Introducing: Dirty Bird
The following is a profile/interview done by Julian Green (The Current) whom partnered with Reviler for this feature
Dirty Bird is living his dream and he’s eager to educate on how you can, too.
I can’t remember how I first heard of Dirty Bird. Was it one of his many viral tweets? Maybe it was a snippet of his thumping, hypnotic track “Cartz.” I’m one of many people that might have followed Dirty Bird for the memes and stuck around for the insightful takes on world affairs and his unique, intentional music.
“I actually stole the name from my comic book character,” Dirty Bird confesses to me inside of a Cuban cafe as we struggle to hear each other over a pianist and the locomotion of the kitchen. “The main characters were two brothers, one was named Dirty Bird. Those are names I stole from my dad’s best friends. Back when we were living in the projects.”
Dirty Bird has always had a love for music and the arts as a whole, but it wasn’t until recently that he started doing it as a full-time job. “I taught civics and econ,” Dirty Bird reflected as he told me about his stint as a middle school teacher out of college. “Then I was able to fundraise a bunch of money on Twitter to buy a bunch of art supplies. I started teaching an art elective. It was the first time they ever had an art class. It was tight.” Dirty Bird also helped develop the school’s economics and civics classes, “I got to write a whole new civics and econ curriculum from scratch. I made a high school level class, even though I was teaching eighth grade. My students came in, like, three years below on their reading level. And then by the end of the year, they were almost caught up.”
Dirty Bird’s passion for education goes beyond the physical classroom. He also views music and DJing specifically as a vehicle to educate and build community. “Education is definitely the most important thing to me. Because even as a DJ, my job is like halfway like… I’m an archivist. I feel kind of like a librarian as a DJ and also like a teacher. Like Moodymann said, ‘A great DJ is also like a great teacher.’ I want to introduce people to music… Like stuff they haven’t heard before. Music from other countries they haven’t heard before and kind of teach people about the legacy of black music. And I can do that by playing a good DJ set.”
The music of Dirty Bird can best be described as, “post-genre electric fusion,” in his own words.
A listen through his discography shows that these aren’t just empty words. His latest release, N*gga U 24 It’s Time 4 Jazz, blends his penchant for trance-inducing loops with jazz instrumentation and swing. Inspiration from his other myriad influences coalesce within his visual and sonic art, the most prevalent of which is from video games like Jet Set Radio or Need for Speed Underground 2. “They introduced me to all the genres I still listen to today,” Dirty Bird explained. “They introduced me to rock stuff, rap stuff, even dance music. Video games totally shaped my world, sonically and visually.”
Video games and comics helped Dirty Bird form a vision of the future for himself. That vision of the future is an amalgamation of his influences from the past. Dirty Bird could’ve gone further with his comics or other interests, but chose to make music his main pursuit. “It was one of those things where it was, like… It was crunch time,” Dirty Bird said. “I don’t want to be at my mom’s house until I’m 27, you know? I was feeling like a failure because I wasn’t really doing what I wanted to do… Music just so happened to be the thing I was doing at the time that made me happy. It could have been anything. If I was still doing my comic, then I would have made that work. If I was writing essays or writing a book, I would have made that work. It just so happened to be music.”
Becoming a full-time musician hasn’t been an easy transition for Dirty Bird, but his natural drive for success keeps him going. “I was always top of the class. Always,” Dirty Bird smirked. “So that’s where a lot of my confidence came from. Knowing that I can be at the top of my class. And that was my driving force. I just wanted to be the best. Because my parents told me I had to be the best. That was my driving force for a long time, up until college. And then in college, I realized, you know, it’s not really about being better than nobody per se. I started focusing more on myself. Like, how can I be the best me that I can be? And once I started focusing on that, everything else fell into place.”
Dirty Bird was in Minneapolis recently for a stop on his ongoing US tour. On Friday, June 25th, he packed New Rules in Minneapolis’ north side full of sweaty, hyper-online music nerds eager to dance. Sets from local favorites Yonci and Booboo got the crowd moving and the room so hot that condensation dripped from the glass doors at the entrance. It was a toss-up as to whether there would be any energy left in the room by the time Dirty Bird took over the decks, but a second wind gusted the crowd back on the floor and into Dirty Bird’s Afrofuturist world. Friday, June 25th is a night that I will never forget. It was the first time I saw a crowd of people dancing together, making memories together, smiling, and laughing in over a year. I have Dirty Bird to thank for that.
— Julian Green
Listen to/purchase dIrty Bird’s latest release N*gga U 24 It’s Time 4 Jazz