Rare groove can be a hard genre to pin down. The label tends to get slapped onto just about any DJ who plays soul, funk, and jazz tracks from the '60s or '70s, though there are plenty of DJs in the genre who incorporate fresh tunes into the mix. To complicate things even more, many DJs working in the field don't do a lot of the traditional beat-matching and mixing associated with club sets, claiming that it's inappropriate to subject classic cuts to such manipulation.
But not DJ Language.
"Mixing is a core component of what I do," says the 28-year-old New Yorker, who cut his teeth in Chicago. "Growing up hearing amazing house and disco DJs like Ron Hardy, Frankie Knuckles, and the Hot Mix 5 -- for all those guys, the main thing was what you could do with two records at the same time, making them talk to each other."
Language has made a name for himself with promo-only mix discs like Language Lab and Suite 903, which focus on vintage soul and funk cuts. Despite this retro focus, however, Language keeps a keen eye on what's new, handpicking the best in house, hip-hop, electro, and broken beat, as evidenced by his first commercially released mixer, Real Music for Real People. There are some older gems in there, like Roy Ayers' "Tarzan" and Patrice Rushen's "Haven't You Heard," but they rub shoulders with soulful new hip-hop like the Foreign Exchange's "Sincere" and the Platinum Pied Pipers' bossa-nova-style take on Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover."
Looking through the track-listing, which includes veteran producers like Bugz in the Attic, DJ Spinna, and Pete Rock, many hipsters could be forgiven for thinking that Language hasn't unearthed any obscure new talents here.
"We forget sometimes that we are a relatively small part of the population," he says. "There are a lot of people out there who are looking for good music, but they don't have time to be out at a record store every week or looking online all day long. To me, that's my job as a DJ. I'm out there on behalf of people who like good stuff, but really can't be out there looking for it all the time."