If New York Is ‘The Place Where Stars Are Born,’ Then Consider Pop Artist Renita Cotton Reborn

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

BROOKLYN — It’s one thing for an artist to have work ethic, but when you couple that with an “It” factor, that artist is destined for greatness.

Pop singer and songwriter, Renita Cotton, has both the work ethic and the God-given talent to take her career to great heights, and she’s already off to an impressive start.

Her singing career might have only started a little over a year ago, but there’s something about her stage presence, confidence and pizzazz that leads me to believe she might have told a ‘little white lie’ when I asked her how long she’s been pursuing a singing and songwriting career professionally, in which she responded so modestly, “So, I’d say, professionally, probably about a year and a half I started doing some background work for people.”

I interviewed the young entertainer this past spring, and after spending some time with her on that beautiful day in Brooklyn, I now understand why she’s climbing up the ladder so quickly.

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Renita has that trait most people would kill to have.  Her mix between discipline and the assurance that she has in her ability is immediately evident when you interact with her.

Renita was the perfect featured talent for an interview that was set in one of the busiest and most attractive sites in Brooklyn, NY; Brooklyn Bridge Park.

She came prepared with her exuberance and her stylist, showing me just how seriously she takes the idea of being a walking brand.

She’s a young New Yorker who has figured it out, so to speak, making “the city that never sleeps” work in her favor.  As many of you already know, New York is the place for stars to form and chase their dreams and aspirations from the ground up.  If it wasn’t, then I most certainly wouldn’t be here myself.

Renita’s ability to not only write her own music, but to also do a masterful job of performing it in front of audiences of all sizes, is proof that she’s built for this. And if she ever slips up and let’s that left arm hang too much while on that stage, I’m sure her mother will correct her, maybe saying something like “You know you have that one arm that’s a little dead there.” A comment that Renita would likely respond to by saying, “Well, haha. Thanks mom,” with a slight bit of innocent sarcasm.

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Renita understands the concept of “journey,” but that hasn’t stopped her from carrying herself as if she’s already reached her destination.

It might be hard for some of us to admit it at times, but I think it’s safe to say that in whatever we do, we have to have at least a small chip on our shoulder. That way we’re able to keep our eyes on the prize, understanding that mediocrity is never an option.

Renita’s coming off of a few very successful performances — performances that brought more music lovers along for her journey as an artist with two sides to the story; singing and songwriting.

In hip-hop, there’s a much bigger focus placed on writing your own lyrics, despite the 2015 “beef” between rap stars Drake and Meek Mill, a beef that started over Meek’s disbelief that Drake authors his own lyrics. However, it’s not really considered a big deal if singers elect not to write their own music.

Even the great Beyoncé has ghost writers.  That being said, it’s very rare and absorbing when we come across a Pop artist who is able to both write and perform their own music while also exemplifying a strong stage presence.

That description has Renita written all over it, and her journey has now been added to the Intern Media wall — a wall that includes many other journeys, even some that are still being written.

Checkout my interview with Renita and support her journey as an independent artist in the beloved Big Apple.

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Renita,

It was great hearing your story and being able to share it with my audience.  You have a lot of talent and you’re just at the beginning of your career, but more importantly you have great character.  That’s why there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll do great musically and that you’ll inspire tons of people along the way.  Stay true to yourself and continue to walk around with that exuberance and confidence that you so greatly possess.  I know we joked about the day when reporters will be knocking on your door begging for an interview, but just remember that every joke has a little bit of truth to it! Welcome to the Intern Media family Renita!

Karl Nelson II, Founder of Intern Media

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What yaw know about building something from the ‘Ground Up?’

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

During Intern Media Week, you all were exposed to some groundbreaking individuals with quite the level of creativity. That said, it’s only right that my next story highlights a hip-hop group that knows all about both being groundbreaking and creating groundbreaking material.

This particular group of young and talented artists represents what it means to start from ‘the ground up.’

That group is none other than the Ground Up, a hip-hop group that originated in Philadelphia, consisting of two MC’s and a DJ.

I saw them perform up close and personal at their album release party last year and it was beyond an evening well spent. Up until that point, I had only heard a small catalog of their music.

Malakai, one of the MC's part of Ground Up, performing in front of fans at one of their shows.
Malakai, one of the MC’s part of Ground Up, performing in front of fans at one of their shows.

Maybe like most people seem to do, I got caught up in the mainstream world of music, not giving much time to the passionate music on the rise, a sound that’s usually at its most precious stage because it’s only influenced by raw passion for the art.

Well, that night I witnessed years of hard work and dedication blossom right there on that stage at the 8×10 in Downtown Baltimore. Here was a group that likely faced all kinds of adversity early on.

Adversities like having to build a following one performance at a time, attaining the proper resources to put their material out to the public, having to also constantly reinvent themselves to create a lane of their own.

Ground Up has overcome all of these adversities, given where they are today. This is a group that at one point was nothing more than a brilliant best-kept secret, that is before they stepped out there in front of people and showcased their talents as artists in this game.

Ground Up recently tore up the stage at the annual Made In America Festival in Philadelphia, a festival that legendary hip-hop mogul Jay Z developed in recent years.

If you’re not careful, you might be so taken back by the heights that Ground Up has reached to the point where you might become more fixated on where they are today, neglecting what it took them to get here.

Azar, Malakai, Bij Lincs...the originators of Ground Up.
Azar, Malakai, Bij Lincs…the originators of Ground Up.

That’s something that many of us do quite often, but it’s important to take heed to the fact that the title “Ground Up” is more than just the name of a hip-hop group growing at a fast rate, but also a phrase that’s true on its surface.

Ground Up can really look back and say that they did it. They built their group from the ground up and now they’re entering a whole new chapter to their journey as they’ve just dropped a new album Seventeen Eleven and have already hit the road, performing across the country on their tour.

Their success thus far is proof that if you nurture an idea the correct way, the sky isn’t even the limit.

This group doesn’t even realize how they inspired me as a young journalist on the rise when they took the time to talk to me about my craft and about how both music and journalism collide. There were likely those that didn’t buy into their dream until they made it a reality and I am determined to do the same. Much love to Ground Up and what they represent in the world of hip-hop.

Me with a couple members of Ground Up (Azar and Malaria) after their album release party last year in Baltimore at the 8x10.
Me with a couple members of Ground Up (MC’s Azar and Malakai) after their album release party last year in Baltimore at the 8×10.

Intern Media Week: Day 3 – Andrew Somuah, Writer for Dime & The Source Magazine

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

“You can do it too.” ~ Pharrell Williams, Singer-songwriter 

This is a quote you’ll find if you go searching for Andrew Somuah’s social media profile, and if you know him, then you understand why it’s a quote in which he lives by as a young journalist from Alexandria, VA, who believes that he too can attain greatness and success at the highest level in his industry.

A lot of us get to watch shows like Nick Cannon’s Wildin’Out on the television or hear from Powerhouse 105.1’s Charlemagne Tha God on New York radio, or even see footage of NBA players doing interviews from their team locker rooms.

These are things that a lot of us are able to access thanks to the evolution of technology. However, wouldn’t it be cool to be right there on the set for each of these scenarios?

Well, my good friend and journalist for The Source Magazine Andrew Somuah has been privy to those experiences, up close and personal, and rightfully so.

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Here’s a guy who I’ve witnessed dedicate himself to his craft since his college days.

Whether it’s been pulling an all-nighter to ensure that work was done, jumping through hoops to get a ground-breaking interview, or stopping a Hip Hop mogul at a music festival to set up a future interview, Somuah has done all of these things plus more.

A lot of those who are not in the journalism field or the media industry for that matter, have no idea the kind of adversities that lie there waiting for us young journalists, but Somuah knows all about that.

He chooses not to use those setbacks as an excuse though. He’s learned early on in this business that if you want something, you have to go for it and try your best to exhaust all options within your own abilities before venturing out for help.

Somuah has worked at mastering several pieces to the puzzle that come along with being a journalist in the urban culture; writing, interviewing, researching, studying the culture, and being one with the culture.

Somuah exemplifies each of those things as he’s not just working in this industry to say he has a job or for the glamour, but he actually loves Hip Hop, the urban culture and both music and sports.

He’s been living and breathing these things since I’ve known him.

As far as Hip Hop goes, the fact that he’s remained an objective fan of the likes of Jay Z and Kanye West, speaks to not only his knowledge of rap music, but something else too; he enjoys studying the greats.

And what happens when you surround yourself with greatness, you ultimately enter into a realm of greatness as well and that’s what Somuah is working towards on a daily basis.

The urban culture is something else that Somuah is very familiar with as he’s always in the know about local events taking place in the DMV area to what’s happening on the Hip Hop scene in New York to even festivals and other happenings on the West coast.

This was all even before he had landed a job with Source, started writing for Dime Magazine, or even began his internship at 93.9 WKYS in his senior year of college.

We all have things we’re passionate about. You showed automatically be in the know of whatever it is that you’re interested in by taking the time to read up on it.

Why? Because it’s your passion. So, when that passion becomes your career path, it should be like waking up doing what you love everyday.

Now, granted every passion doesn’t allow one to live comfortably, at least not right away, so when one chooses that path anyway, you know that they truly love what they do and that’s what it’s about.

My good friend Somuah falls into that category as someone who truly loves what he does.

When it comes to music, Somuah is always looking to keep his options open, not staying within the boundaries of what’s considered mainstream, but by making mainstream what he wants it to be.

And last but not least, sports. What can I say about sports?

