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Poll 2020: R3hab

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For Moroccan-Dutch DJ and big room dance producer R3hab, 2020 was a period of reflection, during which he realised how much of a lifeline music can be in a time of crisis. “I have got so many messages from people telling me that even when they can’t go out to parties,” he says, “they still need the music to help them have fun at home during the quarantine. Music is a great escape.”

R3hab found the time to release eight singles this year, all collaborations with artists from around the world, including Argentina’s TINI, Sweden’s Clara Mae and Australia’s Timmy Trumpet, while he continued to record his I NEED R3HAB radio show, now at its 414th edition. After two previous albums released in 2017 and 2018 on his CYB3RPVNK label, R3hab is preparing a third, which he believes represents a shift in sound. “I’m very excited for it to be finished,” he says. “It will be something unexpected, I think it is different from what you’re used to from me.”

 

What three things have most helped you through Coronavirus Lockdown? 

“Music and production, friends, and also some time alone to work on my health during this break from travelling.”

 

What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis? 

“For better or worse, we are in this together and we need to help each other. We’re seeing how important dance music is for the community and people.”

 

What steps need to be taken to address the racism in the dance music scene? 

“Racism is absolutely unacceptable. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, good music is good music, and having fun is a universal feeling.”

 

What industry changes are you personally pushing for to make the dance music scene more inclusive?

“Dance music is international, so we should be collaborating with artists from all over the world — across cultures and backgrounds. In the last year, I have worked with some great people from Argentina to Australia to Ukraine to the UK. I hope to see more artists do the same.”

 

What’s the greatest dance music track of all time?

“Too hard to choose.”

 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2020-10-20 16:06

Style: 
“My DJ style is best described as a rollercoaster ride.”
Best known for: 
“R3hab remixes.”
Tune of the year: 
“If I have to choose, I would go for Regard’s ‘Secrets’.”

Poll 2020: W&W

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DJs have found any number of ways to refocus their energies this year. For the Ws though, it’s been their label that’s been the primary beneficiary. “2020’s been our one for developing Rave Culture,” says Ward from the group, “and we have found some amazing new talent for it!” That’s been evidenced by its output, which sees the two-year-old imprint on course to triple its 2019 release tally.
 
Hot amongst those outings have been new music from Dannic, KEVU, Darren Styles, Will Sparks, MaRLo and others, while there’s been no shortage from Willem & Ward’s own camp either. Over the course ‘Comin’ To Getcha’, ‘Do It For You’ and ‘Wizard Of The Beats’ (w/Sandro Silva & Zafrir) have provided some salvation to their party-starved fans. “We’re also super thankful for all the support our Rave Culture clothing line has received,” says Willem. “We just miss seeing all the fans wearing it at the shows though!”
 
W&W’s big lockdown-circumnavigating moment came relatively early in 2020’s diabolical scheme, through their XR event. Billed as ‘the world’s first Extended Reality live stream’, in May they partnered with Chinese sportswear firm Li-Ning and Twitch to play a set in ‘a custom-made virtual stadium overlaid with futuristic, video game-like ‘XR’ effects’.

 
What three things have most helped you through Coronavirus Lockdown? 
 
“Time with the family, extra studio time and a lot of League Of Legends!”
 

What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis?

“That we should cherish the great moments more, live in the present and enjoy life. This year has been rough for everyone, but it also made us realise how much we love this music and playing such amazing shows.”
 
 
What steps need to be taken to address the racism in the dance music scene?

“We do our best to listen to all the ways inequality is present in this scene, and to learn from this. Our response is to address this, as well as support and empower creators who make a cultural impact and make sure that there is representation across our team and industry. Dance music is a place of inclusivity, and we should work to make sure everyone feels accepted and included.”
 
 
What industry changes are you personally pushing for to make the dance music scene more inclusive?

“We try to project positivity and welcome everybody to our Rave Culture community. The connectivity and closeness that people have with each other within this community is incredible to see and be a part of.”
 
 
What's the greatest dance music track of all time?
 
"Delerium feat Sarah McLachlan 'Silence (Tiësto's In The Search Of Sunrise Remix)'."
 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2020-10-20 15:57

Style: 
“Energetic bigroom music.”
Best known for: 
“High-energy festival sets and our label Rave Culture.”
Tune of the year: 
“David Guetta & MORTEN ‘Kill Me Slow’.”

