1Mic : Thank you for having me. I appreciate your time.
djrikkirick : Happy to have you as well. So tell us about yourself, like how you became the king of the playlist.
1Mic : I'm from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, so I'm an East Coast guy, but I've always had a love and appreciation for all the regions. I grew up listening to and loving DJ Clue, Green Lantern, Whoo Kid. All the greats from the 90s and early 2000s. I always wanted to be like them, and around 2006 I started taking it seriously, making my own mixtapes as DJ 1Mic. I studied the game and the players are really worked my butt off to get noticed for my mixtapes. Now I see my projects and tracklists as a jigsaw puzzle, and every song, audio clip, drop, etc. has it's perfect place and timing. So it's really just hard work, being a perfectionist and having a deep love for hip hop of course.
It's interesting that you mention how music has it's own perfect place and timing, because in hip hop, a lot of the old school, cut and scratch DJs act like if you don't do that then you are not a real DJ, which is simply not true, because curating playlists is a gift. It all has to fit together, and that takes time and a lot of skill.
1Mic : Yes, I appreciate the crazy technicians, and respect the skills it takes to scratch and beat match. I'm completely self taught so starting out in 06 there was no YouTube video to watch, so until I mastered those skills I leaned so heavily on my tracklists to cover up my weaknesses as a "cross fader." Eventually I came into my own and meshed the skills with playlists. I'm comfortable in my lane. As far as my playlists specifically, I try to build you up by trying to keep a consistent energy throught my playlists. It's really almost a form of psychological manipulation when you step back from it. I try to lead the listener through the music, to be more clear. I want you to hear the music the way I see it.
It's like working a crowd when you are live DJ'ing at an event. You have to keep them engaged. And with the cross fade, it's all about the timing. And you have to know your audience as well.
1Mic : Knowing your audience is key. It's such an underrated talent that a successful DJ must have. My audience in general was born prior to 1995 so I play to that, whether it's Death Row, or my lengthy collection of D-Block tapes. I play to a slightly older crowd than the median.
Good lead in to my next question. With us being the older crowd now, how do you feel about the current state of music? It seems like there is so much trap music out here and it's so popular that the real hip hop gets lost in the shuffle.
1Mic : Yeah, no question, there is a lot of commercialized, watered down trap or mumble rap, whatever you want to call it, and it gets a lot of attention, but I think that one hit wonder element has always existed in hip hop. I do think there is a wealth of talent in hip hop right now, and I see guys with talent who are working hard, and things are paying off for them. So I actually feel better than most about hip hop. I see J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar. Joey Bada$$. None of these guys make mumble rap and they are selling records and making good money out on tour and there's that next level of guys right behind them doing the same. So I am happy with where hip hop is heading. lil whoever sold 10K his first week. We'll have a new corny trend in 6 months anyway haha.
I'm sure we will. I have a friend in London. Shout out to @The_Blue_Hefner. I was telling him earlier that nowadays when someone like Jay-Z drops an album, It's an event. But solid albums by MC Eiht, Sadat X , and Public Enemy were released at the same time, and nobody notices because they're albums aren't heavily promoted on social media and on the streaming services. You have to pay attention now to find good hip hop. Back in the 90s when I got into hip hop, it was popping in a lot of different regions...Southern California, The Bay Area, Down South, East Coast, and none of it sounded the same. Now you have this mumble rap, or crap as I call it, and you can't determine where it's from.
1Mic : One of the biggest differences between eras I believe is how specialized the industry is now, so unless you follow independent artists on social media, there is very little margin to reach your core fans with new music. In the 90s and 2000s we had The Source and XXL and everyone read them. And they had a list or release dates and reviews, so you knew OK this month I'm getting thses new projects. Now everything is different. The consumer has evolved faster than anything. I'm not even sure what to play for a 23 year old anymore to be real. I agree the music has gotten less regional, which shows the growth of hip hop outside of its 3 to 4 core regions. However FM radio has conformed to a certain format and type of song. Now we have every record sounding so similar on the radio. But I understand that FM radio has to serve it's listener, which is predominately female and 14-29 years old. I do think satellite radio has evolved, and you start to hear more of Styles P, and Talib Kweli, what with some of the broader programming. Services like Tidal where hip hop artists are rally getting their fair share is going to revolutionize the way artists bring their new stuff and it's going to benefit the better artists with better fans I see a bright future for good hip hop.
