Kerwin Frost Radio is the eclectic listen we need right now

The DJ, designer and comedian's new Apple Music show features everyone from Virgil Abloh to the voice of the Crypt Keeper.

by Wilbert L. Cooper
01 May 2020, 3:12pm

Images courtesy of Kerwin Frost

Last Sunday, Renaissance man Kerwin Frost dropped the first episode of his new show with Apple Music, Kerwin Frost Radio. Over nearly two hours, Frost presents a music mix that is jam packed with epic and unexpected drops and a song selection that leaps through genres, eras, and sensibilities. Frost culls hilarious shoutouts from pop culture icons like Crypt Keeper voice-actor John Kassir to fashion royalty like Virgil Abloh to music legends like Ice T. And the wide net he casts in his banger selection stretches from the underground sounds of La Chat’s classic Memphis gangsta rap to the British indie pop of Kero Kero Bonito.

For anyone else, this hodge podge of ideas and sounds would be a trainwreck. But in the hands of the show’s namesake, it works perfectly and represents why the 24-year-old has become so vital in fashion, music, and culture at large.

Although Frost has been described as an influencer, he’s much more of a creator, constantly putting his eclectic and humorous sensibility on everything he touches. Growing up in Harlem, he developed his eccentric style through thrifting, which began as a necessity and evolved into a passion. And he explored new and diverse music on the internet as a way to help escape some of the chaos of his home-life. His love for clothes and music collided after he dropped out of high school and started hanging Downtown in SoHo with friends like Mike the Ruler, Austin Babbitt, and Luka Sabbat.

In 2013, alongside Ray Martinez, Frost launched the Spaghetti Boys, an influential artist collective that DJed parties, dropped mixes, and designed irreverent streetwear worn by stars like Playboi Carti. Since the Spaghetti Boys ended operations, Frost has been busy hosting his YouTube show Kerwin Frost Talks, which features long oral-history style interviews with his famous friends like A$AP Rocky and Tyler the Creator. And most recently, he announced his partnership with adidas to create clothing, sneakers, and ad campaigns for the brand. The rollout for the collaboration involved a typically inventive range of outrageous images featuring Frost dressed as a Yeti, a hunchback, and a space alien.

While Frost had been in talks with Apple Music for some time about doing a radio show, Kerwin Frost Radio was definitely a product of the coronavirus crisis that has swept the country. He spent the past month in lockdown, ironing out the mix and collecting the drops and cameos. The aural world Frost has managed to create with the show is fun, funny, and exuberant—a perfect escape for those of us who’ve been stuck in our apartments for who knows how long.

To get more insight on Frost’s craft as a DJ and the show’s development, we had a quarantine chat with him over the phone. Here’s what he had to say.

When did you first become aware of the power of DJing?
It was 2010 or 2011, when I was living in Harlem. I had such a shitty home situation, I would just be glued to my computer, looking for new music that would take me to another world. First I discovered genres like bossa nova or just really deep cuts. Then I came across mash-up DJs like Girl Talk. I thought they were crazy because they mixed everything together. They were super technical with the way they DJed, but they were also very creative.

How’d you start DJing yourself?
I dropped out of high school and started working at this art gallery. I would just play music on this Dell computer on VirtualDJ. That’s when I realized that DJing was sick and I wanted to learn more. It became a safe haven. At first I made a lot of mistakes. But those mistakes became my favorite things about how I DJ. I tried to sit with some OGs and get tips, but their tips were always the things that I never wanted to do—like try to match BPMs, or keep everything in the same genre... Instead, I like to take people on a ride.

You definitely do that on your first Apple Music show. How is making something like this different than rocking a crowd?
I stepped away from DJing parties in August. I needed to take a break, because I wasn’t able to play music the way I wanted to. I couldn’t put things together the way I can curate them with this new show. When I would DJ live, everyone just wanted to hear the same stuff. It became too much like Groundhog Day. I needed to move on to this before I could come back to that.

The drops in this mix are so diverse and fun—from Lil Yachty and Sheck Wes to Mac DeMarco and Yung Lean. How did you approach that aspect of the mix?
They’re a call back to the way we all grew up, listening to radio stations filled with drops. I wanted to exaggerate that with the weirdest people. So many of my peers take DJing too seriously. I just wanted to make people laugh and have fun. When they listen to it, I want them to be in my world and feel like I’m in the room with them.

Musically, the show is eclectic as hell. In the same mix, we hear rap-metal from Ice T’s Body Count, space-age trap from Lil Uzi Vert, and indie pop from The xx.
That’s how we grew up. On the radio, you could hear John Mayer next to like Lil Jon—all these different genres colliding. We’re the last generation who saw music videos on TV. Because of MTV, people in the hood knew about Fall Out Boy! That was just what it was. Unfortunately, when people start DJing, there is like an unspoken rule that you have to pick one lane and stay in it. But I like to do what feels right and not think about things too much.

What was your process for making this mix?
I recorded it on my Pioneer XDJ-RX2 controller, which I got a long time ago. I do it mostly freeform. But if there is anything I want to add in post, I’ll edit it in with GarageBand. When I get more music, I go back to the Pioneer and re-record it in a fresh take. It’s a pretty hectic process. [ Laughs] But I try to treat it like an album. When I listen to the episode now, it sounds like I passed away and everyone came to do it in my memory… All the shout outs and self propaganda feel like a memorial. And that’s exactly what I wanted—something kind of timeless.

I know you made this mix in lockdown. How has the coronavirus crisis impacted you?
There is a balance to it. You still have to live like a real human. I realized I was just wearing the same clothes for like six days. I was like, Yo, what am I doing?! You have to get up in the morning, workout, and get ready—treat it like it’s a normal day even though it isn’t... I know we’re never going to forget this time. With this mix, I just hope to show people we can still have fun during this thing. I hope this makes some kid in middle America super happy.

Are you looking forward to rocking an actual crowd again?
Bro, I’m just looking forward to taking a walk outside. [ Laughs]

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Kerwin Frost​