The Feel-Good DJ of the Decade
Hiphop Multitasker WD4D Wants to Break It to You Freshly
A densely packed circle of hiphop fanatics forms in the back room at Lo-Fi Performance Gallery. It's another Tuesday night, which means the long-running Stop Biting weekly is gaining centrifugal force, as breakdancers of many ethnicities, flexibility levels, and skill sets enter the sweaty sphere. There they bust rhythmic, contortionist moves to Seattle DJ/producer WD4D's stream of vintage and future classics and obscure cuts that unjustly never became part of the hiphop canon, and are known mostly to true connoisseurs like WD4D.
Week after week, WD4D (aka Waylon Dungan)—as well as Stop Biting comrades like Absolute Madman and Introcut—provides the fresh soundtrack to these impressive feats of athleticism, furthering the cause of Seattle's hiphop scene one killer jam at a time.
"I try to bring new music that I feel is breaks-oriented," Dungan says of his approach to spinning at this popular night. "It's not the old classic stuff. It might be some indie rock like Olivia Tremor Control or Caribou, or classic rock like Led Zeppelin's 'Immigrant Song' that has a drum break on it. I think, 'The b-boys will feel this; I'm gonna put this in between the classics.' They really like that stuff. I'll play some more electronic, glitchy stuff at the right tempo to mix with the old breaks, and they appreciate that. I really just appreciate breaking new music and making people dance to it, even though they don't know it yet."
As fulfilling as the gig is, Stop Biting occupies only a minuscule segment of WD4D's hectic itinerary. If he's not the busiest figure in 206 hiphop, he must be in the top 2 percent.
An ursine, bespectacled 33-year-old, Dungan has been on his grind for 15 years, gradually becoming one of the city's most in-demand selectors, beatmakers, and remixers. His other main DJ residencies—Soulectro with DJ ShoNuff and Zulu Radio with Khazm—happen every second Wednesday at Capitol Club and Saturday nights on KBCS, respectively. He also contributes productions for Gabriel Teodros and Air 2 a Bird, and cut a collaborative EP of innovative hiphop instrumentals with Dead Noise (aka Sean Suttikeeree) titled The After School EP1 on Fourthcity.
Dungan's activities extend to teaching a weekly DJing and remixing class at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center for youths ages 13 to 20 and contributing posts to the exciting new site www.traxploitation.blogspot.com, an outlet for a ton of great free music downloads.
But Dungan really lights up when he discusses his own productions. Typically, he has loads of projects in the works. In April, he dropped an EP of remixes via Bandcamp for three of his favorite female Seattle artists—Choklate, Lisa Dank, and Canary Sing—called Post-Hyphy-Romanticrunk. Dungan's wrapping up an EP with Khingz MC Khalil and another EP earmarked for L.A. rapper Subtitle's BriEfcAse Rockers label. He's nearing completion on a split single with Introcut and is planning a live set for what Dungan describes as an "'80s soul-funk" group called Game Show Winners, featuring 17-year-old vocalist Jusmoni. Somewhere amid all this action, WD4D needs to prepare a set for the December 11 Laptop Battle at Chop Suey. (He won this year's Battle of the Megamixes and is a favorite to win the aforementioned laptop contest.)
WD4D's track record of working with female MCs and "conscious" male rappers reflects his congenial, enlightened personality. (In the five years I've known Dungan, I've seen nothing but positive energy emitting from him.)
"I feel like a lot of male rap/vocal stuff can get too repetitive and macho," Dungan says. "I don't need to perpetuate that because there are a million other DJs who are playing that stuff all day. Basically, I like playing music that's feel-good, regardless of who's making it or what genre it is."
Like chameleonic West Coast producer Daedelus's, WD4D's tracks tend to be rhythmically brash and inventively funky while still boasting a cheerful tunefulness.
"I like to sample melodic stuff, especially stuff that evokes really strong emotions," Dungan says. "I usually go for sentimental, uplifting stuff as opposed to darker, dreary-sounding stuff. Not to say that I don't like the darker stuff... Introcut and I just collaborated on probably the darkest-sounding track I've ever made. We utilized a sample from a Bruce Lee soundtrack, The Game of Death, so you can imagine it's got the dark vibe," he adds, laughing.
In whatever configuration WD4D finds himself, he strives to avoid sounding like anybody else.
"One of the things I've learned recently is change, and fulfilling or defying expectations in the listener," Dungan says about his studio and stage tactics. "Change and novelty: That's what I've been trying to harness with my own music."