Wound Up

former local DJ Unwind getting big in Minneapolis

Chris Henson

MUST BE PRETTY BRIGHT IN THE STUDIO. Brad “D.J. Unwind” LaBarbera, shown here about to lay down some super hot tracks, has been collaborating with bigger and bigger artists.

In a town known for jazz, maybe it’s not so surprising that an artist is starting to make a name for himself in what some think of as acid jazz. For Eau Claire native Brad “D.J. Unwind” LaBarbera, it’s no surprise at all because it is the result of years of hard work.

LaBarbera’s career has unwound slowly. He has been a vinyl-hound from an early age and began participating in D.J. battles when he was 16 years old. Despite this early start, it wasn’t until after his junior year studying social work at St. Cloud State that he decided to try to make a living by producing beats. Making a living in the creative fields is an uphill battle for everyone, but Unwind says in hip-hop, his “small-town” roots can make that hill steeper.

“When you tell someone that your from Eau Claire,” Unwind said, “and they’re from Los Angeles, they’re like ‘Where? Wisconsin, oh interesting.’ And then you can tell from the tone of their voice – and this has happened a million times – they’re thinking ‘I can’t wait to hear this.’ ”

LaBarbera said he doesn’t mind because they are usually blown away. Now, D.J. Unwind is a rising Minneapolis-based producer who’s known for a laid-back style. Though rooted in the art of DJing and hip-hop, he has converted from vinyl sampling to playing 90 percent of his backing tracks in the past few years.

By self-teaching himself the piano and combing that with electronics, he opened the door to a changing cast of instrumentation to paint smooth soundscapes. The result: backdrops that are sweet enough to sing over, but beat-centric enough to spit a lyric or two over. Some place his musical style in sub-genres such as trip-hop or acid jazz and influences of r&b and soul percolate throughout his beats.

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