This man is like a house hold name in the industry he’s been in the Hip Hop scene for some time now. Not only is he passionate about the game he’s been consistent with his infamous “Friday Night Flava” show on Choice FM and he is quite arguably one of the most influential Radio DJ’s the country has ever produced. We are talking about none other then the legendary DJ 279 as he reveals all with Kwaku at the helm for Britishhiphop.co.uk read on…
Kwaku: Ok lets set this off, I think there’s no place to start other than the beginning so lets start by asking how did this all begin? When did you realise that you wanted to be a DJ?
279: Ahhh to be honest I didn’t really set out to be DJ really; I was more like a lover of the music. I was going out there and buying the music that I liked. I would go digging for old songs, all the classics that I liked and built up my love for the music from there. People would be like, man, come and play at my party you got a lot of records, you know your music come and play. I would be like, well, I know what I like and it kind of started from there, were talking around 88-89.
Kwaku: So was it something that just happened?
279: Yeah, were talking about a natural evolvement, as opposed to saying lets buy decks I’m going to be a DJ ha ha!! . I think its something that you want to do because you love the music not because it’s trendy. So to be honest for me the deejaying was just going out to buy the records that I wanted to have anyway.
Kwaku: I mean having been in the game for a minute, what are your thoughts on the current state of Hip Hop right now?
279: I think in many ways the essence has been gradually removed and I think this is because some of the people that are coming into it have got a totally different outlook as to what Hip Hop is about. They seem to know less about the culture behind Hip Hop and a lot of people are more about the money. What they should be thinking is, well, let me study the craft or the art form but if anything its less than that.
Instead a lot of these cats think, well I want to make money and I want it tomorrow hahaha “bwoy I’m not really tryna take dat long ya know blood”. When it should be, “You know what, this is what I want to be and it’s going to take as long as it takes until I actually get good at this”. So I think its quite sad that the majority of people can’t even name any of their predecessors, the people that actually paved the way for them, yet they are the same ones that are screaming people are not supporting them. I find that very odd, because that means that they don’t even pay any homage to the people that have gone before them.
It only seems to happen in Hip Hop it wont happen in Soul, Rock or Folk music it only seems to happen in Hip Hop.
Kwaku: Why do you think that is, why do you think Hip Hop takes that turn?
279: Unfortunately, like I said the industry is only geared toward making money. It’s like a rapper starting out because he wants to make money and not because he loves rapping and to me that’s sad. What happened to wanting to be good at it and getting recognition? Or what happened to wanting to put a record out because you love music? So in many respects the art form is being neglected, and that’s the thing with this generation they want things immediately without acknowledging artists that pave the way and who came before them and without trying to build.
Kwaku: In view of Nas’s recent comments on his new album “Hip Hop Is Dead” what are your views on his comments and opinions?
279: Well to Nas, he is not saying that the music is out right dead, what he’s actually trying to do is to get you to examine what is going on, and when you examine what is going on within Hip Hop you start to realise that there is actually a problem if this music continues to remain in this state. What I mean by that is your main goal should be to perfect your art, and turn your passion into skills, as opposed to learning how to rap because you think its going to make you money, that’s how you get artists that don’t have any skills. To me your main purpose should want to deal with that first. If you want to make money or gain recognition, to me, all of those things to me should come secondary as opposed to how you benefit from being supremely skilful at your art.
If you actually examine your new DJ’s a lot of them don’t really know about shopping for tune they go on the net and download. They know nothing about digging in a record shop, really, searching for that record. Now they depend on some website to tell them where to go and what to do and how to do it. Half of them don’t have any skills. To me you were a good DJ because you knew your tunes, you had music, you knew were to go and you knew how to dig in the crates. Nowadays all you need to do is tap in the name of an artist and download it that does not make you a good DJ, a good typist maybe haha!! but not a good DJ. I mean you don’t need to search for it, it’s all there at your fingertips. This bred laziness and leads to a lesser appreciation for music in general.
So there, for people who are not willing to buy it, they’re willing to get it or take it for free but a lot of the times they’re not willing to purchase it, the appreciation has gone and there is less emphasis on quality now. Obviously when you’ve been in the game for a while and you start talking to people about these things they start looking at you like your nuts, but these are the same people that are saying that the game is messed up, and I’m like you’re the reason why its messed up!
Kwaku: How have you managed to keep your show different and raw from all the other radio shows?
