Minddriven Reviews: Fire Style! Album by Big Lugg

Ever since I started my journey into DJing and music production, I’ve come across several artists whose music felt a little different than what I normally would listen to. Back in 2008 (my senior year of high school) I was all about Outkast, Pharrell, and my high school anthem “Party Like A Rockstar” by the Shop Boyz. Electronic music was the furthest thing from my mind until Summer of that year, when I stumbled across another world called an ‘anime convention’. It was during the late night Otakurave where I saw the DJ throwing out banger, after banger. (I’ve already done the Shamus meme once, so I’m not gonna do it again…fine.)

After banger, after banger, after banger, after banger…

There. Happy? Okay, let’s more on.

Around July of 2010, I found myself at my local downtown arts and gaming event called Artscape; where they would showcase art from local artists, as well as people from around the state of Maryland, and Pennsylvania. It was then I would discover a new form of rap where instead of hearing about ‘bricks’, ‘stacks’, and ‘freaky ass girls’; the lyrics talked about anime, video games, and nerd culture as a whole. The best part? Everything flowed!

That genre…was Nerdcore.

Back in the early days it wasn’t very well ‘liked’ by hip-hop elitists and hardcore fans only because it wasn’t considered as ‘real hip-hop’. To them, it was just a bunch of nerds ‘rapping’ about the latest episode of Pokemon, or how Exodia ‘one-shot’ all three of Kiba’s Blue Eyes’ Dragons. Honestly I didn’t know much of any Nerdcore artists besides MegaRan and Sammus, however now that I’m a producer and a DJ, my perception of Nerdcore has changed – in a good way! With that said, I found myself stumbling across a Nerdcore rapper that I really think a lot of people should check out (if they haven’t already). I don’t think there is any other artist that was able to pull this off. This artist was able to do something that I never thought was possible, even though it could be cool if it could be done. As a Naruto fan, I think this is one album that you HAVE to check out; especially if you’re a Sasuke fan! The album is called “Fire Style”, and the artist is Big Lugg. 

So, you wanna know why I think you should check this album out? Well, we all thought about what it could be like if our favorite voice actors could sing/rap in character. Well guys n’ gals, THIS is what it looks like! Sasuke’s got more bars than Naruto’s got fillers, and its not just him; Rock Lee, Kabuto, Temari, Madara’s voice actors are also spittin’ hot fire on this album as well. The only criticism I have about it, is that Killer B wasn’t on it. (And I’m not the only one who thinks that!)

There’s 13 tracks total, and so far the one I got on repeat is “Dub Love” by Sasuke and Temari’s voice actors; Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt. Let me tell ya, Big Lugg should be GOATED for this. Why? Because there is no other nerdcore artist that I know of; who will go the extra mile to get the ACTUAL voice actors from the anime that he’s rapping about, on a track with him! If that’s not something a GOAT would do, then I dunno what is! If the Naruto voice actors can do that; imagine hearing a diss track from Vegeta, or even one from Bakugo…?

All-in-all, I love this album, and I think if you’re a Naruto fan (Narutard, or whatever you call yourself), you’re gonna wanna by or stream this album. You can find “Fire Style!” of Spotify, Apple Music, Youtube, and everywhere else music is streamed or sold online. With all of that said; please Jamie Marchi and Monica Rial, I’d love to produce a Panty & Stocking Nerdcore rap album with you, cuz’ that would make my dream bucketlist complete! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Until next time, keep spinnin’!

DJing at Anime Conventions (And Why I Think You Should)!

Music festivals, nightclubs, and after parties. Those are the most common places that you’ll find DJs; regardless of their status on social media, how many mixes they have on Mixcloud, or the number of chart-topping hits that they’ve produced. There are also places where you wouldn’t normally find DJs doing sets; such as the Grand Canyon, or even the Empire State Building. (I know that’s on somebody’s DJ bucket list, but it sure won’t be on mine!) With all of that said, I have a place in mind where I wish some semi-famous (or even famous) DJs would spin music at; anime conventions. 

DJ Mandalorian on da’ deckz!

Okay, so I may have talked about this on a certain anime blog that I’m also the owner of, but I truly believe that DJing an anime convention might not be such a bad idea. Sure, it may not be the ideal place for some (depending if you like anime or not), but compared to the ‘club-standard’ rules of making sure that your selection is tailored to the venue’s taste, you have a lot more freedom in playing what you want to play. (They still have certain rules over playing uncut versions of songs.)

