sick-individuals_0

Interview: Sick Individuals Reveal The True Dutch Vs. Swede DJ Rivalry And Details On Next Single

Dance music's next powerhouse duo comes in the form of Dutch DJs Jim and Ray, otherwise known as Sick Individuals, whose 'sick' music comprised of well-mastered beats and vocal pairings has garnered attention from the likes of Hardwell, Axwell, and Nicky Romero. No doubt by next year these two will be dominating the music charts and demanding the decks in the world's hottest clubs, which is why VIBE sat down with the pair to get their secrets to success along with personal thoughts on DJ Mag's Top 100. Read on to get the in-depth scoop on what it's like to work with Axwell, why USBs can be the worse and the true rivalry between Swedish and Dutch DJs.

VIBE: What are the qualifications are necessary for a track to be considered ‘Sick’ music?
Sick Individuals: It has to grab you from the start; good break with nice vocals and melancholic harmonies. Fresh, groovy and well-mixed/mastered.

Now how did you guys come together in the first place? I understand there was a musical chemistry you guys saw in each other - did you guys find this out by just talking to each other or was it established in a studio in Holland?
We’ve met each other during our study Music Composition & Production. On the first day you had to play your music you’ve created in front of the class and everyone was listening. We both loved each other's music, became buddies and that’s how it started! Love this story.

What are your thoughts on this year’s DJ Mag Top 100 results? Think they were spot on or is there anything you would change about it?
There are some weird people in the list that we’ve never heard of and that’s kind of fishy when you try to Google and look them up but there isn’t that much going on... Also, don’t understand why Dirty South isn’t in the list. Hardwell is definitely a well-deserved winner of the DJ Mag Top 100, but the list is so far away from what's actually important and fun about our scene. For us it’s all about the music and having a good time with the crowd.

You’re dropping a single with Dannic on Hardwell’s record label Revealed Records. What was it like to work with him?
Working with Dannic was really fun and enjoyable. We have such a good chemistry, and within a couple of days “Blueprint” was born. It’s such a great club track that we love to play it every time. It has funky beats and a hard drop, but also enough emotion to give that special vibe when your playing. "Blueprint" is currently conquering the Beatport Top 10!

You also did a single with Axwell. How was his production styles different from Hardwell’s?
We’ve haven’t worked with Hardwell yet, but he is a awesome producer from what we have learned from listening to his songs. In the beginning of 2010, his productions always stood out from everyone else. His kick popped out of our speakers and we’ve been slicing right away through his synths. We always wanted that to accomplish that then. Axwell is a legendary producer, he has proven his production skills big time when we did the collaboration 'I AM' - he is truly a perfectionist and is great in finishing details.

You’ll also be taking part in this new contest for the single’s official music video where you’ll be one of the judges. What sort of things will you guys be looking when choosing a winner?
We are looking for a fresh approach to the video, something that wouldn't necessarily come up directly with when you listen to the lyrics, but a more deeper thought when you dive in the emotion and feeling. Can’t wait to see them all !

Being from Holland, have you noticed a sort of secret rivalry in the EDM world between the Swedish and Dutch DJs? Who do you think comes out on top and why?
I think it’s always good to have a bit of rivalry between DJ’s, but not more than what is natural. It would be a nice story but there isn’t much going on between our countries other then the soccer match during WMC and Ultra between Sweden and Holland. FYI: Holland won.

What has been the craziest thing you have witnessed in your career, either on the road or in the studio, by another producer or fan?
Well there are a lot of things we’ve witnessed, but a recent one is this: We were headlining on a German Festival and having a good time, then all of a sudden the USB stick that was formatted twice before because of problems decided to just stop and fucked up the CDJ. The music stopped and we couldn’t get it running - fatal error on all linked decks. Our camera guy has it on video, and the look on Ray’s face is priceless. We were happy to have a backup USB with a good track to get the party going again, but we're never gonna use that USB again!

