Between a Hobby and a Straight Jacket: The fall and rise of Philly’s DJ Sega
When compared to its New Jersey and Baltimore counterparts, Philly club music perfectly exemplifies the quintessential Philly attitude – hard, unique and really really fast.
Robert Taylor Jr. – better known by his stage name DJ Sega – is one of the greats who helped to shape the Philly club sound in the 21st century. He has been spinning in Philly since 2004 at Jamz Entertainment Center, now Rolling Thunder Skating Center. Before meeting the resident DJ Dee Square, he frequented the teen nightclub.
In 2006, DJ Sega secured a slot at the venue by hitting up Dee Square. “After introducing myself, I explained a few things to him and gave him a couple CDs of my music,” says DJ Sega. “He called me the next day, we met at my house. Couple days later, I recorded my first club music mixtape at DJ Touchtone’s house after Dee Square recorded one.”
Not long after, DJ Sega was spinning regularly at Jamz. Here, he got to perform alongside Philly Club legends such as DJ Tameli and DJ Tim Dolla.
DJ Sega recognizes Philly teen nightlife scene as “legendary.” Coming of age in the same place that gave him his start causes Jamz to have a special place in his heart.
“It was awesome!” Sega enthuses. “Spinning in front of 1,500 kids every weekend who enjoyed the same music I enjoyed was pretty incredible. Not to mention, this is one of the parties I grew up in.”
The death of his grandmother catapulted DJ Sega into producing – the only emotional outlet he now had was his music. He had just recieved a pre-released beta version of some music production software in return for filling out a survey.
“That summer I proclaimed that my senior year was going to determine a lot about who I am and what I’m going to be,” remembers Sega. “Quite a bit happened that entire year, but to keep focus, I knew I needed to start balancing my goals, and watching out for my family. I made club music for myself as an outlet to personal struggles – think of me producing at that time as a mix between a hobby and a straight jacket.”
Producing started off as a form of therapy for DJ Sega, which then turned into a hobby, and quickly became a career. Less than two years into his residency at Jamz, DJ Sega was signed to Mad Decent. And although he was getting more recognition for his music and was on the road to stardom, DJ Sega did not take inventory of just how many people were into the music that he was creating.
“At the time, I’d walk around with headphones, blasting this music in my ears,” he says. “While I’m on the train, someone might be a bit curious about my music enough to react. Quite a few times, a group of girls would lean in and try to listen to what I’m listening to.”
His music played a major and significant role in shaping the Philly Club sound. While the speed of Baltimore Club rests at 125 to 128 BPM, and Jersey at 135 to 140 BPM, Philly Club’s fast and aggressive style sets the east coast bar at 140 to155 BPM.
“I just did what I wanted. I took the rules of Baltimore, and the boldness of the classic Jersey club music, and I gave it all of my personality,” he says. “Aspects about me fall into my music depending on what I’m feeling, what I’m sampling, and how I want to execute it.”
DJ Sega also draws much of his influence from various forms of music such as funk, soul, rock and gospel as well as the urban landscape of Philly. One can say that his music is a product of his environment.
“Philadelphia has a strong sense of not just one culture, but a collective of cultures, which as a result may give off a sense of family that I think may show through my music also,” says DJ Sega. “Philadelphia is a city with a lot of hidden history, cultures, underdogs, and untold stories. All of this has a strong impact on my art and I.”
DJ Sega signed to Mad Decent in Fall of 2007 after meeting Dirty South Joe in the now-defunct Armands Records. Dirty South Joe introduced him to Diplo. After reeling in Diplo with his rock-influenced mixes, Sega released a few new tracks and officially became a member of Mad Decent. Shortly after, he was touring the globe and putting Philly Club on the map.
“It was great! I was given access to the world,” he recalls. “I represented the hell out of Mad Decent; just as much as I represent Brick Bandits. Wherever we went, we took over.”
DJ Sega’s Mad Decent contract ended in 2011, thouh he continues to make music in Philadelphia and tour around the globe. Although he was jet-setting the world and making an even bigger name for himself, his home life was unraveling. Ever since his grandmother died at the start of his career, his family home slowly but progressively fell into disrepair. So much so that he felt compelled to create a Gofundme page to help support his family.
After returning from a tour in Australia, DJ Sega came home to news that a pipe in his kitchen sink exploded, in the dead of winter. The home only had two working outlets, one of which was in the kitchen that had a pipe spurting water for nearly 24 hours. That created a major hazard for the house that was already having electrical issues.
“My family could’ve died within that time,” says DJ Sega. “When I found this out, I said ‘Enough’s enough.’ I called License and Inspections, the lady came over and said ‘This is the worst house I’ve ever seen. You have 48 hours to move out; this place is unlivable.’”
In response to the Gofundme page, many of DJ Sega’s supporters took to social media to ask “Where was Diplo while all of this was happening?” This question sparked an unfortunate beef between Diplo and Sega.
After DJ Sega and his family temporarily moved into a hotel and raised $5,000 over his asking price of $1,500 on gofundme, DJ Sega took to social media to post videos and memes mocking Diplo.
“The most difficult part of my career was realizing there was absolutely no right choice for responding or not responding to Diplo,” said Sega. “If I responded to him with half the emotion I should’ve had going through all of this, then I would’ve been the stereotyped, ‘Bitter, angry, black man’. I was called that anyway, even though I wasn’t angry at all.
“If I didn’t respond,” Sega continued, “then I would’ve been just as much of a slave to Diplo as anybody else that works under him and who is scared of him. The most difficult, trying part of my career was responding to Diplo with a bit of grace and a little bit of faith, and seeing that NONE of that mattered anyway.”
Today, the man who could be considered an underdog is back on top and unbothered. Since the beef, DJ Sega has continued to tour the globe and had found housing for his family. His fan base has never been more strong and supportive. Their love of his art served as a form of validation for his work.
Currently DJ Sega has a monthly residency at Silk City with Love City DJs. He is also gearing up for a coast-to-coast tour that will be taking place in June and July. In the meantime, fans can prepare to take a trip down memory lane with Uno, DJ Sega’s first ever mixtape, which is celebrating its ten yean anniversary. Uno is the first of consecutive mixtapes re-releases that DJ Sega will be sharing with the public.
Still, he believes that the most rewarding part of his career is the outpouring of love and support he gets from his friends and family across the world.
“There’s nothing like receiving love from the people who listen to your music,” says DJ Sega. “Because, the people who listen to my music, have an inside feel into what would be a diary.”
DJ Sega’s next Tasticakes party at Silk City with Love City DJs takes place on Thursday, May 26th. More information can be found here.