With a knack for beats and little time left until graduation, DJ Konshince leaves his mark in DC
Clad in a DMV hat and black Puma track suit, Konshince paces the room at Everlasting Café with a bit of energy, half-listening to synthesized beats and crowd enthusiasm, half checking off his mental library for music before it’s his time to shine.
The lights are dimmed and the crowd is thick. Heads nod to hip-hop beats with a slight of approval to all entertainers who hit the stage, and an energetic host jokes constantly as he introduces each one. From short ciphers to full-throttle performances, Konshince anxiously awaits the final round of his competition, actively staring at the time on his phone and sharing tweets with his brethren who couldn’t attend.
“A big THANK YOU to everyone here at the competition…” he tweets. “Sitting through beat battles is not fun….I kno I kno…thanks again.”
It’s not only a Friday night, but the night of his 23rd birthday. He spends it at the Beat Clash competition for five agonizing hours, competing with local producers for a cash prize. The most important reason for his attendance is to get public feedback on his projects, and achieve some local recognition.
Lucky for Konshince, his birthday isn’t spent in vain – after three rounds, he’s crowned champion with a unanimous vote from the judges. The crowd is more than pleased with the win.
After a slew of constructive criticism to the opponents, one judge, a well-know producer in the DMV area who goes by Sinitus Tempo, merely chuckles when he gets to Konshince’s beats and shakes his head. ‘This dude,” he says. “I just can’t say anything bad about him!”
There are a bevy of talented DJs at Howard University, spearheading their success through campus events and house parties. And if you’re not a household name, it’s hard to break the mold. Somehow Konshince, who acknowledges that it’s been difficult getting the campus to open up to him and his team, is making it work.
“It’s two sides to the story,” he explains. “We could have been more pressed and pushed ourselves to do events, but we didn’t. And [campus] has their set of people [and DJs] that they’re going to bring up, that’s what they know.”
It doesn’t help that graduation is right around the corner either, he adds, which limits his availability to enhance his exposure.
Konshince, whose real name is Alfred Avor, mainly tends to parties off campus and every now and then, a local Omega Psi Phi house party. The systems and computer science major is a beat maker by choice, butDJing goes hand in hand. Three years ago, him and his friends were gravely disappointed by the musical options at local parties and set out to offer their own selection. Armed with a Serato Itch computer program and a brand new NS7 turntable, Konshince and his team created a hustle off-campus that helped him perfect his beats.
He describes how he taught himself the program after a brief tutorial with freshman Tobechi Oparah, an audio production major with aspirations to sing and learn the craft of production and DJing. Oparah came toKonshince to learn some technique, though even she had not heard his name on campus, as she met him through a friend. He openly welcomed her drive, teaching her how to properly mix songs and choose the right tempos. There’s a market for female DJs despite Oparah’s fear, he says, and he thinks she’s got potential.
“He’s a good teacher,” she says, after attending the Beat Clash competition the night before. “I think his beats are nice, the ones I’ve heard so far. They’re different. A lot of other beats sounded like trap music, or something down south, but he had a wide range of different genres.”
Konshince has been producing music since he was 13. His allure for the craft started the day he heard “What’s Really Good” by Cam’ron and DMX, and almost instantly, he focused on dissecting songs.
“Then I heard Dipset Anthem,” he said. “I was like, this is crazy. I want to learn this.”
After his friend lent him the Fruity Loops production program, his tenacity began full force and he’s since created more than 300 songs. He focuses on original hip-hop, as he describes, and strays away from infectious dance beats reminiscent of Lil’ B or Soulja Boy – which were heavy in circuit during the Beat Clash competition. Konshince’s main influencers include The Heatmakerz, Just Blaze and 9th Wonder (whom he’s often compared to). Snares are heavy and his bass is moderate, but it’s mentally chopping songs in his head and rearranging them that gives him his sound. As far as synthesized tracks – he saves them for his pop and R&B projects.
Above all his creativity, Konshince capitalizes off of sample driven music. His old school flair is largely what got him his win at the Beat Clash competition.
“Your name fits your beats,” says Enoch 7th Prophet, an outspoken judge with an egregious knack for sound and a local, independent manager. “You consciously pick what beat to sample, and what not to sample.”
He praised Konshince particularly for his third round track, which sampled a song called “Farewell, Goodbye,” by Pleasure, a 70s funk band. That’s what separated Konshince from his competitors, besides his mixing. As Sinitus Tempo describes, his mixing is clear and clean.
That precision stems from the strenuous time Konshince puts into his projects, the bulk of the process being hours spent listening to 70s soul to find the right song. But Konshince doesn’t spend time with popular, timeless classics.
“The thing about sampling is you want to sample, but you don’t want everyone to know what you’re sampling,” he said. “Like, I’m not going to sample Marvin Gaye. Instead I’ll listen to artists who only had maybe one album. Those are the gems.”
When he first got his production program, Konshince strategically listened to a track ten times in a row, listening to each separate layer of music. From the drum patterns, to the changes in hi-hats, this was his process. Now, he spends anywhere from two to four hours completing a track, fine-tuning each sound and equalizing them in order to get a bright sound.
“Out of 24 hours a day, this dude uses 20 to make music,” his friends joke. “That’s why he’s still in school.”
Even in high school, as Konshince described, he’d rush home from classes to make beats for hours on end. Or at least until his parents got home.
“After they fell asleep, I was right back at it,” he said.
At first, his parents didn’t approve of the concept. Though he was raised around classical music and was provided piano lessons when he was younger, Konshince’s parents never expected the musical skill to turn into a passion, let alone well thought-out career path. Now, after seeing how much time he puts into the craft and how well he’s taught himself, they see he’s not taking it lightly and support his decisions – they’ve just encouraged him to stay in school.
Selecting his major was a move that would protect him in case he didn’t make it to become a household name, no matter how many nights he battles between creating new music and finishing projects for new applications. With less than twenty days until graduation, he hasn’t decided if he wants to enter the corporate world to establish himself and work on projects on the side – or just jump right into the world of music by attending music school and really striving to sell his tracks.
Hip-hop is being re-categorized, Konshince said, and he’s slightly worried that the public won’t be receptive to his old school sound. But as rampant as there are needs for producers who make hard, bass heavy music, there will equally be a need for his smooth and technical versions.
And he’s not conforming.