With anime conventions, your song selection can be pretty loose and non-restrictive in terms of what genre(s) of music to play. As a 12-year veteran; I can say without a doubt that anime convention rave crowds like a lot of Hardstyle, Kawaii Bass, Drum and Bass, EDM Trap, and Tech House. (Even some Hip-Hop and Moombahton too!) If you’re a DJ who spins that kind of music, you’ve got it made. Now you’re probably wondering if there have been any famous DJs who have DJed at an anime convention before, right? Well the answer is yes. DJ Heavygrinder, a DJ/Producer out of Seattle, Washington, has DJed for Anime Expo several times. Another is DJ Icey, who was the DJ for Otakon’s 2013 Otakurave. Imagine how turn’d up Anime Expo would be if you got guys like Skrillex, Steve Aoki, or Martin Garrix on the decks. Just a thought…

Wrapping up; DJing at an anime convention gives you so much leeway in song selection, and how the crowd reacts to said song selection. You will have the time of your life should you decide to DJ at one, as you don’t have to worry about anyone trippin’ on LSD (or whatever pills they used to pop at the old-school 90’s raves), wallflowers, or 75% of the crowd recording you and your set with their phones. Everyone is there dancing and having a nerdy good time, and you as the DJ are providing that for them. If you’re lucky, you might even get paid to DJ at some of these conventions (at least at the big ones), but regardless, DJing at an anime convention should be on every DJ’s bucket list!

Until next time, keep spinnin’! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Making The B(r)and: How DJs Market Themselves

If there’s one thing I know about DJs in the modern world; its the fact that they have something special attached to their sound, that speaks to their fans about their overall identity in the music industry. It represents who they are as an artist, what music genres they specialize in, and any other signature traits they may carry with them (or execute on stage). With the market of DJing being as saturated and competitive as it is, many are branding themselves in hopes of standing out from the crowd. But, what does it mean to brand yourself as a DJ? Not only that, but how is your brand going to help you stand out from the rest of the herd?

These aren’t band names, these are DJ logos (brands)

DJ logos! I honestly don’t know when this trend of DJ branding started, but I’m gonna take a shot in the dark and say around the late 2000’s. Just like your favorite underground alternative rock band had their logo plastered on the front of the drummers…kick drum, DJ’s have their logos branded on their attire, or even on the DJ equipment they use to perform their live DJ sets. Having a DJ brand can really set you apart from the competition, however your brand alone isn’t gonna land you gigs as easily as you think.

You have to go through and learn the practice of marketing and advertising yourself (a.k.a. Your Brand), in order to get promoters interested. Having a website also helps too, and you might as well throw in social media and music streaming platforms as an added bonus. I’ll admit (cuz’ I’m in this camp too); Marketing yourself as a DJ can be a bit hard, when you have little to no experience in how to do it effectively. Major record labels either have in-house marketing, or a third party marketing and advertising agency that they use for all of their new, and current talent. When you’re a DJ/producer who is either not signed to a label, or you’ve decided to go the independent route (like I did); marketing your brand is going to be the most importing thing that will make, or break your DJ career. So let’s say you’ve already got your brand and your sound, now…who do you market to?

Who is your music brand for?

Target Audience

This is the first thing all newbie DJ/producers with a brand should do before doing anything else. This is also the first thing every company does when they want to sell a product to a consumer. Figure out how to market your DJ brand, by figuring out who your brand’s target audience is! For EDM in this case, you’re looking at your 20s and 30s age group; as that’s the group that listens to the subgenres attached to it the most. (Also they’re the group that you’ll see the most of at electronic music festivals.) If you’re like me, and like the more subtle side of electronic music; particularly in the House music genre, then your audience will probably be the 30-40 year old crowd. Once you figure out who your target audience is, then the next step is all about communication.

Online Presence

You now have a target audience, but where can they find you? There are so many online platforms out there for DJs to market themselves as well as their skills, which makes advertising easier than it was 20+ years ago. In the 90’s when electronic dance music made its way into the States, the only way you knew about it were the posters that your third cousin (twice removed) slapped on the sides of buildings. (We’ll get to the Raves of the 90’s in another post.)

Now with social media in the form it is today, DJs can market themselves online and build up a following. There’s also music distribution websites like Distrokid and Tunecore, if DJs wanna take a crack at producing their own music. There’s even livestreaming tools like Twitch and Mixcloud for DJs to showcase what they can do, and so also send out demo links to promoters. Having an online presence is key when marketing yourself, but now…what about the financial aspect?

