DJ Soundwave is a product of his environment. Based out of Washington D.C. with roots in the Southwest, Soundwave's ear for music and drive landed him a major deal with DTLR and ultimately his gig on their national radio show. Now as he prepares to further make his imprint on music, he told HipHopWired how a young boy with dreams of being a jazz musician made his transition from the sax to turn tables, and why he thinks the Capital's hometown hero will finally put D.C. on the map.
Current Location: Washington, D.C.
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2. Wiz Khalifa - This Plane
3. Young Money - Bedrock
4. Blake Kelly - I Be Damned
5. Clipse f/ Cam'ron - Popular Demand
6. Soulja Boy - I'm Ballin
7. Game - Big Money
8. J. Cole - Grown Simba
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10. BXC f/ Ludacris - Open Wide
HipHopWired: I know you got your start DJing when you were 13 but what did you want to do before that?
DJ Soundwave: I've always been into music. I started out playing piano when I was younger and then I transitioned to the saxophone then I started DJing. It was always something I wanted to do.
HipHopWired: From day one you always wanted to DJ?
DJ Soundwave: Actually when I was younger like four or five I wanted to be a famous jazz musician.
HipHopWired: So was there ever a point in time when you made that switch and decided okay, this is what I want to do, I want to start DJing? What made you pursue it?
DJ Soundwave: Well what happened was with the educational system out here they mainly focused on concert bands and marching bands and I wanted to get more into the jazz aspect of it so that made me fall back from the saxophone a little bit. I chilled out in high school graduated and focused more on DJing. Things just took off from there.
HipHopWired: I know a big turning point for you was your internship with WPGC so tell me a little bit about that. What did they have you doing at first? What was it like?
DJ Soundwave: It was cool, I got to meet a lot of people. At first they had me really doing nothing, answering phones and taking requests but I got more involved. My internship ended and I left for a couple of months. Then I came back and I worked with DJ Flex and he took me into his board op class and I passed that class. So I got hired to be a board op. Then one I day I remember it was May in 2005 and I was sitting around my girlfriend's house and he called me and said, “What are you doing tonight?” and I said “Oh you want me to run the board? And he said, naw I want you to DJ. So that's how it all started.
HipHopWired: So you were their youngest mixer ever for the station?
DJ Soundwave: Yeah. The first time I was on the air I was 19.
HipHopWired: Well now that you're DTLR's national radio DJ and official DJ for the D.C. area; tell me how you hooked up with them.
DJ Soundwave: I joined a record pool which is Direct Jive record pool which is underneath Unruly Productions, a company that gets contracted to purchase all the music and handle all the music for DTLR. They also handle DJs so they asked me to start DJing in the stores locally and I would do a different store once a week. So there's about 20 stores in our precinct and every time I would DJ, people would ask me to make a mixtape for when I'm not there. That's where I came up with the idea to make CDs for all the stores nationwide and that's when DTLR radio came into play.
HipHopWired: How long have you been doing DTLR radio?
DJ Soundwave: Since the end of 2007.
HipHopWired: So being that you do DTLR radio and you're from the DMV, how excited are you about Wale's album coming out?
DJ Soundwave: I'm very excited for him, very proud of him. Actually before I started working with DTLR I was DJing for this spot called ‘Up Against The Wall' and that was in '06. So Wale came in there and I actually knew Wale because he always came to the radio station and I've had a relationship with Wale since 2006 or ‘07. I'm not gonna say we're best friends or anything but we know each other. I've always helped him out, always played his music, we used to contact each other back and forth on Myspace. I was actually one of the first DJs he gave the original version of “Ice Cream Girls” to.
HipHopWired: That's what's up but what do you think about his label? I heard they only shipped 30,000 copies of his album out. Do you think they're setting him up to fail?