That’s where our friendship began and I’m pretty sure that’s what got Somuah so in tune with the Hip Hop scene, considering both seem to go hand in hand.

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How many times have you seen athletes and artists team up?

It happens a lot. You’ve had former NBA All Star Allen Iverson and Rapper Jadakiss team up for a Reebok commercial. We’ve seen famous Filmmaker Spike Lee and his Airness, Michael Jordan, team up to market Jordan’s sneakers.

And how about prize fighter Floyd “Money” Mayweather and Hip Hop mogul Lil Wayne? They’ve too teamed up to bring sports and music fans entertainment, something we’ve seen exemplified through Mayweather’s usual walk out of the tunnel before a championship fight.

Andrew Somuah has accomplished a lot within this realm of journalism, but you can rest assure that he is far from finished.

In a recent off-the-record conversation I held with my good friend, he expressed to me that there are a prethala of things that he has planned moving froward in his career, and if I was reading this, I’d be sure to tune in to this young and humble brother.

Like those I’ve chosen to highlight on my blog before, Somuah represents uniqueness, hard work and passion. And that’s why you’re reading about him today.

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Rapper Kenton Dunson looks to defy all odds as a true ‘Outlier’ in Hip Hop

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

When I came out with “Kenton Dunson: A True ‘Outlier’ in the Evolution that is Hip Hop,” the rapper out of Maryland was working on maybe the biggest project of his music career thus far; Outlier, which will drop this month. I was able to catch up with the “outlier” himself at his album release party in May where he showcased several songs from the new album at the 8×10 in downtown Baltimore.

Outlier couldn’t have been a more perfect title for Dunson’s newest album as it is a good representation of him not only as an artist, but as a person too. The term “outlier” refers to “a person or thing differing from all other members of a particular group or set.” Dunson’s music exemplifies this definition. His music has one of the most unique sounds I’ve heard in recent years. That’s what jump-started our dialogue.

The beautiful thing about talent is it sparks dialogue, but when you get to see who the person is behind their art, that’s what establishes real content.

Dunson’s music, his oneness with his audience and his passion for mastering his craft is why I’m finding myself writing this story — a story that has combined the talent of a young journalist on the rise and a young artist looking to create a lane of his own. This is the story you might not typically get when typing an artists’ name into a search engine. I guess in a way, this collaboration is also an outlier in its own right.

Dunson says that he’s striving to create a similarity between he and a few of the big names in the hip hop industry today; guys like Kanye West, Drake and Kendrick Lamar. Don’t get the wrong idea though, Dunson does not want to be these guys nor does he want to make the same kind of music as them. Dunson simply admires the fact that they were each able to make “mainstream” what they desired for it to be.

Kanye made the mixture of hip hop and fashion mainstream. As Dunson would say, Drake made being a black rapper from the suburbs mainstream. Kendrick made storytelling and an intellectual-style of rap mainstream again.

This is the impact and the wave that Dunson looks to create as his own man in this industry. The jury is still out on what exactly Dunson’s “mainstream” will look like, but I would have to take a wild guess and say that it would involve him being an outlier, standing out from what’s considered the norm and to be honest with you, he’s got the talent and the discipline to do it.

I’ve referred to Kenton as a “dope” artist in the past. I know that in our society today that’s become the cool thing to say and many people have their own definition for what “dope” actually is. For me though, “dope” is all about being different, having substance and being for the people. That’s why Kenton is dope. His music is different because it stands out from the rest. His art — which is also his music — contains substance and he’s for the people.

How do I know this?

There are not many artists who embrace the “underground” way of doing things and I’m not talking about in terms of music. I’m not the conventional type of journalist. I’m going to search for the unknown, the message that lies between the lines. Dunson has embraced my style of journalism, but I’m not surprised.

Why?

It’s because he strives to do the same in his music. His location, the company he surrounds himself with and his bourbon are all elements in his developmental process when it comes to making good music. Dunson’s the kind of artist that also searches for the unknown between the lines of his lyrics when thinking about what he wants to convey to the people.

Now you see why he couldn’t have picked a better title for his newest project and when you go to pick up this new sound — which you will because you long for music with substance — you’ll too see why Outlier is more than a title or a term; it should be the way we live out our careers and our lives.

After all, Dunson always reminds us that “we are all outliers,” right?

Checkout the interview I did with Dunson just moments before he took the stage in front of a packed crowd at the 8×10 in Downtown Baltimore the night of his album release party.

Q. How long have you been a full-time artist now?

A. Since 2010. February 2010, I quit my job at T. Rowe Price as an Investment Advisor. So, ever since then man.”

Q. Since you’ve done that, what would you say has been the biggest challenge as a full-time artist?

A. Well, of course you deal with the financial and like losing your apartment, losing your car. You know, it’s all a domino effect. Losing a lot of material things, but gaining a lot of artistic freedom I guess.

Q. How has that changed your perspective on life?

A. I guess it simplifies life like what’s important to you. If you can really make it through it and tough it out, you’re meant to do it. It just makes life a little more simple and helps you focus on what’s important and why did you do it.

Q. What do you have planned for the fans tonight with your set?

A. Being that it’s the Outlier first listen and pre-release party, I’m playing six new joints. Never played them before. They’ve been living in the studio. So, six of the tracks that are going to make Outlier, I’m doing live tonight in its purest form. So, I hope I remember all the words haha.

Q. Now, you have Progressions, you have Creative Destruction I and II, you got the Investment and now you have Outlier. Where does Outlier rank among those? 

A. They’re all separate entities. They’re different periods of my life. Even though they all dropped within the last four or five years, they definitely live on their own. So, I can’t really rank them. I respect each of them as kind of a stepping stone.

I really appreciate each project for what it is, but I’ll say Outlier is really a combination of everything that I’ve learned over the whole time and what I’ve wanted to say. I feel like I’m finally at a place where I know what I represent and I know what I want people to take away from me at the end of the day. So, it’s definitely a combination of those past four projects.

Q. Now, you’ve actually been quoted saying that in terms of Outlier, this album is your best work and most important work up to date. What do you mean when you say that?

A. When you’re a full-time artist, no one knows what goes on behind closed doors when it’s studio time and when you’re recording that album in the closet. This right here is the moment where I got to do some soul searching. I got to figure out what do you want to say? Okay, it’s wide open. You’ve got a million hits on a song. You got this. You got that. What do you want to say right now?

I made this album like everything depends on it. I probably made 40 or 50 songs. 10 make the project. So, I’ve never taken this much care to a process. Some people say that’s being a perfectionist. Nah, I just really want to deliver something that can live on.

Q. What’s next for you man?

A. Man, it’s Outlier season. We’re in Baltimore tonight. This is going to be the first listen for people. June is the month man and I’m dropping a single called “Tremendous.” I don’t really consider it a single, meaning it’s like made for radio or anything like that.

It’s going to be the intro to Outlier and I’m going to drop it next week. So, it’s Outlier season. We’re just really trying to make sure that anything we drop right now reaches the most people possible and that message just spreads. It’s Outlier season and after that we’re hoping to get on the road for sure.

Q. You talked about the soul searching you’ve done in this time putting together this project. What’s something new you learned about yourself in this process man?

A. I learned that I’m not scared to delete a dope line even if it’s the sickest bar. I’m not afraid to delete them if it doesn’t meet the purpose of the song. There’s a lot of people that can freestyle real dope, but I really learned that I am becoming a songwriter and I’m not afraid to bring up stuff that has affected me in my life.

I’m really putting it all out there right now. So, I learned that I’m gradually opening up. I heard Kanye say the other day that as an artist your job is to get away with as much as you can get away with and I finally felt like with this Outlier period, I let it go.

I’ve learned a lot about myself. It’s like a cathodic process. It’s really helped me get over a lot of stuff I didn’t understand growing up and when you hear it on the track, it’s like ‘damn I really released that.’ I can move on, so I learned that art is my true calling, it’s my truest expression and I think a lot of people are going to relate to it for that simple fact.

To stay tuned for more blog features, follow my blog karlsinternmedia. Make sure you also subscribe to my YouTube channel while you’re checking out the feature. Most importantly, stay tuned to Kenton Dunson’s movement by visiting dunsonmusic.com and pickup his new album Outlier. Follow him on Instagram @kentondunson. 

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Marshall “DJ Mars” Thomas: The man behind the art

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

As an artist, Marshall “DJ Mars” Thomas redefines the phrase “triple threat,” impelling the culture from three separate angles; DJ, designer, and author.

As a DJ, Mars has dedicated himself to his craft over the years, having the opportunity to travel internationally performing in one country after the next.

Mars bridges the gap between the musician and the audio engineer. He’s mixed it up on the turntables on the Steve Harvey Morning Show, the Essence Music Festival, on the stage with his good friend and well-known artist Keri Hilson; to name a few.

Mars has completely changed the game as a designer with New Balance, showing his peers that when you dedicate yourself to your craft, the sky is the limit in terms of the doors that can and will open for you. And while he might not have kids walking around with his signature sneakers on like the great Kanye West, one can’t purchase a dope pair of New Balances without respecting the urban culture represented by it. We can thank music moguls like DJ Mars for that.

Mars recently expressed his admiration for the history of the ‘mixtape’ by working with a small team of other invested individuals to publish his first book, The Art Behind The Tape.

In this text, Mars places a focus on the artwork behind mixtape culture and he brings the perspective of top level DJ’s, who paved the way for him, to the forefront of the conversation.

