Tell us about the first time you were really inspired by music?
I dont really remember exactly. I know as a little kid i would try to sing and imitate the popular artists of the day, and anything my grandfather, mom, or uncle was playing. I had my frank sinatra to michael jackson act down! lol. My mom was always playing her records and listening to the radio, so music was always on. I loved a lot of the Beatles albums she played. Still do, they are sooo incredible and ahead of their time. My mom would sing songs to me, and to this day i remember all the words to those songs. I do remember in 3rd grade i was learning to break dance and thought i could bboy a lil bit. I asked one of the older kids about the music and they showed me which radio show i could tape to get some hip hop songs. I recorded someone's mix show on a weekend (still remember it was on a cassette that i wrote on with a purple crayon, LOL). For whatever reason, the song AJ SCRATCH by Kurtis Blow stood out to me, and i would play it over and over. I remember trying to learn how to do windmills on my grandmothers tile floor, listening to AJ SCRATCH over and over. That was my first real memory of being inspired by music that made me want to do something myself related to that music. Its funny because at the time, i was not thinking about djaying at all, that came after 8th grade, but looking back, AJ SCRATCH is a song about a DJ. its ironic how i liked that song when i was young, and now i DJ and make a living scratching, etc..
I always loved music, and different kinds too. The "freestyle" dance music that was huge in NY in the 80's was cool. I was always a big fan of rock n roll. I soooo wanted to be Ace Frehley, the guitarist from KISS. Still wanna be ACE! Going to see him live at BB Kings in Times Square Oct 25th. i took guitar lessons for a while, but the turntables ended up as my instrument of choice. Once my eyes and ears were opened up to hip hop, i loved RUN DMC, and wanted to be like JMJ. I don't even know why. We would rap the words, but JMJ had turntables!
What do you consider to be your greatest skill?
Hmmm, never really thought about that. Well i guess other people would talk about my dj skills, or my artistic ability, but i dont think that is my greatest skill. I feel that the one thing that allows me to do the variety of things i do, is my organizational skills and work ethic. Now that might sound funny, but without that i would have never ever come close to doing everything i have. I was never signed to any record label, never had management, never signed to an agent personally, and never really had direct consistent help in my music career. By myself, i managed to release and sometimes manufacture dozens of mixtapes from cassettes in the mid 90's to cd's n mp3's, almost 20 vinyl pressings from singles w KRS, Kool G Rap, Ill Bill, OC, Common, to 6 full length solo albums, and several of the top selling battle/scracth sound fx records of all time. While recording my 6 solo albums with over 75 different MCees, i also stayed on tour with Rahzel from 1999 til now. We have done over 1,000 shows in over 40 countries and hundreds of cities on 6 continents. I also did scratches on numerous songs for a bevy of artists, from Masta Ace, Prodigy, Big Daddy Kane, C Rayz Walz, etc... Most artists today struggle to get one or two quality albums done, with the help of a team and a label. Ive done soo much, while not even being in the country for much of the time.
All of this stems from my OCD-like organizational skill and vigorous work ethic. From my first experiences with school and on, i was always taught how to stay organized, juggle multiple tasks, meet deadlines, be responsible, and have the self discipline to police yourself. Going to good schools my whole life, thanks to my parents, helped pave the way for that. My father worked hard as well setting a good example on how to get things done. In working with different artists and being around the music industry you get to see how lazy, unprepared, lacksidaisical, and irresponsible many people can be. This is why soo many people fall off, only do one or two albums, and never improve in their craft or skill. It's sad because the problem is usually yourself. So i pride myself on how much i get done, but also maintaining quality & integrity of the music and artform. I also maintain a family-life and social life. I love to spend time with my family, my wife, my son and our dog, play basketball, watch some games, etc... Jimi Hendrix died at 27 years old and did more in his very short life span than most artists do in long, long careers. If you love what you do, there is no excuse to not try and reach your potential. So my biggest skill set is definitely my extremely organzied approach to things which allows me to accomplish so much.