279: Err, I think it’s a couple of things. When I first started I came into the radio world being a fan of the music, being a fan of the scene, and I realised all this talent around me, so when the opportunity arose to have my own show I wanted to showcase these talents and give it a platform in which it could be heard. I mean I’m not going to say that I was the first one to do that, but I would say that I was the first one to do that type of longevity in this country and dealing with Hip Hop anyway.
I mean there have been a lot of people that came on the show that some people were like we don’t know who that is, but now if were to reel off the names of some of those people you would realise that a lot of them are some big names, and I’m not trying to claim anything I’m just saying that I’m glad that I was a part of that.
I would say that a lot of the DJ’s were a little bit out of reach and I didn’t want anyone to look at me like I was beyond anyone, my views have always been up there right in the middle of it not somewhere on a high stage and out of my desire to do that was the reason why I had all those freestyle sessions on the show, but at that point in the game the essence of being a rapper was being dope on the mic with skilz, that included spittin off the top.
Its almost like I started by the love of generation of people, so I can look back and say all these people that came up on the show for the first time on radio can say, well yeah, he showed me love when a lot of other DJ’s just never had the time to cater for them.
My formula for this was simple I didn’t care who you thought you were in the game if I liked what I heard that came out the speakers then I played it, whether you were from the Bronx or Brixton I didn’t care, I based it on talent or what sounded good to me. I didn’t care if you were some big time signed artists, some unsigned artists could blow your shit away with one verse, and to me that’s what’s messed up with the game right now.
Kwaku: What was the whole idea behind the flavour of the month?
279: At the end of the day I did it because I knew it was needed and I knew what would happen if it were done right. It was just for people to pay attention to what I was doing, I had a little position, it wasn’t a big position and all I did was create the means to showcase talent. I mean a lot of people never really knew who I was and if any one did remember me its probably because of the things I did back then.
I mean there were a lot of other DJ’s who had much more higher positions than me back then, but I seemed to be one of the only guys that had consistent events to showcase young talent, no one seemed interested everyone was just interested in the American acts. There were no consistent events, just one-off shows. I had great pleasure in bringing a lot of talent to the table.
Kwaku: Nowadays we seem to have a lot of gangster rap incorporated in Hip Hop. Do you think this takes the emphasis away from skills?
279: Well I mean we’ve always had gangster rap. From 1987 there was gangster rap you know what I mean, from NWA Compton’s most wanted, but to me it wasn’t all about that, I mean, there were certain groups that built their reputation on that, but the difference is you had another set of artists that were just making Hip Hop records.
You had a set of just lyrical, you had another set that was just political, you had another set that was musical and another set that was funny. I think nowadays there is not enough balance with what is being played on radio and music television stations.
You see for every NWA there was a Big L, there was a Tribe Called Quest, there was a Leaders of the New School, there was a 2pac, there was a Big Daddy Kane, there was a Jay Z, there was an EPMD and there was a RedMan. All these artists had their own style, they had different patterns, different ways of spittin, they weren’t all rapping about shotting or shooting people, there were more subject matters and there was more originality in dress and look. Nowadays everyone is talking about the same stuff and if there is more originality these DJ’s are not playing it.
I mean, when was the last time an artist made you laugh since Biz Markie? Who makes you laugh right now?
I think rappers nowadays think that you have to talk about violence when that’s got nothing to do with being creative.
Kwaku: So would you say people are just following trends?
279: Well yeah they’re not being real I mean a lot of people come at me because of the way I structure my show. I don’t claim to know everything, but I have been doing this for years and I play what I think is good, I cant catch everything, but if I feel its good I’ll support it. Some people say you should play it and see what the people think and I’m like I aint got time for all of that, cos people are going to think what they’re going to think. I have to show people that you do the same as me. When you write to a tune you select a piece of music that you like to rap over, I don’t tell you don’t rap over that and rap over this so stop being a hypocrite… (he pauses for a minute then says) there you go.
Kwaku: Over the years you have witnessed some amazing talent in Hip Hop. If you had to single out one individual that shined light and really did it for you who would that person be?
279: Emmm, to me one of the people that always did it for me was “Big L”, I mean he had the hot records he didn’t have he biggest back catalogue but to me the stuff he done was something else, his lyrical flows and his punch lines were just on point.
I mean to me everything that guy did was on a very high level. If there was a ever going to be a person that would come out and really raise the game he would have been the one. Now I’m not saying that I’m putting him beyond individuals like Big Daddy Kane but the difference is Kane got to fulfil his destiny his legacy and Big L never got that chance, we can only imagine what he would have done to date if he was still here.
Thanks for taking out the time to update us on your views and opinions as a DJ in the game right now.