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District DJ Timothy Wilson’s dedication to local music is such that he resorts to subterfuge just to get it into the public’s hands. Last weekend, he invited friends and the media to a party at his Northwest apartment to celebrate the release of his new mix tape Nostalgia. As the title suggests, and as Wilson emphasizes in his shout-out style throughout, the tape boasts vintage tunes from the ’80s and ’90s. Side A, the “Boulevard Side,” features such hiphop hits as the Pharcyde’s “Passing Me By,” A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” remix, and Nas’ “Memory Lane.” The “Avenue Side” leans toward R&B, with songs by artists like Mary J. Blige, Teddy Pendergrass, Lauryn Hill, and Davina.
But Wilson’s real focus is not the songs we’ve all heard before. Rather, the purpose of Nostalgia, he says, is “to shine a little light on area talent.” In a stroke of subliminal promotion, he intersperses Nostalgia’s star tracks with appearances from struggling local artists such as Priest of Freestyle Union, the Bru Ha Crew, and 3LG’s offshoot group, Infinite Loop, as well as freestyles from Boogie Man Ghost and Chris Styles. Without the bait of nationally known acts, the mainstream D.C. audience probably wouldn’t pick up the compilation. By mixing in local material with classics, Wilson believes, he helps the locals get the recognition they deserveat least here at home.
Until recently, Wilson worked in public affairs at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But he saved his money and quit his job to start a career in the independent-music biz. Wilson contends that local artists who cannot or will not sign to major record labels should still be able to find an audience for their work in D.C. “The point of this tape and the whole point of what I’m trying to do,” he avers, “is just to make sure that artists here have a venue and have a format to display what they want to say and do.”
Beneath his noble intentions, Wilson harbors no desire to become an artist himself. In the long term, he aspires to start a “self-sufficient label” that can “put out product, and it will be able to afford the artist to live off of just sales, say, of maybe 20,000,” he explains. “Whereas if you go to a major, an album selling 20,000 units is a flop.”Neil Drumming