Now, taking a step away from his success as an artist, Mars has been able to remain humble throughout a journey that can leave many people’s head in the clouds.

One might ask, ‘How has he been able to pull that off?’ For him, it’s quite simple; by remaining loyal to his family and friends, by living like an everyday person, by finding inspiration in the people and things around him, and by taking pride in fatherhood.

If you were to ask Mars yourself, he’ll tell you that it’s those things that truly make him successful because if the fame was to ever leave, it’s those things that will define him, when it’s all said and done.

Prepare yourselves to get a full introduction and more into the life and career of Marshall “DJ Mars” Thomas. You’ll walk away from this article feeling like you were a fly on the wall for the behind-the-scenes life of ‘Marshall’ while gaining more insight into ‘Mars.’

Q. How have you been able to remain so humble throughout your journey?

A. I think that’s just apart of my character. It’s not a front, haha. You can see through someone’s humility if they were lying. That’s just who I am. In the music industry, that can work for you and work against you at the same time. For me, that’s just who I am naturally.

Q. Is this something that you would say has worked for you or has it worked against you in the music industry?

A. It has worked for me because part of why I get work is due to the fact that people genuinely like me. I’m a likable person. So, it works for me in that sense. I’m easy to get along with. I’m easy to hire. There’s no BS. If I’m supposed to be at the gig at 9:00, I’m there by 8:30. It’s no stress. It’s like what you were able to witness yourself. I don’t roll with an entourage. I may roll with my crew, but I don’t have an entourage. I don’t come in with 20 people. So, like I said, it works for me in that sense. The people I work for really like my personality and I’m easy to get along with. They know what they’re getting when they hire me.

Now, here’s how my humility sometimes works against me. In the industry, arrogance and attitude is like a shiny jacket. People say they don’t like the shiny suits, but part of what they buy into is arrogance and attitude. People might say that they hate it, but they actually like it because it’s something that they can’t be.

As much as people say they hate Kanye, they love him. I don’t give off that vibe though. That’s just not who I am even though I know that it works in my field and people, to some extent, may like me more if I was on some ‘Yo I’m the s***’ — if I wore my resume on my chest. I don’t do that. If I did that maybe it would get me other gigs; who knows. There’s other DJ’s who’s whole brand is arrogance. That’s their brand and it works for them, but that’s not who I am, so I don’t think that would work for me.

Q. Now, we touched on this a little earlier. You don’t travel with an entourage per say, but you do keep close friends around you. The first night we linked up in New York, I was able to hangout with your homies at the Starter Party. They were telling me some things about you and the upbringing you guys had. They told me about what it was like coming up in those times in your community. How important would you say it is to keep those kind of people around you throughout your journey?

A. It’s super important because at the end of the day, when all this shiny s*** is gone, you still want to be able to go back to your people. I have people I can always go back to regardless of anything. I can DJ in a stadium of 100,000 people or in a room of five people and my boys are still going to support me and treat me the same.

And on another note, my level of success as a DJ inspires the friends that I surround myself with. It’s like their level of success in their lives inspires me. One of my homeboys that you met is a cop and his thing is he wants to be apart of the police force because he doesn’t want it to be like all of them against us. He doesn’t want it to feel that way. He’s mentoring kids and giving kids karate lessons.

My other homeboy that was there helps him out with the mentoring. They’re working together to help the kids out here. So, they’re successful in another realm. They are making sure our kids have immediate ground level mentors to follow. So, I’m looking at that like ‘Damn, that is great.’ They are directly effecting kids on a street level. That’s ultra important. I look at their lives and they look at my life and we’re both able to see what we all bring to the global community. It’s dope. So, you never want to lose those people because those are the people that will have my back no matter if I was DJ Mars on stage or DJ Mars in the hood somewhere. They got my back.

Q. On that Thursday night before NBA All-Star Weekend, I watched you do two sets. You set the tone for the rest of the night during your first set and closed the night out in your second set. How does it feel to know that when you’re on stage behind the turntables, you’re the soundtrack in that particular environment for however long your set lasts?

A. To me, one of the attributes of a good DJ is programming. Programming is like being a good orator — someone who can put on great speeches. It’s like Malcolm X. He put word after word after word for great impact. It’s the same thing with records. You have to understand the value of every record that you play. Every record is meant to take you to another place, so depending on where you’re trying to go with the night…like I know chronologically certain parts of the night I gotta go in a certain direction. So, I have to drive those records. I have to pick those records and play them in either a passive way or in an aggressive way to get a type of reaction.

The first party that night, I came on at midnight. It’s party time. I knew I had to play records quick and fast…get in and get out for maximum impact. For the end of the night, it’s the end of the night. For me to try to replicate what I did at the beginning of the night wouldn’t make sense. It’s the end of the night, the night is winding down and it’s time for people to go; literally. The club is ready to shutdown, so you play records that wind people down because you have to take people’s mind to a different place.

It’s problematic when the club ends and everybody is still crunk to death at 4 a.m. You know? That’s how stuff happens. So, you have to just calm people down. You have to remind them that they have responsibilities in the morning. Sometimes you want people to leave out thinking, ‘You know what? It is kind of late and I need to get up for work in the morning.’ So, you play records that fit the mood for the direction you want people to go in and that’s basically what I do as a DJ. I design a set and it’s always on the fly. I design a set that directs the mood that I want people to go in. My midnight set is different than my late night set because I have different objectives.

Q. I witnessed that at Stage 48 as well. It was fun watching you. Your set was a little over two hours. You seemed to enjoy being one of the first guys in there. I watched your patience as people walked in, hesitated to the dance floor and then eventually made their way to the dance floor and had a great time. People were loving the records you were playing. It was cool watching all of that unfold.

A. Yeah, man. You just gotta play your position. Not every night, am I the headliner and I’m cool with that because some nights that’s just the position that you have to play. That Saturday night, my job was to warm up the crowd. It was to get you in the mood knowing that the party was going to elevate as the night continued. It wasn’t my job to get people all the way there. It wasn’t my job to play all the bangers. My job was to get you out of your jacket, get you to the bar, get you one or two drinks and then get the guys talking to the girls, so that they could get the courage to drag them to the dance floor. So, when the next DJ comes in, all he’s got to do is hit the home run. I just have to get the party to first base. I pretty much set the next DJ up.

You saw how the night went. Every DJ was hitting it out the park, but imagine if I was whack and nobody was on the dance floor, then it would have made everybody’s job harder.

Q. Let’s talk about the importance of building relationships. It seems like you’ve built a lot of relationships over the years with people in the industry and those outside of the industry. The Friday I met up with you at Sony was a cool time because those were people in the music industry in some form or fashion and you pretty much met with them off the strength of relationship. How important would you say it is to build relationships in business and in life in general?

A. I wouldn’t be where I am if relationships hadn’t occurred. I get the gigs I get because I have access to people. I can call and say ‘Hey, what do you guys have going on out there this weekend?’ There’s information I can get because I have relationships with people. Nobody does this alone. I don’t care who you are. There’s nobody out here winning by themselves. They just don’t do it. For me, it’s paramount that we maintain those relationships. That’s all we have. If I can’t walk through a door that’s closed, then what am I? You know what I mean? It’s the relationships that keep things going and keep the doors opening that allows me to continue to work.

Q. We were talking about this after the Beats By Dre Party, which was really dope by the way. We had just left there and as we were walking to the subway, you were talking about how you leave those types of events and those types of weekends very inspired. What is it about those types of weekends, events, and encounters that leave you inspired and able to take something new back to ATL with you?

A. I try to find success in everything. We’ll start with the DJ’s. I look at the other DJ’s and I’m like ‘Damn, this DJ is from where?’ I’ll give you a real life example. There’s a DJ that I spun with that Thursday before All-Star Weekend. He was from Cleveland. That means he impressed somebody so much that they flew him from Cleveland to New York to do this party. So, I’m like ‘Damn, I need to pay attention to his movement because his movement is working.’ Someone saw it fit for him to be spinning at the same party where I was, so let me study him because there’s a grain of success in his movement that has put him here. I’m saying to myself, ‘Let me pay attention to the grain of this guy.’

Now, let’s talk about the Beats By Dre situation. I’m looking at that brand and what they’re doing and how they’re positioning themselves in the market. That weekend, they had the super tough brownstone that was super sweet, the headphones displayed were super sweet, and the atmosphere was super sweet. So, I’m like ‘Okay. The brand is positioning themselves in a certain way. Let me just study what’s going on at this event.’

I take bits and pieces of everybody’s success that I encountered over the weekend and I say ‘Okay. Now, what can I pull from them that will make my situation better?’ Whether it’s a brand, a DJ or a party; whatever the case may be. I look at everything and look at what won and think about how I can include that specific thing into my movement. So, that’s what inspires me, viewing the success of all of these different things because all of them play a role and if you do it right, then you can learn something from everything that you involve yourself in.

For me, it’s not just about DJing. It’s about how I’m perceived out here. You look at the Beats By Dre Party, which was basically a showcase of what they have coming in the future. Maybe I can do something like that to highlight what I have going on. So, I look at everybody’s movement and think about what I can do to have my movement moving in a good direction.

Q. That’s funny to me because you were lounging and just having a great time, but you were also paying close attention to the details of that party. You were working.

A. Yeah and the ill thing is…I’m not sure if you knew this, but the two dudes that we were talking to, for the most part, went to school with me. So, I’m looking at these guys like ‘Man, these are dudes I went to college with and they are the head of this big movement and inspiration during NBA All-Star Weekend.’ I’m sitting there galvanized by their success. I just pay attention. You have to.

