I have the pleasure of knowing Delyan (DJ DELightfull) from the local hip hop scene in Bulgaria, and particularly from the awesome live-beatmaking project The Innkeepers.
An amazing turntablist, you can literally see him anywhere - doing scratch DJ-in at park benches, at the top of the mountain, or in the metro. He was so nice to drop by to talk about hip hop, vinyl & music scenes all over the world and also left us a lovely 55-minute live-recorded mix showing his vision of chillhop, jazzy hip hop & bossa nova.
1. DJ MITSU THE BEATS - C'mon Wit Da Git Down
2. DJ MITSU THE BEATS - I'll Street Blues
3. Emapea - Strickly Wax
4. Nautilus - Root Down feat. Fleur Earth
5. Jay Dee - F*** The Police (The J.Rocc Re-Work)
6. Minnie Riperton - Baby, This Love I Have
7. Black Star - K.O.S.(Determination)
8. Brandon Bass - Relaxation in Hifi
9. Pete Rock - Play Dis Only at Night
10. K-Def - Street Jazz
11. Jazz Liberatorz - Breathing Pleasure
12. Bobby Hutcherson - Montara (The Roots remix)
13. Damu The Fudgemunk - Beat Grinder
14. DJ Skill - No name 05
15. Klaus Layer x Figub Brazlevič - The Last B-Boy
16. Pseudo Intellectuals - Milding Out (Jazz Spastiks Remix)
17. Pseudo Intellectuals - Milding Out (Album Version)
18. STARTERAs - Rezovo
19. Damu the Fudgemunk, Archie Shepp & Raw Poetic - Learning to Breathe Single (Extended Mix)
20. HashFinger - Buried Treasure
21. Jazzinuf - Lemon Suga Pop
22. saib. - Porco Rosso
23. saib. - São Paulo Sunset
24. Tall Black Guy - basta ver a maneira como ela anda
25. Karriem Riggins - Summer Maddness S.A.
26. Eric Lau - Chop 4 Mr Thing
27. Quarteto Forma - O primeiro amor
28. Toni Tornado - Papai, Não Foi Esse O Mundo Que Você Falou
29. Roberto Carlos - As curvas da estrada de Santos
30. Roberto Carlos - Não Vou Ficar
31. Beat Power - Brous One - Still Time 4 You
32. Jenova 7 - You Dig?
33. Fat Jon The Ample Soul Physician - Berlin Grey
34. Freddie Joachim - Sauced
35. Dirty Hairy - It's Like Ella
36. Cam The Downrocka & Rach - Clear Ruff Edges
37. Melodiesinfonie - Wanderlust
38. Nobody Beats the Beats - J'Aime Les Beats
39. DJ Drez And Marty Williams - I Look Fly
40. Thes One - Want you Back
41. DJ Yoda - Abbey Road
42. Black Sun - Spread Love (Nu:Tone Remix)
43. Take 6 - Spread Love (DJ Mark The 45 King Remix)
44. The Impressions / J Dilla - We Must Be In Love (Jim Sharp edit)
45. Abstract Orchestra - Dilla Mix 2
46. SmokedBeat - Dillin'
47. Blood Orange, Ian Isiah & Jason Arce - Runnin' Away
Hey man, how do we find you today?
Letting sunshine rays and fresh air through the window and feeling content after I just finished this little project I made for you folks. Other than that I’m on a pretty intense scratch practice schedule with almost no days off, while continuing to do my online part-time job and trying to steal some time for a book or a film.
What's the idea behind the mix you crafted for us?
I decided to use the opportunity to make a mix with tunes most of which quite possibly I wouldn’t play at a gig or make scratch routines with. I used to do 10-12 min vids with jazzy beats on the subway with my portable turntable and that was the only outlet for this part of my music taste, I stopped these due to gear issues and I haven’t done anything with music from that area since. You guys love and share a lot of similar stuff so I thought it was a suitable opportunity. Also, the whole thing is quite moody, changing in vibe and feeling several times within those 55 minutes, which reflects how I am as a person.
The first 9 minutes are strictly reworks of hip hop classics or of well-known samples that have been used in hip hop classics. Then I jump on to other jazzy boom-bap beats, amongst which some brand new joints – the first singles from the upcoming albums by the Pseudo Intellectuals and the Damu the Fudgemunk, Raw Poetic and jazz grand Archie Shepp collab (this is going to be big!), and two beats from new releases by local Bulgarian heavyweights STARTERAs and DJ Skill.
