DJ Revolution Interview
|Next Project:||King of the Decks (Out Now)|
|Twitter:||DJ Revolution on Twitter|
|Website:||DJ Revolution's Website|
Imagine waking up every day excited to go to work. Imagine flying all around the world without having to spend a pretty penny, and getting to meet gorgeous women and rich and powerful businessmen; Imagine being paid to spin hip-hop records for a large and enthusiastic party crowd almost nightly. Believe it or not, this is one man’s reality; I just described the life of industry veteran DJ Revolution.
A staple on Power 106’s The Wake Up Show in Los Angeles, a syndicated radio program hosted by Sway and King Tech, Revolution has built up a strong international presence for nearly a decade. Last week, the Long Island, New York born DJ dropped his brand new album, King of the Decks courtesy of Duckdown Records. The project is led by the KRS-One-assisted single, “The DJ,” which reached the #1 spot last month on our Underground Chart.
In an exclusive interview with DJBooth’s DJ “Z,” Revolution steps inside the booth to talk about a mixer that changed his life, what his parents are saying now about their son’s career choice, why there isn’t a “Queen of the Decks,” and how the DJ industry will continue to evolve over the next five to ten years.
Listen to the Interview
DJ Revolution Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a DJ who knew his career fate at the ripe young age of 12. Hailing from Santa Monica, please welcome the King of the Decks, DJ Revolution – how you doin’?
DJ Revolution: What up, man? What’s good?
DJ Booth: I was doin’ some research about DJ Revolution, and according to the “My Story” section of your website, your career unofficially began when your grandfather helped you set up two old turntables and a broken-down mixer. Now, that was when you were 12, so what would you say, since then, has been the official beginning of your career as a DJ?
DJ Revolution: I probably couldn’t pinpoint the official date, but it was probably around 15 or 16. I remember doing a lot of community halls in the projects, and homies’ house parties for like a hundred bucks, or sometimes it’d be for free. But that was when I really started hustlin’ was when I was 15 or 16, I was doin’ mixtapes and all of that. I really couldn’t pinpoint exactly, but that’s around the time.
DJ Booth: Was there a moment when you realized this was such a love that you would never turn back or consider doing something different?
DJ Revolution: Yeah, there was. It wasn’t exactly a moment, but if I had to think back, if there was one time, I remember it was when I got my first mixer, my first real mixer with a crossfader. ‘Cause up until that point I was using really sh*tty mixers, like Radio Shack Style, and they all had three or four lines but they didn’t have any faders. I was tryin’ to do all these scratches – like, Transformer was comin’ out, and Jazzy Jeff was just cuttin’ sh*t up like crazy, this was like ‘87, ‘88 – so I’m tryin’ to mimic all of these scratches but I can’t, ‘cause there’s no fader with a cutoff on it. So, when I got my first mixer – and up until that point, I had no idea whether I was good or not, ‘cause I couldn’t really get it down. When I got my first mixer, as soon as I started cutting I was like, “Oh, yeah. Okay, this is it – I am good.” I started doin’ all the cuts that Jazzy Jeff was doin’, and Cash Money was doin’, and I could do ‘em all. My friends would come over to my house, like, “Damn, what happened to you, man? You just turned into a monster overnight! Before you were good, but now you need to be makin’ records or something – you’re crazy!” At that point, it was like, “All right; I’m good enough to do this. I’m good enough to really make this happen, and I’m not gonna do anything else.”
DJ Booth: So it was a mixer with a legitimate crossfader, and from there the story just began to write itself…
DJ Revolution: Pretty much, man. I knew I was good, but I needed proof to my own ears.
DJ Booth: Plus, I’m sure you worked for and around your family all the time, but family’s not the greatest litmus test in the world, because no matter what you do they’re always gonna day, “Oh, you’re great, you’re wonderful.”
