With the art of DJing in his blood it was only a matter of time before a young boy from El Paso, Texas took to the turntables and started spinning. DJ Tony Drake did just that before starting his college career at the University of Maryland where he currently makes an impact. This DJ spins with integrity blending the likes of Common and the Jeezy to make a finished product his audience can truly enjoy. He sat down with HipHopWired to tell us his plans for the upcoming year, who’s next to break in the DMV and what puts DJ Tony Drake at the head of the class.
Origin: El Paso, Texas
Current Location: College Park, Maryland
Top Ten Playlist:
1. Jay Electronica – Exhibit C
2. B.O.B. featuring Bruno Mars – Nothing on You
3. Clipse – Door Man
4. Chip The Ripper – Movie
5. Wale – 90210
6. Don Juan feat Chalie Boy – Lookie Looky (remix)
7. DK aka Wayne Watts – The Paper
8. Diamond District – Back to Basics
9. Big Sean featuring Mike Posner – Who Knows
10. Talib Kweli & Hi Tek featuring Mos Def, J. Cole, and Jay Electronica – Just Begun
HipHopWired: So take me back a little bit. Tell me how you got your start.
DJ Tony Drake: I’m pretty much self taught. I have an uncle in North Carolina, DJ Hurricane and I always looked up to him. So I kind of knew I wanted to be a DJ but I just kept it to myself. When I got to college I got an internship saved up my money and bought all my equipment. I basically just taught myself in my room.
HipHopWired: About how long did it take you to learn everything?
DJ Tony Drake: I’d say it took about two years before I really told anybody anything. It was one of those things where I wanted to respect the art form and I didn’t want to go out as soon as I got my turntables and try doing parties. I really wanted to learn what it was all about. When I was in my room practicing I would go to the library, get books and look at YouTube videos.
HipHopWired: Cool, so then how’d you come up with the moniker “Mr. Topshelf?”
DJ Tony Drake: Topshelf means the best quality, but I don’t call myself that because I feel as though I’m the best DJ out there. For me it’s just the way I try to carry myself; a reminder for what I’m trying to be. Whether it’s DJ’ing, school, or life in general I’m trying to put my all into it to get that high quality result
HipHopWired: Okay well I know you said your uncle inspired you growing up, but who else who inspired you?
DJ Tony Drake: DJ Jazzy Jeff, Mick Boogie, Terry Urban. I know in high school I used to listen to a lot of Southern Smoke mixtapes….
HipHopWired: Oh, so you like Smallz?
DJ Tony Drake: Yeah definitely. I remember coming up in high school I would actually wait for the Southern Smoke mixtape to drop religiously.
HipHopWired: Cool, that’s what’s up. So you’re at the University of Maryland, so tell me how you got your spot DJing for WMUC.
DJ Tony Drake: Well I wanted a radio show but when I first applied they actually turned me down. So I ended up setting up interviews with other Hip-Hop shows that were there. I got MC Lyte to do an interview, Chalie Boy, Kin Folk Kia Shine, Joell Ortiz and I’m looking to bring the rest of Slaughterhouse.
HipHopWired: That’s what’s up. Are you doing an interview with Slaughterhouse or are you just looking to bring them to the campus?
DJ Tony Drake: I’m just trying to bring them to the campus.
HipHopWired: Okay cool, so who are some other people you’re looking to bring to UMD?
DJ Tony Drake: Big Sean, I think that’d be dope. KRS-One, I think that’d be a dope interview. Maybe some new people like Chip Tha Ripper and maybe some of the local talent. I just feel like 09 was a big year for this area and I feel like a lot’s gonna happen in 2010.
HipHopWired: So who are some the artists in Maryland you think are gonna blow up right now?
DJ Tony Drake: We got a group called Diamond District with X.O. and Oddisee, Kingpin Slimm, D.K. aka Win Watts he’s actually an alum of the University of Maryland. He was named one of the top five Hip-Hop acts in the DMV.
HipHopWired: Alright cool. Well being that you’re on a college campus I know there must be a lot of diversity. So is there a particular type of music you like to play?
DJ Tony Drake: For me, good music is good music. I’ll pretty much go everywhere depending on the crowd I really don’t have a preference. I play whatever keeps the crowd moving.
HipHopWired: Alright. So after you leave the University of Maryland where do you plan on DJing next?
DJ Tony Drake: I plan on staying in the area and I’ll just keep on trying to advance in DJing.
HipHopWired: Cool so does that include mixtapes?
DJ Tony Drake: I’m looking to start this idea with a couple of different artists and have something together for this year. Mostly I’m just doing guest spots on different radio shows, DJIng open mics, opening up for different artists and DJing in D.C. and Baltimore.
HipHopWired: Okay. Now before I let you go, just tell me what you think makes you different from other college DJs.
DJ Tony Drake: Being able to diversify my music. Being able to play Common and then switching it up to play Jeezy, going back and forth and having it still flowing. I like to create a balance because it doesn’t have to be serious all the time. Sometimes you do need something with substance behind it so I’m always trying to balance things out.
HipHopWired: Right, and and do you get a good crowd reaction from that? I know some DJs just don’t care what they play as long as it’s radio’s hottest single. Do people appreciate the balance?
DJ Tony Drake: Actually I get crazy good responses. I feel like DJs should try and step out and play stuff that you wouldn’t normally hear. I guess that I’ve been lucky to be able to play at spots where I’m able to experiment and break new records. I feel like that’s the DJ’s job, to expose and break new records to the audience. For the average listener you have to search out and find the good music.
HipHopWired: Right and you just bring it to the people, you bring the good music to them.
DJ Tony Drake: There you go.
HipHopWired: Okay so any final words? Any shoutouts?
DJ Tony Drake: Shoutout to my uncle and everyone who’s supported me thus far. Shout out to the students that I mentor up at University of Maryland.
HipHopWired: Okay cool and what’s your contact info if someone wants to book you.
DJ Tony Drake: They can email me at DJTonyDrake@gmail.com. Or check me out on Twitter @DJTonyDrake and my facebook page. Also there’s DJTonyDrake.com with links, info, and mixes they can download.