DJ Felli Fel Interview
|Artist:||DJ Felli Fel|
|Label:||Rock Hill Productions|
|Next Project:||Go DJ (1st Quarter '08)|
|Twitter:||DJ Felli Fel on Twitter|
|Website:||DJ Felli Fel's Website|
In November of ’95, Funkmaster Flex released “The Mix Tape, Vol. 1: 60 Minutes of Funk.” The album was a straight hour of nothing but pure Hip-Hop, featuring iconic groups A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan, The Fugees and Def Squad. In fact the compilation was so “Hip-Hop,” it was distributed on cassette.
Many DJs have tried to duplicate what Flex was able to do for sixty minutes; most have failed. Following Flex were fellow New York DJs: Clue, Kay Slay and Green Lantern. Most recently, the professional mixtape game has expanded throughout the country and reached the streets of Miami (DJ Khaled), and Philadelphia (DJ Drama) too. That lineage doesn’t stop, as the first quarter of 2008 will see the debut of the West Coast’s DJ Felli Fel and his party-inspired project, “Go DJ.”
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth’s DJ “Z,” DJ Felli Fel steps inside the booth to talk about what separates him from his professional mixtape-DJ comrades, which artist on his hit single “Get Buck” required he mix his own vocals, and what artists had the biggest 2007 in Hip-Hop.
Listen to the Interview
DJ Felli Fel Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What up ya’ll? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is the biggest thing in LA when Kobe Bryant has a road game. With over 1.6 million listeners daily, this man has had the highest-rated show for the past three years and is one of the top DJs on the West Coast. Please welcome my main man, DJ Felli Fel – how you doin?
DJ Felli Fel: Z, what’s poppin’?
DJ Booth: What’s poppin’ is you, man.
DJ Felli Fel: Yeah, I’m excited right now, man. It’s been a long time comin’ – I’m ready to rock and roll, baby.
DJ Booth: I heard it in July, and I was on it way before you inked your deal with So So Def and Island Urban Music. Is the success that you saw independently on “Get Buck” solely responsible for this new recording contract?
DJ Felli Fel: Yeah, I would say primarily, this record, it was a big reason I got this deal. Nowadays labels, especially DJs, you’re not gonna get a record deal unless you’ve got a record out there showin’ and provin’ what it can do. The way I would explain it is “Get Buck” got the attention of the label, but it allowed them to really sit and say, “Let’s see what else Felli has to offer.” I think they heard my other records and they were impressed enough to take the chance and follow the direction I was headin’. Especially Jermaine [Dupri]– he was the one person that I felt like really understood my direction – the fact that I’m a DJ, a producer. He heard a record that I had with Kanye and Ne-Yo, that’s actually about to have Fab and Andre 300 on it. Originally it was going to be Snoop, but you can’t just have one record.
DJ Booth: Artists often complain to me, as I’m sure they do to you, that their prospective labels make them promises that they never keep. When you sat down to the table with Jermaine, did he make any promises to you?
DJ Felli Fel: You know, it’s funny, because there wasn’t really a lot of promises. The way we worked everything out was, “Let’s see what this record does and lets take it from there.” The one promise was a three-single deal; that’s what I signed, with no album. “Hey, let’s put out three singles, on him, and depending upon the success of the singles maybe we’ll put out a whole album.” I think that that’s the direction that we’re going to see record labels taking now, more so than ever, in today’s technological revolution of the Internet pretty much takin’ over, and stompin’ record sales into the ground. All these major record chains closing; even mom and pops. The labels are starting to see that it’s all about iTunes, it’s all about ring tones – if you have a hot single, you throw the CD single in the store. I’m excited about that. I’m excited about CD singles actually being in the stores again. We just now pressed up the CD single of “Get Buck.” It’s gonna be in the stores the day after Christmas. I think that’s gonna be good for the industry. It’s gonna go to quality over quantity.
DJ Booth: Certainly. And as DJs, we’ve always been more about the individual singles rather than the album anyways; that’s how we cater to our audience.
DJ Felli Fel: Exactly!
DJ Booth: In terms of the DJ album, Flex, Kay Slay and Clue revolutionized the concept, and then Khaled and Drama did their thing. Now you’re going to get your turn. The difference is that you are actually going to produce the entire thing, correct?
