Interview — DJ Shotgun
recorded by SDH, May 10, 2005
by Shelton Hull
So, tell me about this DMC coming up.
June 17 is the Southeast Regional DJ Competition.
What other cities have hosted events this year?
Well, DC went down already, Phoenix just went down [on May 7], Pennsylvania. It’s already in full motion. Our date, June 17, is one of the last dates; if you want to see all the dates for the US events, just go to DMCworld.com, and it will guide you to where the US heats are.
How is the contest judged?
As of right now, I’ve got Sureshot as one of the judges. DJ Therapy is a judge. DJ Klever is a judge. Kidd Yzer or Razor Ramon from Hip Hop Hell — one of them will be a judge, and I’m trying to have Q45 judging, as well, just so we can have a wide range of DJ styles and experiences on the panel.
What the judges look for is originality, of course. Creativity, which is basically taking what you can flip– your selection, really– and what you’re doing with it, the whole technique and styles and patterns of what you’re doing to make it effective, from a beat juggle to a scratch routine, to a combination. Judges also look for your all-around technicality– what you’re capable and not capable of. But music selection plays a very important role. Hopefully the competitor can put together a dope enough six-minute set to make people understand that this is more than just playing music; it’s making music. That’s the turntablist concept– DJ Baboo inventing the word “turntablist.”
Who are the sponsors?
We’ve got Crazy Dave’s sponsoring– they’ve always sponsored all the events that I’ve thrown. Desi Relaford, from 6Hole, he’s sponsoring. 904HipHop is doing their share of sponsoring. Groove City Records, formerly Ray’s Music and Memories. Those are the local sponsors, and you’ve got the national tour sponsors like Sobe Adrenaline Rush, Urb Magazine, Sam Ash Music Store, Yahoo! Purple [?], and so on and so forth. They’re going to start running three million impressions on MySpace.com, for all of Florida, the week before under the “Southeast Regional” banner, so people can see it and know it’s more than just a Jacksonville event– it’s a whole Florida event.
It’s hard to get people to come to Jacksonville when, it’s like “Okay, you’re coming to Jacksonville– there’s nothing to come to,” as opposed to throwing the Southeast Regionals in Miami, Orlando, where if the DJ battle sucks, you can still go all around the city. It’s really hard to get cats from the south to come up north, because they still don’t believe that we’re Florida. All my homeboys say, “We’re still south Georgia!”
We’ve got performances, in addition to the battle. We’ve got Redrock, the group I DJ for; they’re on Scheme Addict Records. We’ve got Asamov– big ups to Asamov right now, because they’re out on tour with the Perceptionists, doing the west coast side of the tour. All the love to them, because them boys are Jacksonville veterans. I’ve got a cat coming out from San Francisco named Top Kat; check that cat out at TopCatMusic.com. (All the groups I mentioned are on MySpace.) You’ve got DJ Klever, two-time US Champion. He’s going to come back and do a repeat performance of his fierce battle set, so y’all can see what “the Almighty Whitey” is all about. I was his mentor, but now I’m his student as well. We’ve always been about elevating each other.
I don’t want people to get it twisted: Just because the DJ battle is over doesn’t mean [the event] is over. There’s an afterparty going down. We’re going to drink up and have a jolly good time, and let people enjoy this hip-hop and see what the DJ craft is all about. This will also be a great opportunity for artists to come out and promote their product, because we’ll have DJs coming in from all over the country. I will have various booths set up so kids can sell their CDs or t-shirts or whatnot; if anyone wants to get with me about that, get at me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How many finalists are there?
At least ten, but there could be more. The New York headquarters said we can have ten finalists, minimum. If there are more than ten [in competition], they must enter the preliminaries, which will be held at Crazy Dave’s earlier that day. DJ’s have to come and do their best three-minute set, and then the best ten will be picked to battle it out that night. In the finals, each DJ spends all these hours practicing for six minutes, and it might not be their best six minutes because this DJ shit is so tripped out.
How long has the DMC been going on?