Name two albums you keep very close to hand. And Why
Not too easy to answer. I have quite a few albums that i keep in my ipod that stay on repeat for a variety of reasons. It usually depends on my mood or where i am. One album that is ALWAYS on me is Public Enemy's "It takes a nation of millions to hold us back." I cant name a favorite album of all time, but that could very well be it. I love that album for a variety of reasons. The music is simply ground-breaking and incredible. I would sit and study the Bomb Squad production all day. Still do. There is soo much going on in those songs. Different drum loops, different drum machines, different breaks n samples, live instruments, soo many cuts n scratches, the interludes, etc... All the music is hard, hyped, and sounds like nothing you've ever listened to. And thats just the music. Then you add Chuck D's voice over it and it becomes the greatest thing ever. Chuck's voice is thee most powerful or one of the most powerful ever in music, period. I love his delivery and approach to rhyming. What he is saying is important and has content. It touches different areas and means something, unlike most of the music we hear being promoted nowadays. Whenever i want to just escape and just remember why i love hip hop and djaying soo much, or i wanna get hyped up before i hit the stage, this is what i would have on. A lot of the times i did something in my career that i was excited about, and then later on, something from this album would get played in my laptop back at the hotel or in my ipod, etc... It's very rewarding for me to sit and listen to that album. Can never get enough of it.
Now it gets more difficult. there is a bunch of different albums that could compete for the # 2 slot. I mainly only use my ipod when i travel. Thats when i listen to music most of the time. I dont count when im djaying, because im not always playing for myself, i am playing specific events or a show, so its different. But when i pick what i want to listen to, its on a plane, train, bus, or in a hotel room, etc.. So i JUST checked itunes to see which songs got the most plays. Actually never did that before, but you gave me an excuse. You would be surprised to find out, the most played songs are.... a combination of tracks from ColdPlay's "Parachutes" & "Rush of Blood to the Head" albums.
It may surprise some, but to me i should have known. I always have their music close by. Although i produce hardcore hiphop music, i am usually listening to something very mellow. Im also a huge Pink Floyd fan. ColdPlay just really works for me. I love the simple mellow melodies. Its not over produced and it is very calming. I have a lot of energy and when i travel im usually disgruntled for some reason. Either the flight is delayed, we got stuck on the runway, traffic was hectic getting to the airport, its connecting flights to somewhere that is 24 hours away, or something else that made me wish i stayed home. So listening to ColdPlay keeps me calm and i really enjoy the music. Everything's Not Lost, Green Eyes, We Never Change, etc, etc.. ColdPlay's "parachutes" n "rush of blood" albums stay on repeat.
The road to musical success is often long and hard. What is one lesson you have learnt along the way that changed the way you saw things?
Oh boy, ive learned several lessons. Never produce or write lyrics for one of the biggest actors/rappers to ever live without a lawyer, because you wont get credit or paid. Learned that lesson the hard way. But out of all the lessons i've learned, perhaps the most important one is something that is a common phrase, something everyone knows, but i guess some of us hoped wasn't 100% true.... and that is, IT's ALL WHO YOU KNOW and nothing else. For years ive heard people say that in every field or line of work. Its such a common cliche' saying, but as you see the way things work in the music business, it really is exactly just that. If i had to break it down in percentages, i would say talent is seriously less than 10%, image and who you know is the other 90%. It's soooo sad. Even the groups that are really good that made it, there was another group just as good, but didnt meet who they met. Plain n simple. Most of the major pop artists that are successful can be traced back to only a handful of music moguls. Ive got to be on television shows because i know someone, and the same shows turned down some of the most popular djays in the world because they didnt know anyone in production. I know producers we all love and respect that have produced music for artists they dislike because a mutual friend begged them to do it. If you dont know the right agents, you are not going to get shows, and damn sure not big shows with other big-named artists. period... that's just how it goes. And agents, promoters, label execs, dont TRULY care about talent like many of them claim. They care about a check, so keeping integrity in the music is not a priority AT ALL. if something will make money, they will book, they will promote it, they will stand behind with a huge smile. There are angry djays who sit in their room doing some of the hardest scratchest known to man, wondering why they are home and Dj "yelling-annoying-radio-personality-guy" is on TV or radio or with a hit record, it's because he knows people you don't know. that's it.
