Band of the Day

2012.06.01

DJ Alibi

From Moscow to Toronto, this MC makes feel-good hip hop that's as eclectic as his background
I make my life as a music man, I can't say that I'd ever change it.
lyrics from You Know The Style

DJ Alibi is the stage name of Mikhail Galkin (b. 1986), a native of Moscow, Russia. From an early age, Galkin was deeply involved in music. His first instrument was the violin, which he started playing at the age of four, later adding piano, trumpet, bass, guitar, and more to his repertoire. When Galkin was twelve years old, he immigrated with his family to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was here that he was first exposed to hip hop, largely in part to the ethnically-diverse population of his new city. By seventeen, he released his first independently-produced album, Music On The Way Back (2004). The following year, he sent a demo CD to Thes One (of rap group People Under The Stairs), and was quickly signed to his label, Tres Records. His debut LP with the label, One Day, was released in 2007. Since then, Galkin has gone on to form an experimental rock outfit called Gitar, with a release slated for 2012. He’s also part of a collaborative hip hop duo called Karate, with rapper D-Sisive, and will release a full-length LP in late spring of 2012. Check out bonus songs from both projects in the music player, or hear more at gitar.bandcamp.com and soundcloud.com/mikhailgalkin_djalibi.

“How many DJ's do you know that's from Russia?” Well now you can count at least one, with the Moscow-born emcee, DJ Alibi. Born Mikhail Galkin, DJ Alibi alludes to his unusual (in the hip hop world, anyway) origins in the song “You Know The Style,” from his 2007 debut album, One Day. Though he had been playing the violin since he was four years old—later conquering piano, trumpet, bass, and guitar—Galkin wasn't exposed to hip hop until the age of twelve, when he and his family immigrated from Russia to Toronto, Canada.

Within six months of being exposed to the ethnically-diverse population of Toronto, Galkin made his first beat using turntables and a sampler, eventually taking on the name DJ Alibi. In 2004 he made the track “One Day,” and sent it to Thes One (of Tres Records and hip hop outfit People Under the Stairs) on Myspace. Based on that track, and a demo CD, Thes One immediately signed Galkin to his label and released the full-length LP, One Day. Defying traditional hip hop labels, One Day showcases Galkin's eclectic musical influences.

This isn't an album rooted in one genre or time period; it bounces merrily across styles and decades of music history. “Nina's Song” layers uplifting, elevator music instrumentals with vinyl scratching and Indian vocals, while “Guns Of Kabul” paints a vividly cinematic picture with trumpets, a wheezing oom-pah-pah Old World rhythm, and even a drum and bass section.

One of the marks of a really good album is when it's able to take you out of the present moment and transport you to a completely different world, and “Samba Internacional” does just that. It starts off with a Spanish countdown of “uno, dos, tres, cuatro” before launching into a jazzy, bossa nova beat that will have you daydreaming about sipping zesty caipirinhas on a balmy beach, while the sun sparkles on an azure ocean.

“Round And Round,” which features DJ Alibi's label mate/rapper Giant Panda, is like a hip hop take on the classic song, “Let's Call The Whole Thing Off” (there's even a reference to the infamous “you say potato/I say po-tah-to” line). Only in DJ Alibi's version, there's a rapid flow of distinctly 21st century references like, “Now the world don't move to the beat of just one drum/some people like Bush, but we think he's a dumb-dumb.”

Bonus track “You Know The Style” features samples of people speaking out against hip hop and turntablism (“What are they gonna do when electricity cuts out and they're stuck with acoustic guitars?” asks one man). DJ Alibi responds by scoffing and putting in a sample that simply says: “Will you shut up?!” Couldn't have put it better ourselves, because people like DJ Alibi prove that there's a true art form to manipulating samples and turntables to create completely new musical experiences.