Poll 2020: Afrojack

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2020 will go down as a year that none of us will ever forget. That much is certain. But in the case of Afrojack (real name Nik van de Wall), it’s definitely a year he’ll remember for all kinds of reasons.

Nick has battled the severe restrictions we’ve all faced and watched as the industry he’s dedicated his life to crumbles with cancellation after cancellation after cancellation. But, in keeping with his fizzy, vibe-some signature and his enduring positivity, he’s found ways to keep himself inspired, creative and sane... And it’s clear his fans have appreciated that, too.

One of the most consistent DJs to appear in the upper ranks of the Top 100, since 2011 Nick has been in the Top 10 almost every year (bar 2014 when he hit the still-impressive 12th position). This year is no exception as his loyal following has voted for him to remain in the top percentile once again — up a healthy two places. This could be down to many reasons but we suspect it’s his consistency. Pre-COVID or more recently, Afrojack has constantly honed a wide-armed eclectic style that transcends the usual, often formulaic EDM theatrics for sounds with much more groove and longevity. This has always been the case with the 33-year-old Dutchman, but it’s especially evident in his output throughout the year.

One of his busiest years to date, 2020 has been iced with Afrojack’s sugary goodness time after time after time. Kicking off in December with ‘Sad’ (a collaboration with young Spinnin’ sensation Chico Rose), there's been a release nearly every month from the man; first came the hugely successful, feel-good, sing-alone ‘All Night’ with ex-Fifth Harmony member Ally Brooke, then came the high-voltage collaboration ‘1234’ with Fedde Le Grand. A high-grade riffy stampede, even during rave’s peak shutdown it had fans clamouring for brighter days… It was closely followed by two more major hits over the summer; the emotional heartstring-tugger ‘Cloud 9’ (with Def Jam artist Jeremih) and the riotous ‘Hot’ with SAYMYNAME. One of the Afrojack’s heaviest tracks in years, its wild riff, big bassline and swaggering breaks reminded everyone how versatile and broad Afrojack’s sound truly is. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Complete with appearances on the HyperX celebrity gaming series, hints that he is going to dust off his old techno alias Kapuchon (which is Dutch for hoodie — a garm Afrojack is seldom seen without), various live streams (including one of our own Virtual Festival events), his longstanding Jacked Radio series and massive singles ‘Speechless’, ‘Hey Baby’ and ‘Wish You Were Here’ all wrapping up the summer, the message from Afrojack has been clear: stay busy, stay vibey, stay strong. And stay in love, too... Beyond the music, easily the biggest reason why Afrojack won’t forget this strange old year in a hurry is that he got married to singer, reality TV star and self-styled Twerking Queen Elettra Lamborghini. Congratulations Afrojack! 

What three things have most helped you through Coronavirus Lockdown? 

“My wife, Playstation – mostly Call Of Duty and FF7 remake – FL Studio.”

 

What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis?

“The government/politicians do not care about the entertainment industry, nor take it seriously. We've always been strong by ourselves as a culture — music, DJs, promoters, venues all do this for passion. We will survive.”

 

What industry changes are you personally pushing for to make the dance music scene more inclusive?

“Since the start of my career my influences, collaborators and friends are from all walks of life, from Carl Cox to Nervo, Honey Dijon to Solomun. Music is music, no matter what skin colour, gender and even genre.”

 

What’s the greatest dance music track of all time?

“Daft Punk ‘Around The World'.” 

 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2020-10-20 15:51

Style: 
“Everythinggg."
Best known for: 
“Very loud noises.”
Tune of the year: 
“John Summit ‘Deep End (Black V Neck Remix)’.”

Poll 2020: Oliver Heldens

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Oliver Heldens holds on to a place in the top 10 for another year. It’s hard to believe the Dutchman is just 25 years old, given how much he’s already achieved. At just 19, he scored a UK No. 1 with ‘Gecko (Overdrive)’ — the vocal version of his already popular track, featuring singer Becky Hill — and landed in the Top 100 poll for the first time later that year in 34th place. Since then, he’s released numerous hit tracks, launched his highly popular Heldeep label, taken over festival stages all over the world, and doubled-up his success via his more bass/tech-house-focused alias HI-LO.
 