So far it’s been a really productive year for you guys. What else to have planned for the rest of the year?
The next record that will be released after "Blueprint" will be “Lights of Neon,” which was already supported by Nicky Romero and Hardwell the last few months. We’ve now finished the record and it’s about to be released on OneLove Records (the same label where we released our club-banger “Pepper!”) Expect another original this year and an awesome remix soon! Besides that, we are touring a lot, and currently on the road in North America. We also have a new website so make sure you check sickindividuals.com for all our latest 'Sick' stuff!!

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Singers Ronald Isley (L) and Kim Johnson perform at the "18th Annual Soul Train Music Awards" at the Scottish Rite Auditorium on March 20, 2004 in Los Angeles, California.
Kevin Winter

Music Sermon: The Soul Train Awards Been Lit, We're Just Late To The Party

Black Entertainment's oldest televised awards show has been patiently waiting for us to come back.

As I was watching the 2019 BET Awards, at some point around trying to decipher the difference between DaBaby and Lil Baby, I said – not for the first year – “I’m not the BET Awards demo anymore.” BET’s flagship awards’ aspiration to cover every segment of Black entertainment has always stretched it a little thin; current rap and R&B artists, plus legends, plus some gospel, plus a few TV, movie and sports moments, and some social good and politics crowds a run-of-show. But in the last several years – probably due to me moving solidly into the Urban Adult Contemporary demo – watching the BET Awards has been comprised mostly of me tweeting “Who is this child?” while waiting to see maybe two performances and a tribute. But then, in sweet November, BET gives me my entire two-step life with the Soul Train Awards, where I know (almost) every artist and live for every performance and I can’t even tell you who took an award home because that’s not even the point. The Soul Train Awards is family reunion time: an opportunity for your respected faves get their props, and a platform for soulful new school artists who don’t get mainstream airplay. It’s a night to dance and sing along in your living room. Ain’t no stuntin’, no pretense, no cappin’ (did I use that right?). It’s just a good ass time. So why did it take us so long to embrace it again?

BET has owned the legacy awards show since 2009, but for years the Soul Train Awards seemed a bit forgotten. The timeline wasn’t joining forces to watch the Tom Joyner Cruise Live (Side note: Tom Joyner should ABSOLUTELY do the Tom Joyner Cruise Live). Over the last four years, however, an aging millennial demographic combined with a drive of ‘90s nostalgia and renewed demand for straight up and down soul music has shined a light on the awards broadcast. Since 2015, the BET ecosystem has also thrown more support behind the show, including moving it from a Centric/BETHer-branded property to a BET proper event and giving it the same Viacom-wide simulcast as the BET Awards. Production values, talent bookings, and show elements keep rising, and the TL is paying attention. This Sunday, the Soul Train Awards will air live for the first time (the show is usually taped a week or two in advance), with Black America’s favorite on and off-screen besties Tisha Cambell and Tichina Arnold hosting for the second year.

It’s by grace, though, that the Soul Train Awards is even still here for us to enjoy. The show that launched as the only televised Black entertainment awards ceremony started fading during Black music’s growing mainstream dominance, and then was lost in the shadow of the bigger and splashier BET Awards. Superstar artists stopped attending, because teams no doubt felt like their presence wouldn’t move the needle on sales, and it became the Old Heads Awards. Quietly, though, the Soul Train Awards has been a ratings driver for BET since the network acquired the show; the rest of us (including talent) are just finally catching up. And we should be ashamed it took so long! This specific celebration of Black entertainment is as important now as it was when launched over 30 years ago — almost more so — for the very reason that it’s not just a show packed with hottest, newest, latest. But to appreciate the show’s legacy and staying power, we should look back at its history.

In 1987, Soul Train founder Don Cornelius decided it was time to elevate his 20-plus-year-old platform to another level. At the time, the major entertainment awards weren’t properly acknowledging Black artists. The handful that had reached massive pop success – Lionel Richie, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Prince and Whitney Houston – were recognized and honored.

But in the 80s, the soul and R&B world was still vast and wide.

Cornelius decided it was time to create a night of celebration and excellence which, like Soul Train itself, was created for us, by us. He insisted at the time, “Black music is too big and too powerful not to have its own awards show. It’s overdue.” The Soul Train Awards was born.