DJ Felli Fel: That’s correct. The difference is not only am I gonna be producing then whole album, which I’m very proud of, but if I had to say – and those are my people, let’s get that out there first and foremost – my album is gonna be a little bit leanin’ toward the party, mix show, club style. The street records that I do have on this album, they’re definitely gonna be street, but they’re gonna be records that you can hear in the club or on the radio. There are very few records on my album that you’re not gonna ask a DJ to put on the turntable or a radio station and at least consider it for airplay.
DJ Booth: Let’s talk about “Get Buck” real quick. You wrangled up Akon, Luda, Diddy, and Lil’ Jon. Describe the process that you go through to formulate a star-studded collaboration…
DJ Felli Fel: The process was individually letting these guys hear the record. I did the record one night when I got out of a club; you never know when inspiration is gonna strike, [so I] got down in front of my equipment, and that record just came out. I was lookin’ through sounds on the keyboard, and I liked that synth-y sound. I’d never really used it – maybe in a couple records here and there, but I never used it as the main, lead sound in a record. I sat down, started playing with some melodies, and did the whole beat in maybe like thirty minutes. I think some of the best things happen spontaneous, and that that was definitely an example of that. After I finished the record I saw Akon; I knew that if he got on that track it was gonna be a smash. So sure as hell, about an hour later, he wrote the hook, got in the booth, knocked it out. I think we were in the studio a total of maybe three hours. Diddy heard it, loved it, and I said, “Hey, just give me a verse, man.” And he ended up doin’ three verses. I ended up using two of the three verses. So then I had Akon and Diddy on it. I called Luda, told him I had a crazy record, and he said, “Send it to me.” I sent it to him, couple days later he called me and was like, “Man, you did this beat?” and I said, “Yeah!” And he said, “Man, this sh*t is crazy!” He laced it and I had it within a week. So at that point it was Akon, Diddy, and Luda, and I was in the studio finishin’ it. I wanted to do something different to it, and I said, “Let’s slow it down and see what it sounds like if I slow it down.” I remembered an old record called, “French Kiss,” back in the day, a house record. The record slowed down in the middle of a song and a girl was havin’ an orgasm, and I always loved the fact that that record slowed down. I did it just to see what it would sound like. I got my management in the studio with me, we’re mixin’ this record, and they’re like, “‘Dude, this record is done! What are you doing? You’re tryin’ to overdo it.” I was like, “I wanna try this sh*t.” When I slowed it down, everybody in the studio stood up and they were like, “Oh, sh*t!” I was at a studio in Hollywood and I called Lil’ Jon, he was the first person that came to my mind. Everyone was like, “Aw, Lil John’ll kill this sh*t!” Drove up the hill to his house, went in there, and about five hours after we partied our asses off, he finally knocked it out and did his part and that was a wrap on “Get Buck.”
DJ Booth: Well, it seems as though your personal relationships with all these artists really helped you out a lot. A lot of the time I think the public hears a collaboration track like this, and they automatically assume, “These artists are for hire,” but it’s much different in your case. When you have multiple A-list artists all on one song, do you find that egos tend to become bruised easily, let’s say if someone gets two verses instead of one, or someone gets the first verse?
DJ Felli Fel: I’m sure it’s possible with artists of this caliber to get “butthurt,” but in this case everybody was one hundred percent feelin’ the record and down to do it. When it was done I let everybody hear it to approve it. Diddy, I will say, was the one artist on the record that was very picky, but that’s why he’s Diddy. He was very adamant about havin’ his vocals mixed the right way. We ended up sendin’ the song to his studio in New York, Daddy’s House, and they mixed his vocals there. If somebody didn’t say something, I would’ve been disappointed, because that would’ve told me that they were just like, “‘Yeah, whatever, just put it out there.” I think Luda wanted some of his vocals turned down a little bit on the Tiger Woods part – that was pretty much it, man.
DJ Booth: The knock on most DJ-hosted albums over the years has been that they fall under certain categories; you have your DJ who gives annoying drops throughout or the DJ who feels the need to scream over the tracks, or the DJ who needs to incessantly promote something other than what you’re already listening to. I don’t get that drift from your work…
DJ Felli Fel: [laughter] Nah, man. It’s funny because there are other DJs out there that have that style. It’s not my style. Everybody’s got their different things that they do, but that’s not me. You know, I like to hear a record-
DJ Booth: Uninterrupted!
