Everything you wanted to know about the beef between DJ Flight and Flite, but were afraid to ask.
One of these days, we will get into the great beefs in the dnb scene. Truth be told, whatever this DJ Flight / Flite conflict on Twitter is has us intrigued, primarily due to the different conversations it stirs up. Let’s cut the shit and dive into what’s going on in these
streets tweets. /Birdman hand rub
In this corner, we have…
For real drum & bass souljahs, London’s own DJ Flight is cherished, a herald who’s name etched in stone. She’s street-certified—we’re talking Kemistry and Storm giving her mixtape to Goldie-level certified. (And yes, because of that hand-off, Flight was made a part of the Metalheadz stable.) Back before fellow Metalhead DJ Bailey linked with BBC Radio 1Xtra, DJ Flight’s “The Next Chapter” radio show was putting on for the rising, forward-thinking producers within the dnb scene. This was back during 1Xtra’s inception back in 2002, and ran for five years. Flight’s imprint, Play:musik, did the same thing, introducing producers like Martyn and Survival to hungry dnb listeners.
And her opponent is…
Hailing from Austin, Texas is one of the American drum & bass scene’s rising stars, Flite. He’s a newer face on the scene, gaining steam in starting in 2017 with releases on Monstercat and Liquicity that, paired with his work ethic, have resulted in being one of the premiere names from the States. Flite’s 2020 has already included huge releases for music from Bensley (RAM Records) and Metrik & ShockOne (Hospital Records), and the praise Flite receives has him pegged to (hopefully) be that next great American drum & bass export.
Where’s the beef?
With the stage set, you might be surprised to find out that Friday’s Flight vs. Flite situation didn’t start with comments from either of them. No, it was frequent Flight collaborator (and co-founder of Rupture and EQ50) Mantra who spoke first.
“Flite,” Mantra began, “might be worth doing some research before you pick your name. DJ Flight has been a cornerstone of our industry for years – it’s disrespectful to take her name.” It’s unclear as to what, if anything, may have prompted this tweet, but not too long after this tweet was sent, Flight shared Mantra’s post, adding a key note.
Flight’s point is a good one: with her history as a DJ in the drum & bass scene, one who’s made it her life’s work to champion the fresh faces and new sounds, you’d think that some of the elder statesmen within the scene would have spoken up at this point. Flite’s name has been ringing over the last year or so; the fact that no one has said anything is an interesting thing to note.
“We know for a fact music by someone ripping off one of your still very much active male artist names would not have been picked up by said labels,” Flight added.
“Easy to diss me though, wonder why that is,” Flight asked rhetorically. Flight didn’t go in-depth into what she meant when she said that line specifically, but with the founding of EQ50 (an organization that has been “working towards fairer representation within drum & bass since 2018”) and one of her subsequent tweets (“and all you with BLM black lives matter in your Twitter names or retweets can pack up your shit and go, hypocrites,” she wrote), it isn’t hard to take a guess at what Flight would be referring to.
Flight isn’t wrong
For a genre of music with deep Black roots like drum & bass, it’s important to remember that the whitewashing of dance music has impacted the drum & bass scene as well. Flight was there representing drum & bass at the inception of BBC Radio 1Xtra, a station which was promoted as being “dedicated to playing the very best in contemporary black music for a young audience” when it kicked off in August of 2002. With so few women in the scene on an even playing field to the men, coupled with the Black origins of drum & bass music being further washed out? Flight’s got a right to be angry.
DJ Flight is an integral part of the scene’s progression, especially in how drum & bass developed on 1Xtra. There would be questions if, for example, a DJ named Andy Sea started dropping dnb tracks
in the dance on a live stream; why would it be preposterous for someone to question Flite’s reasoning for continuing to use that particular moniker? At the very least, that begs the question…
Did Flite know about Flight?
We’re glad you asked that. One of the most immediate concerns, rightfully so, has been how Flite, a white, male producer from Texas, was left unchecked for so long when it came to him using a name that had been taken for two decades-plus at this point. Kemistry knew it. Why did no one else question it?
Based on responses to Mantra’s initial tweet, many producers—a dizzying array of names that were no-doubt some of the acts Flight championed a decade and a half ago on 1Xtra—are standing with Flight. After a Germany-based producer by the name of Champion (we’re gonna leave that one alone for right now) responded by calling this a part of the dnb scene’s “elitest nonsense,” Loxy pointed out that anyone would question this the way Flight is. Double O mirrored Loxy’s sentiments, which are steeped in the time Flight’s put in as a DJ, producer and beacon within the dnb scene.
