The taste-maker, Kanyes creative director and now DJ talks about swapping designing for the decks and why Malcolm McLarens Duck Rock is still cool
Virgil Abloh is most famous for his role as Kanye Wests creative director, but he has a reputation as a taste-making force on social media and on the runway. He also co-founded the Bromance Records label with a coterie of Parisian DJs and producers, and performs around the world as a DJ in his own right. We caught up with him backstage at a Boiler Room event, which he curated, in a warehouse in Brooklyn, obviously.
Hey Virgil! What have you been up to?
I just got done playing Las Vegas less than 24 hours ago. I flew from Paris, where I have a residency, played Las Vegas and then played in an art gallery for Tom Sachs here in New York. I havent slept or been to the hotel.
Sounds exhausting. What made you want to do this Boiler Room event?
This night is super important to me and, without any sort of like, credit to myself, I think its a very important night in the modern history of club culture.
Yeah, its big but, it needs to be big. In the time that Im around, whether its in a cultural position between arts or music or fashion or something like that I want to represent the most real the hands down most real. My mentor in the DJ space has been Benji B.
Benji B, the BBC radio DJ? How did he become your mentor?
Because iPlayer and BBC Radio was global and I was tuned in. I started with Gilles Petersen, 13 or 14 years ago and Ive been listening to Benji B literally for 12 years every week. Im from Chicago, and I learned about my own house music history through his radio show, him doing Chicago specials or Detroit specials or what have you. Im a child of Deviation and I consider him like an Anna Wintour of music.
High praise. When did you start DJing?
Ive been DJing since I was in high school. A-Trak was my idol and I started out in turntablism. You know, Roc Raida, Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Mix Master Mike. My cousin had a record shop, Deal Real in Soho, and thats where Kanye met A-Trak. Thats where I come from, like any teenager during those years being interested in music and Technics 1200s and Vestax mixer.
Youve got a line of clothes (Off White), youve released a book, and youre creative director for Kanye West. Why are you adding DJing to your schedule?
DJing is my only peace of mind. When the phone is off, I play my favourite songs really loud for myself and Im not talking to anyone, Im not managing anything; its just like a time when I can listen to music. So for me now, in the same way I still skateboard now. I dont play golf. Ill be DJing after Im done designing or doing anything else.