Though events have mostly been put on hold this year, that hasn’t slowed Heldens down. “I’ve been releasing a lot of new tracks and remixes with a pretty wide range of sounds in the last 12 months and I’ve got a lot of new releases in the pipeline. This year might have been the most productive year I’ve had so far!” he tells DJ Mag. 
This includes ‘The G.O.A.T.’ with Mesto in Jan, ‘Ting Ting Ting’ with K-pop group Itzy in March, ‘Details’ with Boy Matthews and a remix of SZA and Justin Timberlake in April, ‘Rave Machine’ with Happy Mondays legend Rowetta in May, ‘Zeus’ as HI-LO in July, ‘Break This Habit’ with Kiko Bun in August, and ‘Somebody’ with Funkin Matt and Bright Sparks in September. Aaaand breathe! 
 
“Also, since the beginning of the lockdown I’ve kept myself quite busy with preparing for several live streams, which all turned out really well, but needed a lot of time, because I tried to premiere so many of the new tracks I’m working on in these sets,” Heldens continues. 
 
Stream performances included: one for EDC Las Vegas that had Heldens’ DJ mates swimming around him on a green screen, their heads photoshopped onto the bodies of fish; playing live from his garden as HI-LO for Tomorrowland; suited and booted and DJing from an empty Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam; playing a festival stage on a racetrack to open the new season of Formula 1; and a headbanging set for DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs Virtual Festival.
 
“In a recent theatrical live stream project, #HeldensEverywhere, my team and I went really crazy on the production for it. The performance was a few weeks ago, but we spent months preparing for it, building and creating custom theatre set pieces to create a first of its kind and entirely unique show,” he continues. 
 
Taking from classic TV shows, the stream featured amazing sets and loads of actors. Clips from the show and a behind-the-scenes-style video are still available to watch over on Heldens’ Instagram. “That was probably the craziest show I’ve ever done,” says Heldens. Who knows what’s next? 
 
 
What’s the greatest dance music track of all time?
 
“One of my all-time favourites is Modjo ‘Lady’, but I wouldn’t call it ‘the greatest dance music track of all time’. I also want to give an honourable mention to another timeless favourite house track of mine: Julio Bashmore ‘Au Seve’, because that was a direct influence for me while making ‘Gecko’, my breakthrough track.”
 

 

 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2020-10-20 13:05

Style: 
“Mixing future house and dance with tech-/deep house, electro, progressive, disco and techno. Bridging the mainstream and underground.”
Best known for: 
“Pioneering the future house genre since 2014, my weekly Heldeep Radio show, running Heldeep Records, my HI-LO alter-ego and my eclectic/versatile sets.”
Tune of the year: 
“Moguai & Kai Tracid ‘DT64’.”

Poll 2020: Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike

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Though they’ve been unable to tour as normal, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike still managed to stay in touch with their fans this year via social media. Releasing a plethora of singles, perhaps the most notable was ‘Do It!’, a collaboration with Belgian producer Azteck and Mexican singer/influencer Kimberly Loaiza. It had a staggering 50 million views within 24 hours on TikTok, and the #DoIt dance video trended in Latin America and the US, encouraging fans to submit their own dance challenge videos to the platform. In addition, the brothers released more club-geared tracks such as ‘The Anthem’ with Timmy Trumpet and ‘Clap Your Hands’ with Fedde Le Grand and W&W, while their single ‘Instagram’ reached 200 million streams on Spotify.

Mike focused on his new label Green Room, which allows him to work on solo projects and also shine a light on upcoming artists.
“I’ve been releasing solo tracks for close to two years now, and once I started working on my album project, it felt like the right time to launch my own label,” he says. “I officially launched the label with ‘High Off Love’ at the start of 2020, just before all this COVID-19 chaos, and we’ve been up and rolling ever since. One way that lockdown has been good for me is getting more time to restructure the label, so I can give other artists the platform to bounce from. We dropped an EP back in June featuring D-Wayne, 13 NIGHT, JPK, Asonn, T.I.M, LENN, Mackum Jaime Deraz, and more are coming. My own latest single on Green Room is ‘Excited’ with C Natty.”