The DMC has been around since before a lot of people were born. Jazzy Jeff won his World title in ’87. The first US winner was actually DJ Cheese, from Word of Mouth, old-school hip-hop group. Not that many people are aware of that. And you’ve got a lot of the greats that went into the DMC, as well. You’ve got Aladdin, who was the DJ for Low Profile, Rhyme Syndicate, DJ for Ice-T– he was world champion. DJ Q-Bert, of course, two- or three-time world champion, and my homeboy Craze, everybody knows him from Miami. DJ A-Trak was the youngest world champion– he’s now the DJ for Kanye West– kid from Montreal, Canada. My homeboy DJ Klever, from Atlanta, my protégé– he’s a two-time US DJ champion, world finalist runner-up in 2001.
If people aren’t aware of the DMC, it’s always been a good foundation for DJs to earn themselves a name and some respect, and a title as well– one that you can have bragging rights about and can get you promoted and booked all around the world, because DMC raises nothing but the best. The current World Champion is from the US now– a good friend of mine, DJ I-Emerge. He’s originally from Florida, but he moved to New York, got his grind on, became the US Champion and the 2004 World Champion, which is a damn hard thing to do, because it’s been a while since the US champion took the title, you know? Since Craze.
Off the top of your head, how many DJs do you think are in the world today?
Oh, man, several thousands. Klever and I put out a break record in 2000 called Dirty South Breaks, which is on A-Trak’s label, Ammo Records (which is a subsidiary of Audio Research), and we were told that we sold about 10,000 of that record. Now, that’s specifically for battling. Producers buy it to sample sounds and loops and what not, but imagine how many pairs of records were bought, because DJs like flippin’ with a pair [of the same record]. So there could be 5,000 DJs or more holding just our record. It’s a blessed feeling!
When Klever and I were making that record, we were always thinking, damn, we want to make a record for us to battle with. But as we grow older and mature, more into the music production state, we felt more like we’re passing it down to the young tablists. We currently have a release entitled Get Crunk Breaks– that’s in the store now. [Locally] They’ve got it at Crazy Dave’s, at Trailer Park Tracks out in Mayport, and everywhere around the world. You can check online for it. Fat Beats is distributing.
How did you get the bug to get into this business?
In Oak Park, Michigan– basically, Detroit– I might have been ten or 11 when I saw Graffiti Rock. I caught that shit on TV, and Jam Master Jay was rippin’ some cuts with Run-DMC. To me, that totally blew my fuckin’ mind; that was one incident. And then I saw a commercial for Beat Street; I had to get my mother and dad to take me up to the movie theater, but still got up in there. I wasn’t expecting what would happen to me that day, but that was the day I officially caught the bug. When I saw that dude Double K on Beat Street, scratching, I totally lost my mind at how he controlled the party with his sense of being an MC, but at the same time a party rocker, putting it on the ones and twos. That totally got to me, and I knew right then and there what my place in life was– that was to be a DJ.
How did your parents react to the movie?
Oh, they dropped me off. They knew what it was, and they knew it was keeping me occupied more than wanting to run the streets. They knew it was something pure in my heart because of the way I begged for turntables, my first beginner’s set and my first Realistic mixer from Radio Shack. I was, like, Christmas begging! I was totally like, “Fuck a Christmas gift– just get me this, and that’ll be enough!” So my parents did that. God bless my mother’s soul because, you know, she hasn’t seen any of the accomplishments I’ve pulled off since those days.
How old are you?
32. I started DJing at 12. My cousins used to show me little blends and little scratches, and from there I would learn. I was always the younger kid going to older parties. I used to go to a lot of fraternity and sorority parties: U of M, Eastern Michigan, shit like that. I’d go to these Q-dog parties, AKA parties, Delta parties with my cousins and their partners. I’d always stand behind the DJ booth because that’s where I was most like to get in less trouble at, so they always kept me behind the tables. I used to just watch them do their thing, mimicking what they were doing while I was standing there. I used to really get clowned for that, but that shit changed up because it always kept me in the room practicing.
