Origin: Representing Michigan state wide
Top 10 Playlist
1. Mayer Hawthorne – “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out (Astronote Rmx)”
2. Crown Royale
3. The Clipse ft. Pharrell – “I’m Good”
4. Raekwon ft. Capadonna & Ghostface Killah – “10 Bricks (prod. J Dilla)”
5. Phat Kat – “Fanz”
6. Black Milk – “Set Go”
7. Ryan Leslie – “Not My Girl”
8. Slum Village – “Cloud 9”
9. Statik Selektah ft. Styles P & Talib Kweli – “The Thrill Is Gone”
10. Donwill – “Laura’s Song (prod. Astronote)”
HipHopWired: For those who don’t know you, how did you get your start as a DJ?
DJ Graffiti: I actually started as an MC, that’s how I got into music. When I was younger, my parents were really over protective and I wasn’t allowed to hang out in the streets all hours of the night; so as an outlet I used to go over to my friends house and we used to make music. From there I went on to DJ while I attended college at the parties and really got into making mixtapes and it was pretty much my passion from there. I’m in love with music, so I am one of those people where you can put in a classic rock club or an underground club either way, I am going to rock it and make sure that everyone has a great time.
HipHopWired: How long have you been in the industry?
DJ Graffiti: Professionally I have been in the industry for twelve years, but I have been a DJ for over fifteen years.
HipHopWired: Being a DJ in the era where DJs were beginning to use CDs, which do you prefer to use, CDs or vinyl?
DJ Graffiti: I started out with vinyl, actually when I started to DJ professionally DJs were using the CDs but it wasn’t sophisticated enough to emulate vinyl. So back then, it was really more like working home CD players and it was very hard to mix. As for what I use now, I definitely still use vinyl, I have crates upon crates of vinyl, but I also use the Serato which allows me to control the MP3 on the laptop without having to carry my 5 crates.
HipHopWired: How do you feel about the transition from Vinyl to CDs, do you feel it is a hindrance to the art or do you feel that it is just simply the music evolving?
DJ Graffiti: Honestly I have never used CDs, I have owned CD tray turntables, but I have never used CDs to DJ. I have always used vinyl or something similar to vinyl, but I think the CDs came into play because there were MP3s that weren’t available on vinyl that were available on CD. In order to be up to date, I think that sometimes you had to use a CD every once and a while; but that would still only be 3 percent of my show. I think that if you are skilled and do what you do well, it really doesn’t matter what format that you use. I think at the end of the day a good DJ is a good DJ, it does hurt at the end of the day when you travel across the country to finally get your hand on a record that someone can go to Google and type search to download; but still no matter what technology comes out a dope DJ is a dope DJ.
HipHopWired: What do you think makes a great DJ?
DJ Graffiti: You definitely have to know the music and have the ability to read the crowd, know when to play what record at the right time. You have to have an ear for music, everyone knows what they like but it is very difficult to play something that a crowd of people will like. You have to be able to play music that is right for the moment. A great DJ is going to know how to start the record, how to cut the record, how long to play the record; all of this comes with experience, but also is a GOD given talent that is given to you to make people dance and have a good time. That’s why it doesn’t matter what technology comes next, if you notice everyone wants to call themselves a DJ, because they think that all you have to do is have a laptop and the software. I’m not saying that you can’t be a DJ, I’m just saying you won’t be a good DJ.
HipHopWired: How important do you feel that the DJ is in Hip-Hop, because a lot of people have the feeling that the DJ has become outdated and was someone that was more important in the earlier stages of Hip-Hop?
DJ Graffiti: In the beginning, a lot of people may have forgotten but the DJ was the center piece. The MC’s job back then was to center around the DJ, make the DJ look good and basically just MC. But as the culture became more main stream, the MC came more to the forefront and the DJ faded more behind the scenes. But to say that an MC doesn’t need a DJ or to never have had a show with a good DJ, then you really don’t know what you are missing. The DJ ultimately gives the performer a way to control and read the crowd. A good DJ gives the performer the ability to turn around a potentially bad set by giving him the ability to switch up the set if the crowd isn’t feeling it, where as a using a CD, you have no choice but to do the tracks listed.
