If you’re unfamiliar with Delroy Edwards, that’s in part by design. In an era when obnoxious self-promotion and social media stunting are often seen as unimpeachable virtues, the Silver Lake resident exists as a refreshingly enigmatic alternative.
Despite his swiftly rising stature as one of L.A.’s best dance producers and label magnates, Edwards has done only a handful of interviews. He’s avoided the lucrative festival circuits and wait-for-the-drop Hollywood clubs. If there’s a local heir to the throne of the seldom-seen Madlib, it might well be this similarly reclusive experimentalist, whose excellent debut LP, this week’s Hangin’ at the Beach, blends house, techno, hip-hop and melancholy psychedelic music into an album that avoids all California surf and sand clichés.
“I’m pretty open to anything, as long as they’re down to hear what I do as an artist,” Edwards says when asked why he’s taken a less conspicuously commercial route than many of his peers. “I’ve played shows where people really didn’t get it, and I’ve played the Avalon on Hollywood and was happy to do it. Whenever I feel inclined to do something I’ll do it, but if I’m not inclined it’s hard for me.”
This is a circuitous way of saying that Delroy Edwards doesn’t give a fuck. That attitude has become a marketing cliché in its own right, but his actions and vibrant artistic left turns afford him the requisite credibility. He seems wholly uninterested in celebrity or the Faustian bargains that end in a big-font Coachella booking or Diplo remix.
His far-reaching vision and creative energies are wholly funneled through his own imprint, L.A. Club Resource, which is distributed through Gene’s Liquor, a collaboration with Edwards’ managers and partners Henoch Moore and Jimmy Mock. They’ve released everything from vinyl re-pressings of lost Memphis rap classics to VHS copies of DJ Screw and Screwed Up Click to Chicago house pioneers.
Now in his mid-20s, Edwards’ initial releases came on the respected New York dance imprint L.I.E.S., which helped build his reputation both domestically and internationally. Over the last three years, the New Roads graduate has kept things exclusively in-house, assembling talent for his own roster and creating an aesthetic steeped in nostalgia that still manages to feel forward-thinking.
“I’m kind of stubborn and feel like I don’t have time to waste,” Edwards says in his Silver Lake house, surrounded by analog keyboards, tape machines and vinyl. He’s 6-foot-5 and sports a shaved head, high-waisted plaid pants and sleeve tattoos. The child of a Jamaican dancehall- and gangsta rap–loving mother and Jewish, jazz-obsessed father, Edwards speaks softly with a quick, disarming wit.
“It’s like a sports mentality. I want to do things better than everyone,” Edwards continues. “It’s not a mean-spirited thing; there’s a lot of labels I like and respect. But I want to have total control and I’ll never be able to do that otherwise.”
He’s not willfully obscure, just dedicated to doing it on his own terms. He’s an old soul but too savvy to use such a toothless phrase. Nonetheless, he’s averse to computers and prone toward analog equipment, because he likes being able to work the machines with his hands. His releases often are slathered in tape static and fuzz, almost like a house-music analog to Ariel Pink.
His favorite movies are 1950s and ’60s Westerns; his favorite basketball player, Elgin Baylor. Even Hangin’ at the Beach refers to a trip taken last year to Big Sur, rather than the Santa Monica and Malibu imagery you’d expect from an L.A. native.
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There are plenty who seek to replicate the past, but Edwards is one of the few and best seeking to remake it in his own image.
An L.A. native, Jeff Weiss edits Passion of the Weiss and hosts the Shots Fired podcast. Find him online at passionweiss.com.