A cool drink on a hot summer day. The sun warming your skin, while a cool breeze tosses your hair. Some things just feel good. Listening to Rap Class is one of those things.
Portland’s Rap Class, real name John Kammerle, has been DJing well over a decade. He made his mark on the Portland electronic scene with a track on a pivotal mixtape from former music collective Dropping Gems called Orbit in 2010. In the years following Rap Class released some solo efforts, and played a fuck ton of live shows in Portland.
A music teacher by day, Rap Class’s ability to find and masterfully mix deep cuts while keeping the party going has kept him busily working in Portland until the pandemic hit. In 2020, Rap Class has released a couple of singles, including one on 4/20. He’s also partnered with Olympia band Daisies to put out some new music.
The Sesh caught up with Kammerle earlier this spring and talked about his relationship with cannabis and music, about being a live performer during COVID-19, his collaboration with Daisies, and more.
On what inspired his 4/20 release of your remix of the Lil Uzi Vert track Myron
“I had that song, and I was going to use it for a Daisies thing. And when it didn’t end up being used for that thing I was like ‘you know what, I should put an acapella over this.’ When I did that, I just searched for the tempo of the song, which is 150 bpm, and searched for ‘150 bpm rap acapella’ on Google. The first song to pop up was this Lil Uzi Vert track which was like a month old, so I thought, ‘Yeah, this is going to make me look cool like I know what’s going on.’ I’d made the song the night before 4/20, so I thought I should just put it out the next day.”
On cannabis as part of his creative process
“I smoke it and it can be freeing and focusing. But sometimes it can be hindering. Sometimes it’s really good to create at a certain stage. But the last 5% is the hardest part, and I’ve got to be honest, there’s music work that I have to do right now that I should be finishing up, but I’m smoking too much weed.”
On his journey as a Portland DJ through the years
“I DJ a lot. It’s kind of the main thing I’ve done for the last 13-14 years. And I’ll always love DJing. But my taste for music just got refined. And when that happens you just sort of want to be a certain kind of DJ. You have this very strong agenda, as to what you’re trying to get across with the medium. Whereas before, and I still am sometime, happy to be just sort of like a comedian. Meaning like, you go in the room, you don’t understand what’s going on in the room, you just know there’s a job to be done, and the job is to make people happy and dance.”
The juxtaposition of being a hardcore music nerd and a DJ who played clubs served to amplify the monotony.
“When I was younger, my taste was more up on that. But there were some weeks where I would have to like DJ the party at the bar because that was my night, and I had just spent all day listening to like harp music or whatever. And then it just became a chore.”
After explaining some of the changes in Portland’s music scene, Kammerle finishes optimistically, “it’ll come around again.”
On DJing in the time of COVID
“I don’t DJ on Zoom, I’m not missing it like that. If I’m in quarantine and I’m tuning in. I know we all connect through music, but I’m on video and I’ve got the DJ shark eyes, just focused on the mix. I have fun DJing one record at a time. Just going on Instagram live and being like “this is this song is cool, and this is who produced it, and I like it,” and then playing another record.”
On his collaboration with Daisies
“It started because I heard Daisies and I liked it. Chris is very different in the way he produces. He’s very professional, and grows and adapts with new technology, he might be the most prolific songwriter that I’ve ever met. In terms of just going forward and not getting stuck on things. But there’s something about the music like he hasn’t been listening to what the standards of electronic production are. When I first heard it there were like house songs, and drum and bass songs. It almost sounded like something I’d hear at an EDM show 12 years ago, but not, because that’s not Chris and Val. They’re just working with their imaginations.”
Where to Listen
You won’t be seeing Rap Class live anywhere any time soon, sadly. But you can listen to Rap Class or Daisies any time on the world wide web.