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 “I loved those vinyl days of DJing and I want to show that in every set I do.”

 

Diversely decadent and never predictable, DJ/producer Marco Morales has made a habit of jocking audiences on a smorgasbord of sweet beats that skew from hip hop, rock and pop to house, electro and soul. Morales’ crates run deep, delving into reggae, R&B, B-More and more—making him one of the most varied selectors on Chicago’s scene.

Much more than a DJ, Morales first earned his professional name as a skilled turntablist when he was 17. He took early inspiration from his father’s vinyl collection of funk, soul and disco before putting his own spin on the sound under the moniker of “The Hustler.” The late ’90s saw him entering and winning dozens of Chicago-based DJ competitions that showcased both his trickery on the decks and the depth of his crates.

But it was a live performance by the Beasties Boys’ own Mix Master Mike that revealed his true passion for juxtaposing rhythms and sounds with startling, party-starting ease. “Seeing him do his mash to Rush’s ‘Tom Sawyer’ with a live break beat in front of huge crowd made me realize that’s what I really wanted to do,” he says.

After honing his skills at the prestigious Red Bull Music Academy in Sao Paul, Brazil, Morales would go onto claim top prize in spin offs including: Chicago’s Golden DJ Battle, The Real Productions Battle, and the Projekt Revolutions Battled, hosted by Grammy-Award winning artists Linkin’ Park. His prowess on decks landed him an opening DJ spot in front of a crowd of 11,000 later that year, and eventually led to guest DJing spot on Chicago’s “Jenny Jones Show.”

Taking influence from prominent turntablists including A-Trak, Q-bert, and the Scratch Perverts, Morales also tapped into other artists, such as Cut Chemist and Jazzy Jeff—“performance DJs who are masters of their craft,” he says. In 2006, Morales translated his love for rocking live parties into two studio releases on Junky Trunk Records: “Northside” and “Mission 10.” His own forthcoming label, Hot Dog Records, echoes his love for eclectic party heaters paired with bass-heavy sensibility of house that defined his style in the early vinyl days.

Not that Morales is forgetting his roots.

“Sure, there’s a big difference in how music is played in this post-vinyl era of DJing—sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse,” he says. “I loved those vinyl days of DJing and I want to show that in every set I do.”