I agree. And there's still a wealth of great music out there. But let's get back to you. I first found out about you on one of those Death Row blogs where they posted all the unreleased and rare stuff. And I found your This Is It tape, which is still one of my favorites. Now I mentioned the other day that i had to have the backstory on how that tape came about.
1Mic : It all started way back before 2006 really. I had been collecting music and making CDs for probably five years at this point. I was downloading music out of AOL chatrooms and burning my favorite songs on CD-R's for my buddies and school friends. The AOL chatroom days ended and a friend I'd made in the chats told me about this forum site called Boxden. I joined, started becoming active, and from collecting at this point I had come across the CD Singles for Nuthing but a G Thang and Deep Cover. Both had B-Sides with remixes that had totally different beats and verses than the popular album versions. I thought these were the two coolest tracks in my collection. Now back to Boxden. I cam across a thread with the tag " Stolen Death Row DAT Tapes" I downloaded immediately knowing this link could get taken down at any moment. The zip file contained a bunch of common 2Pac found on other releases, plus Crooked I, Eastwood, and The Realest. These were obviously from the last few years or so of Death Row. Many appeared on Too Gangsta For Radio and Dysfunctional Family. This zip file had a few gems in it though, including the Dre/Snoop record The Next Episode which was supposed to be the first single on Dre's album had he stayed on Death Row. I also found the Coolio/Kurupt 2Pac dedication and a good CDQ version of Niggaz Don't Give a Fuck which I'd only heard once in awful quality. So I threw together those tracks and a few 2Pac tracks from the Makaveli bootleg collection, put a Death Row logo on the cover and boom, we had the original 2006 release....
1Mic : Now jumping ahead. In 2010, i am much more experienced and now I am in possession of may more unreleased and rare Death Row era music. Hoe Hopper was a Dr Dre demo Suge used to secure the money to finance The Chronic album. Gz Up Hoez Down and Doggystyle were from the Doggystyle sessions. Cop Killa is actually a mix of two versions of the same song I mixed together because one had a 2pac.com tag, and I always thought Prince Ital Joe went on and on and on during Street Life so I skipped to the damn song there. The Jewell version of Death Row's In the House ....when I got that man, I almost had to do the tape over, making for the perfect intro. My understanding is that version was recorded to promote Club 662 in Vegas that Suge purchased just before 2Pac's shooting.During the process my friend DJ Mike Nice gifted me with the Dr Dre version of Rat-TAT-Tat-Tat with the Warren G beat. That really shows how involved Warren was with the production of The Chronic. Add in the extra clean version of To Live and Die in LA, which forced 2Pac to change his third verse and now we have the much more polished, well mixed 2010 version.
I love that mixtape. Appreciate the backstory on it. So I know you have the Mafia Muzik tapes with Rick Ross and the D-Block tapes. What else are you working on right now?
1Mic : This summer I have plans to mix up a best of Westside Gunn and Conway. I really love what these guys are doing and I want to put my spin on it. Like I said, I want my audience to hear what I see. I see stars in these guys.
They are definitely on the way up. Anything else you want to add?
1Mic : I want to encourage someone, somewhere to please devise a system for DJs like myself to make mixtapes and let these artists get the credit for the streams. I'm not a bootlegger. I spin these records for the fans. And to help promote the artists. Sites like Datpiff and Audiomack make us out to be outlaws. Believe me, we aren't.
You can follow DJ 1Mic on Twitter here.