Q. What position do those guys hold with Beats By Dre? I was paying attention to the fact that one of your boys was giving us the tour of the brownstone showing us around and showing us some of the new products.

A. He was the one who deals with professional athletes. If you see Richard Sherman walk into the Seahawks’ stadium with a pair of Beats on, my boy gave those to him. So, when you look at ESPN and you see athletes walking into their arena, my homeboys job is to make sure that those highly visible athletes have headphones. Now, my other boy Omar Johnson oversees everything.

Q. Let’s transition man. Let’s talk about your son. You appear to be a great father. You were talking about him a lot, which is expected of a father who cares for his child, obviously. How has him coming into this world impacted your life and how important do you feel it is as a father to care for your child? Especially, in a world where we don’t see a father and son together a lot of the time.

A. I mean, for one it’s my job, haha. I can’t even say it any other way man. I brought him here, so I gotta take care of him. I don’t even have a longer answer to that other than it’s my job. That’s what I’m supposed to do.

Q. Sometimes I feel like men, especially black men, don’t get the credit they deserve when they’re actually being great fathers. Contrary to what’s put online and on television, there’s actually a lot of great fathers out here too.

A. Exactly. You know what’s funny man? I know more good fathers than ‘dead beat’ dads. I may know one or two bad fathers out of all the fathers I know. Obviously, there’s some bad fathers out there, but I happen to know a whole lot of good ones and I’m happy about that.

Q. When we were at the Starters Party, you mentioned the irony of being at that party and the fact that you consider you and your crew to be the original Starters. What do you mean by that?

A. In junior high, between ‘85 and ’89, is when Starter jackets were real hot in the streets between Public Enemy and N.W.A rocking them real heavy at the time. Starter jackets were the jacket of choice in the winter time. Me and my crew…that was our thing. We rocked more Starter jackets than anybody around us in our junior high school. That’s what we rocked. So, the irony was that two of my boys from those times I’m referring to were with me at that party. It kind of meant something to us because that’s what we rocked as kids. Yo, we used to get two or three different Starter jackets per winter. You couldn’t mess with our crew because we had all of them. All the flavors, we had them. That was us, haha.

Q. Yeah, you guys were talking about all the different Starter jackets — some of which people weren’t even rocking at the time. You guys had the exclusive stuff.

A. Yeah, man. Notre Dame, LSU…we had it all. That was our thing…to rock different jackets. Most people had the staples. They had the Raiders or the New York Giants or the Chicago Bulls. We made sure we got the teams that weren’t necessarily the most popular teams, but were tough at the same time. We were on Starter jackets heavy in those times.

Q. What’s interesting is my generation gets a lot of inspiration from the fashion back in your days. That speaks to how important your generation was to fashion and to hip-hop. That’s pretty cool man.

I’m going to switch gears now. I wanted to focus on DJ Mars the person first. That was crucial given the time I spent with you. Now, I want to ask you some questions about you as an artist.

Before I get to that though, I want to say something. I feel like there’s a lot of ‘Karl Nelsons’ out there, meaning there are a lot of people out here grinding like I am right now. My cousin put us in contact. I hopped on the bus that Thursday after work. It’s a no brainer because I knew that this would be a great opportunity to be around greatness and to be around something out of the ordinary. There’s a lot of young people out here doing the same thing because they’re trying to establish themselves and accomplish their goals.

Two things: if you feel like you have a responsibility to those people, what does that responsibility look like? The second question is what’s your million dollar piece of advice to a person, such as myself, when it comes to this?

A. Let me kind of reframe the question for you. Let’s say you said to me, ‘Why did you let me hang around you?’ It’s because I felt like I didn’t get to where I’m at by myself. What I got from you when you first reached out was like you were trying to take this opportunity to put yourself in a different position later on. So, I’m like ‘Even though this is a different field, he sounds like me 20 years ago. Like ‘Yo, let me do this party because I need to show my skills.’ It was the same energy.

I looked at it like someone helped me, so I want to return the favor. You weren’t on the BS. You were like ‘This is what I’m doing yo. Let me rock with you.’ It was no BS. It was straight up. I felt like I was you several years ago. Someone helped me, so why not return the favor? I didn’t get here just because I’m DJ Mars. I got here because someone believed I was DJ Mars.

Q. Exactly. It’s like Shelley. She saw something in me enough to put herself on the line and be that point of contact. That takes me to the second part of my question. You said that I reminded you of yourself 20 years. What’s something that you felt like you had to do to get from where you were 20 years ago to a place where you were established and found your next step?

A. One thing I did was perfected…well, not perfected. I’m still in the process of perfecting my craft, but I’m a student of the game. I’m always down to learn. There was stuff early on that I didn’t know, but I was like ‘I’m going to know it.’ I didn’t stop.

Some people stop and they give up. I didn’t do that. I kept going. Even when people stop believing in me, I believe in myself. I can’t say it any other way. You have to believe in yourself even when people don’t, because they will not believe in you at some point. Not everybody, but some won’t and the ones who don’t believe are going to be loud and proud about not believing in you, so what I did was work on protecting my craft. I kept the belief that whoever the greatest is, I can be on that level with them. Greater than or not, I believe that I can at least be on the level of whoever the greatest is.

Q. I focused on you as a person because I believe that people out there and those who will read this interview need to know about DJ Mars the guy — your everyday kind of person. I feel like people love someone who they can relate to. Let’s talk about your artistry though.

There’s three parts to it. You’re the established DJ. You’re the author of your own book and on top of that you’re a designer. You’ve been working with New Balance and collaborating with them on some cool kicks for sometime now. First, let’s talk about you as an author. You’re the author of The Art Behind the Tape. When did you sit down and say, ‘I want to be the author of my own book?’

A. Well, I knew that there were a few stories in hip-hop that a lot of people weren’t paying attention to. I kind of knew that there weren’t too many books written on the history of mixtape culture. I was like well ‘I can write it. It’s a need for it in the market, so let me do that.’ As an insider in the culture, I knew I had a leg up on most people because I could call Kid Capri and say here’s what I’m doing; let’s schedule an interview. My database allotted me a ton of access.

I had already knew a lot of the research because I had lived the culture. When Capri made his early tapes, I was buying them. I was apart of the culture from an inside perspective, which helped me write the book and then, like I said, I just knew that it needed to be done, so I just did it.

Q. Can you tell me about your fellow authors and the role they played in making the book a success?

A. It was three of them; Maurice Garland, Tai Saint-Louis, and DJibril Ndiaye. That’s who helped tie up all the loose ends. We set down and were like ‘Okay. Here are the interviews that we have and need to get done. Let’s go do them.’ Once the interviews were done, some of them edited. Some of them did the press releases. So, it was a collective effort.

The book is an historical piece. It’s history because it’s one of the first ones told from an inside perspective. The accuracy is impeccable. If one comes after this, it was inspired by mine.

Q. How long have you been collaborating with well-known sneaker groups to design New Balances?

A. For the past 5 years now. I’ve designed two pairs of sneakers with them and have been working on a web-based campaign with them as well.

Q. Tell me about your last major sneaker collab?

A. We released a new shoe at the same time that my book was published. The sneaker was sold at the New Balance store in New York. We also sent a copy of the book to top level DJ’s who were featured in the book as a thank you to them for being apart of our project.

Q. I watched a video where you named your top five pairs of New Balances. I love the fact that your #1 pair was purchased in Baltimore, by the way, haha. You have a huge collection of New Balances. You weren’t rocking with the New Balances like that when we were in New York, which wasn’t a surprise given the ‘hawk’ was out, haha. If the weather would have been better, what three pairs of New Balances would have made the cut?

A. Haha. Yeah, man that was a different type of cold. Let’s see…I would have had to go with the 990’s, a pair of 550‘s, and a pair of 710’s.

Q. I’ve seen footage of your mixes on the Morning Show for one of the best comedians to ever do it — Steve Harvey. Tell me about that. What brought you to the Steve Harvey Morning Show?

A. Steve saw me on stage at the Essence Music Festival about five years ago. I was performing with Keri Hilson. I had a break and he actually approached me and was like ‘Man, I want to hire you for some of my events.’ When I DJed at one of his events, I rocked it. After the event, I told him that I wanted to DJ on his morning show and the rest has been history man.

Q. You’ve traveled the world as a DJ. This is shown in your video — “Around the World in 60 seconds.” What city that you’ve DJed in has had the biggest affect on your outlook on life and why?

A. Every city and every country offers something different, but I would have to say that Africa and Japan have had the biggest affect on me. Africa is so different than how most people in the states perceive it and the evolution of technology in Japan is just crazy to me.

Q. In basketball, a coach that I have a lot of respect for always tells our players that there’s a difference between loving to play and having a love for the game. Which one do you identify with as a DJ and why? Do you love doing it or have you found that you have a love for it?

A. I love doing it. It’s such a rush that you get controlling the crowd. I love it man. Music is powerful man and I’ve been able to play more of it than some people have listened to in their lifetime. I grew up on hip-hop. If it wasn’t for hip-hop music, I probably wouldn’t be a DJ.

Q. You mentioned earlier that you’re still working to master your art, but you’re obviously a successful DJ by this point. You’re an iconic audio engineer, you’ve been designing sneakers for years now and you’ve even explored other parts of yourself as an author. With that being said, if you were doing none of those three things I just named, given your other interests, what would your career path be?