Tomorrowland festival residents, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike played the first virtual edition in July, Tomorrowland Around The World. Though they were initially unsure how the event would work, it proved to be a resounding success. “After so long away from the festival vibe, it was incredible to be involved in this enormous two-day digital experience bringing all the people of Tomorrowland together,” they say. “It was a first in dance music, and many probably thought it was not going to work like a real show, but the desire for it from the fans – and artists – was insane! Over one million people tuned in and shared this global experience. It was a new chapter in the history book, of not just Tomorrowland, but the dance scene. We came together to make something magical happen, and it was so amazing to be a part of it.”


Dimitri continued to expand his acting CV after appearances in recent Men In Black and Rambo movies, with probably his most high profile role yet. “I’ve been cast in the upcoming Jurassic World: Dominion, the third part of the new Jurassic World trilogy,” he says. “It’s been an amazing experience and a childhood dream come true to be part of something I was fascinated with when I was a child. There’re various other movie projects underway, and without disclosing too much, the timing of having so much ‘free’ time works out perfectly with all the new movie stuff coming up, so I’ll be spending a lot of time on film sets in the next months.”


And that’s not all: they’re working on lots of new music and projects for their Smash The House label. “Keep your eyes open. Announcements coming soon!” they say.


What three things have most helped you through Coronavirus Lockdown?

“Being around friends and family and getting to reconnect like we don’t usually do, because we all live such busy lives, was something very special. Spending more time in the studio, working on ideas has been super fulfilling. And creativity: making random videos, writing pitches and scripts for movies, working on the label, our new e-sports venture, or [working] on our influencer company definitely helped keep us sane.”

 

What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis?

“The world is hurting from this virus. Every aspect of life has been affected. We need to pull together as a scene. Maybe this is a chance to break down some of the barriers that often divide our scene? We believe so…”

 

What steps need to be taken to address the racism in the dance music scene?

“Dance music has always been about unity. We need to return to that spirit. We need to come together and make a stand that shows inequality and imbalance towards our brothers and sisters is not acceptable.”

 

What industry changes are you personally pushing for to make the dance music scene more inclusive?

“More varied line-ups, more varied working environments. More acceptance of who people are, what they want to be and how they want to express themselves.”

 

What’s the greatest dance music track of all time? 

“There are just too many amazing tracks to name just one.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2020-10-20 13:02

Style: 
“Our style has always been about the crowd.”
Best known for: 
“Smashin’ the house.”
Tune of the year: 
“‘Tricks’ by Bassjackers.”

Poll 2020: Peggy Gou

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Even before the pandemic kicked in, Peggy Gou had decided to take it a bit easier this year. In 2019 she’d played 200 shows all over the world. “I was destroyed physically and mentally,” she explains on one of her Instagram stories. “I have seen a doctor and they have told me, ‘Calm the f*** down! Your body needs a rest’.”
 
She spent time recharging her batteries at her parents’ house in Seoul; making mixes to work out to; and filming workout videos, with her parents involved too. She did bits of boxing, sorted a ‘Play Gou’ mix for Nike on Spotify, readied future releases on her own Gudu label and made tracks of her own.
 
The South Korean DJ/producer, who’s been based in Berlin for a good few years now, also found time to get involved in the Jägermeister Save The Night initiative, which has donated a million Euros to ten nightlife communities around the world. “This means a lot to me, and it’s an honour to give back,” she says in a video promoting the project. “I can’t wait for the amazing moment when we all come back.” 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2020-10-20 12:55

Best known for: 
‘It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)’ and her ‘DJ Kicks’ mix.

Poll 2020: 3 Are Legend

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They don’t get much bigger than the trio of Steve Aoki, Like Mike & Dimitri Vegas who together are EDM supergroup, 3 Are Legend. The trio first met on Aoki’s 2012 Deadmeat tour and found themselves playing on the same bill at the likes of Ultra Miami, Tomorrowland and Creamfields so often that it seemed that joining forces was the logical next step. They released their first collaboration as 3 Are Legend, the massive ‘Phat Brahms’, later that year. 
 
Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and Steve Aoki featuring Abigail Breslin ‘We Are Legend’ from 2017 summed up 3 Are Legend’s musical direction: emotive, stadium electro-house with heart-wrenching vocals, big, fizzy synth riffs and epic breakdowns that last till closing time. This year, it was all about the instantly recognisable portentous synths of their ‘Raver Dome’ track on Ultra Music together with Justin Prime and Sandro Silva, the follow up to 2019’s high-octane ‘Khaleesi’. Obviously, all three are no strangers to the Top 100 DJs list, regularly placing in the top ten for the past few years. 

