Observatory, but the new album is inspired by astronomy, sort of: its launchpad is a tale of children being abducted by aliens.

Crenshaws fascination with the supernatural( not to mention his suspicion that he was different) has deep roots. When he was 10, he and a friend latched on to the idea that they were from another planet.

Barclay Crenshaw. Photo: Daniel Peterson

Growing up in Detroit, Crenshaw first bought a jambox and then saved up fund from mowing lawns to purchase a sampler. There were no YouTube tutorials to teach him how to utilize it, but he dug in, obsessed. Eventually, his passion split, and he analyzed cinema at the University of Rochester. After graduating in the early 1990 s, he drove straight to Los Angeles and got a job interning for a pre-Empire Lee Daniels.

Working as a PA in the film industry, he always dipped back into music in his free time, but the problem was that he didnt know what to do with his music once he made it. So he decided to film a documentary about famous DJs and learnt by interviewing them. When he wrapped, he had no money for licensing music. Instead, he made music that approximated each DJs style, and thats how he became a home music producer.

Meanwhile, hed fulfilled his wife, who had a stable job and offered him a bargain: she would pay the rent and bills and give him a year to get his label and career off the ground. If he could accrue $50,000, he could DJ eternally. If he couldnt, hed have to get a real chore.

We stole mailing lists from everyone. We had interns go get tasks as interns only to get mailing lists! I hand-mailed vinyls to every DJ in the world. I dont guess I ever ran as hard as that, he says, giggling. It paid off. Dirtybird and Claude VonStroke( a gag name dreamed up while he and some artist buds were super high) were born.

Over the past couple years, however, the idea that something was missing gnawed at him. He began fiddling with hip-hop beats and hired a more collaborative process, recruiting live musicians, rappers such as the Underachievers and even his two children. What resulted are sungs the hell is funkier than the glitchy skitter of Claude VonStroke, and shorter instead of 15 ways in his 90 -minute set, hell play 50.

Its a little exploration, he says. Its going back to the beginning. Like with any expedition, there are inherent dangers.

At the Airliner the night before, a chant breaks out: Bar-clay, Bar-clay! Crenshaw is spinning a remix of Busta Rhymes Woo Hah !!( Got You All in Check) that voices dunked underwater. He morphs into U Are In My System from the new project, a jangly little hip-hop jam featuring the Cool Kids that punches the speakers, hard.

Thats my fuckin papa! squeals a kid in the front row. After his set, a girl and her friends push through the throng to ask him to take a photo for her 21 st birthday. His face transgress into a smile. I could be your dad, he says, voicing amazed. They either dont hear him or they dont care.

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