So although it's something i already knew, to have it right in front of me every day really helped validate the truth behind that one simple statement, IT's ALL WHO YOU KNOW... Think of all the artists that would have never even considered rapping, let alone making a career of it, if they didnt know a certain famous rapper already. Would AMIL have been heard by anyone if Jay Z didnt put her on? lol. How bout dem St. Lunatics with Nelly, LMAO. think they would have been on mtv? Do you think OddFutures would be getting on the MTV VMA if they didn't have the right connect. I guess, the main part of what i learned that was soo troubling, was this... most kids would sit around practicing their craft, studying, honing their skills at rhyming, djaying, producing, beatboxing, etc, etc... they spend years n years, decades, perfecting a talent, thinking this is what will get them on. Everyone thinks, how can they deny my skill when they see me. BUT, they do deny you and try to keep you hidden, so people cant compare you to the crap thats visiible, and your skill almost becomes a CON instead of a PRO. In the world we live in, it would have been much much better for someone to spend years and years networking and kissing-up to every person in the industry and faking their skill as much as possibe. It sounds soooo dumb, but that has been the key to success for many many many major artists. Think about these people? Its all who you know... someone to write your lyrics, someone to play stylist and tell you what to wear, someone to choreograph all your dances, someone to produce the music, someone to mix down the music, someone does you artwork, someone directs your video, etc... so what do these artists do? fake it. It's knowing all the people to put these frankenstein artists together. Sooo sad, yet Beyonce n Timberlake are your heroes. what a joke. But, please, dont be fooled, it really is who you know and nothing more...
Who inspires you? (Both in life and in music)
Well as time goes on, im feeling less and less inspired musically. I usually draw all my inspiration from older artists. Since most artists dont make their own albums or even write their own albums anymore, i cant relate, let alone be inspired. So the older artists that i always go back to for inspiration are The Beatles, Floyd, Hendrix, Public Enemy, Organized Konfusion, Ultramagnetic, Black Sabbath, De La Soul, MixMaster Mike, Qbert, Dj Aladdin, Dj Cash Money, and of course KRS, Large Pro & Dj Premier. Musically i am always listening to all those artists and they truly inspire me to wanna work on more music and practice my skill. I have no clue what i would be doing or listening to if it wasnt for those artists. And at different points in my life, different artists or music inspired me for different reasons. I love artists that were ground-breaking and also artists who made timeless music.
In life in general i dont think there is one person in particular who inspires me, but a type of person. I am soo inspired by people who are truly and genuinely happy all the time, regardless of their circumstances. We all know someone like that. You know, most people seem to be just going through the motions in life, and many seem to be miserable. I can understand because life can be tricky. Most things dont go according to plan and things can be difficult. Like John Lennon said, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans..."
So i can see how people get upset or depressed, but then there are those people who just seem to radiate happiness and good vibes. They inspire me. They really do. Its awesome to be around those people and see how they can make others change their mood too. Im the "glass if half empty" kinda guy, so its good to have the optimists around. They do inspire me to look at the brighter side of things and count blessings not count things that went wrong. If i had to pick a person to tie in both music inspiration and life inspiration, especially about being happy, it would be Dj Premier. After knowing him for a long time, i have to say, he is the nicest, coolest, thoughtful, respectful dude i met in the music industry. Such a nice person, and he does not have to be. He is the god of hip hop production to every one around the world. Soo many people who are not half of what he is, act like complete assholes and jackasses. Ive watched Preem do stuff for people that shocked me. I watched him help others in a variety of ways, including myself. He keeps a positive attitude always, and really truly loves hip hop, loves vinyl, and loves taking it upon himself to keep that vibe alive. Ive seen it first hand. It is very very inspirtational, and that's just him as a person, never mind his music. It's possible to achieve your goals in doing what you love and what you set out to do, and be positive and happy while doing it. That inspires me.