My first gig was at my Eleanor Roosevelt Middle School. We had an 8th grade party. I rocked that shit, and the rest is history. From that I had to start getting better with my DJing. In Oak Park, all my boys’ older brothers were DJs; it seemed like the hobby everyone was doing. I had started to get a little known, like “this young Asian cat is out here doin’ it; he’s out here spinnin’ some shit, killin’ it.” By 9th grade, I was able to beat the two senior DJs at my high school, and I guess that’s what got me more into the battling aspect of it. I got with some rap groups back then, went through a lot of the shit going on here in Jacksonville, but I kept true to my craft.
Then, in 1989 I went to New York. Dude I know hooked it up, so we all went out to the New Music Seminar, and by then I already thought I was a hot DJ– I thought I was the shit, like “No one’s gonna fuck with Shotgun.” And then I walked up in the World Supremacy Title battle. The first thing I saw was DJ Miz and DJ Aladdin going at it in the finals. I didn’t know you could do all kinds of body tricks and sound manipulations with the records, you know? They opened up a whole third eye for me at that time. That’s extra history! The term “turntablist” hadn’t been invented back then. All I wanted was to battle in competitions and try to get a name.
Just like every young, up-and-coming dude getting his ears wet, you’re gonna find out the hard way that it’s not that easy. I tried to battle. I made it to the Midwest Finals in 1990 and in 1991 I made it into the Southeast regional finals. The DMC wasn’t really expanded back then– you just had your west coast finals, east coast finals, Midwest and southeast finals– it wasn’t how they do it now, by cities and whatnot.
Tell me about your P.I.M.P. Organization.
Me and my team– DJ Sureshot, DJ Infader, DJ B-Noize and KenSki– we’re a bag of diamonds in the rough. Everybody has their own individual skills and their own technique, which is so blessed for Jacksonville because it’s a cultural city and they need to see more art like that. It’s more than just scratching and making noise. Turntabling, that’s composition. It takes time to sit there and take four bars from one record, two bars from the next, and make a total composition out of that. It’s all about power moves. That’s what “P.I.M.P.” stands for: Power In Movement Professionals. That’s what we are. We aren’t no pimps– I’m a married dude! My wife still trips off me calling myself “P.I.M.P. Organization.” We’re trying to help the industry in Jacksonville understand what a power move is by bringing these events like DMC. We want to start opening up a whole ‘nother market to give people something else to fall back on, instead of just the regular-regular, because that can get redundant after a while.
What kind of product are your people releasing this year?
PIMP Organization, we have several mix CDs in production. We have one already made, but we’re waiting to really release it to a major crowd, so we’ll probably give it out at the DMC, as well. We’re working on a CD called The Duval District, which consists of Jacksonville artists; we’re going to put into a composition that’s different from “Yeeeah! What’s up! New hot exclusive!” I’m going to have Flyy da Cool Guy hosting on it. I’ve got Redrock, Asamov, One Blood, Swordz, Blackheart, that dude Grymee, that kid Anonymous, etc., so be looking out for 100 free promotional copies attached to the (DMC) flyer. These are promissory CDs: If we give you this 70 minutes of hotness, you will come out to the DMC!
You’re known to keep a steady grind, and this is a big city. How do you work a place like this? What’s the strategy?
Well, you have to understand the demographics of Jacksonville. When I first moved here, I didn’t really understand that. I always used to hear that Jacksonville was the biggest city, land-wise or land-mass-wise; I never really paid attention to that. But the more I grew into the city, and the more I started understanding different parts of town, I started to see a segregation. I saw what the obstacles to promoting were down here. Not everybody has cars, and we don’t have transit systems here like fortunate big cities; we’ve got a People Mover that goes four blocks up the street and four blocks back. So that’s not really going to take the young kids anywhere. If you ask me, the type of events I put on should be all-ages, but due to the content of some of the events, it can’t be. I feel like everybody should be able to come out to a DJ battle or a B-boy battle and enjoy that as a family, because there’s a whole new generation, and when people my age and on up neglect the younger, it causes more of a gap.
The thing I see about promoting down here is, it’s not that it’s harder or anything. People are spread-out, so you have to get out and touch them, as well. It isn’t about, like, give this guy a box of flyers and he’ll bomb every parking lot. Nah, sometimes you’ve got to go out to those parking lots and tell people about it. It’s not hard to do that. Once you reach out to people, they actually feel what you’re about.