A. I would be involved with the entertainment industry. I’d most likely be working with content creation in developing TV shows. In college, I studied Communications with a focus in Radio, TV and Films at Clark Atlanta University.

http://theartbehindthetape.com/
http://www.djmars404.com/

Kenton Dunson: A True ‘Outlier’ in the Evolution that is Hip Hop

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

Hip-Hop was built on storytelling. Not just any kind of storytelling though — I’m talking about compelling stories with substance. In recent years, hip-hop or at least mainstream hip-hop has taken the form of less guts and more glory. There is less attention placed on the dynamics of lyrics and more focus placed on making ‘hits,’ which has resulted in a lot of ‘one-hit wonders’ like a Trinidad James or even a Bobby Shmurda who’s signature ‘hat toss’ went viral in just minutes after it was released to the public.

Hip-Hop has appeared to become more about making the next major ‘club’ banger when it used to be about rapping from within, sharing your struggles and your life with the hip-hop audience. After all, isn’t that why we love rappers like Jay Z? Jay might have watered down his music since his “Reasonable Doubt” and “Blueprint” days, but he still aims to give you his emotions and his perspective through his music. That’s what the legendary rappers like The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Nas, and DMX prided themselves on.

Today, we’re able to get a taste of that old hip-hop sound thanks to artists like J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake. These artists pride themselves on being lyrical in their music, but sometimes it can look lonely for those guys. Then, you have your underground rappers like Big K.R.I.T., Dom Kennedy, and Bun B. These artists are lyricists in their own right.

The point that I’m trying to make here is that hip-hop was built on substance and today it’s substance that it lacks and that can be depressing for true hip-hop fans. This is why it’s always special when one comes across a new artist who also takes pride in making music that exemplifies substance and takes on the old school storytelling approach. That’s who Kenton Dunson is and that’s why his music is worth listening to and supporting.

The “everyday subjects and sentiments” expressed in Dunson’s music comes from his journey, which consists of “poverty, to college, to the corporate world and back to the struggle.” It’s this journey that gives Dunson an authentic compelling story for his listeners.

I encourage you to dive right into our interview and find out for yourself why Kenton Dunson is one of the future pieces of hip-hop history.

Q. What did you learn about yourself during your transition from a career in finance to a career in hip-hop?

A. During my time in finance, one of the most important concepts I had to grasp was risk and reward. After a few months as a struggling full-time artist, I learned that risk definitely comes with a consequence. The fact that the instability and turbulence didn’t scare me back into a corporate job taught me that I am unconditionally diligent and dedicated to my vision.

Q. What was it like recording “Creative Destruction?” What went well and what did you realize had to be better for your next project?

A. Recording ‘Creative Destruction’ was a wild time. I shut all forms of contact off, grew a beard, drank a lot of whiskey and created without limitation. It was amazing…the first time I started flowing without writing my lyrics down…taught me a lot about the importance of expression within your lyrics. After awhile, I felt I could use better hook writing and song structure, so that came later in my music.

Q. Your latest mixtape “The Investment” received over 100,000 downloads. Did you ever see yourself being able to reach so many people with your music that soon in your career?

A. I didn’t aim for a specific number with ‘The Investment,’ but I knew that it would hit a good wave based on the success of the first single from that project, ‘Count On It.’ There are billions of people in the world, so even though 100k was a great achievement, there’s a lot of room for growth!

Q. What is it about your music that you believe attracts so many people to you as an artist?

A. I think it’s the everyday subjects and sentiments that I attack with my music. Hip-Hop is growing up. The audience is more sophisticated, more educated and well versed than it has ever been. Being someone who comes from poverty, to college, to the corporate world and back to the struggle for the sake of my passion, I have seen so many walks of life. My music reflects a broad experience.

Q. Watching you perform at the 8×10 and observing the love you received from the audience, I think it’s safe to say that you have that ‘it’ factor as a young hip-hop artist. What’s helped you develop such a great level of comfort and confidence on the stage?

A. Playing music for crowds for so long. I’ve been in front of audiences playing instruments since I can remember. Whether it was 11 years old playing drums at church, singing and free styling at family parties, DJing or performing at frat parties and local bars…I always hit the switch and put on a performance whenever the opportunity arises.

Q. What was it like being featured in XXL Magazine?

A. First off, I want to thank the fans because they voted me into that situation through a contest that XXL held. Working with the XXL staff was awesome. It’s the pinnacle for hip-hop publications and their history alone made being featured such a milestone for me.

Q. You’ve worked with the likes of John Legend, Lupe Fiasco, Chrisette Michele, Yo Gotti, Ne-Yo and Wale. What were those experiences like for you and what did you learn from working with these artists?

A. The experiences were all different. John was the first to give me a shot at working together. His work ethic is incredible. The Phatboiz are a production team that produced his hit ‘Tonight.’ They brought me into that situation and at first I just observed. It’s inspiring to see artists at that level work like they are not complacent. He told me to trust my talents and abilities and to keep sharpening my skills no matter what.

Chrisette Michele was surprisingly a fan of mine before we worked together. Her creative approach is more abstract in a way, which reminds me of myself. Everything she says and does is artistic, haha. Shooting the video with her was an experience in itself. She validated my approach, which is to engulf yourself in every aspect of your work, from song, to visual, to performance.

I didn’t get the opportunity to sit in with Yo Gotti, Ne-Yo and Wale. That was a production credit that came about from Phatboiz playing my stuff for Ne-Yo. It traveled through the channels from that point. I got a call one day that it suddenly made the album. That’s an example of how a lot of placements happen these days.

Q. “Broke Ass Dope Ass Rapper” is a pretty self-explanatory title for your most recent single, but it has seemed to become a popular theme for your music. How important of a role did this single play in preparing your following for your up and coming album?

A. People relate to honesty and my music has become more and more honest. I can’t help it. It was a song that needed to happen for me. It re-established a tone for me so now there is nowhere to go but up! So it was a fresh springboard for me in terms of the upcoming music and message!

Q. Speaking of your next project; Outlier is dropping this spring. How excited are you for this next release and what should fans expect from this project?

A. I’m excited for Outlier, the most important project of my life! It’s taken a lot longer than I wanted due to some creative redirection. I got to a place where it sounded way too similar to what other artists are already doing. So instead of rushing the material, I took a step back to really make sure the project was exactly what the title says it is.

Q. What’s something that the average fan doesn’t know about you outside of what you do as an artist?

A. I didn’t even mean to rap. I just wanted to produce music. But when I was a college kid selling beats over the internet, people would send back the songs after they put the vocals on it and I never felt they did the beats justice. I then started rapping and performing the songs at college parties that I DJed.

Q. Talk about your versatility as both a rapper and a producer. How have you been able to balance the two?

A. It’s a challenge sometimes to balance the two, but it’s a fun balance. Most tracks that I produce for artists start as a track I wanted for myself, but throughout a session or two, I figured that it might be better to store in the production catalog. I only rap over tracks I absolutely feel. So if I am in a production session and I start standing up and mumbling a cadence or something, it’s most likely going to become one of my own songs.

Q. Outside of your music, what’s something you enjoy doing in your free time?

A. I don’t have free time quite yet, but I’m fortunate that I get to travel because traveling is something I’ve always wanted to experience. Every town I hit, I like to find the local record stores and whiskey spots. I’m a huge Bourbon fan.

Q. Knowing what you know now, if you weren’t an artist, what career path would you pursue and why?

A. I still follow the stock markets and economy, so If it wasn’t this, I would be right back in the same office, ha!

Q. What do you hope to accomplish with Outlier and where do you want it to take your music career next?

A. I plan to make every artist say ‘Damn, why didn’t I think of that?’ I want it to take not only myself but the entire genre to new heights in terms of message, expression and creativity. But the people won’t have to wait too long for new music; the Outlier album is dropping on May 5th!

You can checkout Kenton Dunson’s music and more at dunsonmusic.com. 

Kenton Dunson: Full Interview in ‘Limbo.’ I call it the ‘Tease.’

by Karl Nelson II, InternMedia

“People relate to honesty and my music has become more and more honest. I can’t help it. It was a song that needed to happen for me. It re-established a tone for me so now there is nowhere but up! So it was a fresh springboard for me in terms of the upcoming music and message!”

This is what Kenton Dunson had to say during our interview in regard to his biggest single, “Broke Ass Dope Ass Rapper,” which dropped last summer.

That single took Dunson to new heights as an artist. Why? Well, sounds like a relatable title to me. How many of you would agree?

Think about it for a second. “Broke Ass Dope Ass Rapper.”

If you think, for one second, that the only dope artists are the ones we hear about on the radio or see on television, you can think again because that is so far from true that it’s not even funny. Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of dope rappers out there right now, but following that passion has demanded a lot of sacrifice. We must, at times, remember that for every one artist who makes it to mainstream, there are hundreds of good artists who don’t – they are usually referred to as ‘Underground Artists.’

When Dunson made that single that’s exactly where he was at the time. He was truly starting from the bottom, “from poverty, to college, to the corporate world and back to the struggle for the sake of my passion.”

It’s that journey that makes Dunson’s music so compelling and relatable to the average listener.

You might be one of the dopest artists out there, but people don’t see the two or three hustles you have on the side to stay afloat while you do your music. You might be one of the most talented basketball players in the area, but no one is watching the countless hours you’re putting in outside of games and practices in order to be in a position to make that big check.

We have teachers out here who are responsible for some of the most important parts of our educational makeup, but they’re not taking home six-figure salaries.

