Sitting in a conference room at BME Entertainment in Atlanta, DJ’s Drama, Don Cannon, Sense, Jaycee, Jamad and Ox Banga give off the same family reunion vibe of a gang of cousins who’ve been driving their grandmas and aunties nuts for years. They each have a confident air about them that would probably exist if each member rolled independently, but is bolstered by the crew.
Brotherly love is not the only thing that sets the Aphilliates apart from other DJ crews. With the entertainment industry’s current fascination with the South and an MTV-led mainstream acceptance of the mixtape culture, the Aphilliates saw an opportunity to turn their passion into a successful, multifaceted company. Currently four of the Aphilliates are touring with some of Atlanta’s hottest talents: DJ Don Cannon with Lil’ Scrappy; DJ Drama with T.I.; DJ Sense with I-20, Monica and Mase; and DJ Jaycee with Ludacris. In addition, they parlayed their successful Sirius Satellite Radio show Generation Now into a feature on Eminem’s Shade 45 Sirius channel.As there slogan says, Pay Attention!
AllHipHop.com: So what exactly makes y’all work as a crew?
Drama: Basically what the Aphilliates stands for is we’re affiliated with quality, we’re affiliated with creativity, we’re affiliated with what’s hot. So that’s where we came up with the concept. We spell it with the “phill” because originally the founding members are from Philly. Not even on just that aspect, but what Philly means to the DJ culture. ‘Cause Philly as a city was real important to what DJs were. From there Jamad and Ox joined us. Our newest member is Jaycee; he’s also [Disturbing The Peace] and Ludacris’ official DJ. As an organization, we took it more so forth as business and not just as, ‘Aight, we’re gonna recruit this DJ or that DJ.’ We don’t recruit DJs. We’re a family. From that, everybody brings a lot of their individualism to the group, but everybody’s also… it’s very important from the team aspect. We’re real strong on one, being diverse as artists and as DJs, the type of DJs that we are. We’re very well rounded. And [we] bring quality to the forefront.
AllHipHop.com: Jaycee, you’re Luda’s DJ, and Drama – you’re with T.I. During the beef, how’d that size up inside the crew?
Drama: And that’s what’s so beautiful about the situation! As DJs, we don’t get involved in none of that. We work for these dudes; that’s my n***a and everything. But it’s Hip-Hop to me. Y’all got some Rap beef? Aight, that’s cool.
Don Cannon: Besides that, that s**t don’t mean nothing. It don’t lead to no money, unless y’all working together to get it.
AllHipHop.com: DJ’s can fuel beef, though. When Mobb Deep was getting ready to drop Amerikaz Nightmare, somebody came out with a record saying they was dissin’ Nas, and the song had nothing to do with Nas.
Don Cannon: That’s money-makin’ ventures for DJs that’s not DJs.
AllHipHop.com: What has made the DJ so marketable now, versus ten years ago?
Don Cannon: Entrepreneurship. More exposure for DJs as far as, more outlets. We have DJ magazines; television shows, Rap City exposed the DJ a little bit more to be looked at as an artist. 106 & Park, Direct Effect, just to name a few.
AllHipHop.com: So you think that was what made it more of a push for DJs or DJs pushed it to where it’s at?
Don Cannon: DJs pushed it to where it’s at. Just the importance of having DJs. DJs starting the mixtape market in the streets; branding the artists; putting their faces out there on mixtapes, putting their faces out there on magazines, putting their faces out there on flyers. Just you know… Marketing actually brought all that together.
AllHipHop.com: On the business side of it: in New York, a lot of independent artists are complaining about the fact that they’re paying heftily to get onto mixtapes. Serious money that those artists don’t have. Is that something that happens down here too?
Don Cannon: That’s a everyday thing. I wouldn’t just say New York – maybe in New York ‘cause of the saturation, they may feel like they pay more to a DJ to [get on]. There’s so many people, so many artists, so many things that you can listen to at once. The saturation factor is heavy up there. I don’t know about down here. Payola’s part of the game, it’s been part of the game. It doesn’t necessarily happen with us.
AllHipHop.com: How do you each as an individual feel about that? The mixtape used to be the only way that an independent artist could get on…
Drama: The mixtape game in New York right now is so f***in’ saturated. And it’s full of a lot of wack dudes doing mixtapes. Straight up, I don’t consider them DJs. There’s an art of mixtapes now, so there’s certain people like a Big Mike or a Kay Slay, or even a Whoo Kid, they’re not necessarily ‘DJs’ DJs, but they build the art of the mixtape and of the hustle. But because it’s so saturated, and they’re not just the ones, there’s a million of those. And people payin’ these dudes a stack, two stacks to get on their mixtapes, but their mixtapes be wack. Especially if their music ain’t hot. To be hot in New York, for a minute you had to come out every week, because everybody has a tape. One thing about down here is that it’s not over saturated. For real, that’s a good thing. There are definitely mixtape DJs in the South and in Atlanta that have their own market as well as us, we’re not the only ones. But it’s not over the top. For real, I don’t even get into all that charging n***as to get on my tape, ‘cause I’m not gonna wack my tape out. I’m gonna put what’s hot, what people like. So if that’s what they wanna do, more power to them. But we don’t really play that game.
Don Cannon: I’mma tell you a little bit of the personal side to that whole area [between] DJs and artists. DJs aren’t necessarily the easiest people to talk to all the time. Not all DJs, but most DJs are hard to talk to because you get a hundred people an hour telling you they’re the best people that ever spit on the face of the earth, and their A & R is calling you telling you this is the new Jay-Z or the new so and so. And it’s not that. So you have to deal with all that rhetoric every day. So some DJs that just get tired of it just be like, ‘Yo, here’s my set price’ or whatever. It’s hard. You heard stories about Jay-Z, your heard stories about so and so, how they first got on: they had bangin’ records. But a lot of people are closed minded ‘cause of so much bulls**t they hear everyday. So if you bring a trash bag of money and put it on the table, that could walk you somewhere. A lot of broke people try to follow that.
AllHipHop.com: There’s a DJ school that was started in New York a couple of years ago, how do y’all feel about that.
All: That’s hot. That’s cool.
AllHipHop.com: You don’t feel like it’s taking away from what the DJ represents?
Jamad: The main thing is DJs for the most part, it’s a art. As far as being able to rock a party, you actually have to cultivate that whole experience, that skill. The psychology behind it is not just throwing on records. To keep people on the dance floor, to stay up there and spin for 3-4 hours, it takes skill.
Drama: You can show somebody how to DJ, but you can’t teach them the soul. Part of DJing is technical. The turntable is an instrument now, too many DJs have proven that. So it needs a school. You can teach somebody to scratch just like you can teach somebody to play the piano. That doesn’t mean that they gonna be nice at it, but you can try to show them. It’s on them to go home and try to cut everyday. So I don’t think it takes away from it to have a school. It’s more of a respect due.
Ox Banga: It’s like any other situation. You got bands, you got orchestras. Everybody took band classes in school, I was a band freak! I loved band, as weird as that may sound. But all it is is teaching you, it ain’t gonna make me Dizzie Gillespie the next day. It’s up to you from where you’re going. I think it would’ve been great to have a DJ school for me! I was from a nut ass neighborhood. I was the only one even thinking about DJing.
Sense: You know what they need now? They need a rap school! Teach these motherf***ers how to rap.