We were delighted to sit down with Ilai, ‘Well Kept Secrets’ Spotify Playlist Curator. Born 1998 in Tel-Aviv, Ilai Dgani is a Dj, curator, event planner & promoter, and general manager of Better Off Silent. Growing up in a home that played music constantly, he started playing saxophone & guitar at the age of 10. Ilai has a big passion for Hip-Hop culture as a whole, including its music, fashion, art, etc… and tries to shine light on the overlooked side of it.
Arriving back in Israel, two friends and I formed a collective for DJs where they would put on a lot of live events. We don’t get enough shows here of the artists that I like so I’m just going to try and do them myself. After COVID came along, I tried to figure out different and new ways to do what shows were achieving.
That’s when Better Off Silent came around as a platform to support and try to push forward small, underground artists. It’s been a lot of fun.
I’ve always been around music, played different kinds of instruments & always listened to music. Different stages of growing up I associate with different genres of music – Younger: Rock ‘n’ Roll to more Electronic music.
I lived in Switzerland for a few years and went to high school there. My two best friends were really excited about some artist called J. Cole at the time. I wasn’t too aware of him at the time. This was in 2014, they told me I had to come with them to the concert, it was a super intimate venue with only a couple hundred people. After the concert itself, the energy was absolutely crazy and I fell in love with it instantly.
I started listening to similar artists after that and about a year later, I moved back here (Israel). I’ve got friends that are local DJs, they were more into old school vinyl hip-hop, very early golden-era hip hop and it made me realise how many different vibes and samples there are in music I started exploring more and more and as time went by, it became this sort of competition to see who could find the most ‘secret’ songs or the best artists, old or new. It became the way I listened to music.
90% of the music is actually music that I don’t know, I enjoy listening to new music more than I enjoy listening to music that I know. It’s opened me up to so many levels of hip hop as music and as a culture. These beginnings formed the way the ‘Best Kept Secrets’ playlist works, digging up underground and unsigned gems.
Top artist: Clairmont The Second. He’s from Toronto, he’s 22 and the first article I’d ever written was about him because I was so fascinated to get to know his story and background. He’s a self-producer, directs his own music videos, creates his own graphics for album covers, his style puts together all of my favourite sub-genres with electronic influences, g-funk, and west coast rap, southern rap. His writing sound is very diverse, you can never get bored from his music, it’s constantly developing and changing. I don’t even know how he seems to do that. It’s only a matter of time until he blows up.
I like so many types of hip hop that my favourites can change with my mood.
My favourite playlist to listen to at the moment is ‘Fresh Thirty’, curated by Juicebox Collective. It’s got several hundred listeners and is updated weekly with awesome music from all ranges of genres. I found myself discovering artists there all the time and they’re very nice people! The graphics are really cool too.
We have built our audience and listeners so far investing all we can in marketing and promoting the playlist. The organic exposure through sharers and collaborations between us and the artists on the playlist. I do want it to be a community and a home for upcoming artists from all over to send their music to. The only conditions from submissions are that people are nice and that the music is good. If they’re there, we’re more than happy to share.
I work hardest on creating organic connections and reach. Making sure that the artists that they work with understand that it’s a lot harder to grow on your own than it is to have a team behind you. Every artist we’ve been in touch with so far, we can see that they’ve grown, seeing that it’s actually effective makes us all very happy.
Be nice to everyone. Be kind, believe in yourself, and work hard. Every single person you can work with or collaborate with, you should at least go for it or give it a try. I think there are opportunities out there all the time and what makes someone succeed eventually is somebody who tries these opportunities and figure out what is right for them. A lot of it is about respect for each other and trying to work together and support others.
There are quite a few things that we are planning, we want to expand what we’re working on across new platforms and create a presence there (Youtube, Apple Music). Everything that has to do with fashion, that’s another thing we’ve been working on to see how best we can fit that into our brand as my other passion apart from music is fashion which is also a huge part of hip hop culture. A lot of artists struggle with the production of merch so that’s something that we could be involved in and now that live events are back, we’re looking forward to starting planning those again. I can’t reveal too much about that, it’s a secret for now!
Checkout the ‘Well Kept Secrets’ Playlist here!
We hope you enjoyed reading more about Ilai and his background. Keep your eyes peeled for more interviews with other Curators coming soon!
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