Not only did Cornelius want to create a space for our artists who were overlooked by award shows like the Grammys and the AMAs, but also an awards system that didn’t hang on politics, or follow the same long-time criticisms of Grammy voting; selections by a group of people who just vote on the names they know. The voting block for the Soul Train Awards was made up of black retailers, radio programmers and artists themselves, to grant the prized Soul Train trophy design based on African sculpture. But the Soul Train Awards weren’t even meant to be about the awards; they were about highlighting our talent – current and established – featuring special legacy honors, originating the concept of tributes via performances instead of just film packages, and putting together super-performances of key artists across genres. This was our showcase.

For the first eight years of the show, the hosting panel was a mix of Dionne Warwick, Luther Vandross, and Patti Labelle, and our biggest and best showed up in their award finery ready to celebrate and be celebrated. When the Grammys weren’t yet making room for hip-hop, Don gave it a little light (not a whole lot, but a little), and the Soul Train Awards honored Black entertainment across the board, not just music.

In fact, until 1994, the Soul Train Awards were the only televised Black entertainment awards. The Source Awards debuted as the first hip-hop awards show in 1994, The NAACP Image Awards were first televised in 1995, and that same year the female-artist heavy landscape prompted the creation of Soul Train’s Lady of Soul Awards. For the first several years, the Black entertainment community turned out in numbers for their long-awaited party. The first year, Black luminaries from Magic Johnson to Miles Davis to Stevie Wonder to Don King to Run DMC to Isaac Hayes were in the building. In 1990, Michael Jackson snubbed the Grammys, but showed up at Soul Train. Whitney Houston was even famously booed at the Soul Train Awards because the crowd felt she was too pop, and this was not a pop space. This was a forum for soul.

But like many of our most important early platforms for Black culture, progress eventually rendered almost of these celebrations obsolete. As Black music crossed over, more Black artists were being recognized by the mainstream, and Black culture became the culture, the entire Soul Train brand felt outdated and unnecessary. By 2000, the awards were in a bit of an identity crisis. After twelve years at LA’s Shrine Auditorium, the show bounced to a new location every year for the next six years. Cornelius started having trouble getting stars to commit to the awards because they were held within a month of the Grammys.

Then, in 2001, BET debuted their award show: a younger, hipper, and larger budget version of the Soul Train Awards that adopted virtually the same format, with Viacom promotional power and a dedicated channel and time slot (unlike Soul Train’s syndication) to their advantage.

In 2006, Soul Train signed off after 35 years and over 1,100 episodes as the longest-running nationally syndicated TV program in America at the time. Around the same time, the syndication company for the show and the awards, Tribune Entertainment, changed hands and shut down. In 2007, the Soul Train Awards’ biggest winners of the night, like Beyoncè and John Legend, didn’t bother to show. Finally, in 2008, there were no Soul Train Awards. And had that been the end of the line for the show for good, there probably would have been very little complaints or rumblings – we’d stopped paying attention, anyway. BET seemed to have all Black excellence bases on lock with the BET Awards, the BET Honors (which debuted in February of 2008), and the BET Hip-Hop Awards (2006). But fortunately, someone at the company had the good sense not to let the Soul Train Awards die.

As part of BET on Jazz’s rebrand to Centric (now BETHer), BET acquired the Soul Train Awards and revamped the program to fully embrace its old head’ness, perfect for the channel geared towards an older demo with a soul music focus. They moved the awards from LA to Georgia (it has since moved to Vegas), changed the date to November, got Terrence Howard and Taraji Henson coming straight off of Hustle & Flow to host, and gave tributes to Charlie Wilson and the Gap Band, Chaka Khan and Motown. That’s a party.

