WTFIRGO — D33J
Djavan Santos a.k.a. D33J is creative by nature. Growing up in an artistic and multilingual household in Mid-City with a Brazilian dad and Mexican mom, he was always driven to create. D33J studied electronic music at Hamilton High in Culver City and went to art school in the Bay. He creates music using both electronic and analog elements to create moody, textured sounds influenced by the beat scene of Los Angeles (shout out Low End Theory). His restless need to create leads him to make music, textiles, and design clothes. The typography and old school signs of the city are a big inspiration. Walking through the fashion district in Downtown LA to source materials for his creations is a perfect day in the city for D33J. He’s also part of the WEDIDIT music collective (Shlohmo, RL Grime, Ryan Hemsworth).
How would you describe yourself and what you do?
I'm a multidisciplinary artist from LA. I work in a bunch of different mediums mostly music, but I'm starting to branch out a lot more into design and clothing and textiles. I’m never really concerned about the medium per se and just like to get my ideas out however I can. I like to be super hands-on with everything. The music is electronic for sure but I bring in a lot of organic elements so I like to do a lot of shit with guitar and analog synths.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Mid-City down over by like Washington and Crenshaw. It was super cool you know classic LA palm trees, wide streets. My parents still live out there and now I have white neighbors which was not a thing back then. There’s definitely a little shift. The artists are moving in. They have studios. It's kind of getting gentrified a little bit but I think it still has its character.
When did you realize you were creative?
I’ve always just been driven to make and share stuff. My household was always super creative. My parents are both artists too. My dad used to paint a lot and my mom has worked with jewelry. She does all these Mexican headdresses. My parents were always hands on so at a young age I was always like, “oh cool that's something you can do.” I kind of take after them in that respect. I went to a school called Hamilton High and they had a very good music program. I ended up taking an electronic music class there when I was really young. I think that kind of kicked off some of my interest.
When did you realize you could do this as a career?
I think a lot of it is transitioning that same energy we all have as a kid like drawing and making stuff. You have to enjoy it at first and just use it as an expressive tool. You've got to just make shit for the fuck of it and not really think about what you're doing at first. I was always doing a bunch of shit in music and that kind of picked up so I followed that energy. It’s always something in flux for me. I'll spend a month working on clothes and then you know the next month I'm working on music and I'm super ADD with it. Finding the right community to like grow in and connect with is really helpful. We’ve had a collective for the last 10 years called WEDIDIT. It’s nice that there’s this group of people that’s always making shit and we can show each other.
What inspires you about LA?
LA is just such a big hodgepodge of stuff. I think the graphic design culture here is great like all the old street signs and there's so many businesses that just have a feel to them. For my last album I did all these LED street signs and I was inspired the liquor stores signs and taco truck signs.
How is the city reflected in your work?
The way I output ideas is in a similar language of the environment that I grew up in. I'm pretty directly inspired by a lot of that. Musically you know it’s all over the place. I think LA had a very good electronic music scene for a few years with these clubs like Low End Theory back in 2010. There was a big community of people just being weirdos and everyone was inspired by each other. There's so much space here that there's room for everyone to kind of do their thing. I grew up in a very like multilingual house. My dad would talk to me in Portuguese and I'd respond in English. My mom would talk to me Spanish or English. There were all these languages always floating in the house. I think some of my rhythms when I'm producing are inspired by Latin rhythms and some melodies as well.
What’s a perfect day in LA for you?
A perfect LA day would be cooking up some breakfast, rolling a spliff, working on some music and embroidering some clothes. I like to go Downtown and get all my materials. That's a really cool aspect of Los Angeles that helps people make stuff is you know there's big ports and there's all this raw material floating around you know creatively and physically. You can go Downtown and find everything you need to make a sweater in a day. I can go run and get some thread or try a million different types of food. There's just a lot of experiences to be had here and a lot of resources to produce ideas here with music too. LA is one of the capital cities for music.
What do you think are some misconceptions of the city?
A lot of the things people think about LA are sometimes right. It is big and there's a lot of traffic. I think the misconception is that it’s all Hollywood but there's a lot of underbellies here and a lot of different communities to explore. People think where I grew up is super violent or like super hood and it was very peaceful. There's so much more on a cultural level here. Maybe those stories don't get told so much but I think now we're starting to come out a lot more.
What’s your LA?
My LA is just being here and being able to make stuff. It's very environmental. I love the weather. I think it's just perfect. It's just a good mellow environment to make stuff. There's a lot of highs and lows too. You can be in the hood one day and go to a party in the crazy hills and do all these sort of full spectrum experiences here.
What’s your favorite LA song?
I think Buddy right now is making really good LA music. On Central by Buddy.
What advice would you give a young person growing up in Mid-City that wants to do something creative?
Find a good group of friends and really go for it. Don't give a fuck about what other people think. I was wearing skinny jeans in the hood and people were fucking with me but you just gotta do you. Music is not all glamorous. You can have another job and make music. I don't think it has to be one way or the other. It's not easy. There are times where it gets tough and maybe you're broke for a while but you got to just keep your head up. Keep the output going. I was touring and then I'd come back and work at a juice shop or I would make all this stuff and sell it. I'm always hustling and I think you just have to hustle. That's the biggest part.
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