Get To Know Your 2012 DOMA Best DJ Nominees

Deb Doing Dallas
Wanz Dover (left), Tape Mastah Steph and and DJ Sober
Leading up to our November 10 showcase, we'll be getting you familiar with some of our Dallas Observer Music Awards nominees, either via past features we've done on them, or new ones. You can vote for your favorite acts, venues and more right here.

They are all hunched over the jukebox, scanning titles, looking for a deep cut, and letting the music spark a conversation about producers and B-sides among artists as varied as the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder and Black Sabbath. 

This is why I love the DJ. Sure, rock stars have their appeal, but when you really want to get in the weeds of a music conversation, what you are looking for is a DJ, a crate- digger, an encyclopedia. We had come to break bread at East Dallas dive Cosmo's, home to that legendary jukebox, as I doled out $1 bills for Best DJ nominees Tape Mastah Steph, DJ Sober and Wanz Dover. (The other nominees, Yeah Def and Track Meet, could not attend.)

Each will get three picks. Dover looks through the catalog. "Hmmm, not really any electronic music," he says. Dover then realizes he's "usually the jukebox." His first pick comes on, Roy Ayers' "Coffy Is the Color," and Sober chimes in, "This is on my phone!"

The rest of Dover's picks, Joy Division's "Digital" and the Rolling Stones' "Undercover of the Night," set the mood. I ask if he has a favorite jukebox in Dallas. Before praising the Lee Harvey's curation, he smirks, "Gabe Mendoza is my favorite jukebox."

Tape Mastah Steph, DJ and producer on Stones Throw Records, doesn't waste much time. The Smiths' "Girlfriend in a Coma," Beastie Boys' "Eugene's Lament" and Stevie Wonder's "That Girl" are all choices approved by our group. "I'm a total Beastie nut," he admits.

DJ Sober steps to the glowing machine and pulls out, the Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place," Curtis Mayfield's "Pusher Man" and Black Sabbath's "N.I.B." NBD.

We settle into a booth in the corner of the darkly lit bar, and begin to discuss DJ culture and how it's evolved. In a day and age when you can make a playlist, go to the store, pick up Serato and head right to your new weekly (Sober's joke), I ask them simply: What is a DJ? Dover is thoughtful.

"For me, you are an archivist. A historian. And real DJ buys records."

Hear that, torrent streamers of top 100 old school hip-hop songs? The DJs are on to you.

"A DJ should be a tastemaker and serious about their craft," Sober says. "That means reading the crowd, which means understanding your collection, and loving music first."

"For me, it's being happy with what I am playing," Steph says. "There is an element of educating the crowds, but it's the editing. Being selective about how you move the crowd. I can feel when I stray from that, or when I am at a gig where I may have to play some pieces I don't like. That feels different."

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