Now, here’s the part we probably haven’t been paying attention to: since the very first year in 2009, the Soul Train Awards has been a fourth-quarter ratings hit for BET. In fact, 2009 was the award show’s highest rated broadcast ever in its history. Media and consumer trends often focus on the young, overlooking that while the 35-and-older set may not be as reactive, we’re loyal. Especially with music and entertainment (a look at any number of R&B theater tours featuring people who haven’t released an album in ages will tell you that). The cultural powers-that-be finally seem to be catching on: things that were long considered “Auntie & Uncle” territory, like Essence Festival, are hitting the hip radar. The Soul Train Awards is part of that wave. Also – and this is my personal, not data-supported, get-off-my-lawn opinion – there’s a lightness and fun with good ol’ R&B, soul and even older hip-hop that you just don’t get from the pull-your-panties to the side R&B and mumble rap of the last 10 years.

The BET Awards is now at a similar crossroads as the Soul Train Awards was in the early 00s: major talent is skipping the show, and the network is challenged to put together a cohesive program while trying to serve all demos. After two years of plunging ratings, the broadcast finally seems to have found balance again in 2019. But still, I’m not personally here for all the Lil’s, the YBNs and YGs and other letter configurations, and Babies and whatnot. I need music that works as a backdrop for brown liquor in red solo cups, please. But as viewers and fans, we also have to check ourselves on our awards show criticisms. Complaints amplify every year around the Grammys, AMAs and the like that we need to give less weight to mainstream awards and celebrate our own, ourselves, which is exactly what Don Cornelius and then Bob Johnson and team set out to do. During the BET Awards, though, there are gripes about the diversity and quality of talent, content and production. There was even a period of Black Twitter referring to them as the “EBT Awards.” Criticism is often valid, but straight disdain isn’t. Also every year, there are cries about how we need more and different awards shows. Meanwhile, Soul Train’s been right there, chillin’, with your old school faves and your burgeoning soul stars. I’m ok with knowing I’m not the right in the pocket of the BET Awards demo anymore, but that means I’m going to support the Soul Train Awards with all my Auntie might, because Black music and culture needs the intergenerational love and community that the Soul Train Awards represent.

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Jeff Spicer

Lizzo Sued For Defamation By Postmates Driver She Accused Of Stealing Her Food

A former Postmates delivery driver is suing Lizzo for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, two months after the “Truth Hurts” singer put her on blast over a food delivery mix-up.

According to TMZ, Tiffany Wells claims that she received threats, fears for her safety and has been battling stress and anxiety since the incident. Wells claims that while she no longer works for Postdates she remains subject to being humiliated and ridiculed.

In September, Lizzo blasted Wells on Twitter when her food delivery never showed up to her Boston hotel. She tweeted out a photo of Wells and accused her of stealing the food. “She lucky I don’t fight no more,” Lizzo joked.

As it turns out, Wells was actually in the hotel but left because she couldn’t get a hold of Lizzo. Postmates delivery drivers are allowed to leave a location if they can’t get in touch with the customer within a certain amount of time.

Lizzo received backlash for publicly shaming Wells. She later deleted the tweet and apologized. “I apologize for putting that girl on blast. I understand that I have a large following and that there were so many variables that could’ve put her in danger,” she tweeted at the time. “Imma [sic] really be more responsible with my use of social media and check my petty and my pride at the door.”

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Nicholas Hunt

Lil Nas X Debuts On Forbes’ List Of Top-Earning Country Music Acts

It’s been a good year for Lil Nas X. The 20-year-old’s record breaking “Old Town Road” single helped him make it on the Forbes list of Top Earning Country Acts of 2019.

With an estimated $14 million in income (before taxes), Nas X debuted at No. 18 on the list ahead of Miranda Lambart, Lady Antebellum and Rascal Flats. Country star Luke Bryan topped the list with $42.5 million followed by Zac Brown Band, Keith Urban and Kenny Chesney rounding out the Top 5.

Aside from being the youngest on the roster, Nas X is the only black artist and the only openly gay artist to make the Forbes’ Country Music list.

With a record 19 weeks on the Billboard singles charts, “Old Town Road”  became the longest No. 1 single in history and the first single to earn a diamond certification from the Recording Academy while simultaneously topping the charts.

Earlier in the week, the Atlanta native made history with his win at the CMA Awards and was recently spotlighted in TIME magazine's Next 100 list of influencers.

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