Tell us a quirky fact about yourself no one else knows!
Here is a few... i was once on the cover of a bowling magazine. I have terrible allergies and might sneeze 30 times in a row, lol. I once got every question correct on the state standardized tests we have to take here in school, and less than 1% of kids in the nation did that. I hate tomatoes but LOVE tomato sauce & ketchup. I love watching cooking shows and i have a pug that is obsessed with me. oh yeah, i once fell down 19 cement steps.
If you could have two wishes come true what would they be?
Ok, so im assuming since it's a wish, it could be anything? even things that are not possible? So if that were the case, it's easy. I would first wish for my mom to be back here with us. She was the most healthy lady, looked ten years younger than her age, but died from cancer 6 years ago at age 56. Worst thing to ever happen in my life by far, and every day i wish i could see her for even 1 minute again.
Second, i would wish for eternal health n happiness for everyone that i love and care about. (sorry cant wish for EVERYONE cause the world is too crowded already! lol)
But, if i was only limited to wishes that are possible, i would simply wish for everyone to be happy with their lives, and for people to work together around the world towards human causes. Soo many people seem unhappy in the world. Whether it's rightfully so or not, it's terrible that soo many people are not happy. A large part of people's unhappiness comes from the strong urges to want things they cannot get. All the unnecessary stress is sooo unhealthy and who wants to live life being miserable and mad at everything. Soo many people do. I like to joke and appear like that, lol, but i love life. I would certainly wish that others could be happy with their lives. As far as people getting along around the world, one would think that makes sense? Most of the problems in the world could be alleviated or done away with if EVERYONE cooperated together. Religion, and control agendas, really limit the amount of cooperation different people can have and it's awful. It would be sooo nice, to never have to see people killing eachother over land they dont own, over flags that mean nothing, over religious nonsense that is all made up anyways, etc... Imagine if everyone shared, this planet would be even better. And i mean it, i wouldnt just immediately wish that i was rich or something like that. If everyone was happy and everyone was helping each other, being rich would mean sooo much less anyways. After having a child, i rather see people getting along, it only makes for a better future. But i would still give up everything and anything to see my mom.
Before you step on stage for a gig, what do you do to prepare?
Hahahaha, i eat raw eggs and raw meat in a blender like Bruce Lee. lol. Nah, i dont do much of anything to be honest. I love performing, love being on stage, feel very confident, and never really had a pre-stage ritual or anything like that. Sometimes, if i was very very excited about a show i might put on some music that gets me amped up, like Public Enemy, just to be in that mood. But 99% of the time, i dont do anything. When myself and Rahzel are heading to a show, it's either everyone is quiet n just waiting til we hit the stage, or we're joking around, laughing and singing OUR versions of popular songs we dont like. Its usually comedy before the stage.
When im out touring with Dj Muggs n MixMaster Mike, we all like to really attack the turntables and get physical on the decks for real! lol. So we would be siking each other up and yelling silly stuff like "ATTACK!!!!!" as we were going on stage. Sometimes i like getting all pumped up like its a rugby match. I do go right into my body tricks, behind the back, under the leg, scratch with the foot, so it is physical and nice to be amped up. Last tour, Mike n Muggs were screaming "launching missiles!!!!" while i was scratching. got me fired up to scratch faster. lol.
But for the most part, i do nothing to prepare, except maybe check that my peach snapples are in the dressing room! thats IMPORTANT! I can imagine what some other djays most do. 47 different drugs, their hair, glitter on their shirt, prepare their pre-made CD to spin, etc... must be funny.