DJ Revolution: Well, no – this was at a time when it wasn’t cool to be a hip hop DJ. My family hated the fact that I did it. The only person that was cool with it was my mom. Everybody in my family hated the fact that I was playing hip hop, that I wanted to be a DJ. There was no money in it, ‘cause rap hadn’t even been proven a true genre of music yet, it was still young. It was like 15 years old, brand new, it hadn’t started going gold or platinum, and there was barely any rap on the air. It was brand new, so nobody knew what the f*ck I was doin’. “Scratching records, what the hell is that?” My family had no clue.
DJ Booth: What are they saying now?
DJ Revolution: They’re all proud of my success and everything, but to me, at the end of the day, you’ve got to look at it from my standpoint, where they were against me all the way. I just went straight through it with my middle finger up, like, “F*ck y’all.” So now, when they tell me that they’re proud, and send me letters and stuff, I’m like, “Whatever.”
DJ Booth: Not that you need something to legitimize your career, but obviously, this past Tuesday’s release of your brand new album, King of the Decks, certainly helps that. Who would you say, if you were the King, would be your queen?
DJ Revolution: Oh, man; that’s a crazy, crazy question… I don’t know man, ‘cause you gotta look at it like, there’s not too many female DJs in this game, that can really hold it down like that, have really stood the test of time, put in the amount of work, kept their skills up at the same level, and made that contribution to hip hop. I don’t know if there is a queen at this point, you know?
DJ Booth: Do you want to call out Spinderella and see if she’d like to resurrect her career?
DJ Revolution: Spinderella’s great, man; she’s been around for a while, doin’ her thing, was part of a great hip hop group, made a large contribution, but let’s be real, man: the skills were never really like that. No one was going around, talkin’ about “Man, you heard that cut, scratch, or juggle that Spinderella was doin’.” She just looked great behind a pair of turntables, and had a little blend, and had some skill, you know? We never really took her like, “Man, this chick is serious, she’s badass!” There’s like 10 DJs I could name right now that would smoke her, but, at the same time, they haven’t put in that kind of work in the hip hop world that someone like Spinderella or Jazzy Joyce has put in, or all these other DJs that have been around for 10-plus years. If you’re really, seriously askin’ me this, which is obviously a hypothetical question – I would never put myself in that position, ‘cause I’m not really the “King of the Decks,” that’s just a play on words, and I know you understand that. But hypothetically, I think that spot has to remain vacant.
DJ Booth: Movin’ on, we’re gonna talk about the album’s lead single, “The DJ.” Legendary emcee KRS-One’s on there, and he spits the line, “The life of the DJ/ There’s no comparin’ it.” Why don’t you elaborate on that, explain why that statement is the truth?
DJ Revolution: ‘Cause it has even more perk benefits than a rapper. There is no comparing to what I do, ‘cause I wake up every day and I get to play great hip hop music by great artists, for people who want to hear it. I also get to travel around the world on other people’s dimes, and get paid great money to play that music for people, in a way that they feel is completely unique to me. I’ve built an identity off that, I’ve built a career off that, and even when the rap industry is in the toilet, the DJ business is still pretty good. I don’t have to make the music, I just have to play it, if I’m just gonna be a DJ. Fortunately for me, I have other things that I like to do, and I can do them well. I can take advantage of other assets I possess, and get myself into other things. But like I said, I’m around women all the time in clubs, good-looking women, I’m around cool-ass dudes, I make great connections, I’m able to network all over the world. It brings me into arenas where I’m able to talk to people like yourself, get my music out there, get myself in place where I might not have ever been able to get to, all because of DJing.
DJ Booth: Is there ever a day where you wake up, you roll out of bed, wipe the crusties out of your eyes, and think, “Man, I gotta go to work!” Has that ever occurred to you?
DJ Revolution: No, it really hasn’t, man. Sometimes this sh*t gets real stressful, and there are some times when I get up out of a hotel bed in a different city in a different country, halfway across the world, and I’m like “Sh*t, I gotta go to the airport again?! Goddamn.” But at the end of the day, if I’m going to spin that night, I’m like, “This is crazy! I’m just getting paid to DJ? That’s ridiculous!”