DJ Felli Fel: Yeah! It’s all right to say, you know, “Ya’ll know what this is?” or “Ladies and gentleman!” Everybody’s got their little tag. You know, my tag is, “DJ Felli Fel!” and that’s all I need.
DJ Booth: Straight to the point – I like it.
DJ Felli Fel: Yeah, thanks man. And it’s not to knock what somebody else – I do that on the radio; I talk over records all day. But when I produce a record, I’m doin’ exactly that: I’m producin’ a record.
DJ Booth: You’re right about that. I’m sure everyone’s gonna appreciate that. Is the album tentatively titled, “Go DJ?”
DJ Felli Fel: Yeah, it is tentatively titled, “Go DJ,” and we scheduled it sometime top of the year, first quarter. I still have another single that we’re going to put out before the album comes out.
DJ Booth: Since it’s December, the year’s almost over, we’re gonna do a “2007 hip hop review with DJ Felli Fel.” Are you down?
DJ Felli Fel: Let’s do it!
DJ Booth: Who do you think had the most surprising hit of the year?
DJ Felli Fel: The most surprising hit… I’m gonna have to go with Soulja Boy.
DJ Booth: When you first heard it, what did you think?
DJ Felli Fel: Honestly, I first heard it and I think I even was quoted in a magazine sayin’ that it’s cool. I think I said it’s a very “regional-sounding record,” you know? So for the record to do what it did, I was surprised. I was like, “Wow!”
DJ Booth: Definitely. How about most overplayed song?
DJ Felli Fel: Most overplayed song?
DJ Booth: Soulja Boy could technically fit into this category, too, but let’s switch it up here…
DJ Felli Fel: Man, most overplayed song… I would say… [laughter]
DJ Booth: Maybe Shop Boyz, “Party Like A Rockstar”?
DJ Felli Fel: Ah… that and the Akon/Snoop, “I Wanna Love You.”
DJ Booth: That was big at the beginning of the year, definitely. How about the biggest hustler of the year? Who worked the hardest to get the most out of their album?
DJ Felli Fel: The biggest hustler of the year, to get the most out of their album… man, that’s a good question. I’ll say Khaled. He’s one of these dudes that don’t take “no” for an answer. The dude does not stop, man. I have a lot of respect for him. He will call you, he will e-mail you; he’s relentless. And I’m not saying that in a negative way; that’s a good thing, because he needed that. And he was able to get people to believe and follow him, and he hustled not only with promotin’ to radio, but he got out there, he hosted different shows, and he got labels to believe in him and work with him.
DJ Booth: Okay. How about the most underrated album? You heard it, you thought it was great, but no one picked it up.
DJ Felli Fel: Well, ain’t nobody picking up any albums, so that’s a trick question!
DJ Booth: [laughter]
DJ Felli Fel: Honestly, I don’t really listen to albums, ‘cause I have to listen to so many singles; if I was to listen to everything I get, all these singles and I sat and tried to listen to albums-
DJ Booth: You wouldn’t even have time for this interview?
DJ Felli Fel: Yeah.
DJ Booth: I can feel you on that. 2007, artist of the year – who do you think had the biggest year?
DJ Felli Fel: Man, T-Pain. Hands down. Not only a great producer but a great songwriter, a great singer. Some would argue, but I know for a fact that man can sing without auto-tune.
DJ Booth: [laughter]
DJ Felli Fel: We just had our big Christmas concert, and T-Pain was the headliner, and he shut down the arena. Everybody went crazy. He’s got a show.
DJ Booth: I’m sure Lil’ Wayne probably fits on that list right below T-Pain? He too was on everybody’s stuff.
DJ Felli Fel: Definitely, I would definitely put Lil’ Wayne and T-Pain neck and neck.
DJ Booth: So T-Pain gets the “DJ Felli Fel Artist of the Year Award on the DJ Booth Awards.” Felli, give everybody a website or a Myspace page so they can find out more about you and of course, your upcoming debut off of So So Def/Island Urban.
DJ Felli Fel: Go to myspace.com/djfellifel.
DJ Booth: Felli, I appreciate you taking the time to join me inside the DJ Booth, and I wish you nothing but the best of luck.
DJ Felli Fel: Thank you, Z. I appreciate it, man.