The next part is dedicated to my long-lasting love for Brazilian music. I chose beats with Brazilian samples, some of them quite well-known, but allowed myself to venture into some 70’s Brazilian funk, too.
Then I switch back to mellow jazzy vibes, but slowly cheering it up. There is older stuff in this part but again some 2019 and 2020 production as well (Jenova 7, DJ Yoda, Dirty Hairy, Cam the Downrocka). The last part is a “love suite”, that’s something I once prepared for a gig and it worked really well. And because that ends with a Dilla re-touch, I decided to end it all on the Jay Dee tip with Smoked Beat’s "Dillin" and this otherworldly contemporary classical render of Pharcyde’s "Runnin".
What would you say is the most delightfull thing in your life? And how did you pick that name for your moniker?
The most delightful thing in my life is my girl. But as for the moniker, it came from the idea that I wanted my real name included in it. I like wordplay, it’s one of my favourite aspects of rhyme writing, so I was searching for a word starting with the first half of my name - "Del" - that includes another word in it. And there it is – Del full of light.
Where does your love for hip hop come from?
Hip hop meaning rap music, that’s from early childhood. I was listening to hardcore 90’s hip hop at an age at which I wouldn’t want my kids to listen to that. I was bumping my brother’s tapes and just slightly later also CDs when I was still in the first grades of primary school, and although these ranged from RHCP, Offspring, Nirvana, Metallica, Sepultura to Prodigy, Orbital and DJ Hype, Wu Tang’s 36 Chambers pirate tape and another pirate compilation tape with KRS-One, Afu-Ra, Hieroglyphics, and Mos Def definitely took on.
This variety has persisted, however. For instance, I finished a new wave album and started a jazz-fusion one while writing this. I started the day with Athletic Progression, Kali Uchis and Cleo Sol. The late 80’s rap and funk breaks are played mostly when I turn on the turntables. I used to listen to between 40 and 70 new rap albums every year but that became boring to me around 2013.
What's the link between hip hop, soul, funk, from your own perspective?
If you play tunes by Rufus Thomas, Funkadelic and Ugly Duckling in a row, the link is quite obvious. Make a list of the samples used in "Mecca and the Soul Brother", or the samples used in "Donuts", or even the samples used in "When Life Gives You Lemons Paint That Shit Gold", and it’ll be quite straightforward. I won’t go further about how I understand the connection because the real hip hoppers could sneak out from round the corner and kidnap me.
Because vinyl is cheap, light, convenient, easy to store and maintain, and because every venue has turntables and turntables aren’t heavy and their tonearms aren’t fragile.
Nah, now seriously, if you mean why turntables, then simply because I started off with the idea that I wanted to know how to scratch. I went through the short phase of “a DJ who can’t scratch and cut isn’t a DJ” but that’s in the dark and ignorant past now.
I stayed with turntables because I can’t imagine changing them for anything else. I can pull off a set on CDJs, on a controller and on whatever if I really had to, but they just feel weird as hell for me.
However, I still do more digital DJ-ing than real records (though this balance is slightly shifting this year and people who follow me will be hearing more and more things with vinyl records). Compared to vinyl heads I’m not really a vinyl head.
Something for the music geeks - what's your equipment?
I currently work on a pair of second-hand Vestax PDX2000 turntables with Ortofon carts. I have a Rane 61 mixer that I use together with a Reloop Neon controller.
Walk us through a scratch battle, please.
To begin with, I’ve never entered a physical scratch battle because I never lived somewhere where that happened.
Lots of it is online these days. An online battle is a bit like a photography contest. You have certain rules, certain frame to work with (maybe you’re given a beat, sometimes you’re given a theme such as ‘jazz’, maybe the task is to do only drumming on a turntable, or perhaps to focus melody and harmony with scratching rather than scratch techniques and speed, there are many different formats). Then you present a final product – in that case, a video with your DJ performance, and somebody decides which one’s the best. That’s quite different than a live battle. There are so many things that could go wrong live. Some smaller battles are trying to make it all live, with set date and time, and you join through a stream and make your routine.
But even the biggest and longest-standing DJ competitions – the DMC and the IDA – have online rounds. The Goldie Awards are another thing that grows bigger and bigger every year, although it started only few years ago. I’m yet to enter more of these, and mainly – I’ll enter the DMC for the first time.