DJ Booth: What do you say to people who are originalists, and they say, “Well, the art of mixing records has somewhat been lost or at least misplaced, due to the technological advances that have been made over the past 10 years, that have gone all digital?”
DJ Revolution: Part of who I am is part of why my name’s Revolution – I’m down to change things; I’m down to push the envelope and force change upon things. I’m always switching gears, and trying to stay ahead of the curve, and that’s really what that was, was bein’ ahead of the curve. ‘Cause you’ve got to do that, as a DJ – it’s your job. You’ve gotta be ahead of the curve, you’ve got to know what’s next. You’re not supposed to wait for everyone else to get on board – that’s lame, man. Are you gonna wait to play a new song till after everyone else is playin it? No; if you think the sh*t’s hot, you’re gonna jump out and you’re gonna play it. That’s what you’re supposed to do as a DJ. Now, digital technology has changed it, because everyone has the same song at the exact same time nowadays, so it’s up to you to use that digital technology to deliver it to people in a different way.
DJ Booth: You said a second ago that revolution is all about evolving, so where do you see the DJ industry evolving in the next five to 10 years?
DJ Revolution: It’s just gonna get more crazy. I’ve been usin’ a program for a while, I don’t really wanna talk about it, but I’ve been using a program for a while that’s set me apart from every other DJ that I’ve ever DJed at a club with. It’s got so much more to offer than all the other programs. Things are gonna build. I’m already carrying a sample around inside my digital DJ software, I’m carry effects, I’m using a mini trigger, I’m doing all kind kinds of stuff. The live performance aspect of DJing is going to be more heavily integrated into DJ sets, at least I hope.
DJ Booth: The DJ world has certainly evolved over the last 25 years, but hip hop has evolved as well. If you could introduce hip hop to someone who didn’t know what it was, or had never heard it before, what three artists in the industry who impress you, would you introduce to this person’s ears?
DJ Revolution: Oh, my God, that’s an incredible question. Wow, there’s so many… to really explain what hip hop it to someone, you’ve got to give them something that explains the movement, something that explains the emcee skill, and something that explains the DJ skills. I would say, to explain the DJ side of things, and how DJs and emcees are supposed to interact, they have to listen to The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff [which] came out on Jive Records in 1987. That’s probably the best record ever for interaction between emcee and DJ, and the production value is incredible. As far as the movement goes, and what this hip hop culture means, and the epitome of why it got started, they should listen to Public Enemy, 1988, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back on Def Jam Records. Lyrically, that’s exactly what people need to hear when you’re talking about why hip hop was made by the people that started it. That is where it came from. I would say, lyrical skill, on pure lyricism alone, and how good it can get when somebody sits down and writes incredible lyrics, my personal choice would be Follow the Leader, Eric B. and Rakim, another 1988 byproduct.
DJ Booth: Well, Eric B. and Rakim, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Public Enemy certainly all are pioneers in their own right, and would be music to my ears; sadly I feel like those three selections wouldn’t be for most of the youth growing up listening to hip hop right now. Rev, in the same “My Story” write-up on your website, you mentioned that you are intent on someday writing a book about your career path. So, in this autobiography, what will the title of the last chapter be?
DJ Revolution: The last chapter of my book… “Turning Off the Power.”
DJ Booth: Shuttin’ it all down?
DJ Revolution: Yeah, “Turning Off the Power.”
DJ Booth: Give everybody a website of a MySpace page, so they can find out more about the album.
DJ Revolution: All right, the MySpace page is myspace.com/djrevolution. You can go up there, you can check out the album check out cuts from the album, you can listen to beats, watch me cut it up, all kinds of cool sh*t is goin’ on at the website.
DJ Booth: I will second that: you have a dope website. I was very impressed with it.
DJ Revolution: Good looking out, man. Yeah, we took some time on that one.
DJ Booth: I thank you so much for takin’ the time to join me inside the DJ Booth, and I wish you absolutely nothing but the best of luck.
DJ Revolution: Good looking out, man. Much appreciated, homie.