Encyclopedia Of Detroit

May, Derrick

One of Detroit's “Belleville Three” collective of electronic music pioneers, Derrick May gave techno a wider creative berth with his range of influences and a global platform with his early tours to Europe. Born in Detroit in 1963, May was raised mostly by his mother. At the age of 13, along with compatriot Kevin Saunderson, May learned about DJing from Juan Atkins at Belleville High School. They would trade mixtapes, and May absorbed the sounds of influences like Parliament-Funkadelic, Kraftwerk, Gary Numan and others. In the early 1980s, the trio of May, Saunderson and Atkins began spreading their sound by crafting mixes for Detroit DJ The Electrifying Mojo, and through their collective Deep Space Soundworks.

May’s mother had moved to Chicago while he was still in high school, and during his visits, he absorbed the city’s burgeoning house music scene, which he would incorporate into his style. The Chicago music atmosphere also inspired the trio’s desire for a like-minded club in Detroit, inspiring them to open the Music Institute, which drew talent of the local underground music scene.

May released Let's Go in 1986 on Atkins' Metroplex Records before starting his own label, Transmat. It was there that May adopted the stage name “Rhythim Is Rhythim” and produced some of his best-known work, including Nude Photo, Freestyle, Kaos, and Strings of Life - the latter of which became a huge hit in Great Britain and allowed May to lead the Detroit charge overseas.

Over the years May has taken long breaks from recording and had mostly quit making music by 1991, but has continued to regularly perform live and guide Transmat's evolution into one of electronic music's most potent and reliable imprints, releasing projects by Atkins, Carl Craig, Stacey Pullen and Kenny Larkin, among others. May also spent two years directing the electronic music festival, Movement, and remains closely aligned with the event.



Handbill featuring Derrick May, 2006 - 2006.044.016

Handbill featuring Derrick May, 2005 - 2006.044.023c

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