Even right now, I’m writing to you guys after hours of entertaining other work which allows me to do what I love right here and now without stress. However, at the same time, I’m far from rich or well known.

I know it’s someone who is going to read this and be able to relate right away.

I think that’s what makes Dunson and his music such a good fit for the people. He has a real story that a lot of us can grab onto and feel the correlation.

What makes him special is he’s willing to, as he would put it, “struggle” for the sake of his passion, which is making great music.

“I have seen so many walks of life and my music reflects a broad experience,” Dunson said during our recent interview.

If you are a fan of music — not mainstream. I’m talking about soulful and honest music then Kenton Dunson is your guy.

In the limbo of a blog feature that is going to provide you with our full interview, check out the link below and hear for yourself — that feel good music that so many of us long for.

http://dunsonmusic.com/

Robert Balthazar: Music Producer. CEO. Businessman. Looking back on my Unsung blog features from 2014.

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

Rob has been a good friend of mine since my early college days and I’ve had the opportunity to witness his growth as both a businessman and a music producer for several years now. I had the opportunity to interview him earlier this year and talk about his success as a producer and his most recent endeavors as the starter of a mobile technology company, Handxom, as well as the growth of his personal fitness program for college students, FITT Experience.

Rob, who also goes by the name of Savage Beats when he’s in the studio, has worked with successful artists, such as Soulja Boy, Flo Rida, and Chris Brown. These are opportunities that came about due to Rob’s work ethic and his hunger to be successful and leave his mark on the music industry. Well, consider that sharpie already being put to work on that piece of paper because Rob is off to a great start and doesn’t appear to be slowing down.

From a music standpoint, Rob is getting ready for album placements provided by Atlantic records. He’s also “ghost producing” for a lot of your favorite artists and producers. As if he isn’t busy enough with new music endeavors, Rob is also working closely with one of our college friends, Antonio Rouse, who goes by the name of “Hugo Black” when he’s on the mic. Rob and Antonio will be forming a production duo in the future.

From a business standpoint, Rob and his business partner with Handxom are working on securing markets like the Caribbean and Asia. In 2014, they sold over 1 million dollars worth of merchandise in the Caribbean. Handxom’s numbers are looking great and Rob says that they have plans to set up shop in the US very soon. According to Rob, “things are looking great for 2015 and I can’t wait for all that it will bring.”

Rob has always been someone who’s believed in moving in silence. He doesn’t boast much and he doesn’t believe in chasing the money, but chasing the innovation instead. Rob is about walking the path of success while remaining humble. However, don’t take his humility for weakness. He’s fearless in the art of music and confident in the world of business.

When your desire to be successful exceeds your fear of failing, the future is bright for you and that is what my brother Rob exemplifies in his music and his business endeavors.

D.J. Lil Mic: Paying homage to one of the best D.J.’s to ever do it. 15+ years as the soundtrack for the music scene in Baltimore and across many states and countries.

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

DJ’s provide the soundtrack for the environment and for the people within that environment. A good DJ can change your current emotion at any given moment with the scratching of a record.

A lot of people place their main focus on the performer (the singer, dancer and rapper), but the performance isn’t much of a performance without the soundtrack. That’s what a good DJ provides. They make sure everything is on one accord with what’s being played, whether it’s a party or a performance.

DJ Lil Mic embodies what being a true mixmaster is all about. When Lil Mic is on the turntables, you’re in for a treat.

DJ Lil Mic has been a prominent mixmaster in Baltimore and beyond for over 15 years now. He’s performed with some of the country’s most talented artists, which includes the likes of MC Lyte, Raheim Devaughn, Mario, Mya, Jazmin Sullivan, Marsa Ambrosius and Cee Lo Green.

Lil Mic’s been mixing since he was nine years old and playing records since he was 18 months. One might say that he was maybe destined to be a DJ, but he says that DJ’ing is something that chose him, not the other way around.

He found joy in working with technology, speakers, gaming and sound equipment at an early age. It’s these things that made mixing second nature to him.

Lil Mic is currently pulling double duty as a radio DJ and club DJ. He DJ’s for the educated listener, providing them with a sound that goes beyond the norm. He takes his crowds back to their high school, middle school and elementary school days with music you haven’t heard in some time.

He goes by the motto, “It’s not what you play, but how you play it.” That’s what makes Lil Mic one of the hottest DJ’s out there. Oh yeah and how can I forget about the spiffiness of Lil Mic when he walks on the scene to DJ. He comes suited and booted every time with a suit and the famous bow tie. Now, here’s a man who takes his craft serious making DJ’ing a gentlemen’s game.

It was my pleasure to chop it up with one of the best to ever do it, DJ Lil Mic.

Q. What’s the transition been like for you, going from a locally known D.J. to having a presence that reaches far beyond your local community?

A. It’s kind of weird, honestly. Some people don’t know who I am and then some people do know who I am. I think it’s because I wear a few hats. I try to keep it as humble as possible because at any given moment, you can be absorbing that shine realizing that God gave you that opportunity and gave you the light and at any given moment, he can just snatch it away. So, I try to remain as mellow as possible and I tell these cats that you can do whatever you want to do if you work hard and stay disciplined.

Q. Who played a major role in you getting to where you are today?

A. My parents supported me. I remember the last time I was carrying pounds of records. I’m talking about 80 pounds of records. I was going to St. Louis to DJ. My mother dropped me off at the curb at the airport. I had a lot of luggage and the cases of my records were in some of my luggage. Some of my records fell into the street. My mother parked and got out the car to help me maneuver all of my records.

My parents supported me and I was both a drummer and a DJ as a kid. You’re talking about two of the loudest things a kid could do, I did. It got to the point that when I got to Morgan, I had to make a decision. I asked myself, ‘Alright, are you going to be a drummer or a DJ?’ Clearly, DJ’ing was making me the most money and had the most prestige at the moment. DJ Quicksilver played the drums as well. I can name you a lot of DJ’s that are musicians first, so when they play and how they play is very rhythmic and melodic.

Q. Did you ever think about trying to become a rapper or a producer first?

A. Hell no (laughs). Sike nah. Yeah, I did produce at one point and I’ll probably get back into it, but it’s just like you can’t serve two different gods. You can’t be the best producer and the best DJ. You can be a great producer and the best DJ or the best producer and a great DJ, but can’t be the best at each.

Q. So, what do you say about an artist like Kanye West who has produced his own albums in the past and rapped on them?

A. I think he’s a better producer than he is a rapper. I think he’s a great rapper, but when he’s on, he’s on and when he’s off, his material can come off as really weird. What I do like about him though, is the fact that as an artist he’s not concerned about what people think. He’s going to do what he wants to do. He’s so far out on another level, so I understand what he’s doing in that sense. I’m not mad at him, but at the same time I’m not a fan of that style.

Q. It’s clear that you chose to master the turntables and allow everything else to fall into place. Do you feel like these young D.J.’s are taking the same “masterful” approach today?

A. Well, I feel like a lot of these new cats aren’t paying their dues. Earlier, I mentioned Quicksilver. Me and ‘Quick’ used to sit down and draw turntables. Yes, draw them. Before we had the DJ’s turntable, we would draw them. We visualized what we were going to become one day. There’s no visualization these days. There’s no process. These kids just get money and go out and buy the equipment. Some don’t even do that. Some go use an iPad or something and then they’re just bedroom DJ’s with a name and everything.

We actually went through different DJ names. The guy who named me ‘Lil Mic’ is like a big brother to me. He’s actually my lawyer. I was actually ‘DJ Micky’ at the time. I changed my DJ name, as you should because you have to mature to get to where you want to be. Before you tell people that you’re a DJ, you should be good. However, there’s a lot of people that just jump out and say ‘Yeah, I’m DJ such and such’ and they’re whack, but if you play the right record at the right time, then it doesn’t even matter because there are so many other things going on. Back in the day, you could be in the park, but if the DJ was rocking, it was a party. The DJ is the essence of Hip Hop. The DJ is the original MC that controls the party and brings that energy. I feel like a lot of that has been lost today.

Q. Now, you started off with an internship with WEAA 88.9, right?

A. I started off DJ’ing in the house doing neighborhood stuff, but I used to sneak out of my parents’ house and hangout with the older guys over there and then they just gave me a shot. So, it really wasn’t the proper internship because clearly I was in middle school and these were college students. I was doing this for about a year and a half and then they were like ‘Okay. We gotta tell your mother yo.’ I was leaving the house and leaving the door unlocked in the middle of the night. Between midnight, 1am and 5 in the morning, I would leave the door unlocked. My parents wouldn’t know I was gone and it wasn’t safe.

Q. That’s inspirational to guys like myself. People who are trying to get a head start in their career and really trying to get that first big break. Was it easy for you to get that first break? During your internship, was there any point when you asked yourself, ‘Man, what am I doing?’

A. My motivation was never money. Even now, I’m just blessed to be able to do what I do and make money doing it, but my motivation was never money.

Q. Yeah, you talk about how you don’t even look at your work as an accomplishment, but more so as a blessing.

A. Yeah, to be able to do what you love to do and make a living doing it is just great. And sometimes I’m annoyed by certain things and might not be in the mood, but when you think about all the other things you could be doing and you’re just playing records for people and they’re having a great time, even though you done put 20 – 30 years into it, it’s still that ‘wow’ factor. You’re making people happy. You’re making them smile.

