The Guardian Talks with Barclay Crenshaw on Diving Back into Hiphop

March 28, 2017

in Clients

Blood is running down a guy’s arm. He shoves his way across the patio 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 minds blown by producers, DJs and rappers. But on this frigid, winter evening, the club is swollen more than normal, and with lots of newbies. They’re here to see one of their favorite house producers, Claude VonStroke.
Claude VonStroke’s favourite tracks.

There is only one problem. Claude VonStroke isn’t 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 got really good at house,” says Crenshaw, the man behind the VonStroke moniker. Possessing a lovable teddy bear vibe, he sports a bushy beard and an infectious grin. Tonight, in honor of debuting the first hip-hop album he recorded, which is self-titled, he’s dressed in a custom-made, khaki safari-style short suit with Hunter S Thompson spectacles. “I’m definitely more nervous about this project because I’ve never done it before. But the first tapes I bought were rap tapes and when I started making music at 11, it was with two jamboxes – tape splicing, rapping, beatboxing.”

Turning his back on house music even temporarily could be unwise. After all, that’s 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 dropped two other full-length albums, played festivals all over the world (and, with Holy Ship, on water) and thrown his label’s own Campout Festival as well as BBQ parties that draw over 3,000 attendees. Last year, he won America’s Best DJ in a DJ Times annual poll, seeing off EDMers such as the Chainsmokers and Kaskade.

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