After a record-breaking season for the Toronto Raptors, their fans garnered a reputation for being some of the loudest, most passionate fans in the NBA. Even Cleveland Cavalier superstar LeBron James took notice, praising the enthusiasm of the Raptors’ fans, describing the Raptors home court, the Air Canada Centre, as “an unbelievable atmosphere.” Part of creating the high-energy atmosphere at the ACC is the team’s official DJ 4KORNERS. 4KORNERS consists of an MC, Shorts, and DJ/producer Kap’n Kirk. 4KORNERS has been the Raptors’ official DJ for 11 years, earning 4 Stylus Awards and 4 TNC Awards as well as earning a reputation as one of Canada’s best DJ’s.
I had a chance to catch up with Kirk to talk about his career, the EP as well as his thoughts on the Raptors’ fantastic season.
How did you get into Djing?
It started by a fortunate accident as I was fooling around with my dad records. But I used to play a basketball, I was a star all throughout high school and I went to York University I actually didn’t make the basketball team. It kind of crushed me but it also freed up a lot of time. At that time I started to go to a lot of parties and I gravitated towards the DJ booth, I was captivated by the way they controlled the room. I thought to myself ‘if I’m going to be going to all these parties I want to be that guy—that’s the coolest guy in the room.” And I had all this free time that I could now spend practicing DJing. I did a couple house parties and birthday parties and it grew into something that I loved and wanted to do all the time.
Inside and outside of music who are some people who’ve influenced you?
With regards to DJing, in the city there was Baby Blue Sound Crew, DJ Starting from Scratch, Dr. Jay and Cruise at the time. They were playing all the best parties and everything they did looked incredible and I wanted to get on their level. Beyond that my DJ idol is DJ Jazzy Jeff; he’s an incredible DJ and an incredible person and I’ve had the opportunity to meet him and work with him a bunch of times. He’s such a cool and down to earth guy for someone who’s so legendary and influential.
How would you describe yourself as an artist or DJ?
There’s two different schools of DJs, there’s the purists: all about the technical aspects, who work with their heads down and it’s all about the technically difficult aspects of DJing and there’s the other school of DJs where it’s more about being an entertainer and more about crowd interaction. I find myself right in the middle. I love to interact with the crowd, I want them to party with me not just look at me DJing but at the same time I come from going to the record store to buy records and practising for hours, doing things that are unique and taking people through a musical journey.
When it comes to DJing and producing music what is the best piece of advice that you’ve gotten?
I’ve picked the brains of a few guys and they’ve all given me the same general advice: if you really wanna do this just don’t give up. There’s going to be a lot of pitfalls and times you think that it’s over but you just have to keep moving forward. I’ve always kept that in the back of my mind and that’s just the kind of person I am; almost positive to a naïve level.
Would you be able to give me an example of a time you went through something difficult or thought that you wouldn’t make it?
There’s a million of them. There’s that cliché ‘there’s no straight path to success’ and it’s the truest thing. One major one was I was the resident DJ at Guvernmet Nightclub with my partner at the time and we were doing really well so they put us in a bigger room with more promotions and we thought “we made it!” Then a curveball came a couple months later with a different promoter that they had brought in and we didn’t see eye to eye. The club ended up siding with the promoter. That left us without a job there, we got kicked out essentially. I didn’t think my career was over but now we had to start from square one and we thought “what are we going to do now?” But low and behold things worked out and other opportunities came up. From that I learned when one door closes another one or two open as long as you stay on course and believe in what you’re doing.
You’re releasing an EP, Changes, later this year, what can you tell me about the EP?
The purpose of the EP is to change people’s perspective of what 4korners is. Most people who know me know me as the DJ for the Raptors but I’ve put out some tracks that have gotten some traction, including one called “Twerk” that every DJ in the world was playing and I wasn’t prepared for that, I didn’t have a follow up or anything so it got away from me. So the purpose of this EP is to show people I’m not just a DJ, I’m a producer, I’m an artist. It’s one thing to play the hottest songs in the club and it’s a totally different experience to play your own music. And Changes is the signpost to say this is who I am, this is what I do and things are changing as of now.
Was there something that happened to make you realize you wanted to play your own?
It’s been a gradual progression that a lot of DJ’s go through. A lot of DJ’s turn to production because when you’re playing the hottest tracks and the crowd is having a good time it’s an instant gratification. When I released the song a few years ago after a few days it had thousands of views on SoundCloud, my friend DJ Snake premiered it on BBC Radio, I got wind that Just Blaze and Skrillex were playing it, which was huge. From then I’ve had the bug and I’ve wanted to feel that all the time. Seeing people partying and having a good time to my music is cool because it’s like ” woah I made that in my house.” It’s such an incredible feeling I can’t not do it now, it’s the next step.
