DJ Smilez is a name synonymous with Melbourne’s underground hip-hop and afrobeats scene. He’s well known for his curated sets and infectious sound, blending new and classic rap vocals with his signature rhythms—often incorporating elements of fringe genres like baile funk, Latin rhythms, grime, drill and more. From shutting down raves around the city to becoming a core member of the ever-growing Melbourne event series Tresillo, the unique experience of catching him on the decks has been dubbed by fans and peers as “the Smilez effect”.
With nightlife being put on hold around the country, we tapped Smilez for an exclusive mix which sees him blend tracks from the likes of Headie One, Drake, Skepta, and local acts like OneFour and Chillinit with his signature riddims, bringing the club directly to you. We also sat down with Smilez to chat about his journey, and what’s been keeping him busy lately.
Tell us how you got into DJing and producing.
Initially, I started back in 2013 when I used to pull up to one of my homie’s [DJ Pumba] gigs. I would help him set up his equipment and was inspired by the way he was mixing it up. The vibe and the energy that would come from the crowd—that feeling is what really ignited my passion to get into DJing. Fast forward a couple of years, after playing all over Melbourne’s nightclub scene, I felt that I was too comfortable in the position I was in so I felt that it was only right to advance myself and push my creative abilities and that is when I turned to producing. I am so glad I got out of my comfort zone as the response and the love for what I have been creating has been nothing but positive. It’s something that I really want to work hard at and watch it evolve.
What are your favourite kind of sets to play?
My favourite sets consist of baile funk incorporated with afrobeats and hip-hop. I don’t think I could choose a specific genre. My sets range from crazy mosh pits to a good old fashioned boogie. I showcase this sound throughout this mix that I created for you guys.
What’s going on in the Melbourne scene right now?
Currently, at this stage during isolation, not a whole lot. [Laughs] I think this has definitely pushed a lot of DJs and producers to adapt and change to the current climate. It has been an opportunity for those in the music industry to showcase their creativity and the shift to live-streaming has been one of the main platforms to do so, which I think is dope!
What have you been up to during isolation?
I have also resorted to live-streaming via Instagram and Twitch every Friday from 7pm. This has encouraged me to dig for new music more often than usual and allowed me to test out my unreleased remixes and observe how people respond to it.
In terms of making music, I’ve used this time to continue to create more remixes and also reflect on the direction I would like to take my work. Then on a personal level, this has given me the opportunity to spend more time with my family. I think that this is the perfect time for everyone to just work on themselves and stay safe.
Who are some DJs / producers that inspire you to keep working at your craft?
Off the top of my head, I’d say Vhoor Sango, kLap, Timbaland and Neptunes. They definitely continue to inspire me to keep pushing my creativity. I enjoy experimenting with all kinds of different sounds, for example I am very big on Future Beats as well as using Brazilian drums and Latin rhythms. I infuse them together and test out what works and what doesn’t. I think it’s the curiosity of blending that has really been one of the reasons that encourage me to continue to improve my craft. I think these guys do it really well and play a huge part in my creative process.
What are some crews/parties from your city that excite you?
I’d say Section 8 is one of my favourite venues to play at. Every week it’s always different and because you had the freedom to play whatever you want, it was always a different crowd so you wouldn’t know what to expect. In regards to events, it would have to be Tresillo – an event to look out for. I’ve been playing at their events for the past 2 years and I feel that we’ve been definitely left a big impression to the nightlife here in Australia. The response and the energy that I receive from those that attend the Tresillo events are always surreal and filled with appreciation.
Let’s talk about request etiquette. What are the best and worst ways to request a song from the DJ?
Honestly, requests don’t really bother me. I feel like I’ve reached a point with my music and the events I play, where I don’t find myself getting any requests. However, when it does happen, I always take into consideration what song is being requested, and if it fits the vibe then I’d definitely give it a spin. Although, I will say that I’d never play a request if you hover over me constantly waiting and requesting for me to play it [laughs] which is something I know all DJs have experienced. In regards to etiquette, I think its common sense, just be respectful and ask politely. I’ll be upfront and honest whether or not I’ll play the request.
What’s on the horizon for DJ Smilez?
As I mentioned, I’m currently using this time to continually create new remixes and originals, however, once the lockdown laws have eased and the nightlife has been revived, I’ll definitely be throwing another Smilez Effect 2.0 party! It’ll be bigger and better than the last event. The event was actually already organised however due to the unforeseen circumstances I had to postpone the event. So when I feel that the timing is right, make sure you come vibe out with me and experience the effect for yourself.