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Funkmaster Flex: Auto Pilot

 

If you had to define Funkmaster Flex as a

businessman, consistency would probably be at the top of the list of attributes.

He’s trademarked his on-air bravado at New York’s Hot 97, created his own shoe

with Lugz, garnered a few noteworthy product endorsements and has made his national

Funkmaster Flex Celebrity Car Show a staple for summertime fun.

 

A few years back he got the idea to do a

television series, and created a competition-based car show which has evolved throughout

four seasons into Car Wars With

Funkmaster Flex. The current (fourth) season involves custom experts taking

a new Ford Focus to new heights, adding another dimension to ESPN’s Saturday

morning programming.

 

We talked with Flex about his passion for cars,

the Car Wars show and his thoughts on

how Hip-Hop lifestyle can stay alive amidst chaos.

 

AllHipHop.com: What have you been up to?

 

Funkmaster Flex: I got a couple of good things

going on, my relationship with Ford being one of them. Hot 97 is doing good,

this is my fourth season with ESPN. We’ve been doing Car Wars With Funkmaster Flex, Ford is involved. These episodes are

getting ready to run now, I collaborated with Ford to get four different

customizers to customize the new Ford Focus. The cars came out beautiful. I

also have the Flex Expedition that I’m doing with Ford, we made 650 of them and

they sold out.

 AllHipHop.com: Talk a little bit about taking your

car show, which has almost become an institution, and [the process of] making it

a TV show. How did that come about initially?

 

Funkmaster Flex: Well, I’ve always loved car

shows. I like the hands on, having fun and bringing cars down. You see people

customizing all the time and you can sometimes see some good things. It was a

great thing to happen and translate into a TV show. When I was on Spike TV I

used to customize the luxury deal. I felt that the trends were changing and I

think that the guys who do the greatest jobs are the guys who work in their

basements and in a shop and put all their time and effort into being creative.

I wanted to take four creative shops and let them compete.

 

AllHipHop.com: You guys are actually doing a

giveaway at the end. Talk a little about the premise of the show.

 

Funkmaster Flex: We’re giving away $40,000 to the

one person that wins, and he gets to keep his car. This is the second time I’ve

collaborated with Ford. The first time we did it together we did Expeditions.

This time it’s the Focus.

 

AllHipHop.com: I think we’re gonna see a lot more

guys in the hood this summer driving economy cars because gas is so expensive.

How do you think the Focus fits into that?

 

Funkmaster Flex: I agree with you. Guys like the

speed, that it’s car you can work on and put some time into and that you can

get this car in fresh colors. It comes in two and four doors, it’s very

affordable. The guys with all of the money and the ballers are gonna buy the

big trucks, the guys who want performance at a good price are gonna get into

vehicles like the Focus, the new Flex that’s coming out, the smaller cars and

the sedans. That’s gonna be more customizable for some people.

 

AllHipHop.com: [Hip-Hop] really is pop culture for

the last 10 years or so predominately. How do you think Hip-Hop as a whole is

going to be able to keep a dominant hold on pop culture?

 

Funkmaster Flex: I think there’s always been the

great and not so great things that are going on in the music business as a

whole with all genres of music. I do believe that Hip-Hop is pop culture, and I

define it as music, cars, clothing, attitude, sneakers, slang . You can meet a

22 year old guy that’s white and may have on Hip-Hop clothing and talk slang,

but he may necessarily not be up on all the music that’s out.

 

I think that the culture of Hip-Hop is a little

bigger than just the music. I think they just like music, I don’t know if

they’re always gonna be waiting for the new Lil’ Wayne or Jay-Z albums. I don’t

know if that’s always going to be first on their lists, but they’re waiting for

the new sneaker and the hot T-shirt. I think those things have replaced the

music a little bit. They still want hot things first but it may not be a CD.

 

I can take

you back to the ‘30s and ‘40s when sitcoms and situations used to be on the

radio.  You used to be able to sit and

hear a TV show without the screen. Once television came along, radio

re-invented towards the music and other different forms of talk radio, we didn’t

do situations of comedy towards the radio anymore. I think that’s what’s

happening with the CDs, you no longer need that disc to insert in your player

to listen to music. People are saying it’s the death of music, and I don’t

think that’s true, I think it’s the death of a few particular corporations that

were making money off of doing that.