You‘ve said you want your music to take you to the four corners of the globe, are there any countries or festivals you haven’t played in yet but want to?
I want to play at all the festivals. In terms of countries, my top three have been Tokyo, Rio de Janerio and Sydney. I played in Tokyo and it was everything I thought it’d be so I’m working on Sydney and Rio. I’ve been to Kuala Lumpur three times which is a crazy party city, I always wanted to go to Dubai and now I’m a resident DJ at a couple of clubs there. The four corners of the earth is a real thing and I’ve been blessed to be able to see a lot of things I’ve wanted to see and things I never thought I would.
What goals do you have for the year/season ahead?
As far as the basketball season, I want a ring. I’m not super surprised because I have faith in my team and I knew what we were doing was good but when you think about it we were two wins away from the NBA Finals. That’s unheard of for the Raptors, we’ve been knocked out in the first round all of best seasons we’ve had. So I expect to get to the finals and get a ring when we do that. As far as my DJ career, the next few months are about rebranding 4KORNERS as an artist, producer and DJ.
What was it like to be one of DJs playing at the 2016 NBA All-star game?
It was incredible and I really didn’t know what I was going to be doing until two weeks before All-Star weekend because all the decisions were coming from head office. Let’s just say they didn’t divulge the information in a timely manner., But it was good I played 12 shows that week including the game from clubs to corporate events, it was one of the craziest weeks of my career. To play at the actual game was nerve wracking and incredible, I’ll never forget it.
How is DJing at a basketball game different than DJing at a club or festival?
It’s pretty much the same because you want to get adrenaline flowing and people moving and cheering. The main difference is at a game the demographic is as wide as it could possibly be so you have to cater to everyone. The team gives me complete freedom, all they ask is that I keep it clean and I make it diverse. It was challenging a first, I’ve always listened to a diverse range of music but to play that consistently without playing the same songs was difficult but now it’s like clockwork. At the club is where I get to play dirty and play for the room, I want to get the girls grinding and whatnot. I’m not necessarily going to play “Sweet Caroline” at a club but at a game if I play it at a game 20,000 people sing along.
Do you ever get song requests from the players for the warm up?
Yes during warm up I play for the players and ignore the crowd because that’s the time for them to get their game faces on. I know what they like so I always try to have some of that. And if there’s anything specific a player wants to hear I’ll get word of it. I know they’re in a good mood if they’re dancing and vibing with each other and ready to go.
Do you have a go to song for hyping the crowd up?
There’s always a few, like “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO, it’s a loud, happy , high-energy kind of song and everybody knows it. AC/DC “Shook Me All Night Long”, Bon Jovi “Livin’ On a Prayer”, these are anthems everybody will sing along too. In a club there are classics that never go wrong but every few months there’s a big song and I know I have to build to that. And everywhere I go people know I’m affiliated with Drake and the Raptors so I always get an extra reaction whenever I play Drake songs.
With the rise of Drake, The Weeknd, PARTYNEXTDOOR and Jazz Cartier, where do you see Toronto’s hip hop scene going?
I feel like right now Toronto is on top and people are looking to Toronto to take their cues and see what’s happening. Anybody who’s anybody is collaborating with Drake right now because they realize he’s the most powerful voice in hip hop. Toronto is a budding seed and I think a lot of that is people seeing what Drake has done, what The Weeknd has done, what PARTY has done and they say “I can do this, I’m from here.” Now kids have people they can look up to that are from here. Put it this way, the way that the Raptors have garnered a new generation of kids who want to be pro basketball players and now they’re seeing it with Christian Thompson and Andrew Wiggins who grew up going to Raptors games, it’s tangible. NBA Çanada has done a fantastic job of fostering a basketball community to let kids see this is our thing too we can do this. And the same thing is happening with music.
This past season was the best in Raptors history and people across the league recognized Toronto for their fans, even LeBron James was amazed at the atmosphere at the ACC. How proud do you feel to have been a part of such an electric atmosphere?
I feel it ever where now, people are starting to understand what’s going here and there are Raptors fans all over the world now because it’s a contagious energy. The presentation team, myself included, want to make sure people to have fun even if they don’t like basketball. I’ve been to other basketball cities and they’re not as fun and I’m not being bias when I say that. It’s a party here, every second there isn’t basketball being played there’s something fun happening and it permeates everywhere, especially this year. I know this city used to be known as the “screwface capital” and has tough critics but if they back you they back you so hard. So seeing 5,000 kids outside the stadium for every game, we saw that, the whole NBA saw that and it just became a movement. You used to see everybody wearing Yankees hats and now in Italy and Spain you have people wearing Raptors hats and jerseys. It’s weird but I love it. I have nothing but love for so called bandwagoners because something exciting is happening, how can you not want to be a part of it.
Cheeck out 4KORNER’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages and watch the video for”Told Me Shake It.”