Q. You’ve been a prominent D.J. on the Baltimore music scene for over 15 years. What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

A. I would have to say that the biggest obstacle would have to be myself. Anybody in the game has goals that you set and I feel like the only one who can hinder you from your goal is yourself. I always describe it in terms of sunlight. There’s enough sunlight and sunshine to shine on everybody. So, what God has for you is not going to block me and what he has for me is not going to block you. The only person that is going to block you from reaching your goals is yourself. There are certain things that you’re used to doing, but in order to get to the next level you have to change and re-discipline yourself in order to elevate yourself.

Q. What would you say is the major difference between today’s era of D.J.’s compared to your era?

A. I think the difference between DJ’s of my era and new DJ’s are we grew up with great music. Now, good music is scarce and you have to look for it because there’s an abundance of bullshit. Let’s take ‘Cupid Shuffle’ as an example. That’s a great record, but Cupid is going to be a one-hit wonder. I’d be very surprised if Cupid had another record where as let’s say when Rob Base ‘It Takes Two’ came out in ’86, that record lasted like two or three years. That was still a big record two or three years later. So, now, a classic may come out, but it doesn’t get its length of run the way it should because there’s so many records coming out at a fast pace. And of course the radio is still beating you in the head, playing the same twenty records over and over again.

It’s hard to really feel the impact of a record because after one is released another one comes right out. You know how back in the day an artist would do an album and then take two, three or four years before coming out with another album. Now, like Rick Ross has been out for like six or seven years, but it seems like he’s a veteran hip-hop artist because he drops another album every 12 to 18 months. In between those 12 to 18 months, he’s dropping a mixtape, which is like an album. So, it makes you feel like he’s been in the game for a long time, but Rick Ross has been in the game less than 10 years.

Q. That makes me think about Kendrick Lamar and admire him more because a lot of people have been giving him a hard time due to the fact that he hasn’t come out with another album yet. It seems he’s just taking his time to make sure he puts out quality.

A. Absolutely. I think you have to live your life and have something to talk about. Kendrick’s album was a concept album, but we haven’t had any strong west coast albums like that in a long time. Lyrically, Kendrick is up there. I say top 20 or top 30. I say that because people will be so quick to say, ‘Yo. Top five. Top three.’ You know people will give you the whole Jay-Z, Eminem, and Nas spiel. They might throw Andree 3000 in there, but you’re forgetting The Canes, Rakim, and Caresse. You’re forgetting a whole list of MC’s that, in their day, were the best. Even Funky Dividends from Three Times Dope out of Philly.

There are people lyrically from that era that you have to put in the top 20 or top 30 and then add on to that list, but Kendrick is up there. I mean even Big K.R.I.T. I’m a Big K.R.I.T. fan. His albums are okay, but his mixtapes are incredible. People’s mixtapes are like albums now. I think you need to take your time and do your process. There’s enough garbage music out there that when you come out it’s like ‘Man that’s all I’m listening to.’

It depends on what you’re listening to music for. Are you listening to it for thought? Are you listening to it for enjoyment? Is it something to help you turn up in the club? Turn up records aren’t records to me. Turn up records are not house records. Those are specific club records. Club music is for the club. You shouldn’t be in the car trying to eat somebody’s heart (laughs). That’s not for that. So, I just feel like certain music has its place and even some of Kendrick’s records aren’t party records. They’re thoughtful records. While there are other records out like that that can play at a party, the vast majority of records out now are just promoting sex, drugs, and foolishness.

While hip-hop used to be informative and educational, and there is still some education and information, it’s just camouflaged. Bad has gotten worse. Big has gotten bigger and dumb has gotten dumber. But, on the other hand, intelligent has gotten more intelligent. It’s just scarcer now because it’s camouflaged by the foolishness. So, you’ve got your Kendrick’s. You’ve got your Andre’s. You’ve got your Drake’s, even though he sometimes sprinkles in some bullshit too. Drake’s like the most emotional rapper ever. Even Lil Wayne’s got some gems for you, but he got his teeth taken out and all diamonds in his mouth now. When you look at Wayne, clearly you have to look past all the bullshit, but it’s very hard for us as humans to look past all of that.

I believe everybody has something great to share, but do you camouflage it or do you make it very easy to get to? Sometimes too much is literally too much. Instead of art imitating life, it’s like life is imitating art. There can only be one rapper, but there can be 40 or 50 people behind-the-scenes helping support the art and even change it.

Q. You preach education a lot. It’s something that you value as a Mixmaster, a musical educator and as a father. Tell me about that.

A. Let me tell you about the school system. School was not originally designed for education and then our school system was not designed for entrepreneurship. It’s designed to put you back in the workforce to work for somebody else forever. While it’s very blatant, there are a lot of things that aren’t blatant. There are a lot of things that are secrets and we’ll never get to the bottom of the knowledge because it wasn’t designed for us to have it. I don’t mean us as black people, but us as in poor. Rich and poor. Educated and not educated.

The biggest library in the world is the Vatican and they have the power to take books out of circulation. That’s powerful. And now when we don’t even look in books and we just Wikipedia or Google it, it doesn’t even matter. We don’t even have to have books. We just listen to what we’re told so quickly and believe it. Instead of doing our own research and asking questions, we believe what we’re told. We’re taught to say yes and agree and nod rather than to ask why and then when you ask why, you look it up and you figure it out. If you ask greater questions, then you’ll get those answers.

Q. Music is very influential. As we’ve both said, it’s the soundtrack to life in a lot of ways. It’s no secret that some of the music out here today doesn’t contain the most clean or positive messages. As a music mogul, what do you think about the state of our music and how it plays into the lives of our young people?

A. I do think that parents should educate the children on what’s right and what’s wrong because the songs are meant to enjoy. When I play ‘turn up’ records, I’m playing those records for people who go to the club and they literally turn up in the club. They’re not going to necessarily come outside of the club and just fight somebody. The problem is when we play those ignorant records for people who live that ignorant life or have that ignorant mind frame. When you play ‘Knuck if you Buck’ or ‘Dreams and Nightmares.’

Back in the day, before ‘Dreams and Nightmares,’ we had Mob Deep’s ‘Shook Once.’ That was a really aggressive record. That was the most insightful record of the day. You also had Slick Rick’s ‘Hey Young Girl,’ you had very intelligent, strong, positive-message records. You had ‘Self Destruction.’ You just had people who knew the balance of art. Albums back then had ‘Parental Advisory’ on them. That’s crazy. In fact, when I met MC Lyte for the first time, I’m like ‘Yo you’re like one of my favorite artists, but my father wouldn’t let me buy your album when I was younger because it said Parental Advisory.’ And then I found myself DJ’ing for her and she’s now one of my good friends. When your life comes full circle like that, it’s crazy.

Q. Do you think artists should take that into consideration? That younger generation that wants to hear some Hip-Hop and wants to hear some good music. I know when I was younger my parents weren’t letting me rock with any of that kind of music.

A. I believe it’s the responsibility of the parent. I shouldn’t have to change my art because you’re ignorant enough to allow your kids to listen to what’s not for them. My art is life. I teach from the standpoint of the life lessons that I learned that I want to impart, but I’m only giving you the tip of the iceberg. You need to dig deep down below the surface and figure it out. So, I teach from the standpoint of life skills and music. A lot of the life skills impact how you play the music.

If my crowd of individuals is 35 – 60, I’m not going to play French Montana’s ‘Pop That.’ Like a lawyer, doctor, speechwriter, and an actor, you have to survey your audience. Your audience relies on you to know what they need. It’s a leadership role. It’s a powerful role. I feel like a DJ can start a fight and a DJ can also end a fight. A DJ can send you home with a shorty and a DJ can breakup your relationship. A DJ can also make your relationship. Think about how many wedding receptions you’ve gone to where everything was great, but the DJ was whack. What you remember is the DJ being whack. Nobody cares about the ceremony because you’re married now. People want to know if there was a party. A DJ makes you feel good. A DJ plays on your emotions, but guides you to the right place because a lot of us don’t look at the role music plays for us. Music is in us. That’s something that can’t be taken away from us.

Q. In your career, you’ve traveled the world with some well-known artists. Name a few. What was it like working closely with them?

A. I would say the first person I consistently traveled and worked with is Raheem Devaughn. I’ve been working with him since the beginning of his career. I also worked with Jasmine Sullivan in the second part of her career when ‘Need You Bad’ came out. She’s a great person and super talented. I’ve worked with Cee Lo Green. He’s a wild character and also super talented. I’ve worked with Mya who is super talented and has a lot of energy on stage and even though she doesn’t have a lot of prominent records out in America right now, internationally she’s still heavy. I’ve done some work with Marsha Ambrosius, MC Lyte, Mario and CJ Hilton.

Q. What do you admire the most about these particular artists?

A. Well, almost everyone that I just named has either been nominated or has won a Grammy aside from CJ. CJ is new, but to have worked with a bunch of Grammy-winning and Grammy-nominated artists, it’s powerful. I was in LA with Jasmine when she was nominated for five Grammys on her first album. For your first major release to have five Grammy nominations is a major accomplishment. To have been apart of that run and that momentum was very strong. It was a great feeling.

Q. Rapper and Entrepreneur, 50 Cent, was on one of your first mixtapes when you started out. He’s respected as an overall business mogul and for having a record- breaking album early in his career, but he catches flack for his music today. What are your thoughts on 50?