The truth is, I feel, most countries and most cities don’t have enough turntablists these days, actively performing and battling turntablists nevertheless, for such events to be worth organising. That’s obviously different in some places, for example, the UK, but the UK has a scratching tradition almost as old as the US and they’ve been consistently having one of the craziest turntablist scenes out there.
You've spent quite some time abroad in Europe & Asia, and now you live in Austria. What's the music scene in the places you've been? Could you pick a favourite?
I studied in Scotland where my budget was such that I couldn’t really go out regularly and explore the local scene too much. I felt there was a tight and knowledgeable hip hop community there judging by the gigs that took place. To me, seeing 300+ people pull up for DJ Format and Abdominal or for Blackalicious in a city of half a million was already something. Other than that, the UK has a reputation for DJs being heavy record diggers and the scene in Edinburgh was no stranger to that. Edinburgh is quite vibrant, even though Glasgow is much more of a subcultural capital of Scotland. In Edinburgh I could go to anything from an experimental electroacoustic performance in a rehearsal room in the Art College to a Balkan brass gig or a dub and roots indoor festival.
Estonia was also interesting. For a country with a population of less than 1.5 million and a small, calm capital city, going to a record store and seeing about 60-70 new or recent Estonian full albums across genres pressed on wax was quite a surprise. Also, I played gigs in small places rather regularly there, made quite a few friends, and had tons of fun.
I lived in provincial China, in a city of 3 million people which ranks it #34 by population, in a neighborhood of skyscraper hotels and bank offices and 35-floor commie blocks which was only rural land with rice fields less than a decade and a half ago. There was no scene for anything there. There was one club for underground events, and most of them were hardcore punk and heavier subgenres of metal music. I once went to the gig of a hard rock-turned-indie rock group and the crowd consisted of 9 people including the two girlfriends of two of the musicians.
I have positive impressions of what’s happening in Vienna by far. There was live music in different venues 3 to 5 times a week before the lockdown. I bumped into a great concert with funk covers, also a kind of BADBADNOTGOOD-sounding jazz band that was exceptionally good. Heiße Luft are local dudes who put out some jazzy hip hop stuff and also throw events with guest artists. Some people might not know that Devaloop and Brenk Sinatra are based in Vienna, they’re active here too. There are really heavy diggers, lots of vinyl stores; there are things in the funk/soul area with long and strong traditions such as radio Superfly who also do DJ events; there are several world-class scratchers and one of them, Chrisfader, has a small label and a regular club night, haven’t had the chance to check that out yet though, hopefully he’ll run it again sooner or later. But these are brief impressions. I mostly stay home, scratch, cook, watch and listen to hip hop archival material, read fiction and social science books and spend time with my girlfriend. And scratch some more.
How's Bulgaria different in those terms, in your opinion?
Bulgaria is more like China than it is like Scotland.
Tell us a bit about The Innkeepers project.
The Innkeepers has been a project with changing members and changing concepts. Simeon Veselinov who’s the main man behind happens to be one of my best friends and one of the people who has opened my eyes musically and technically A LOT.
I was most active as an Innkeepers member when at the end of 2018 and the first half of 2019 we did a series of small events, playing funky or mellow type beats live on samplers and drum machines, topped with scratch choruses, scratch solos or acapella rap vocals, and we were eventually joined by a musician, too. We did a Sofar gig as well which was quite cool. We’ve sporadically done stuff before throughout the years, but I was just never around for long enough, and now I’m “abroad” again with no plans to return to Sofia.
I’m not actively doing things with them now, but they released two short really smooth beat tapes over the last half a year, all that stuff is on Bandcamp.
Where to next?
I could tell you only about what’s coming up this year. Next year I might as well switch to learning to be a chef, or retreat in a temple in Southeast Asia.
Apart from this mix I did for you guys which I really hope people will enjoy or at least find interesting, I have a series of themed all-vinyl mixes, that’ll have 5 or 6 parts and 2 of them are already done. I also plan to do a second volume of ‘It’s A Jazz Thang’, a jazz hop mix I did about two years ago. All that should be before Christmas. I’m slowly working on my first real cut and paste set, which could potentially see a physical release if it turns out as well as I wish.
Other than that I’ve set my eyes on 2 or 3 more online battles apart from the DMC. That’ll be a lot of work. Not knowing when things could go back to normal, I’m making only these plans for my presence online. And plans to keep learning and keep improving, that’s the main thing.