DJ Mehdi: DJ and producer who blurred the boundaries between electro and hip-hop

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Over the last 15 years, the "French touch" groups Air, Daft Punk and Phoenix have become million-sellers and Hollywood soundtrack-makers while the ubiquitous DJ and producer David Guetta has topped charts around the world with tracks featuring Kelly Rowland, Akon and the Black Eyed Peas.

Less of a mainstream proposition, DJ Mehdi nevertheless seemed poised to follow in their footsteps. The French DJ and producer blurred the boundaries between electro and hip-hopas he worked with his countrymenMC Solaar, Cassius and Justice,international acts Chromeo – theirresistible "Signatune" – and Futura 2000, and remixed Asian Dub Foundation, New Young Pony Club andSam Sparrow.

He also became a mainstay of Ed Banger Records, the label run by the former Daft Punk manager PedroWinter, which issued his albums Lucky Boy (2006) and Lucky Boy At Night (2007) as well as the collection of remixes, Red Black & Blue (2009). "I think I am lucky," he said. "Technically, it'sa thousand times easier to be a DJ than a good musician, a guitarist or akeyboard-player," he said. "As a producer, the most important thingsare your imagination, your hands and your ears."

Born Mehdi Favéris-Essadi in 1977, he grew up in the Paris banlieues and began DJing on his father's decks in his early teens. At the age of 15 he joined the rap group Idéal J – with whom he made two albums that showcased his production skills – and recorded with MC Solaar.

"Mehdi loved using violins," Solaar told the newspaper Libération. "His productions were always built on old school hip-hop grooves with a touch of house. He often seemed to have three tunes on the go in his head. He had a unique sound." Mehdi subsequently worked with the hip-hop collective Mafia K'1 Fry and produced several albums by the rap group 113, including Les Princes De la Ville, their 1999 breakthrough which won two Victoires de la Musique awards.

Starting with (The Story Of) Espion, his 2002 solo debut, he began incorporating more electronic elements into his music. "It is a reflection of the life I lead and the people I meet, rather than a carbon copy of what people do in Brooklyn," Mehdi explained earlier this year. "I make music to have fun, not to be pigeonholed."

He also formed the touring DJcollective Club 75 with Cassius,Justice and Busy P – aka Pedro Winter – with whom he had recentlycompiled the Let The Children Techno collection.

DJ Mehdi had just returned from appearing at Bestival on the Isle of Wight with Carte Blanche, the homage to Chicago house music project he had started with the British producer Riton, when he was fatally injured as the upper section of his Paris loft collapsed during a party.

Pierre Perrone

Mehdi Favéris-Essadi (DJ Mehdi), DJ and producer: born Paris 20 January 1977; died Paris 13 September 2011.