Promotion & Costs

We all know the old saying ‘you’ve gotta spend money, to make money’, right? Well, its true. Do you think any of your favorite DJs got to where they are today by playing all their sets for free? Nope. If you’ve managed to somehow book yourself a gig, have a decent following on social media, and some well-mixed DJ mixes on Mixcloud (or livestreams on Twitch), its time to set a price for what you do. Honestly your price should be determined by your skill level, and not your follower count (though it does help your credibility). Some DJs will probably charge around $75-$150 an hour if their level of skill is novice/intermediate. Others will charge a minimum amount for the time they’re at the event; mostly a 2 or 3-hour minimum, with additional costs like travel and additional equipment they have to bring – like speakers.

Promotion also costs money too; especially if you’re trying to get bookings or even get signed to a record label. The cool thing is that you have a set budget in how much money you want to spend on promotion, of course you also have to do some research into the right kind of promotion. The reason why I say that? Well there are some music promotion sites out there that will say that they’ll help you, but end up flooding your music streams with bots; which is against a lot of well-known music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music.

So…promotion, marketing, and advertising. What’s next?


Let’s not kid ourselves. In business its not always about what you know, but who you know. Promotion, marketing, and advertising are big things you need to do in order to make your DJ brand successful. Networking, is the glue that holds everything together. Its the best kind of organic promotion, and it can potentially land you gigs. There is no famous DJ that I know of, who made it big without networking. Doing this along with marketing, promotion, and advertising you brand can (and will) set you apart from other DJs who do the bare minimum; if any minimum at all.

This pretty much wraps up how DJs market themselves. I know this post makes it look like I’m an expert on this subject, but really, I’m only 3 years into this myself. A lot of what I shared in this post comes from my other venture as an anime podcaster and blogger; especially the marketing and advertising aspect of promoting your brand. So if you’re a DJ looking to stand apart and stand out, these four tools are what you’re gonna need to make your brand, a household name.

Until next time, keep on spinnin’! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Pandem DJ: The ‘New’ Bedroom DJ

By the time the end of 2019 rolled around, many of us were preparing ourselves for a brand new decade. The 2010s had some neat, awesome, sad, disgusting, and hopeful events that happened; especially in the music industry. Pioneer introduced the “Standalone Series” of  All-in-One DJ equipment during this decade; allowing aspiring DJs (that had the money) to follow their dreams of making it big, and hopefully opening up for some of their favorite superstars. 2019 was also the year the XDJ-XZ came out, which for many, is the de facto standalone system for DJs who want that feel of playing on real club gear. Enter 2020, the start of the next decade! What new music will we hear from our favorite EDM artists? What new DJ gear will we get to see at the next NAMM Expo? What exciting new possibilities await for us as we step into the next decade? What – oh…


2020 was also the year the biggest epidemic to ever hit the U.S. happened, and has never caused this much chaos since the Spanish Flu of 1918. Everyone knew where they were when the first case happened, and because of the level of politically charged baggage that’s associated with this particular epidemic, it has left many of us to socially distance ourselves from others whom we’ve once considered as friends and family. (Even our extended relatives.) No nightclubs, no events, and no outdoor EDM festivals could be found anywhere during this time. It was also the year that touring DJs became bedroom DJs once again, although for many of them, that’s actually how they got their start.

There was one other thing I’ve also noticed during 2020; the amount of bedroom DJs I found on Spotify and Mixcloud was insane! During the latter part of the year, a lot of aspiring DJs who managed to save up and get their gear and start practicing, started popping up all over the place through livestreams on Twitch and Youtube (if it didn’t get a copyright strike). I would consider 2020 as the “Year of the Pandem DJ”, where there was an increase of aspiring DJs who became bedroom DJs during the pandemic. Yes, I’m a Pandem DJ too.

Nevertheless 2020 was the year that video streaming platforms like Zoom were getting an insane amount or members (or subscribers), due to everyone from everywhere being online – cuz’ everything was shut down! While some DJs decided to try their hand at other ventures and hang up their headphones, other ‘Pandem DJs’ took to Twitch or Mixcloud and started streaming their DJ sets live; hoping to boost their presence within the community, follow their dreams, and just have fun doing it.


Honestly the pandemic made a lot of people really question themselves, as to where they will see themselves in five years. I asked myself this same question in 2018, and I never thought I would become a DJ in a pandemic. So, now that there are aspiring DJs who have now become bedroom DJs during a pandemic, where do they go from here? Sure, clubs and lounges have re-opened their doors to crowds again; with promoters on the hunt for DJs to spin at said establishments, but for ‘Pandem DJs’, what other alternatives do they have if they’re not confident enough to perform in front of large crowds?

