Authors:Clark Kennedy, Ceylan Kumbarji
A few months back, we had the pleasure of interviewing one of the most humbled and focused DJ's on the face of the earth - DJ MLK. His passion is paralleled within the love of spinning vinyl and making the fans go crazy, selecting the best static through his vast musical knowledge.
It was a cold, brisky afternoon when HYPEFRESH®’s very own Clark Kennedy picked up the phone to talk to DJ MLK, who discussed his love for the craft of DJing, as well as some of his most memorable moments and wise words for upcoming entertainers.
“My 9-5 in life, plus the overtime - is DJ’ing.” says MLK. “It all about that work you put in… That’s how you see your reward in the craft.”
Having just finished rocking Power 99’s “Powerhouse” in Philadelphia with T.I. the night prior (and an after party in New Jersey immediately after!), we knew this guy was hard at work and his time was precious and extremely valuable. Clark squeezed out the best questions in preparation, out of pure respect to his schedule. When the thirty minute call was finished, it was obvious what was left on the to do list...
Presenting our first, exclusive interview with HoodRich/Grand Hustle’s very own – DJ MLK. Be inspired! Enjoy!
Tell us how you got started in music and DJ’ing.
“Music is in my family background… My Father was a world renowned DJ, so I basically followed in his footsteps. Over the years I stuck with it, got better and better as time moved on.. And when I felt it was that time to step out and make a career out of it, I made my move. And that’s how I got to where I am today.”
What’s it like working with the top dogs in the music industry on a daily?
"t’s a great experience. Especially having being on the outside looking in for so long. It feels great when you're in the room with well known producers and musicians.. You learn so much being in their presence… Just being hands on with these individuals. I love it man.”
What’s one of your biggest challenges of being a DJ?
“Nothing is a challenge for me – Industry wise… It’s really the challenge of pushing myself to becoming a better DJ. That’s the hard part. Bettering myself every day is the focus. And staying away the bull shit that comes with the music industry..
Elaborate further on the BS your relating to… In what aspects?
“Like.. everybody wanna rap and sing *chuckles*… Cat’s dick riding and just wanting to tag along for a free ride.. Sorta like dead weight. That can be a daily setback on the regular. And if you already know that these elements come with the game, your better prepared to deal with these situations as they come.”
Tell us one of your most memorable moments being a professional DJ…
“When DJ equipment froze up on me during a live T.I. performance. Remember the song “Bring Em Out”?
Of course. A smash hit.
“At the time I was working alongside DJ A.M. (who also DJ’d for Jay Z’s live performances at the time) and we had a cue point to drop his track on the chorus in transition. No lies… as the music was playing, the Pro Tools had froze up on us… And we had less than a minute to figure out what we were gonna do…”
Wow.. What was the outcome?
“Luckily, within a split second of the time frame when me and DJ A.M. had to drop the hook during the show, the computer unfroze, and we were able to drop it quickly in a moments notice. Yo… it was so close bro.. Like, if the equipment didn’t open up how it did, that woulda been a real ugly moment.”
Any other experiences?
“I had the opportunity to witness, with my own eyes, the official remix to “My President Is Black” with Jay-Z and Jeezy in the studio. Everybody’s in the building.. Beyonce, Tip, Kevin Lyles… It was a true experience to see so many great people in the room at the same time – creatively. I will never forget that moment.”
Sidebar question. Iggy Azelea. Travis Scott. Both are on Grand Hustle… Did you have any part in discovering and bringing them both to the team?
“I’m not gonna use the word ‘discover’. I didn’t discover them. Honestly, I was always a fan of them both (on the underground scene) prior to witnessing them signing on to the label.”
Yeah? What’s the story behind that?
“One day, Tip and I sat down and chopped it up, like we normally do. T.I. was talking bout reinventing the group with some new flavor. He expressed that he wanted to bring on some dope new artists in the group, which would add some new flare. A few days later, there was a Hip Hop report that was released online on up and coming artists. And those two just happened to pop up on the list. I flashed back to the conversation me and Tip had and passed the news on to him. And from there, he further did his research on them both. ”
What happened after that?
“I remember those two getting signed on the same day, literally. One walked in the door, left with a deal… And the other came in, and the same thing happened. In my opinion, it was perfect timing to bring them on. Now looking at where their careers are today, it paid off in me being a fan of them both. I was able to pass off useful information to T.I. at a crucial moment to bring on some future heavy hitters.”
You seem very humbled and focused in your career… What’s your ultimate focus?
“Honestly, it’s WORK. Being in the limelight is a test. Some people can handle it.. And others? Not so much. My 9-5 in life is DJ’ing. I gotta be focused on doing my job. Getting the work done, you know?”
It honestly shows bro. It really does.
“I appreciate that comment.. But yeah, ima no gimmicks kinda guy. You ain't gon catch me DJ’ing with my shirt off on stage or nothing.. Over-advertising myself, or going against the grain. Nah, that’s just not my lane. Being in this field, you have to stay focused, or – stay true to whatever your focus is. If not, you’ll fall off.”
Whats some wisdom you could pass off to upcoming DJ’s to aid in their pursuit in the music industry?
“You just gotta know what kinda DJ you’re gonna be. It’s just like how if you going to college, and a person asks you what you're gonna major in. You gotta know, and just focus from there. So when you relate that back to music, you have to know your pursuit. I honestly think that’s the best advice I could give.”
I gotta ask, what’s your favorite T.I. song? Since you're alongside him on a regular…
He has too many good records for me to have JUST one! (laughs). So I can’t really answer that question.
No top 3’s, nothing?
Nope. I’m a huge fan of a lot of his material, so it’s hard to line up em like that.
That’s all I have bro. Man, I appreciate your time homie!
Thanks man, likewise. Appreciate it much.