DJ Soundwave: I don't think they set him up to fail. It's just that the times are changing. People prefer I-Tunes or bootlegging, I've seen it firsthand where a store will purchase x amount of a certain artist's album and they'll just sit on the shelf and end up being sent back to the label because they don't get sold. So I think that's what they thought. Wale, he's got a lot of come up on the internet on his mixtapes and I guess the label saw that and figured everybody was gonna hit I-Tunes. But when it comes down to it, people hit the Internet for mixtapes but buy albums in stores so yeah, he got under shipped.
HipHopWired: Do you think it's D.C.'s time to shine? With the DMV area, Virginia's been doing some things with the Clipse and Missy and Pharrell but we haven't really heard anything nationally from the capitol. You think he can finally put you guys on the map?
DJ Soundwave: Definitely. Him, Tabi Bonney, different people from the area. I'm not gonna say it's our time but it's definitely a good look right now, we're definitely getting a lot of publicity. If everybody keeps on playing their position, if everybody keeps pushing and keeps grinding, I'm not gonna say we could follow in other people's footsteps and be the next or the next New York,but we can be the first D.C.
HipHopWired: Right. Now I spoke to Alizay a couple of weeks ago and he told me that he doesn't think go-go could ever break through and go national. Do you agree with that statement?
DJ Soundwave: I agree and disagree with that. Right now with the current state it's in, there are two different sides to go-go. You have the traditional go-go and then you have the younger bands. With the older bands there are groups like Mumbo Sauce and all their content is original but most people just cover other people's songs. Me personally, l'm originally from Texas so when I first moved here I didn't like go-go but it grew on me and I love it now. I probably would agree with Alizay for the most part. I don't see it going national. Actually let me take that back. It could go national but it has to be eased into. A lot of people liked E.U.'s “Doing The Butt” which was on School Daze and a lot of people don't know that's go-go. It depends on how hardcore the go-go is.
HipHopWired: Right. So being that you're from the DMV do you prefer to spin go-go and music more local to your area or are you open?
DJ Soundwave: I'm just open. A lot of people get caught up in yeah I gotta represent where I'm from. I represent where I'm from but at the end of the day to me, good music is good music. I don't care where you're from. You could be from Alaska , Montana, Nebraska. If you have something good, the way I carry it is, if I hear it, I like it, I play it.
HipHopWired: Are there any artists out there we should be on the lookout for that you think are really about to break through?
DJ Soundwave: I just did a mixtape with my man Supe outta Baltimore, my man Josh Ellis he's outta D.C., my man Mass Potential, I'm working with him. I have an artist named Marky I work with, he's signed to Universal.
HipHopWired: Let's talk more about mixtapes. I first heard about you when I was at Hampton and you did the mixtape with Tay James. What's the next one you're looking to put out there?
DJ Soundwave: I actually dropped one the other day, I Play The Music Vol 2 and Tay and I just did another mixtape. We're just waiting to get the cover done so we can put it out.
HipHopWired: What's that one called?
DJ Soundwave: Grade A Volume I.
HipHopWired: So who'd you guys put on there? Is there a concept to it?
DJ Soundwave: There's no concept to it, he just did his half I did mine. It features his artist Blake Kelly and Mark Jackson, all of them over there.
HipHopWired: You guys met through DTLR right?
DJ Soundwave: Right, and we just started networking.
HipHopWired: Besides mixtapes, what's next for you?
DJ Soundwave: I'm working on getting my website designed, I'm dwelling into production. I don't wanna say I'm an A&R but with the whole Wale/ Alizay thing, Wale constantly shows Alizay love because Alizay showed him love in the beginning. I'm just all about networking and building.
HipHopWired: How can people get in contact with you? Do you have a Facebook, Myspace, Twitter?
DJ Soundwave: I do. I streamlined everything. Facebook, Myspace, Twitter everything is Soundwave 1. Myspace.com/djsoundwave1 and Facebook and Twitter the same thing.
Download DJ Soundwave's latest mixtape, I Just Play The Music Vol.2 here