Every DJ loves Prince, but few have been as explicit about it as Detroit’s Moodymann.
Born Kenny Dixon Jr., a name under which he also releases music (his label is even called KDJ), Moodymann makes long, distended variations on American funk and disco, including a spaced-out variation on “All the Critics Love U in New York,” and his DJ sets have been loaded with Prince-ly variations for decades. (He also turned his house into a shrine after Prince’s death.)
He’s long overdue for a Twin Cities visit, and checking him out would be worth your time under any circumstances: A Moodymann set is a kind of staged version of a Detroit house party, and the 7th Street Entry is the perfect place for that. But headlining Deep Purple, the Entry's all-DJ Prince tribute (ticketed separately from the Mainroom’s tribute), just makes it that much more perfect.
Still, Moodymann hardly needs to spin any Prince for his sets to signify as his, and his hour-long turn Live on Radio Nova, Paris (December 1995) is definitive proof. It opens and closes with a show-stopping climax of live Marvin Gaye before settling into hypnotic soul whirlpool, only at house tempo. Imagine something like D’Angelo’s Voodoo at 130 BPM and you’re in the ballpark -- only instead of aping his heroes, the DJ messes with the records themselves. He’s Moodymann because he sets a mood. Yet you can’t exactly call him a classicist: If Moodymann really were an old-school soul-music fetishist, he wouldn’t mess with it so much. Past-as-present-as-future is more his speed.
There’s no Prince on the Radio Nova set, which makes it more cohesive: It’s heavy on ’70s funk and soul, but cut up in a distinctly ’90s (and beyond) way. It is, over everything, very Detroit -- post-’80s dance music that assiduously minds its soul roots. Many tracks are edits of club classics: Moodymann’s “I Can’t Kick This Feelin’ When It Hits,” which bookends the set along with live Gaye tracks, is built on a fluttering, clipping snatch of Chic’s “I Want Your Love,” for example. Others, like iO’s “Claire” (on Mo’ Wax) are then-recent tracks that mine a similar sound (Fender Rhodes-drenched jazzy R&B).
The most emblematic track, in some ways, arrives right in the middle, around the 30:30 mark: Sade’s “Surrender Your Love (Kenny Larkin & Stacey Pullen Remix),” a re-edit of “Give It Up,” from 1988’s Stronger Than Pride. The original is a boisterous Afro-flavored house track, heavy on congas; it could probably fit into Moodymann’s mélange unadulterated. But the edit, by two of the DJ’s fellow Detroit producers, gives it a sharper, jumpier rhythm, with some brief, squealing percussion that enhances the funk. You know it, but not quite like this -- something that goes for the set, and the DJ, as a whole.
Deep Purple: A Tribute for the Heads Featuring Moodymann
With: Daniel Paul Cortez, Christian James, Miss Elaine Eos, Medicinall
When: 9:00 p.m. Fri. April 21
Where: 7th Street Entry
Tickets: Sold out
Each week, Michaelangelo Matos will spotlight a different DJ set -- often but not always new, sometimes tied to a local show but not necessarily -- and discuss its place in the overall sphere of dance music and pop.
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