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Juan Atkins Calls The DJ List Racist in Facebook Post

The Detroit techno legend calls DJ-ranking website racist for not including more black artists in its list of top 100 DJs
photo courtesy of Artist

UPDATE [January 28]: Responding to the hundreds of comments on Juan Atkins' Facebook post that called out DJ-ranking website, The DJ List, for its overwhelmingly white list of top 100 DJs, Atkins provided THUMP with the following comment: "After further review, and reading people's post about my comments, there maybe a popularity contest protocol that maybe in play here that black DJs don't participate in, and therefore it's possible that this racism factor may not be intentional. Never the less the final outcome still looks racist."


Atkins also said: "I would also like to add that the reason I didn't post right after the shock on January 8 was because I really wasn't thinking about even doing such a post until I was walking through the airport in Brazil on this trip a few days ago, and saw Tiesto playing at Amsterdam music festival on a big screen in the airport and I couldn't see anything he was doing that warranted him so much popularity and being 1 of the so called best DJs in the world. His performance actually made my stomach turn. I couldn't resist doing that post after seeing that."

Juan Atkins—member of the Belleville Three and heralded for inventing Detroit techno—has called DJ-ranking website The DJ List racist for not including more black DJs in its top 100. In a Facebook post on Atkins' page, the producer said the site, which ranks over 25,000 DJs, "instantly lost credibility upon publication of this racist list."

In the post, which has over 2,000 likes, Atkins said: "It's 2016 now and there's no place in DJ culture, or anywhere for that matter for racism." He went on to point out that only two of the DJ List's top 100 DJs were black, and that Detroit icons like Derrick May and Jeff Mills did not make the list. He then goes on to declare that the site should be "Destroyed, Dismantled, Deleted, and Replaced," before leveling similar threats at DJ Mag, the DJ magazine that runs an annual list of the 100 top DJs but is not connected to The DJ List, in a sub-thread: "They don't want me to bring the wrath of God down and go book of Matthew on they ass."


Atkins' comments on the lack of accolades awarded to black artists come at a time when a number of Hollywood actors are calling for a boycott of the 2016 Oscars' all-white nomination list. He's also not the first DJ to speak out against issues of racism in the DJing world. DJ Pierre of PHUTURE has spoken publicly about his encounters with racism growing up in Chicago, and just last week, THUMP reported on the racism problem in London nightlife, where clubgoers and music industry professionals of color are reporting they are struggling to gain entry to nightclubs on the city's West End.

David DeMember, managing director of The DJ List, told THUMP that Atkins' comments have been a wake up call for him. "As someone from Detroit, who went to the DEMF (before it was Movement), The Works, Motor, Necto, Effigy Studios and illegal warehouses to hear Juan, Derrick, Kevin, Jeff and on and on, it stung to read this today," DeMember wrote in an email. "But we're taking it to heart and we're on a mission now more than ever to help bring the world good music, by truly talented DJs."

DeMember also responded directly on Atkins' Facebook thread, asking the producer to get in touch with The DJ List so they can work together towards a solution. "I'd love to have a conversation with you about how we can improve (we know there's A LOT of room for improvement in so many areas)," he wrote.

At this point, Derrick May chimed in and backed Atkins' sentiment. Responding to DeMember, May wrote: "The actions or disregard of actions, plus the oversight from your contemporaries from other publications has given rise and fueled a creative pandora's box, it has inspired countless others as well us keep up the good fight and remain as enthusiastic as ever."

DeMember explained to THUMP how the DJ List, unlike other divisive lists like the annual DJ Mag Top 100 Poll and Resident Advisor's annual DJ poll, "compile[s] [artists] rankings using algorithms and user data as opposed to social media and voting, both of which can be hacked more easily." Although DeMember did not elaborate on how the algorithms work—or whether a hack was to blame for the results of The DJ List's top 100—he stressed the importance of finding a better system.

"We just survived the influx of mainstage 'EDM' and now we've got millions of users all over the world looking for something beyond that, whether it be Bass, House or Techno," DeMemeber explained. "We're going to to work to change how we present and emphasize the diversity within our culture, not just from a race/gender standpoint, but with genres, styles, age and the rest of what makes our music and the culture such a plurality that attracted so many of us to begin with."

When contacted for comment, Atkins was unable to respond by the time of press, as he was traveling.