What do your parents think of what you do? Have you ever taken them along to a gig?
Well hopefully they told me the truth, which i doubt. I had great parents so they supported everything i did, although i know they were probably thinking im completely crazy. I have been djaying and producing in my house since the late 80's when i was 14 years old. My parents probably thought i would have got rid of my turntables in a few months, but saw me fall in love with my tables and stay on them all day n night as i grew up. I would spend countless hours locked in my room, not go out, etc... So they saw this coming. They would see me sit and do graffiti in my blackbooks and playing records constantly, but i was home and doing something creative. A big part of why they were always cool with what i was doing was because i went to good schools and always did VERY well. That was the deal. Do good in school, and i can do as i please, within reason, lol. So after highschool i went on to college, which made them happy. Studied to be a history teacher. But right before i could graduate, i got incredible opportunities to make good $ djaying and jumped on it. My parents HATED that, but learned to deal with it as time went on. They saw me on tours, saw me on MTV a bunch of times, saw me work with Will Smith, saw my records start coming out, saw me on BET, and then saw a few checks from my records. They eventually understood that i was pursuing my dream and actually being succesful at it. So they were cool with what i was doing. They understood that i was getting to see the world and do what i love. I always keep a level head and know this could end tomorrow, and have no problem going back to teach history or any other job. They knew that, and it made them feel better. I guess they were looking out for me, and didnt want me to get set up for a big disappointment if the DJ thing didnt work out. But overall, they have been super-supportive and very helpful.
My parents did get to see my on television, which was way cooler than bringing them to a show. I brought them once to a concert i did at a college/university. It was a big gig for MTV and they got to meet one or two people they heard of. That was cool, but nothing compared to them seeing me on television and getting to call everyone and tell them. They loved that, and it made me feel good.
If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?
I'd like to be remembered for my contributions to the style of djaying and style of hip hop i do and make. Most djays i know set out to be hip hop djays a long time ago. We all loved the same stuff and we were trying to get on as hip hop djays. For whatever reason, most of them did not make it and ended up having to play pop, r&b, dance music, or something other than being a hip hop dj. Ive managed to spin in public for close to 20 years now and never sell myself or the music short. Ive been on MTV several times, and in different countries, I've been on BET several times (even with people like Lil Wayne), Ive been on major morning TV shows, radio shows, large concerts and festivals, huge clubs, corporate events, etc, etc... and never ever did anything i wasn't proud of, didn't like, respect or support, and i can't say that for most other djays. seriously. Myself and Rahzel have done over 1,000 gigs around the world promoting the true artforms of turntablism and beatboxing with two turntables and a mic. The way it's supposed to be. We have shown hundreds of thousands of people in person, how hip hop is done. It's all about the style of what we are doing. There are other people that tour a lot or do gigs, but they are not doing what we do. I know lot of djays who are quick to show up at a Roc Raida tribute but when they go out and DJ, they never tell the crowd about Roc Raida, never cut it up, and play the worst commercial garbage music available. Its sad. So i want to be remembered as the DJ who kept the vibe alive and brought it everywhere he went. I bring the style of djaying i learned from studying the originals and the best, like Jazzy Jay, Theodore, Bambaataa, Cash Money, Aladdin, Jazzy Jeff, MixMaster Mike, etc... I've actually been told by other djays or promoters, "dont scratch too much", "girls dont like scratching", "i dont think this crowd will know those breaks", and a variety of cliche' statements that are not true. I never compromise and i'm always right, the crowd always digs it. In brief, as far as djaying, i always wanted to be remembered for being one of the very few djays to travel the world getting paid, to promote the art of original hip hop djaying, scratching, turntablism, and Rock Steady Crew. I've done all those gigs with Rahzel, plus i've toured with KRS-ONE as his Dj, and i'm also the Dj and member of "The Magnificents" which is myself, Rahzel, and MC Supernatural. So i've basically only worked with people who are #1 in the world at what they do in hip hop.
