What is there to say about masked DJs? In 2019, donning a mask behind the decks is ripe for parody. It’s a tired trick for attention, a yawn-worthy excuse to say you “just want the music to speak for itself” while parading around as a an energetic, living cartoon that does anything but.

It’s easy to think that way when a new masked DJ pops up every other month, but while compiling this list, we found many of the most popular examples have given their masks a lot of thought, love and attention. The masks tell a story about who they are, where they come from and what their music is trying to share. Sometimes, the mask is a means to preserve one’s privacy, shielding an artist’s true self from the harsh lights of fame. Other times, it’s a chance to be someone else — someone stronger and more courageous. And hey, sometimes it’s a gimmick, but it’s fun.

DJs sporting masks is a relatively new phenomenon, reaching back about 20 years — but whether you like it or not, it’s a trope that’s here to stay. You might as well get the back story.