By Ella Nilsen
I discovered Kap Slap a few months ago, during a routine homework avoidance session on HypeMachine.com. Scrolling through the site’s Popular Songs, I found “Guetta’s Calling Solveig Up,” a track climbing the charts and boasting a mash-up of song’s including Martin Solveig’s “Hello” and “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People. I clicked play and instantly knew I had found something great. It may have been that first listen, it may have been the weeks that followed blasting Kap Slap songs across campus in the car, or it may have been when I dislocated my knee at a party dancing to “E.T. Feels Starry Eyed” (a completely true, if slightly embarrassing story bringing new dimension to the name ‘Kap Slap,’), but I knew there was more to this than just dance music.
The nature of mash-ups is a completely ADD art form. There are so many samples packed into one track, making most mash-ups defy description. So let me put it simply. If Girl Talk is ADD, then Kap Slap is ADHD. He amplifies the mash-up genre, making highly volatile dance songs that are primed to explode on impact. Born and raised at college frat parties, Kap Slap songs have been bred for one purpose: to get you out of your seat and dancing.
Wild drunken dancing was exactly what was happening at Boston College’s Homecoming Dance event that Kap Slap, real name Jared Lucas, DJayed. Thousands of BC students were packed into a large ballroom in the downtown Sheraton. Boys wearing suits and ties were grinding on girls squeezed into tight cocktail dresses. Their six-inch heels long since discarded, the girls waved their arms in the air, screaming and grasping for Lucas, who was jumping around uncontrollably onstage.
He has a lot to be happy about. Having recently released the three-song Kaskade Found Love EP, which was met with rave reviews on major music blogs, he also got a surprise shout-out from a new fan, none other than Ellie Goulding, who praised his song “E.T. Feel Starry Eyed” on her Facebook page. When I talk to him, he’s still getting over his surprise.
“Oh my god, that was nuts! I had no idea that would happen,” he laughs.
Tonight he’s at Boston College, and tomorrow he’s en route to Duke. Then it’s back to Lehigh University to resume a normal life of homework, projects, and partying.
Lucas’ career as Kap Slap began just two years ago, during his sophomore year of college. Always musically inclined, Lucas played guitar, drums, and bass in high school and listened to a lot of rock, “very typical influences like Red Hot Chili Peppers and all that stuff, but also progressive rock, like Dream Theater… I used to listen to that a lot in high school.”
He was inspired to try making mash-ups after hearing artists like Super Mash Bros. “I figured, ‘I might as well try this out,’” he said. “I just started playing around on GarageBand, and things led to things.”
Two years later, his songs have garnered him a loyal and growing college fan base. With nearly 18,000 fans on Facebook, weekends full of booked shows at frat parties and other events across the nation, Lucas is the perfect example of the modern self-made artist. Turning social media and blogs to his advantage, Lucas is emphatic in his belief that times have never been better for artists like him.
“The music industry’s changed so much,” he says. “Now, literally anybody can go out and get a laptop, get a program, and start making music. It’s great for us right now, and it’s only growing from here.”
Lucas’ own subset within the mash-up genre is specifically dance music. “My niche was to get music for frats and college kids to party to,” he says. “You can play the song, and nobody’s going to change it, because it’s awesome. A lot of older stuff wouldn’t last at the party scene.”
Crossing today’s best electronic dance music tracks with pop songs from Top 40 radio, Lucas’ mash-up are popular because they give college kids everything in one song. It’s a genius pairing and the reason that 2000 kids came to dance before him, screaming their heads off as he seamlessly switched off between tracks.
Blogs and social media are undoubtedly changing the direction of the music industry. Lucas got his start by sending his first track, “Snap It Up,” to dozens of music blogs, including the popular website FratMusic.com. The song climbed so high on the site’s charts that Lucas was soon contacted by FratMusic’s owner and asked to have the song featured. “After that,” he says, “I became more of a household name.”
Blogs are no longer small operations run by the average music nerd. They are the free, online, popular alternatives to magazines such as Rolling Stone and Spin. You no longer need to be an accredited critic attached to a publication to have your voice heard. Not only do blogs critique music, they have also become a critical component in unearthing artists and giving them life.
At the forefront of the changes is the website HypeMachine.com, which compiles articles and songs from thousands of music blogs and ranks songs according to their buzz on the web. It’s yet another way of finding out what’s popular now. A direct benefactor of the HypeMachine, Lucas has been featured at the top of its list multiple times.
“Music blogs are absolutely essential,” Lucas says. “Nobody would have found out about me if it wasn’t for music blogs, because you have to start somewhere. Especially because as a mash-up artist, you can’t sell your songs because you’re just doing reworks and remixes, you’re not doing originals. It’s really got to be word of mouth, play it at parties, stuff like that. People find out about it and dig deeper.”
Even though Lucas’ notoriety and presence in the EDM genre is growing, he is an incredibly affable and down-to-earth guy. Originally hailing from Lexington, Massachusetts, he is currently a senior at Lehigh University. Tall and gangly, he wears jeans and a pinny emblazoned with “Kap Slap” in gold lettering. Knowing he is about to go out and play for 2000 fans doesn’t faze him; it’s routine. However, it’s clear that the fame hasn’t gone to his head.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” he says. “I still feel like a regular college kid.”
He still deals with the demands of a regular college kid too. Currently enrolled in a 5 year Honors Integrated Business program at his university, Lucas says that balancing school with show dates is not easy.
“Life is very surreal,” he says. “I wish I could tell you that there’s a certain formula or method that I’m doing, but I’m just trying to stay afloat right now. I’m functioning at a very high rate of,” he trails off, “…oh God, I don’t know.”