Many of us have grown up on the Internet and witnessed several monumental milestones in music– be it the boom of YouTube which eventually paved the way for content creators to blow up internationally, or viral tracks that introduced us to new artists from around the globe. One of these artists happened to be DJ Snake– the French DJ/producer made the world groove to his bird whistle synth lead track, “Bird Machine” in 2013 and the world hasn’t stopped dancing since.
This was when a sizable chunk of global listeners, irrespective of whether they were fans of EDM or not, heard about DJ Snake. Later that year, he would produce the bass-trap smash hit “Turn Down For What” feat. Lil Jon– one of the biggest tracks of his career that would earn him his second Grammy nomination for Best Music Video and secure the Number One and Number Four spot on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Electronic Song and the Billboard Hot 100 chart respectively. To a great extent, “Turn Down For What” defined 2014 and became a cultural phenomenon. It would go on to open YouTube’s widely popular ‘YouTube Rewind’ that year and feature in blockbuster films such as 21 Jump Street and Furious 7. Snake kept the momentum going with the mega-viral moombahton Major Lazer collab “Lean On,” which would eventually make him a household name and grant him his massive, dedicated fandom in India.
Born to a French father and an Algerian mother, William Sami Étienne Grigahcine aka DJ Snake is known for effortlessly blending sounds from different cultures, creating a distinct style that sets his music apart from the rest. “To be honest with you, I grew up listening to a lot of different things,” he recalls. “I grew up with people from different origins such as India, West Indies to Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East. We’ve always been inspired by each other.”
Kick-starting his career at the age of 14, Snake spent nearly a year experimenting and mixing songs. At 15, he dropped out of high school to work at one of Paris’s most famous record shops where he spent hours earnestly reading through the catalog of records from various genres–understanding and absorbing the basics of music, eventually diving into production at 19. By 25, the producer earned his first-ever Grammy nomination for working on Lady Gaga’s track “Government Hooker” off her 2011 chart-topping pop album Born This Way.
Now, with over a decade of experience and pushing the boundaries in the industry, Snake boasts a powerful list of collaborations with pop icons such as Cardi B, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and more. His collaborative tracks have gone to garner billions of streams (“Taki Taki” is at over two billion alone) and views on leading streaming platforms such as Spotify and YouTube, and he has several dozen Platinum and Diamond certifications to his name.
Despite an exhaustive list of achievements, DJ Snake comes across grounded, humble and excited to share his artistry with the world, now more than ever. “You know, when everything goes back to normal, the first country I’m going to visit is India to throw the biggest party,” he says over Zoom with a smile. “Trust me!”
In this conversation with Rolling Stone India, DJ Snake reflects on his latest collaboration with Selena Gomez on “Selfish Love,” the influence of culture on his work, his growth as a producer over the last decade and his unbreakable relationship with India.
“Selfish Love” has turned out to be one of the most loved music videos since its release. What was the idea behind the track and what did you want your fans to take away from it?
We were just trying to give some good vibes to the people. It’s been a rough year and we’ve been through a lot. We just wanted to give some positive energy to the people.
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