Ever wonder what it would be like to perform onstage for over 25,000 people? In 2005, Jeremy Brown ’93 got to find out. When hip-hop acts Ja Rule, Chingy, and 112 played Australia’s Sydney Superdome, they picked Brown, aka DJ Reset, to be their onstage DJ. Spinning and scratching records for a wildly enthusiastic crowd, he had the time of his life.
Brown has worked in the music industry since graduating from the BDIC Program with a major in “Arts and Entertainment in the Computer Age.” A trained pianist who taught himself drums and guitar, he was thrilled to study with Max Roach at UMass: “I took a class where he did the most unbelievable drum solo for twenty minutes . . . none of us could get out of our seats. It blew my mind about what music could be and where you could go.”
While his ultimate goal was always to be an artist, Brown knew that understanding the business of music would be highly beneficial. For this he credits professor Robert Faulkner, whose course, Sociology of the Music Business, had a lasting impact on him: “He described ‘personal capital,’ which is developing relationships with people in the music business. There will be a friend of a friend who will really make things happen for you, which for me has turned out to be totally true. That guy knew about some stuff.”
It was through a contact that Brown landed a job working behind the scenes for British superstar DJ Norman Cook aka, Fatboy Slim, whom Brown credits with showing him the ropes of the trade. He supported Cook on tour, as well as the Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy. In between gigs, he was at his home studio in Queens, producing music and making mashups.
Mashup artists like DJ Reset typically take two existing songs, extract the vocals from one, the instrumentals from another, and combine them. Using computer software, they can manipulate the songs’ keys to match. Adding their own musical touches at will, mashup artists create something that sounds both recognizable and new at the same time.
For “Frontin’ on Debra,” DJ Reset mixed Beck’s song “Debra” with “Frontin’,” by Pharell Williams and Jay-Z. He combined Jay-Z’s rap, the two singers’ falsetto vocals, and his own keyboards, drums and beat boxing. The song drew comparisons to Stevie Wonder and became an instant hit on the Internet and underground radio. And then, the unexpected happened.
In the past, music artists (and their record labels) did not look favorably upon mashups, citing copywriting infringement. But “Frontin’ on Debra” made music history by being the first ever commercially released mashup. Beck loved the song so much, he spent over a year arranging its release on his label, Interscope. The song made the Annual Top Ten Singles List of music critics around the country and earned DJ Reset glowing writeups in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, People, MixMag, and The Washington Post, among other publications. Brown is still busy making mashups, as well as releasing his own album and composing soundtracks for film and television. And he still DJs as much as he can.
Who can blame him? When asked how it feels to hear so many people shouting “Reset, go, Reset” during his Sydney gig, he had this to say: “It feels great to be at the center of that much positive energy. It takes me a few hours to recover from a gig like that.”