Craggz mentioned that he asked Flite about his name “over a year ago.” Craggz says Flite not only knew who DJ Flight was, but apparently “knew it was the wrong move” to keep using her name. Others, like Breakage (who has collaborated with Flight on a handful of releases under the name Alias), Lenzman, Fracture, and others stood in alignment on Flite being taken to task over his name.
On the flipside, there are those who ask if this is a joke, call the accusation “contrived”, pose queries about the sincerity of Mantra’s remarks, and ultimately judge how similar Flite and Flight even are. None of this is from Flite, though. What did Flite know?
What Flite Knew
Again, according to Craggz, Flite was aware of who DJ Flight was, and knew using the name “Flite” was wrong. Flite did speak up and give a definitive answer on what he may have known or didn’t know about Flight when he chose his name.
“I didn’t know who DJ Flight was for years after I chose this name and released music,” Flite shared, “as I was much younger.” Flite finished the tweet by calling it “innocent decision,” with no disrespect being intended.
Mantra replied, emphasizing that while it may have been “an innocent mistake at the time, the problem is by continuing to use her name you’re undermining her.” Mantra also indicated that she sent Flite an email, to which Flite says he would be replying to. This could be a step in the right direction, right?
So who won?
To be fair, that might not be the point of any of this. Some have said that the way Mantra went about this was “ridiculous”, but this is far from the first time anyone has spoken out about an issue in a public forum to provoke change. Hell, Flite was one of the more outspoken America producers during the whole #dnb2020 movement, which was conceived in part to help bridge the gap between the scenes in America and in the United Kingdom. This year specifically has seen a number of industries being taken to task for years and decades of mistreatment. The drum & bass scene is no different; one can understand why Mantra, or anyone who feels like their voice isn’t being heard, would want to just let it out, for the whole world to see. Especially if someone of Flight’s status feels wronged by an artist currently being championed.
Is there something to be said for the elitist culture in the dnb scene? Surely. It’s an open (not so) secret that many producers have left dnb due to the guardrails and limits they felt were constructed for American producers, specifically, and it’s only until the last few years that producers like Flite could enter the game and not be hit with the stigma of being an “American drum & bass producer”. Elitist tendencies have thrived throughout drum & bass, but the scene has (more importantly) been built on respect. There’s a reason Shy FX used that piece of Goodfellas before “Original Nuttah” kicks off. There’s a reason we still pay our respect to Stevie Hyper D, Kemistry, and any of the junglists who have left us. It’s out of respect for their contributions and dedication to this music that has hit us all.
There may not be a Flite without a DJ Flight, and that’s just facts. You can’t erase her legacy, just like you can’t escape his buzz.
Where do we go from here?
That, dear reader, is the $64,000 question. (No, that figure means nothing. Just vibe with me for a spell.) Flite probably doesn’t have to change his name, legally. Without being a master of copyright law, the concept of having to register a concept in multiple countries to protect yourself from devious activities across the globe makes sense, right? If there is a DJ Flight copyright but it doesn’t extend to America, there’s nothing Flight could do to Flite about this, legally.
Outside of the courthouse, anything can happen. Me, being a jungle-loving writer since the mid-’90s, wanting to be a producer? I know I couldn’t use a name like “Goldy” or “Bhad Kompany”, as I know the history on those acts. Should Flite change his name, out of respect for the legacy DJ Flight has left and continues to uphold? That answer depends on the person, and might depend on how deep their dnb knowledge is / how close they might be to Flite (as peers or fans). Time will tell.
We do know that one thing is clear: while Flight and Flite are (hopefully) sorting this out, the last thing we need is anyone speaking rudely or disrespectfully to anyone. If you can’t be an adult while maneuvering within the drum & bass scene, maybe there are some things about the scene (and life in general) that you might need to get a better understanding of.
Still wondering why BLM was dragged into this. No one knows!
Well written and presented both sides of the argument in depth. Luckily, Justin Hawkes is now Flite’s moniker, and the issue was resolved respectfully and without a huge fuss. Also appreciate you referencing my article on the #USDNB movement. Big up!
Why was this even a problem? There are many artists with similar names (e.g. WRLD and Juice WLRD, Coven, Koven, Kovan, and Kove) and no one sees them fighting over it. Bringing it up years after Flite’s career began was kind of ridiculous, at least mention it later.
Flite changed his artist name to Justin Hawkes, so I guess this doesn’t matter anymore
100% agree, whole thing was nonsense, DJ Flight and Flite are two different names, both in written and spoken form. Fair play to Flite for just changing his name and getting on with things, but he was unfairly cornered into the decision by the sounds of it.
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