DJs Reflect on the Possible Airplane Laptop Ban


Last week, news broke that the Department of Homeland Security is moving towards cracking down on portable electronics on flights to the US from Europe. Under the new rules, anything larger than a phone—including laptops, tablets and e-readers—would need to be checked. This would actually be an extension of an existing policy that went into effect earlier this year, targeting ten Muslim majority countries, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Egypt.

Officials from Europe and the United States met in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss this policy, and though it doesn’t sound like the change is imminent, they will meet again in Washington next week. 

We asked a selection of internationally touring DJs what this larger ban would mean both for them and for the larger culture. 



As a traveling DJ, we rely on our laptops to do our work. Nobody wants to check their laptops. Having your belongings in checked luggage is not a foolproof thing. I don’t want my laptop with all my stuff on it to be stolen, or at least have to go through the anxiety of taking a seven-hour overseas transatlantic flight wondering if it’s going to be there when I get it back.

It’s interesting when you think about how DJing itself is a multi-billion dollar industry. And in 2017, the way that everything is readily accessible, even with certain countries having stricter firewalls than others in how they can access pop culture information, there’s this ubiquitous culture across the globe. Things that people are doing in North America and Canada and South America are exponentially more translatable into these other markets. Now people are not going to want to travel, and as a byproduct of that, audiences are not going to have these experiences of having these DJs come and perform.

I could still go to a different country and play my set on USBs and use Rekordbox, but what I do with a laptop and turntables is not what I would do on CDJs with USB sticks. So the question is: Would that be a detriment to me? Because if I am not able to give my 100 percent, would it resonate with people? Would it resonate with the crowd? Would it resonate with people who are the purchasers and promoters? That remains to be seen.


My issue with switching to USBs is I can’t expect state of the art equipment. Touring Europe and North America it’s pretty standard, but I was just down in Colombia playing street parties and Carnival, and I have to be able to work with that. They don’t always have access to that [equipment]. That’s one of the reasons I never stopped using a laptop, it gives me the flexibility to do stuff in communities where they aren’t necessarily these state of the art clubs.

Honestly, the amount of music I bring with me is totally unnecessary. but it’s on a hard drive. Does that mean you can’t bring a portable hard drive on the plane? What’s a computer, you know? But I like to play with certain local references. Like if I’m in Amsterdam, I always play music from Surinam because there’s a big Surinamese community in Holland, which affected bubbling music, which affected the electronic music scene out there so much. So I like to play with these references that they might know but maybe not expect in order to draw lines between other things I’m playing. So right before I go to the club I might spend some time pulling songs I might not have pulled for the previous show. And in that sense, you kind of need the laptop.


Run The Jewels tour DJ, WRTJ on Beats 1 Radio

It’s totally fucked and as a touring DJ who has rampant ADD I really value my flights where I’m forced to sit still. It’s like my most productive time of the year, long flights with a laptop. It’s gonna greatly reduce my productivity. [On a plane] I can’t get up and bother my wife or shoot hoops or otherwise distract myself every four minutes. Honestly, I do most of WRTJ editing on airplanes, in addition to working on beats, making mixtapes and making edits for the live show.

Not to mention the security factor of it. Even when I’m traveling with multiple laptops (and they’re heavy), I never check them because you don’t know if you’re gonna get them back. Hypothetically we could do the show [without traveling with laptops]. I’d have to borrow someone else’s laptop on the other end or I guess we’d have to start backlining MacBooks, but I wouldn’t want to rely on some untrusted MacBook. I travel with at least two MacBooks all the time, one just for the shows and one for just my personal stuff. The one for the shows doesn’t go on the internet at all.

Wiz Khalifa’s tour DJ

It’s super inconvenient for a DJ. It’s super inconvenient for anyone doing business overseas. More specifically, as a DJ, we spend our time on the plane making edits and organizing music, so I do think it sucks. But at the same time, I don’t think I could go off on a rant and say it’s ridiculous because I don’t know what Homeland Security is dealing with at the moment. Is this a Trump exaggeration? Possibly. But just to be fair, if they think this makes the country safer, I can’t be 100 percent against it. Will our equipment be safe? Will it be thrown around or whatever? Yeah that sucks, but at the end of the day, if it’s about security, I can’t 100 percent be mad. I don’t know the intricate details.

It’s about being prepared to lose a laptop. And I’m backing up my laptop as we speak. I think about playing “Fuck Donald Trump” at a club and some Republican could come and pour a drink on my laptop. You have to be prepared for it. We always travel with two laptops ready to go, but is the second one updated? That’s going be a question.



First of all, fuck Trump.

So I went to Bangkok to do a festival, on the way over there I flew Qatar Airlines and flew through Doha and everything was cool. On the way back, I’m checking in and the lady asked me do I have any electronics and I’m like, “I got my laptop and my mixer, but I’m not checking anything.” And the lady was like, “Nah, anything bigger than a tablet you gotta check.” So I had to buy a box in the airport and wrap it up with that plastic and put my laptop in my [checked bag] with my mixer. I went there just for three days!

I freaked out because it’s a 14-hour flight from Qatar to Miami. What the hell am I supposed to be doing? And the people that take these flights are usually business people, they need to work! Right now I’m going back to Malaysia and somebody’s saying they’re banning laptops on Europe flights. I feel like there’s something else going on, like it’s a scare tactic, or it’s about money. Sneaking a bomb on a laptop? That’s crazy. I think it’s Trump flexing and he’s fucking up on everything else, so he’s keeping his core fans pleased by doing stupid shit like banning laptops.

I can [do the set on USB sticks] as long as my cue points load up in Traktor. Anybody with a Traktor Z2, I could do it all. But you show up to the clubs, turntables are becoming rarer and rarer. A club has to have a Z2 and turntables, and I could flex with a USB stick. But I can’t spin with a USB stick because it’s different generations and eras of people that follow me. Sometimes I show up they wanna hear hip hop. Sometimes they wanna hear trap. Sometimes drum & bass. I’m not going to move to CDJs, but for gigs where they don’t give a fuck about turntablism and don’t want to see me flex too much, I wouldn’t mind it. And gigs like pool parties or boat parties where there’s a lot of wind and sun and your records could start warping, I’m more comfortable on turntables, but I can use CDJs.



To me, it’s crippling because I spend my entire flight working. That’s where i get my work done. I’m not a plane sleeper, I’m a plane worker. I drink like a dozen coffees and try to get a week’s worth of work done.

I’ve played around the idea of [using USBs]. Like what if we were able to do all the things we’re able to do on the same playing field as everybody else? Maybe people could quantify it a little bit more. It’s tough for USB dudes to look at what we do and think it’s in the same ballpark—different equipment, different mindset. We’ve talked about dabbling in it and stuff like this would give us a push to try it. But I still can’t rock Rekordbox or Serato or Ableton off my phone.

I never personally tried [using someone else’s gear]. I’ve seen people do it before and it usually runs into technical issues and is a disaster in the end. And also, it’s like wearing someone else’s underwear. It’s my crates or whatever, it’s not the same. You’re gonna get the B set, given how much mental prep I’ve done before. To show up and use someone else’s tools, it’s a problem.


MASS APPEAL also spoke with A-Trak to get further insight into the topic. C

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