DJs have been an important part of the music world since the first use of twin turntables in 1947. The art of deejaying has metamorphosed over the decades, diversifying and impacting music culture. Check out our choices for the greatest DJs.
Dj Kool Herc
Dj Kool Herc is known for pioneering hip-hop culture. In 1973, he and his sister hosted a party in the Bronx, New York that is widely considered to be the birth of hip hop. He invented the breakbeat technique by isolating instrumentals, and this idea formed the tone of the hip-hop genre. He is considered one of the greatest DJs even though he never got into commercial music.
Lauded as one of the pioneers of hip-hop DJing, Grandmaster Flash is undeniably one of the genre’s most significant influences. Originally from Barbados, this genius’ story begins as an immigrant who repaired electronic equipment and was deeply fascinated with his father’s record collection. It was this fascination that led him to DJing.
He is known for perfecting the Backspin Technique, which he had seen DJ Kool Herc experiment with during the parties he attended in New York. He also made a signature out of the scratching technique, and although he did not invent it, he put a unique spin to it (so to speak) that has become a standard in DJing. His influence has secured his place as one of the greatest DJs of all time.
This renowned American producer and DJ was instrumental to the wide acceptance of house music in Chicago in the 80s. He is called The Godfather of the genre. From 1997 to 2003, he ranked among the top 100 DJs in the world. Before his death in 2014, he had been inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame, eight years after he received a Grammy for Remixer of the year, Non-Classical. All this and more cements his place as one of the greatest DJs.
Larry Levan was perhaps the most loved DJ of his era. His sets were so popular that fans called it “Saturday Mass.” Beyond mixing songs for extended play, Larry’s gift was in how he could connect with his audience and create a vibe everybody loved. During the disco boom, he deejayed in a way that only he could, earning him a cult following, especially in the queer space. Despite his life challenges and early death, Larry Levan remains one of the most prolific and greatest DJs of all time. He was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2004.
Jam Master Jay
Jam Master Jay was the DJ in one of the most influential groups in the history of hip hop, Run-D.M.C. In addition to being their DJ, he also played keyboards and drums for them. The hip hop legend was murdered in 2002.
Carl Cox is a British radio DJ and producer with works in the house and techno styles. He began his career at 15 and, less than ten years later, made a name for himself as one of the pioneers of the electronic rave sound. He is praised for being one of the greatest DJs alive and took the number one spot in the top 100 DJs poll by DJ Magazine in 1997.
He is famously known for his work at the Space residency in Ibiza, which resulted in genius mixes for fifteen years. In 2016, he took on the final season of his residency, playing sets every Tuesday in the summer.
Carl Cox continues to perform at popular music festivals, including the Ultra Music Festival, which named him the global ambassador for its house and techno concepts. With four studio albums to his name, Carl Cox remains one of the most revered names in the industry.
Perhaps one of the top-earning DJs in the electronic space, Tiesto is rumored to take home six figures in fees per night. The Dutch DJ and producer is estimated to have a net worth of $39 million. He is considered the Godfather of EDM and was voted by DJ Mag as the best DJ of the last two decades.
He has eight accoladed studio albums, and outside his work as a DJ, he is a philanthropist and a passionate fan of Inter Milan. His place among the greatest DJs is more than secure.
Swedish House Mafia
The DJ supergroup Swedish House Mafia, made up of DJs Axwell, Steve Angello, and Sebastian Ingrosso, was at the forefront of the electronic dance music boom in the years after 2010. Before their union as the Swedish House Mafia, they were established single acts, with each being featured at least once in Top DJ polls.
The trio has inspired other renowned DJs, including Avicii, Calvin Harris, and Martin Garrix. With several Grammy nominations, EMA wins, and others, the Swedish House Mafia is easily one of the greatest DJ acts of all time.
Avicii was an exceptional Swedish DJ who got into the limelight after his debut album True (2013) peaked internationally in over 15 countries.
Heavily influenced by Daft Punk and the Swedish House Mafia, Avicii experimented with deep house and electronic music, sometimes with an infusion of folk music and country elements.
He retired from live performances in 2016 due to severe pancreatitis and other physical and mental health crises. His death, rumored to be suicide, left fans and the industry more conscious of mental health issues.
The French music producer and DJ is undoubtedly one of the greatest DJs of all time. He has thrice received the honor of the number one spot in the Top 100 DJ polls by DJ Mag. He is famous for his collaborations with top acts like Sia, Nicki Minaj, Jason Derulo, and more. With two Grammy awards, an AMA, and Billboard Music Award under his belt, David Guetta has made over 100 million dollars selling his recorded music.
Diplo is a famous American DJ and music producer who has remained relevant for the last two decades. His alias is Diplodocus (Diplo for short), a name he absorbed from his childhood fascination with dinosaurs.
His music is diverse, though with EDM and pop sounds at the forefront. Asides from his solo work, he is known for many collaborations and mixtapes. He, alongside DJ Switch, also created the Jamaican dancehall project Major Lazer.
Diplo formed the Jack Ü duo with fellow producer DJ Skrillex and worked with stars like Justin Bieber and Diddy from 2013 to 2015. In 2018, he announced a collaborative project with Sia and Labrinth, forming LSD. The self-titled project was very successful, and fans are hopeful that the super trio will release another project.
The masked Deadmau5 is a Canadian DJ and music producer named Joel Zimmerman. When Deadmau5 was younger, he found a dead rat in his computer, which earned him the dead mouse guy nickname amongst friends. He shortened this nickname and adopted it as his stage name.
He wrote the film score for the Netflix movie Polar and has his own avatar in the DJ Hero 2, Goat Simulator, and Family Guy video games.
Although most of his work is with house music, he also DJs other subgenres of electronic music and has experimented with techno under the alias Testpilot. He is one of the best-paid and greatest DJs alive.
It is impossible to mention dance music history without highlighting the work of the dynamic French duo Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, known as Daft Punk. They came together in 1993 and contributed hugely to the rise of French house music in that decade. Before their separation in 2021, they released four highly acclaimed studio albums.
Named by Rolling Stone as the 12th Greatest Musical Duo of all time, Daft Punk is, without doubt one of the greatest DJs of our generation.
DJ Green Lantern
Known for his unique mixes in the late 90s and early 2000s, DJ Green Lantern is acclaimed as one of the most talented hip-hop DJs. Eminem signed him as the official DJ of Shady Records in 2002. He toured with Eminem and produced music for Ludacris, Busta Rhymes, and Nas, and is even featured in Grand Theft Auto IV. You can find his track on the parody station “The Beat 102.7” in the video game.
Before he became a Grammy award-winning superstar DJ, DJ Khaled used to DJ on pirate radios and at local events. His move to Miami in the 90s began his rise to stardom. During this time, he co-hosted on 99 Jamz, started his own show, and was signed by the Fat Joe to Terror Squad. His success spurred his pivot to music production and establishing his own record label. With a Grammy award, over 13 BET awards, and many other accolades, DJ Khaled has remained one of the most relevant DJ acts in the last two decades.