This week, we're handing the microphone over to Sierra Ferrier. Sierra is currently an Ohio University senior, majoring in music business. She's managed a college radio station for a couple years, and also started a record label with her friends. She's bringing us the second installment of the WeDidIt Artist Series and the first installment of a two-part profile on NYC-based mix artist Prints.
On my way to Brooklyn a few weeks ago, I transferred to Union Square subway station, making my way to the L train. Rumbles, jingles, and the sounds of hi-hats echoed as I walked closer to the platform. I found a crowd assembled around a stairwell, with a single guy mixing music on his iPad. The platform became enveloped with the familiar screech of departing train cars, and reverberating bass.
The beat dropped, and commuters, from teenagers in snapbacks, to middle-aged mothers bobbed their heads to the beat. Regardless of age, onlookers immediately began to videotape the performance on their smartphones.
Prints, the hip-hop and electronic DJ/producer responsible for these spontaneous subway dance parties is originally from the Bronx, but currently lives in East Harlem. After working on a community redevelopment project in West Virginia for a few months, David Aguilar, or Prints, can now be found in various subway stops in New York City. He recently had a long-standing stint in the Union Square subway station.
I was surprised to find out that he only just started mixing a little over a month ago. Prints produced beats before live mixing, but he’s performed in the subway with a djembe drum since childhood.
“I love playing the djembe, put I can’t play it for hours, and I needed something that I could play alone that was more dynamic. I’s not like I can show up on Sunday morning and beat the living daylights out of a drum. Now I can wake up and play remixes of Etta James, something that fits the mood a little better.” Prints likes to sample sounds from his greatest loves, hip hop and electronic music. Expect to hear trap tracks, which could easily be mixed with one of his favorite artists at the moment, Jamie XX.
In terms of the equipment Prints uses while mixing, it’s a combination of various chord and sampling apps on his iPhone, iPad, iMaschine, and Traktor software when he’s DJing. Although it’s only been a month since he started learning to mix music, Aguilar DJs for 6-7 hours a day...a rigorous enough schedule to earn one's chops very quickly.
Prints is conscious of what he chooses to play, and samples with purpose.
“I want to take music that may have its messages misinterpreted. I’d like to think of everyone in the subway wearing headphones, as if we were in a silent disco, and I’m controlling something new that people are hearing for the first time.”
It’s this re-contextualization of genres and location that really gets me, and it's why Prints is featured on WeDidIt’s artist series this week. He has a deep appreciation for music in the context of the time that it’s being made, but what he’s “really thinking about is how [he'll] reinterpret it in a different environment, the subway, for anyone to hear.”
“When I play a trap-heavy set, it blows my mind to see 80-year-old people looking curious, or 60-year-old women putting dollars in my bin and being okay with the music. It’s funny what I’m doing, re-serving this music to different audience.”
Aguilar told me that a lot of people demand to know why he’s doing what he’s doing. His answer: “I’m trying to just change what’s happening in the public space.”