To tell you the truth, I’m not into promotions; that’s not my thing. I’ve been around some of the best promoters, and learned. I just knew in my heart that if I didn’t try to step up and do anything here in Jacksonville, trying to wait around for somebody else who would, I might fuck around and grow old. This city has so much potential as a music industry city, but no one really takes the time to invest the capital and the effort.
How do you view this scene?
Jacksonville reminds me a lot of the 1990-91 hip-hop crowd in Detroit, because you’ve got your street crowd, your hip-hop boys and your alternative, totally off-the-wall muthafuckas. It was hard back then to get everything in alignment, because of the topic of “relations.” If a dude is rhyming about lyrical skills, a street nigga can’t relate to that;, and if a street dude is out there rhyming about “I’m sellin’ drugs and bustin’ guns and fuckin’ hoes,” positive rappers tend not to deal with that, and so on.
With Detroit, at least they kept trying. They kept trying to the point that both sides eventually opened up to each other. Anytime I go back and go to a hip-hop jam, I don’t walk in and see just heads, hip-hop heads, backpacking kids– I see regular muthafuckas that I know from the block. They’re just in there listening to that hip hop– no other shit, just pure-ass hip-hop. And these might be the thuggest niggas you ever met in your life– straight-up killas! That’s one thing I can always acknowledge Detroit for: they got a point where they tried to diversify with the music scene, and cats like Eminem really helped that city blow up. Nobody ever ‘gon figure a white boy like him would just blow our city out the fuckin’ frame, but he did, and all the love in the world to that man because he is true to that craft. You can’t deny talent– God won’t let that happen.
Jacksonville is at a slow pace. Everybody here is a musician; everybody’s got some sort of talent, but then I guess everybody adapts their own egos to it. Now, everybody’s to their coming-up stage. Muthafuckas used to be in the studio or the basement, getting their practice on or writing. Now everybody’s starting to come out with product and demo, and they on some watching too much TV, thinking “If I submit the right demo, I’m gonna be a star,” but it’s not like that. The truth of the matter is that it’s all hard work. This is all hard work. It’s not a damn hobby– it’s a job!
It almost seems like [an artist has] to make some money on the independent end before they can even start trying to fuck with a label–
Yeah. To the surprise of Jacksonville, not knowing, there’s always a lot [of industry people] creeping through town. But I guess they go off the impression they get that anyone else does when the first come through here, so that makes it hard for them to sift anybody out, because they’ve got everybody in their ear, probably, tellin’ ’em that they’re the best, hottest thing in Jacksonville. Truth is, no one is the hottest shit in Jacksonville, because if you’re the hottest shit in Jacksonville, you wouldn’t be here!
I’ve lived in Jacksonville for six years, long enough to call myself a citizen of Duval. Before that, I lived in Atlanta for six years, before that Detroit, and I was born in the Philippines, so I’m not trying to claim anything but culture. A lot of changes happen in the hip-hop game, but Jacksonville don’t need to follow trends– they need to set them, and they can’t set trends by being a robot. I don’t know how else to say it.
I went out to San Francisco a month back, and I was listening to their mix show, and they’ve got a DJ out there killin’ it with that South shit. He’s got skills, he’s cutting with it, he’s doing some ill blends and some transitions. Next thing you know, they drop Desi Relaford’s junk, from that album [6Hole Records All-Stars]. They dropped Big Rapper Pooh in between Lil’ Jon and some damn Ying-Yang Twins! Cities like that automatically set themselves apart from each other when they give people a variety.
I have mad cats checking out my boys Redrock and Asamov. If I have a Swordz CD out on the road with me, I’ll give it to these folks. I’ll tell them to check out 904HipHop.com and shit like that, because I’m just trying to do my part in helping to spread the gospel of what we have here. It’s more than just some ignorant shit. There is some genuinely talented shit out. People in Jacksonville– they don’t even know how talented Jacksonville is. No matter what, no one can tell me there aren’t enough people to get a revolution started, as far as believing in something other than foolishness.