That’s right; 2020 also gave rise to Twitch DJs (which I already said before), Mixcloud Livestream DJs, and Zoom Rave DJs. With so many online platforms and marketing tools out there for bedroom DJs to build a following from, I wouldn’t be surprised if the biggest name in DJing, can olny be found and heard on Twitch. VR has also given bedroom DJs a place where they can DJ at their favorite music festivals, without actually being there. They even have VR Raves where users have their avatars dancing to the music the VR DJ throws on, which might be the next step in Stay-at-Home DJing. As for me, I’m not quite ready for the VR world of DJing just yet, but it’s awesome to discover so many new and upcoming DJs who came from one of the worst events in history, to make this world a better place one beat at a time.

Until next time, keep on spinnin’! ๐Ÿ˜‰


Minddriven Review: Pioneer XDJ-XZ

DJ. The term and meaning behind this two letter word has changed throughout the years, since it was first coined in 1935 by Walter Winchell. There are so many “types” of DJs out here; from the ones that spin music in their bedroom studios, to the ones you see performing (or headlining) at EDC or Burning Man. Being a DJ is more than being a ‘human jukebox’ machine, there is an art to it in terms of the connection you have to the dancefloor; and the people on it. For some people; a DJ is only as good as the equipment that they use (yeah, they do that sometimes), for others, its about the journey you want to take the crowd on through the music that you play. With that said, there is one brand that has solidified itself as the “industry club standard” when it comes to DJing; and can be found in 90% of nightclubs and lounges all around the world. That brand is Pioneer, and this review is on its flagship standalone system; the Pioneer XDJ-XZ.

I had this behemoth since 2020

So during the height of the pandemic, every place I wanted to go for entertainment was shut down. No nightclubs, no events, no anime conventions (which are my primary venues I go to), nada. It was the first time the world has ever experienced something like this in the last century; ofย  course with no events open anywhere around town, this mean no DJs either. So what did they do if they couldn’t spin at their local club or lounge? They pretty much bought the party to them through Twitch, Mixcloud livestreams, and even Zoom Raves. I’ve been producing music for about 10+ years, so I thought it was time to take the next step and become a DJ. With all the overtime money I had from my job at Office Depot, I made a trip to Guitar Center and bought myself the Pioneer XDJ-XZ.

From first glance; its basically what happens if you took two CDJ 2000 Nexus 2’s, a DJM 900 mixer, and smashed them together. Its a standalone unit that pretty much gives you the “club standard” look you’d find at your local nightclub; with all the bells and whistles to boot. (Along with other extra features too.) I’m not ashamed to say that this is the first piece of pioneer gear I’ve ever owned, and if I’m being honest, I’d say that this is the best investment I’ve ever made. So why? Why do I think you should check this baby out? For one thing its standalone; meaning that you don’t have to hide your face behind a laptop, and if you wanna use all four channels, just grab yourself some CDJ 2000’s or XDJ 1000’s and go!


Okay, I’ll admit. I haven’t used every single feature on this unit, but the ones I have used would be the 16 touch-sensitive pads with the RGB lighting that looks cool when you boot it up. I’ve played around with the Color FX quite a bit, and the two that I use the most of when doing DJ transitions are “Sweep” and “Filter”. If you’ve seen or used a DJM 900 before, then this is pretty much identical to that. You’ve got two USB slots; so if you’re doing a B2B with another DJ, they can plug their USB into the other slot that’s vacant, that way you can handoff between songs and not have to worry about cutting the music off to do so. The jogwheels are CDJ-sized and look the part, so you will have a lot of fun spinnin’ those bad boys around. This system can operate on Serato or Rekordbox, so its good that it has support for both Serato and Rekordbox DJs (with me being the latter). Its even got Pro DJ Link, so you can link up those two CDJ’s and XDJ’s I’ve talked about earlier.

Me with my Pioneer XDJ-XZ


The XDJ-XZ gives you everything you’d expect to see in “club standard” gear, not to mention you can get this behemoth for the price of one CDJ 2000 Nexus (about $2500.00). I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw more nightclubs adapting the XZ-CDJ combo, since that would save them thousands more dollars than just a DJM 900 mixer and four CDJ’s. Sure, some DJ’s only issue with this beast is the fact that its too heavy, or that you can only use two tracks in standalone mode. For me, its perfect for what I want to do.

Do I think that they’re going to make a Mach 2 version of this bad boy, since the XDJ-RX3 came out? Probably. However I think that the XDJ-XZ is great for those who want to go to the next level of DJing, by having that “club standard” feel of real club gear. In terms of its firmware however, I’d stay on Version 1.22, because it has worked out for me for the last two years. If you got the money or have saved up enough, get the Pioneer XDJ-XZ and try it out for yourself! They got them in three different colors; original (black), gold (with gold jogwheels), and white (all white including the jogwheels).

Until next time, keep spinnin’! ๐Ÿ˜‰ย