Photo via mixing.dj
Here we are, stuck in the dead of winter still with several months of bitter cold, limited sunlight, and the occasional nor’easter ahead before we see the warm sun of spring. Despite the unseasonably balmy weather this week, fickle Mother Nature is really just trying to lull us into a false sense of security before turning down the temp and turning up our seasonal grumpiness.
Judging by the faces of my fellow morning commuters, we could all use a little cheering up. My antidepressant of choice? House music. It soothes your soul and stimulates the release of endorphins when you dance up your heart rate. Foolproof! This week’s DJ Set of the Week is a potent seventy-seven minute dose of uplifting piano chords, deep basslines, and tremendous vocals from the gospel house pioneer Terrence Parker.
Parker (affectionately known as TP) has been around since the early days of house music and is highly revered among the community. He has released over 100 recordings on numerous labels since 1988, making his house music career exactly as old as I am. If his career were a person, it would be a college grad with a few solid years of job experience and a quickly approaching 10-year high school reunion. Suffice it to say TP has been in the game for a while.
Hailing from Detroit, Parker’s style of spiritual house stands out from the more hard-hitting techno that has come to characterize the city of its origin. His father’s motown and gospel records set the foundation for Parker’s taste, followed by Chicago house greats including Jesse Saunders and Jackmaster Funk.
In the beginning, it was hip hop that was Parker’s first love. He began his DJ career in 1982, molding himself after the legendary Grandmaster Flash and adding scratching, cutting, and beat juggling to his repertoire. Parker boasts flawless skill behind the turntables, and his hip hop approach to DJing house music continues to set him apart from the rest.
What makes him most unique, though, is his unwavering positivity and his primary goal to lift up his audience with his music.
For Parker, music is an emotional outlet and a source of positive energy, and he hopes his music will have the same effect for others. He says,
“People need something positive nowadays. Something encouraging, something that will give you at least some type of hope. I’m very open and engaging with people. I’m not one of these DJs where I come into the club and nobody can talk to me. I like to talk to people, shake their hand, give people a hug. Maybe you may hate my entire set, but if there’s one song that I play that makes you say ‘Man… that song did something to me. That song uplifted me. That song gave me some hope’ – then I did my job!”
Parker’s positive energy is palpable in the DJ Set of the Week, recorded at the influential ‘90s Berlin club E-Werk from way back in 1996, when I was probably practicing the Macarena or singing Jewel in my childhood bedroom (for further reference: if this mix were a person, it could legally purchase cigarettes and Playboy). It’s hard not to feel uplifted when listening to this set; the powerful gospel vocals, the infectious rhythm, and Parker’s impressive cutting and scratching are all moving, both physically and emotionally.
Despite nearly two decades lying between the recording of this set and now, it still feels relevant — TP’s music is timeless.
Within Parker’s continued success and longevity lies a lesson on what it means to be a good DJ. While important, of course, DJing isn’t just about selecting the right tracks; it’s also equally as important to have both technical skills behind the decks and the attitude to lift up your audience, regardless of your genre of choice.
A fitting model for these ideal qualities, Parker is just what the doc ordered to coax us out of our dreary January funk. He’ll be stopping by Sweet Shop at Good Life this Saturday, along with a whopping four CDJs and his trademark telephone headset. Time for some quality house therapy.
W/ MATT MCNEILL AND CS
28 KINGSTON STREET