Impact is a series that's dedicated to profiling raw talent that's about to turn dance music on its head. Next up: DJ Lag
In the middle of a WhatsApp conversation with DJ Lag, he sends me a 15-second video. A mass of people move rapidly in unison, their arms wildly flailing around with the flexibility of inflatable waving tube men in time to the sound of Gqom being played. This is the reaction that the heavily percussive form of dance music hailing from Durban has been getting in Europe. DJ Lag is one of the genre’s most prominent producers.
While to some it may seem as if he’s popped out of nowhere, he’s been making music from a young age and building up a reputation in South Africa. He’s also known as the King of Gqom, a pioneer in a movement that has stretched from its South African origins to audiences across the globe. The internet has been a particularly essential component to his and other Gqom producer’s sounds, turning minds inside out within the past year.
Like many of Gqom’s producers, his music has been played at house parties and distributed personally via online channels such as Soundcloud. That is, up until this point. Having previously picked up on the sounds of Durban with a release from South African house trio Rudeboyz, London imprint Goon Club Allstars has released DJ Lag’s self-titled debut EP. It’s the first collection of his music to be released on vinyl. The 4-tracker is dark, tense in atmosphere and full of stunted vocal clips that barely last a breath and tightly contained drum hits. A fluid continuation from the sparse, high-energy cuts he’s been sharing online such as ‘Zoo’, DJ Lag demonstrates that this is merely the beginning for Gqom’s world domination.
Read a Q+A with Lag and listen to an exclusive mix below.
When was the first time that you thought about making gqom and using fruity loops to make music?
It was 2011 when I heard Naked Boyz 'Ithoyizi'. That was the first broken beat track I heard so I wanted to do something similar to them but I ended up doing something way different than what Naked Boys and Rudeboyz were doing. I was doing hip hop before I started doing Gqom so my tracks have little elements of hip hop.
You’re releasing your self-titled EP through Goon Club Allstars – who also released the Rudeboyz EP. This is your first physically distributed release from a label. What was the process of having this EP signed?
I’m happy to see Gqom on vinyl because it’s something [previously only] being distributed online. My music was being played a lot in the UK so Felix from Goon Club Allstars was the one who inboxed me on Facebook 2 years ago and told me wanted to do an EP release so that’s when I started working with Goon Club.
When it came to making the self-titled EP for Goon Club, what was the recording process like and what were you aiming for it to sound like?
I didn’t have any aim, I just made the tracks for fun and people ended up loving what I’m doing then the guys from Goon Club wanted to release the tracks. I produced all the tracks at my bedroom studio, I had the tracks ready around 2014 but it was hard to send the files to Goon Club. The Internet is very bad at the townships so I had to go to town if I wanted to send the files. It’s easy now; I just use my friend’s Wi-Fi.