 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2020-10-20 12:52

Best known for: 
Being DV&LM and Steve Aoki

Poll 2020: Illenium

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Since his 2013 debut with his eponymous EP on Prep School Recordings, Illenium has racked up an impressive discography including three artist albums and a series of Billboard Dance Chart top ten placings. He’s also turned his production skills to his peers, remixing artists like The Chainsmokers, Flume and Marshmello. He specialises in an epic and melodic version of the dubstep sound which also draws on influences from trap, hardstyle and future bass and which has proved hugely popular. Illenium seems to be able to turn out massive, catchy choruses with ease, as showcased on his Big Beat release from March, ‘Hard To Say Goodbye’ featuring Chloe Angelides. He then kept the pressure up all year with a stream of emo-bangers, with further Big Beat releases and EPs on Astralwerks before moving to 12Tone Music. 
 
Illenium’s 2019 ‘Ascend’ album on Astralwerks was his third artist album and came packed to the rafters with festival-sized anthemic collabs with the likes of X Ambassador, Jon Bellion and Chandler Leighton. 2020 saw the remix version of ‘Ascend’ drop, which included re-rubs from Tisoki, 3LAU, William Black, Tiësto and more. 

 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2020-10-20 12:50

Style: 
Melodic bass
Best known for: 
‘Take Away’, ‘Good Things Fall Apart’.

Poll 2020: Claptone

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What started out as some intense planning for The Masquerade, Claptone's fantastical event parties that were booked in at Pacha, Ibiza, this year swiftly evolved into time spent working on his third album. “It's got some amazing songs on there, I can’t unveil too much at this stage, but I really can’t wait to share them with you,” the golden one tells us. 
 
In the meantime, Claptone has been performing regular live streams and sets from his home in front of his exciting vinyl collection. “You can’t compare this to the joy of playing in front of a bigger crowd and the emotive impact that it has on you,” he tells DJ Mag.
 
Did he think of adding a face covering to his successful merchandise range? “Yes, but I decided against that in the end. I want to believe in a time after this pandemic where it’s OK and safe again to go to parties, dance with each other and hug each other.” Yep, we're all keeping fingers and toes crossed for that.  
 

What three things have most helped you through Coronavirus Lockdown? 
 
“Music, my fans, love.”
 
 
What lessons should the industry learn from this crisis? 
 
“United we stand, divided we fall.”
 
 
What steps need to be taken to address the racism in the dance music scene?
 
“Same as in everyday life: speak up, get involved, zero tolerance for racist behaviour or hate speech of any kind.”
 
 
What industry changes are you personally pushing for to make the dance music scene more inclusive? 
 
“I launched my event‚ The Masquerade, based on the idea to create a positive environment free of any acts of discrimination — open to everyone who wants to join. We encourage them to wear masks so they can play with their identity, develop a new perspective on themselves and the world by becoming someone or something else.”
 
 
What’s the greatest dance music track of all time? 
 
“New Order 'Blue Monday'.”

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2020-10-20 12:47

Style: 
“House.”
Best known for: 
“My music, I would hope.”
Tune of the year: 
“Josh Wink & Lil Louis 'How’s Your Evening So Far (Chris Lake Remix)’.”

Poll 2020: Calvin Harris

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Calvin Harris started off making quirky disco-fied pop records like ‘Acceptable In The ’80s’ and ‘Girls’ before he got his big room EDM producer head on. ‘I’m Not Alone’ was his first UK chart-topper and after he decided to work with guest vocalists instead of singing himself on his own tracks, the whole of his third album, ’18 Months’ — featuring the likes of Kelis, Rihanna, Ne-Yo, Florence Welch, Tinie Tempah, Ellie Goulding and Ayah Marar — spawned a massive nine UK top ten singles. 
 
Last year Calvin had his Vegas residency and shows at Pacha and Ushuaïa in Ibiza going on. There’s been none of that in 2020, of course, but what the Scotland-born DJ/producer has done is rediscover his roots. His Love Regenerator project saw him pivot more towards old skool hardcore, and his lurch towards some of rave’s foundation sounds brought plaudits from all corners of the scene. 

Questions Top100 DJs 2004 - Becca Antoon - 2020-10-20 12:42

Best known for: 
A string of dance hits.

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