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Watching Big Syphe win over a crowded club with his irresistible mix and irrepressible personality, it’s hard to imagine there was a time when the Los Angeles-native was too shy to tell people he was a DJ. He made mix tapes for friends in junior high while secretly sharpening his turntable technique for the stage. Syphe says he was waiting for the right moment to unveil his hidden talent at one of the infamous backyard parties that were a major part of his high school experience. “In my neighborhood, you were either a DJ or in a party crew that was loyal to a certain DJ,” he says. “I didn’t tell people that I was a DJ because I was more interested in getting on stage and proving it.” He passed the test, graduating from backyards to Hollywood clubs, which is where he met Eric D-Lux, a fellow DJ. They produced break beats together that were popular among DJs at clubs and radio stations, and later earned national airplay with their remix album Buko Breaks Vol 1-3.
For their next collaboration, they took over the city’s airwaves as hosts of the afternoon radio show on KPWR Power 106 Los Angeles, one of the nation’s top stations. Listeners driving home from work tuned into The Traffic Jam for six years to hear Syphe and Eric mix the day’s hottest hits live on the air. The duo also used the show to champion emerging talent, offering early support to artists like LMFAO and Far East Movement. “We did whatever we could to help break the artists we believed in,” he says. In fact, many Los Angelenos first discovered Lady Gaga through Syphe’s remix of her first single, “Just Dance.” Over the years he’s also remixed tracks by Enrique Iglesias (“Taking My Love,”) La Roux (“Bulletproof”) and Pitbull (“Hey Baby/Give Me Everything.”)
The road to Syphe’s recent breakthrough was paved years ago by a chance conversation he had at concert meet and greet. “I was talking to a woman and I mentioned that I really liked Pitbull, who was opening that night,” he recalls. “She said: ‘Wait right here, I’ll bring him over. That’s my son, Armando.’ He and I have stayed in touch ever since.” Seven years later, when Pit needed a DJ for his world tour, he called on Syphe.
During his two years on the road with the international star, Syphe performed around the globe and made high-profile appearances on the Latin Grammy Awards, Super Bowl Halftime Show, Today Show and Dick Clark’s New Years Rockin’ Eve. “Watching Pit evolve from opening act into Mr. Worldwide has definitely inspired me to step up my game,” Syphe says.
Touring solo now, Syphe performs regularly at clubs and festivals, including a recent stop in Brazil where the only thing standing between him and a crowd of 50,000 was a pair of Technics SL-1200 turntables. “It was crazy looking out at that many people and remembering those backyard parties,” he says. When he’s not on the road, Syphe spends much of his time in the studio remixing and producing music for a growing list of artists. Earlier this year, he also began producing music for Pitbull’s record label, Mr. 305 Inc. The move, Syphe says, puts him one step closer to realizing his lifelong ambition.
“Whether I’m DJ’ing in Johannesburg, Beirut or Tokyo, certain songs always flood the dance floor,” he says. “For me, the ultimate dream is to produce a classic like that and then get a chance to play it everywhere so I can watch the world dance to my song.”
Big Syphe’s tracks