DJ Z-Trip to play Snowmass Village during U.S. Grand Prix | AspenTimes.com

DJ Z-Trip to play Snowmass Village during U.S. Grand Prix

When the Washington establishment gathered to pay homage to hip-hop last month, toasting LL Cool J as the first rapper ever bestowed with a Kennedy Center Honor, the man behind the turntables at this historic moment was DJ Z-Trip.

The innovative DJ and beloved "godfather of the mash-up" scratched and spun while the likes of Busta Rhymes and DMC performed a medley of old-school LL Cool J hits to a tuxedo- and gown-clad crowd of Washington elites. Z-Trip, who has been touring and collaborating with LL Cool J since 2011, masterminded the tribute, which was broadcast on CBS the day after Christmas.

"This is also a huge personal achievement for me," he wrote on Facebook. "Not only was it an extremely special moment for me to honor my friend LL in this way, it was also another milestone in my DJ career having arranged and produced the whole segment myself."

After this big moment on the global stage, Z-Trip is on his way to Aspen, where he's performed regularly over the past 13 years. The DJ returns to play a free show in Snowmass Base Village on Friday – an après-ski performance following the day's U.S. Grand Prix ski and snowboard competitions on the mountain.

"I love Colorado," he told The Aspen Times during a tour stop at Belly Up last winter. "And I'm not just saying that because I'm in Colorado. If you know me, you know that I come up here a lot and I love playing these towns."

The DJ's concert opens the season's free Hi-Fi concert series, which continues Feb. 17 with Cold War Kids at Aspen Mountain's gondola plaza, Rebirth Brass Band at Base Village on March 24 and closes with Antibalas playing the annual "Core Party" in downtown Aspen on March 31.

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Along solo tours and runs with LL Cool J, Z-Trip says he has been at work on what he calls "some top-secret projects." He has songs and samples that he's been working on for as long as a decade, searching for the perfect combination of tracks.

Z-Trip is more of a mad scientist than a simple DJ. The Phoenix native perfected and popularized the mash-up form, pairing and splicing together different — often wildly different — songs to make original creations of his own. The groundbreaking approach was born out of his hope to draw listeners out of their silos of taste and introduce them to new sounds.

"A lot of people don't get into the science of it — they just look at what's kitschy and the novelty of it all," he said.

He searches for songs with compatible musical elements and pitches, though their genres may be worlds apart.

"It was about taking those two things that don't really work together and finding the common thread," he explained.

One of his early breakthroughs, for example, was a mash-up of Tool's "Sober" and Outkast's "Bombs Over Baghdad" that improbably married dark metal with upbeat southern rap.

"If I'm someone who is into southern rap and doesn't know about really interesting, creative rock music like Tool, how do I get that person into Tool?" he said he asked himself. "And vice versa, how do I get someone who is just into math rock to connect to an Outkast song?"

What he started out trying to do with the form — and what he still aims to do — is bridge the space between those poles and, hopefully, make something brand new out of the combination that lead audiences to fresh discoveries.

"I want to crack their heads open mid-set," he explains, "and that's the science behind it, trying to get people who might not even understand what it is that DJs are doing to understand and walk away with some sense of, 'I want to follow this guy.'"

atravers@aspentimes.com

IF YOU GO …

Who: DJ Z-Trip

Where: Base Village, Snowmass Village

When: Friday, Jan. 12, 4 p.m.

How much: Free

More info: http://www.aspensnowmass.com

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