 

So the music is still there. I saw Madonna on 106 & Park, and I think that’s the

best example to kind of say where the music is now. It’s all ages. I do not

think that there’s more violence and negativity, I think that with the

internet, gossip shows and Entertainment

Tonight… I don’t think it should stop but The Smoking Gun, the website

where your mugshot is shown if you got arrested, [that’s the norm now].

 

AllHipHop.com: You’re one of the few DJs to really

brand yourself on a national level. With your name as a brand and the ways that

you’re working with your camp and expanding, how do you feel that that’s

contributed to giving inspiration to other people [to do the same]? Are you adding more value to

branding through what you’re doing?

 

Funkmaster Flex: I love DJ’ing, I grew up in New

York and I love music and cars. Always in the back of my mind I wanted

automobiles to be big one day. I didn’t think it would grow into the business

that it’s grown, but I definitely wanted to have some input. I always had a

plan to my madness when I did the albums. I love making mixtapes, the thing

with me making mixtapes is I used to go out of town and be like, “Man, I

don’t know if that’s a good representation” and I wanted to make a good

representation.

 

Then I wanted to shoot videos and go and travel to

other states, people were seeing me on [MTV and Spike TV], but touring with the

albums is how I got to touch people. People could hear me at the nightclubs. That

was always my plan. I love doing it, and it helped me become national. Then I

wondered, what if there were other things to become national and I worked them

other things as well? Then I didn’t put the albums out as much because I was

finding other ways to be national.

 

I’ve always learned from DJs like Kid Capri and

Red Alert that there’s a lot that offers you as much as New York. As long as

you understand that New York is the mecca, for certain types of music it’s the

mecca because everything doesn’t come out of New York. But since I’m born and

raised here it’s important for me to understand the market, because I never

syndicated my radio show. There’s nothing wrong with syndicating, I just always

felt that I didn’t know if my New York radio show would work anyplace else. But

I think that while you’re keeping it real and sticking to what you’re supposed

to do and keeping track of your music and what’s real to stay learning, because

you learn something new everyday.

 

You also have to remember it’s a business. If I

didn’t get ratings on Hot 97 they would fire me.  If I didn’t get ratings on ESPN they would

fire me. My motto is “be as creative as you can in a business structure.”

Realizing too that as you get older, nothing lasts forever and you have to

reinvent yourself. There are people who are 45 that know my name and there are

people who are 14 that know my name. The guy who’s 45 knows me for something

different, he may know me for cutting up “Eric B For President” and

“Shook Ones” and remembers The Tunnel [nightclub] and when I used to

be on other stations in the ‘80s. Then there’s the person who knows of me from

Hot 97 and ESPN and really has just heard of me in the last two years.

 

That’s why you can’t get cocky because you have to

please everyone. It’s almost like if you go to a Jay-Z concert, there’s gonna

be a kid there and Jay-Z knows how to please you if you’re 14 or 40. That’s

important because you have to keep your old fans interested in you and

entertain your new ones. There’s DJ Khaled, Felli Fel, DJ Clue, and there’s a

lot of DJs who have the mixtapes and they’re getting it – being national,

working hard and maintaining their radio shows, which is hard. I came from the

school of “do not give anything up, just keep everything going 100%,” so I

wanna be on TV, on the radio, and  come

out with vehicles.

 

I’ve learned that 18 to 34 is the most important

demographic when it comes to radio and television. All my endorsers reflect

it, Ford wanted to be a little better with the 18 to 34 demographic, and we

hooked up. Castrol Syntec motor oil wanted to be a little better with that

demographic so we hooked up, same with Kicker and Turtle Wax.

 

I study brands because I want to be involved with

their brand, and just because a brand calls me on the phone doesn’t mean that

they’re the right brand for me. It takes a little time to do it. An endorsement

deal to me is not always just doing it for the money, it’s doing it with the

right person.

Click here to watch the new episodes of Car Wars With Funkmaster FlexFor the full show schedule and more information on the show, go to FordUrban.com/CarWars

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