And all that is only my contributions to djaying live and in person. A huge bulk of my work has come from my releases over the past 15 years. First, i have made some of the most classic mixtapes, from my days with Dj Spinbad to now. We set the bar super high for djays making concept mixes and tracked mixtapes. More work goes into some of our mixes than a lot of artists albums. Mixtapes have been a huge part of hip hop and djaying culture and it's safe to say, ive made some of the most skillful ever compiled. If you wanna let me know your opinion go to www.DJJS1.BLOGSPOT.com and download dozens of them for free. Besides making soo many in depth mixtapes, i've also released several break/sound fx/battle records on vinyl. My Scratch Roulette series is some of the top-selling sound fx records of all time! Once again i made something for djays, and they responded by buying a whole lot of them. In addition to conquering mixtapes, and doing one of the most memorable scratch records, i've also dropped plenty of vinyl 12" singles featuring KRS, Kool G Rap, O.C., Ill Bill, Common, Tonedeff, Immortal Technique, etc... I've released 7 full length albums, 5 solo albums, one instrumental album, and one best-of album. I've always made the DJ and scratching prevalent on every song, and most of the time, it's the focus. Most songs have scratch hooks and dj break downs. I have songs where KRS-ONE is going back n forth with me talking about scratching. I really made a concious effort to do songs like Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money, Dj Aladdin, Dj Premier would do, including all the cuts n scratches. The DJ is absent on soo much mainstream music. I grew up loving songs where the DJ was heard, so i continue to contribute by making music promoting real djaying. I have songs with Large Professor to Royce Da 5'9", all based around the DJ. Most other djays are making typical electro remixes of pop songs in ableton or doing commercial mixtapes, while i'm steady creating songs with legends, promoting our craft. I'm not trying to brag when i name all these things. This is what i have done, and that's my contribution to djaying and hip hop that cant be taken away. I've pulled off quite a bit by myself, and i hope people remember that. Regardless if you like what i did or not, you cant deny that ive put in a lot of work toward our cause.
Having spent so much time on aeroplanes, are you an official member of the mile high club?
Unfortunately i spent WAY too much time playing the bad lottery. Been on planes too much. I dont mind flying, im not scared of it, but now i just hate the whole experience of it. HATE security, i would be the first person to sign up for a NO SECURITY airline. I hate the other people that travel on planes too! lol. soo many idiots at airports and on planes. Anyways... with my millions of frequent flyer miles, i am NOT a member of the mile high club. I am certainly a member of the flying a mile high club. Ive been as high as the plane on some flights, but im not a member of THAT club. For good reason... Have you ever seen a bathroom on a plane? Small, filthy, and there is usually a bunch of people with weak bladders and bad timing lined up outside the door. The last thing i need is to get a disease on my nuts from some weird dude who just used the bathroom before me. Ever see the back bathroom on an 11 hour flight to singapore? REAL sexy... In fact, i think i ONLY used the bathroom on planes maybe 2 or 3 times in my ENTIRE LIFE! seriously... i just did two direct flights to and from hong kong, 16 hours each way and didnt use the bathroom. lol. There's a better shot of me jerking off in the baggage claim than really trying to bone on the plane. im good, i can wait. What we should be asking about is the extra radiation from the sun that penetrates the planes when you fly at high altitudes and how much that increases my chances of dying, considering ive spent thousands of hours getting beamed with that extra radiation. Plus the radiation from the body scanners. I might get cancer flying to Belgium, brlliant. What's the deal with that? That's what i wanna know! Or why can't i bring a snapple through security but you can put ANYTHING in the check-in luggage that goes on the same plane. And why can't Rahzel bring an apple from Sydney to Wellington? Anyways, there is a much much better chance you'll catch me playing sudoku than boning on a plane. When they start paying for private planes in our show contract, get back to me.