The Eternal Optimist: An Interview With DJ Abilities

DJ Abilities

I like to think of hip hop in religious terms–how the ancient Greeks might have viewed it–with each of its pillars having their own deity and accompanying throng. A god for the B-Boys with a pair of heavenly Air Force Ones.  A god for the Graffitos, yawning aerosol at the cathedral walls. If in the beginning of turntablism there was the record, DJ Kool Herc reached from the Bronx’s Sistine and found its break. Our Fathers Grandmaster Flash and Grand Wizzard Theodore followed by moving mountains with the scratch. Of those left we have our patron saints, the true of heart who carry tradition and strive for perfection through our modern desert of indifference.

When I refer to Gregory Keltgen AKA DJ Abilities as a patron saint of turntablism, he laughs in his infectious, good-humored way. “It’s not something I think about,” says the Minnesota-born DJ, whose mythic ability to speak through turntables has earned him accolades and the respect of his peers since the age of 17. Known primarily as the production half of Eyedea and Abilities, one of underground hip hop’s most dynamic acts, he along with childhood friend and partner Michael Larsen produced some of the genre’s most endearing and creative classics.

Completing their raw, philosophical debut First Born in their early 20’s for Rhymesayers Entertainment, the duo’s skills and confidence went supernova on 2003’s follow-up E&A, where the classic interaction between MC and DJ took on a modern and bullying sense of flare that gave unquestionable credence to the album’s boasts of being the “Kingpin bigshots of this underground shit.” Steering into more experimental terrain with 2009’s By The Throat, tragedy befell the group and the entire hip hop community shortly after the album’s release when Larsen died in his sleep of an accidental drug overdose. Since then, Abilities has had a lot more to think about then his place in hip hop’s mythology–mourning the death of a friend, taking on the responsibility of fatherhood, and learning to make music and tour solo for the very first time.

Catching him by phone one afternoon while preparing for his upcoming tour with rapper/producers Jel, Sole, and Serengeti (coming to the High Noon Saloon on Friday, September 20), I was surprised to find a vinyl idol in repose, speaking at length without his hands.

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Just Announced Madison Concert + Win Tickets Before You Can Buy: DJ Abilities, 9.20.13

Friday, September 20, 2013


DJ Abilities

with special guests JEL, SOLE, and SERENGETI

High Noon Saloon – 9:30pm

$10 adv $12 dos – 18+

Tickets available through our Music Calendar soon!

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Just Announced Madison Concerts: PIGEON JOHN

Thursday, October 14

PIGEON JOHN with special guests DJ Abilities and Dark Time Sunshine

Pigeon John

High Noon Saloon, 9:30pm

$10 adv $12 dos, 18+