For instance if you have an MC that comes out doing ten of his most hardcore and gangster of songs and the crowd is full of ladies, they may not be feeling it like that. At this point is when a good DJ will let the MC know to skip past some of the thugged out songs by saying, “Yo, I think we need to slow it down for the ladies out there.” That will let the MC know that he needs to change the mood to get the crowd to feel it and that is something that a CD player can’t do. If you have ever been to a show where the performer has had a great DJ behind him, trust me you will know it because the show is so unforgettable. It allows you to walk away feeling like you were part of an experience and had a unforgettable time versus walking out feeling like it was ok and forgetting about it the next day.
HipHopWired: What was the best show that you attended with a DJ?
DJ Graffiti: I would have to say the best show that I have ever been to was Kid Capri and Rakim. Rakim is more of a laid back MC that commands the crowd, but Kid Capri just made the crowd go crazy by bringing the records back and just getting the crowd hyped. It was just crazy and that showed me why he is one of the best DJs ever. It is really hard to put your finger on what the DJ does, but if you ever attend a show where there is a great DJ there, you can definitely tell the difference.
HipHopWired: What are some projects that you have worked on that people may not know about?
DJ Graffiti: The project that really established me was the mixtape series that I put out in the early 2000’s called Bling Free. I put that series out because at the time everyone was so fascinated with bling and the big chains, not that I had a problem with it but I just felt that people needed to know that there was more out there. So I put out Bling Free, but as I explained back then, Bling Free wasn’t anti-Bling or against big chains it was really just about people doing their own thing and standing on your own with or without the chain-let yourself shine through. Since then more recently I manage a producer called Astronote from France that is one of the illest producers that I have ever heard period. We recently put out a mixtape called Bigger & Better which remixed some songs by the Notorious B.I.G and is hosted by Talib Kweli.
HipHopWired: What are some projects that you are currently working on?
DJ Graffiti: I am putting out a mixtape entitled Kind of a Big Deal, which plays off of the movie Anchor Man. I took bits and pieces of clips from the movie and incorporated it into a mixtape. It has about 30 songs on it and it features Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip, Lil’ Wayne and it’s really just all over the place with a mixture of good music.
HipHopWired: You are well known on the underground for working with Detroit MC Phat Kat, who are some other artists that you are working with and what other ventures do you have?
DJ Graffiti: Well, I am currently working with a lot of different artists, but the main artists that I am working with right now are the ones signed to my management company A-Side World Wide which are artists that I have been working with for the past 10 years. Even before the company the artists and I were like family. The artists that I am working with are Buff 1, 14KT, Mayer Hawthorne, Athletic Mic League, there is a list of projects and to check out the artists go to asideworldwide.com and you can see all of the artists and hear the projects that we are working on.
HipHopWired: You have a degree in Marketing from the University of Michigan’s School of Business and Law, as a graduate how important to you is having an education in the industry?
DJ Graffiti: I think that having an education is very important, not just in the industry but in life in general. As we can see with the recession, people with degrees are getting the jobs that people didn’t really want, such as retail and fast food because they are more qualified. I think that whether you want to own your own business or work for someone else, you should definitely have that degree to make sure that you are more qualified than the next, especially in the industry because there isn’t as much money floating around as it used to be. So I am a firm believer in having a backup plan and using that degree to fall back on. A lot of people don’t know but my main gig right now is marketing. I own my own business, work for myself and do what I want to do. Now when I was in school, Djing was 80 percent of my focus and marketing was about 20 percent. Now that I am older and established, the percentages have shifted because my main focus is my business and you should always make sure that you have a way to provide for yourself in case your primary dream is deferred.
HipHopWired: How do you feel about all of this “beef” that MCs have been having with DJs lately?
DJ Graffiti: Honestly, I think for the most part a lot of the beefs have started because the DJs were “so called” DJs. Because on a lot of the newer mixtapes, it is just someone putting an artist’s tracks on record and putting their drops over it or giving shout outs over the tracks and selling it by calling it a mixtape; when in essence what these people are doing is bootlegging the artist’s music. They are not shining a light on an artist and making people want to buy the record, you just got a leak and used it to your advantage. So if an artist has beef because of that I definitely agree that the so called DJ was wrong and he deserves to get called out.
On the flip side, you do have DJs out there that actually work with the artists to dig and find exclusive music that may not be released to shine to some light on an artist and put a creative spin to the record to help get the artist’s name out there to an audience that may not have listened to him otherwise. Now if an artist is mad at someone who is a real DJ, I don’t agree with or condone that because it could just be a case of the artist getting a big head and thinking that he can do it without the DJ. When in reality if Radio DJs stop playing an artist’s song and a club DJ didn’t spin the record and real mixtape DJs didn’t want to help put you out there, how would anyone hear their music?