The 25 DJs That Rule the Earth – Rolling Stone
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The 25 DJs That Rule the Earth

From stadium fillers to crossover kings and beat scientists

Skrillex Tiesto Kaskade

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It's a rave new world out there! Meet the 25 party-starters, beat-droppers, headliners and underground kings who rock the dance floor from Miami to Ibiza.

This list is from the November 22, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.


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Based In: Los Angeles
Age: 24

Looking back, it's hard to recall the time before Skrillex dropped the bass on our collective braincases. So let us refresh your memory: Just a few short years ago, dubstep was still an edgy sound that only people who spent a lot of time hanging out in dank East London clubs (or nerding out on dance-music blogs) knew about. Now, even Taylor Swift has some choice wub-wub-wubs up in her mix. Who made this possible? Big Skrill! The former screamo yowler, born Sonny Moore, decided in 2010 to give his poor, shredded vocal cords some much-needed rest and focus on making sick beats instead. Since then, his fax-machine-assaulting-a-dial-up-modem sound has blown up beyond his wildest dreams, scoring him invites to headline practically every festival this past summer, from Lollapalooza to Bonnaroo. "I started out playing underground clubs in L.A. – not more than 200 people or so," he says. "I can't even begin to describe how my life has changed. And I have no idea why, really. I just make music."

James Murphy

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James Murphy

Based In: New York
Age: 42

He might have shut down LCD Soundsystem with one of the best parties ever thrown at Madison Square Garden, but James Murphy hasn't left the dance floor behind. His label, DFA, continues to release seriously cool dance music that rock kids can get down to (check new discs from Sinkane and the 2 Bears for proof), and Murphy (often alongside LCD drummer Pat Mahoney) lights up clubs and festivals with a pleasure-principle-driven mix of classic disco jams, groovy krautrock and oddball cuts by everyone from the Steve Miller Band to 10cc. "DJing is really, really pleasant," Murphy says. "It's like having people over and making hors d'oeuvres."

David Guetta

Andrew Rauner


David Guetta

Based In: Paris
Age: 44

No one has done more to make EDM part of the pop universe than David Guetta. The Paris-born DJ spent years honing his skills at underground clubs across Europe, throwing unforgettable bashes like his world-renowned "Fuck Me, I'm Famous" parties in Ibiza. It wasn't until 2009 that he made his move on the U.S. pop charts – producing the Black Eyed Peas' inescapable "I Gotta Feeling," one of the hugest chart smashes of all time. Guetta has gone on to orchestrate megahits featuring Usher, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Hudson and more. You can hear his fingerprints all over tons of other artists' work, too: Whenever a Top 40 star starts singing a feel-good hook over a house pulse, they should probably consider cutting this guy a check. Things have certainly changed since those early days and late nights in Ibiza. "I remember going to full-moon parties that were free," he says. "People would take mushrooms and look at the moon and the stars, and you would have thousands of cars in the middle of nowhere. That's how it started." But Guetta isn't complaining: "Is this a huge phenomenon? Yes. Is this a good thing? It's wonderful."


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Based In: Los Angeles
Age: 33

Diplo is a tastemaker's tastemaker – the ultimate sonic curator, gathering cutting-edge sounds from the farthest corners of the galaxy and bringing them straight to your radio. Since getting his start throwing Philadelphia's all-night Hollertronix parties, the DJ (born Wesley Pentz) has made countless major contributions to humanity's supply of cool-sounding stuff – introducing Brazilian baile funk to America, helping discover M.I.A., getting down in Jamaica with Snoop Dogg when the rapper went Rasta and more. Today he's one of the most in-demand producers in the game, furnishing beats for everyone from Lil Wayne to Justin Bieber. "I don't know what I'm doing half the time," he says. "When people come to me, they just want to sound like something from the future."


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Based In: San Francisco
Age: 41

The veteran San Francisco DJ is riding a huge second act with his Deadmau5-ish multimedia blast of a live show that hit America's biggest amphitheaters all summer. Playing his own bass-tilted tracks – and collaborations with buddies like Skrillex – Kaskade represents an intensely positive side of dance-music culture. "People know my lyrics, they know the stuff I've written, and it's all about life, love, happiness and these big euphoric moments," he said. "It would always bug me when I'd go to a club and they're playing some chick on a stripper pole on the monitor behind me. I'm like, 'So that's not what I do, that's the other guy.' "