A. 50 understood that this rap thing was not going to last forever. And 50’s not a timeless rapper. LL Cool J is timeless. Big Daddy Kane is timeless. Rakim’s music is timeless. Andree 3000 is timeless. Bun B is timeless. I can name timeless rappers all around the world. Regardless of what coast you are from or what country you’re from, there are timeless rappers. I don’t think 50 is timeless. ‘In the Club’ was hot at the time. ‘Wingster’ was hot at the time. ‘Made You Look’ was another record that was hot at that particular time. Mob Deep has some timeless material. There are timeless rappers and 50’s not one of them, but he made enough money at the time and he’s a businessman.

Q. What makes D.J. Lil Mic a “heavyweight” in terms of the caliber of D.J.’s in Baltimore?

A. I always say that eagles fly alone. Do you want to be amongst the elite? Do you want to hang with everybody and be mediocre or do you want to do what nobody else is willing to do and be the best? Because when you’re the best, you’re by yourself. You’re the one who’s willing to do the most work when everybody else is doing the least work. You might have a lot of people who have 95’s, but there’s only one magna cum laude or summa cum laude. You have to be willing to say, this is what I’m willing to do to get to the next level. Personally, I was at a place where I was willing to do that. Then you get to a level of success and realize you have to do the same thing all over again to get to the next level up. That was me and still is to this day.

Q. What makes you a special breed?

A. I think I’m special because God made me special. My process is a little different. Nas has a record on his last album that talks about the process. Sometimes the journey is better than the destination. Who I am and the things that my parents did. You know church, school and band and all of that, that’s made me have a greater appreciation. A lot of people have that Bughatti and Bentley frame of mind. So, when I come in with the ’66 Lincoln Continental frame of mind, which is the classic frame of mind, it’s like wow. That’s like when I DJ. I wear suits when I DJ. I’ve always been into branding. I had a logo 20 years ago. I had a mixtape. I had a website in ’98. Dudes barely had email accounts back then. I had mixtapes in high school. I had freestyles from guys like 50 Cent. Before 50 got shot, I got a freestyle with him.

My mom would front me the money and I would sell tapes in school. It was underground hip-hop at the time. Cats would buy the tapes. I would have them selling up and down the east coast. I remember when I got my license. I remember the first time I went to New York to buy records. I didn’t even have enough money to get home as far as toll money goes. We were dedicated man. I have good childhood friends who really supported me and are still friends of mine to this day and friends for life.

Nowadays, one guy can walk into a party and set up to DJ, but back in my day you had eight or nine guys walking in the party with all of this equipment. It was a learning thing for us. I have students now that are very dedicated to each other and stick with each other. They went to the same elementary school, but are now in different high schools. They understand that they are still very young in their DJ’ing and because I’ve explained to them the process, they don’t take it lightly. When they have the party rocking, they love it and when they mess up, they’re hard on themselves, as they should be. Music is the soundtrack to life. It’s the universal language. So, when you understand the weight of being a Mixmaster, understanding that you can hold the sound that impacts someone’s life, it’s major.

Will Smith has said that when you’re doing something, you shouldn’t have a plan B you should only have a plan A because plan B will get in the way of plan A. He said ‘The difference between me and someone else is not my talent. It’s my undying discipline and my work ethic.’ He said ‘While the other man is sleeping, I’m working. While the other man is eating, I’m working.’ So, I’m playing this over and over again in the car trying to feed my mind that energy.

Q. What’s your message to D.J.’s and people in general who are pursuing their passions?

A. I’d say never give up. Even if you have to slow up your pace just to get back on track, that’s cool. I’m not saying kill yourself, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. As people, we have to figure out if we want to contribute to people’s lives or if we’re going to be takers or simply consumers. No one can be all of one or the other. Individuals like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and John F. Kennedy were motivated by their communities needs. The question becomes, ‘What is your ultimate goal?’ I feel like Jay-Z is probably the most notable hip-hop figure today. He could have every kid in the streets reading books. I don’t know if he’s doing that though and if he is we’re surely not hearing much about it. I’m not knocking Jay, but I’m saying that powerful artists like he and Beyoncé could be that influence. I know Jay has the S Carter Foundation, but when you sow that seed in your community, you would think that one would become even more popular.

Q. As a D.J., what adversity do you hope to never come across?

A. War scares me the most because nobody goes to the club when there’s war. The 1920’s was the era of the Big Band. What happened to the Big Band? World War I happened. World War I killed the Big Band because everybody had to go to the army. Elvis was one of the major artists in the army. So, you go from having a band of 30 people to Miles Davis and just a few other artists.

Q. Who are some of the D.J.’s from back in the day that were inspiration to you and your artistry?

A. You had the Mally Malls, the Red Alerts, P Rock, Jazzy Jeff, my man DJ B, Jay-Skee from Philly, and Irin from DC. These guys aren’t too much older than me, but I used to listen to them at a very inspirational point of my life. I listened to this Jazzy Jeff mixtape during that transition from high school to college and it changed my life. What he was doing was called multi-tracking. It just changed my whole focus on how I could do things. But, I was a student of everybody like Primo. I was a big fan of Premier who’s like a big brother to me from Brooklyn. It’s crazy to meet these people after watching them on Rap City and on videos and all of that and then when you meet them and it’s love, it’s like wow.

DJ Shakim: 26 Years and Counting of a Long-Lasting Impact on the World of Hip Hop and Music at Large. A Supreme DJ and Producer.

by Karl Nelson, II “Intern Media”

DJ Shakim left college with the determination to move to Atlanta and meet music mogul Jermaine Dupri. His dream came true when Dupri offered Shakim a position to fill in as the tour DJ for female MC, Da Brat. In less than a week’s time, Shakim found himself on a stage in Europe performing for more than 50,000 people and he hasn’t missed a beat since.

With 26 years in the business, Shakim has traveled the world doing what he loves to do; Djing and producing. His resume includes a seven year run with rapper, actor and television host, Bow Wow, performances at parties for artists like Sean “P-Diddy” Combs, Mary J. Blige and R. Kelly, including DJing exclusively for Bell Biv Devoe and New Edition. The list goes on, but there is just hardly enough space nor time to recite each artist or project. That’s how extensive DJ Shakim’s body of work is.

I was able to talk to Shakim about this body of work as well as other topics after he shut it down at Bobby Van’s in Washington, DC during a star-studded Howard University Homecoming weekend.  

You had the whole party rocking tonight. What’s it like to have a party under your thumb whenever you’re the DJ?

“First and foremost, it’s a blessing to be able to do what I do for a living. This is a hobby that I happen to get paid for and that I love to do. It’s a straight blessing from God to be able to do what I do. To have the control in the club and over the whole situation is unbelievable because you can stop the music, you can talk, you can do whatever you want and everybody’s got to listen to you. It’s a real powerful feeling, but you give them the gift of music. Every genre of music: hip hop, R&B, old school, slow jams. We hit everything tonight, including house and reggae. We touched it all so it was a great night.”

Jermaine Dupri gave you your first break in 2000. What was that like and how did that impact your career in getting to where you are today?

“It’s crazy. I left South Carolina State, located in Orangeburg, SC in 1999 and moved to Atlanta with the sole purpose of meeting Jermaine Dupri. That was my whole goal once I left Orangeburg. I was going to move to Atlanta, catch up with Jermaine and make this happen. Through hard work and persistence, I met him and everything just meshed from there. JD’s been in my corner to this day. I can call him right now and he’d give me advice on anything I need from him. He’s always there and vise versa. I’m there for him for whatever he needs whenever he needs it. That’s my guy right there.”

You worked with Bow Wow for seven years when he was at the top of his game. What was that experience like?

“Awe man. I can only liken it to maybe the Beatles or the Jackson 5 in their prime. For anybody to be hot for that long period of time is beyond impressive. It was scolding. He wasn’t just regular hot. Bow was scolding hot for five or six years where he couldn’t do any wrong. It was incredible to tour the world with him two and three times over. You know just doing music, it was an unbelievable feeling man. Bow is a great dude too. I’m happy for him. I’m happy for all of his success and he’s still moving man. He’s still pushing.”

You’ve been all around the world. Where was the most impactful place you’ve been to and what was it like to tour there?

“I would have to say West Berlin. When you go to a whole other country, you don’t expect them to understand you or let alone know the words to your songs. They might not speak good English or any English for that matter, but when they’re at the performance they know every word to the songs, which is incredible to me. You may not be able to hold a conversation with them, but they can tell you every lyric word for word. I went there with Bow Wow and I also went there with Da Brat. Shout out to Da Brat. She’s crazy. When it comes to female MC’s, I’m putting her in my top three easy. She’s easily in my top three.”

Da Brat contributed to you getting your first break as well right?

“Yea man. My man DJ Nabs was going on tour with another group and he asked me to fill in for him. I got a call on a Wednesday night and Friday morning I was in London. Wednesday night, I didn’t have a passport. I got a passport literally the next day and the next morning I was out to London so it’s blessings man. It’s all blessings.”

26 years in the business. What some people don’t understand is not only have you mixed it up on the turntables, but you’ve actually worked with other artists to help them craft their projects. What’s the most recent artist you’ve worked with and what’s the concept behind the piece that you all collaborated on?

“My man Spectac. We have an album called ‘For The People’ and that’s exactly what it’s for. The title is kind of self-explanatory. It’s music for our generation, meaning we can go 40 and over or 18 and younger because the message is so relevant on both sides of the coin. We’re also working on a second part to that album. Right now, the tentative title is ‘Still For The People.’ I’m working with my guys Warren Wint, Skyzoo and Scott King. Back in the day, I did joints with Murda Mook who’s been popping. So, we have a lot of things brewing right now man. I’ve worked with Tracey Lee of course. We’re working.”