Deadmau5 – Not Your Average Hip-Hop Cat

Deadmau5

By Paul Cantor

Typically it’s hard to convince the average rap fan that a guy who stands on stage with a big mouse mask covering his entire head is even remotely worth paying attention to. Tell them he doesn’t even kick rhymes and you’ll probably get laughed out of the conversation.

But that’s what you get with Joel Thomas Zimmerman, the Canadian electro house producer who calls himself deadmau5. The 29-year-old was announced as the house artist for the VMAs back in August, and when he takes to the booth Sunday, he’ll bring his unique brand of electronic music to an audience who would otherwise scratch their heads if they ever stumbled upon his work. That is, until they were forced to start dancing.

Hit the jump for more on Deadmau5 …

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Back in 2008, around the time when Kid Sister had a minor hit with “Pro Nails,” I got into the dance rap scene. Artists who were rhyming over fast, 120bpm beats, steady four on the floor drum rhythms and deep bass grooves. Acts who rhymed over electronic music, or mixed electronic sounds with their hip-hop tracks. But the more I listened to, the less I wanted to hear the rap; I just wanted to hear the music. For electronic music, that was par for the course, because in that world, the artist is an afterthought, the music is the star.

A year later, in May of 2009, my ex-girlfriend was talking to me about an artist she wanted to see, deadmau5. He happened to be playing a show at Webster Hall that month, and after raving to me so much about him, where do we end up? A rave. I’d never even been to a rave before. I’m a hip-hop dude. And while I’d been to my share of dance parties, I’d never experienced a swell of thousands of people all “beating up the beat” Jersey Shore-style at once. And while I was at first apprehensive- there’s something about people jumping up and down like madmen at fast tempos that takes some getting used to- it wasn’t long before I was in the crowd dripping with sweat like I just got off the treadmill.

I’ve been to my share of concerts. Rock bands, hip-hop acts, pop singers and the like. I thought it was a bit weird for people to go crazy to see a guy just stand there and play music from his laptop. You mean there’s no performance? But the spinning, that is the performance. And deadmau5, he’s in his mouse mask, and there’s hand movements and he’s got different electronic effects, smoke machines, etc. His selection of songs, both ones he produced and from other electronic acts, they’re the show. And it’s just this pulsating beat, hitting you. Over. And over. And over. Right in your chest. And you can feel it, almost like the beat’s inside you. And you just sort of get it. It’s the total experience that you’re buying into. Not just a song or two. It’s that night. It’s the people you’re with. It’s that beat, and it just keeps you going. Perhaps you don’t need a rapper to really understand that. You’ve just got to love music. You’ve just got to be able to really feel it.

Word around the MTV offices (and really, Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre, where the VMAs will be) is that deadmau5 has something truly special planned. He’s even had the cube he typically stands behind constructed for the VMA stage, and it’ll be in the background of the presenters all night long. But what exactly does he have in store? Tune in Sunday to find out!

Are you looking forward to deadmaus this Sunday on the VMAs? Let us know in the comments!