Five tips for DJing with an MC from Mak 10 | Skip to main content

Five tips for DJing with an MC from Mak 10

Five tips for DJing with an MC from Mak 10

We grabbed time with the Mak 10 to get some insight into how to perform with MCs, be it flow, mixing or track selection advice

Mak 10 has been spinning for legendary UK artists like Dizzee Rascal, Kano, Ghetts, and the subject of our recent Meet the MC episode, D Double E — watch that here — for years.

Formerly part of the N.A.S.T.Y. Crew, he launched his own solo career last year, hitting the studio and teaming up with Joe Fire on ‘The Best’ in August 2020.

Here, he shares five tips for DJing with an MC. Dig in below.

Know Your Tunes

“You should know the bars between choruses, verses and if the tune has any breaks or off-beat drops. This is important as this will assist in delivering a better structure in performance for you as a DJ and the MC. The MC may have a 16-bar verse that goes into an eight-bar catchy hook/singalong. If you are playing to this structure you will be able to transition between songs with the MC's lyrics. It’s important to know if there are any off-beat drops or breaks as this will throw you off and also the MC off so it would be best to transition before or after the drop.”

Know Your MC's Flow and Lyrics

“Making notes, researching or already having worked with the artist will allow you to make better choices when selecting your tunes. There is a universal song structure that works with MCs. Space [in the music] and not too much going on with the song are common [for music] that’s played with MCs however, knowing their flow or lyrics will help you to develop a better understanding of using alternative song choices to develop a unique performance.”

Don't hold mixes for too long

“Throwing mixes in randomly in the middle of lyrics or holding mixes for too long can break up the energy of the MC and it’s important to build up trust with the MC to get the best out of them. If you continuously hold mixes for too long it can cause confusion with the MC as they will not know whether to carry on or stop and it can affect their performance.”

Be able to adapt your selection based on the MC’s performance

“There will be times where you need to DJ for MCs that you have never met or heard so in this situation again, build trust, earn the respect of the room, create a vibe, feel out the MCs and their lyrics and flows. You need to be able to think on your feet while having fun and try not to take too many risks. Use sparse tracks with enough space for lyrics. Once you find a common ground, begin to introduce an interesting blend of dense tracks to create a dynamic selection. However, this depends on the vibe created and the comfortability of the room. Get it right and it’s a win-win.”

Have some form of communication

“Most DJs and MCs have body language communication with each other. Anything from a nod, to a point, to a stop hand sign and if you're really advanced you can analyse their stance and know when the MC is going to stop and start or pass the mic. This will enhance the structure of the set and create a better experience for the listener. Next time you get the pleasure of seeing your favourite DJ working with an MC, keep an eye out for body language communication to see how this can be applied to your set. This is an unspoken truth.”

Want more? Watch every episode of Meet the MC so far here

Declan McGlynn is DJ Mag's digital tech editor. Follow him on Twitter here