"Say go DJ, cause that's my DJ
Say go DJ, cause that's my DJ
Say go DJ, cause that's my DJ"
Quick, name that tune! Aight I'm pretty sure anyone with half an ear who has been listening to hip-hop the past decade knows that this is the hook from Lil' Wayne's "Go DJ" off of the Carter, the album that catapaulted him to stardom. Though in the song, there was no actual DJ, this song echoes the common idea that the DJ has always been important when it comes to rap music.
Back in the day it was Robb Base and DJ EZ Rock, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Kid Capri, Tony Touch, Mr. Cee, Funkmaster Flex, and of course DJ Clue all were some of the important and notable DJ's in the early 90's who helped hip-hop become the monster that it is today. This is not to disrespect any earlier DJ's I ain't that old lol.
Now being a DJ used to be some exclusive shit. Everyone didn't do it nor call themselves a DJ. You had to be able to mix and battle against other people just like in rap. Then the mixtape scene really started to pop off as technology allowed things to spread and people were able to get more access. Down in Baltimore, now that people didn't have to call a cousin from NY or travel up there to get some new music. Clue is the guy who basically took the mixtape nationwide at that point, however looking back, there wasn't any mixing on it. It was just a dude with a bunch of unreleased joints and some freestyles, it was hot for sure but not mixing.
(listen to this Canibus freestyle from CLue in 1997, you don't hear rap like this on tapes anymore)
In doing what he did, Clue changed the DJ's job and what people thought a DJ was supposed to do. Now DJ's were even more important as the guys who could break you by putting you next to the hottest artists of the day. If a guy was on a Clue tape, you had to respect him. Things have changed, and I'm going to say the guy who "DJ'ed" and got me to really stop liking mixtapes was KaySlay.
Not to say that Slay had bad tapes, but his were the first that to me were questionable, and after him the market began to get flooded with a bunch of crap. Guys who were unsigned yet had an entire mixtape. That's not a mixtape, that's a bootleg album and most of it is garbage. The ease of making these became so much that now the market is ultra-saturated with random "albums" by unknowns and they all sound the same. But back to Slay, the second thing about him that bothered me was his personality. While Clue just dropped you occasional overdubs so no one could steal his exclusives, Kay Slay started the tradition of just straight blabbering all over the hot songs. "Mr. Slap ya Favorite DJ" aka "The Drama King" also tried to incite the hood by making beef records his niche. For a minute it worked then he started throwing every random lame diss out there, and of course the copycats followed making it even worse.
Marketing-wise, Slay was probably one of the first who understood how to market himself really well and what kind of positions were possible to put himself in. All of that is great for Dj's in general. I'm the type of person who thinks that it also influences a lot of young dudes who are great marketers to actually call themselves "DJ's" in order to market their beatmaking or A&R services instead of actual DJ ability. I'm all for making yourself more well-known and profiting from your skills but you have to also have the passion for DJ'ing as an art and be able to understand the business. To me it is disrespectful to those who really love it to just jump out there and position yourself as a DJ because you think it's the quickest path to a label job.
In this area, I have to say DJ Quiksilva who is on WKYS 93.9 in DC is one of the best who have done it in the area. Quik did every prom in Baltimore just about from like 1997-2002 and still DJ's in his current job, normally putting out a hot mix. On the other station, you have my man DJ Reddz (both of whom graduated from the same high school as me) who does his thing alongside Big Tigger on WPGC.
You see, (this is a long ass blog), DJ's can be the door to success for any artist. Today, these are the only guys you van go through to try and get your song on the radio most times even though it may be only in a mix a couple of times a week. What I learned is that these guys now abuse the power they know that they have and try to force artists into one sided management and/or production deals so they can start the "raping" of an artist early. It's crazy because I know they get a lot of material handed to them everyday but it's obvious that a lot of them are giving up that payola play. (how else can you explain OJ da Juiceman?) I don't like to seem like I'm always complaining but where are the DJ's who stand up and are willing to play some real music so that people can hear something new and good?
To all of the DJ's, you guys are too important in hip-hop to just ignore you and the god and bad you can bring to the game. Keep it real and be a gateway, and not an obstacle.