The name DJ Folk should certainly ring some bells within Hip-Hop. But just in case it doesn’t, Folk helped craft Young Jeezy’s Trappin Aint Dead, assisted in the development of a young artist back in ’05 that some of you may know, named Big K.R.I.T., and was the Production Coordinator on Lil Wayne’s Platinum-certified album, Tha Carter IV.
The man who has worked on some of your favorite’s rappers most memorable projects took some time to speak to AllHipHop.com from the airport as he headed back to Atlanta to finish working on Lil Wayne’s I Am Not A Human Being 2, along with the compilation album, CTE World with Jeezy and his CTE crew.
Folk talked about becoming a DJ, aligning himself with winning camps like CTE and Cash Money, how some of his biggest mixtapes came together, and what he has in store for listeners in the near future. Check out AllHipHop.com’s exclusive interview with DJ Folk:
AllHipHop.com: So, for the readers that aren’t familiar with you, tell me a little about your background and come-up within the industry.
DJ Folk: Basically, my come-up was that I started interning with Grand Hustle with T.I., and them when I came out of North Carolina A&T back in ’03-’04, I interned with them for a little while. It’s funny how I got on with them, though, ‘cause I was doing mixtapes out there while I was in school, and I was one of the biggest mixtape hustlers out there in the area. I sent them a package showing what I could do, and I didn’t think they’d ever reply back, but they did with open arms, and so I went over there. That’s kind of how I came into the game, and then I met [Young] Jeezy while I was an intern at Grand Hustle, and just built a rapport with him and ended up going over to work with him.
AllHipHop.com: How exactly does someone become involved with mixtapes, at least in the capacity that you first were?
DJ Folk: Well, my father was a DJ when he was in college, in the same area of North Carolina A&T and everything, so I was brought up with music. And then back in the days, The Source used to run ads for Upstairs Records, and they would sell a DJ starter kit so I got that for Christmas one year, and then I just started f*cking around and putting what I was doing on tape, and that’s how it was born.
AllHipHop.com: What would you say was the first mixtape you put together or were involved with that really solidified who you were and “put you on”?
DJ Folk: Well, the first ever mixtape that I ever did was the mixtape I did in ’01 or ’02 called So What You Saying. I had got that Memphis Bleek and Beanie Sigel record called “So What You Saying,” and I put a little mixtape together. I sold probably 200-300 of them, just starting out. But the first mixtape that put me on the map all the way nationwide was probably Trappin Aint Dead with Jeezy in ’09.
AllHipHop.com: Speaking of Jeezy, you’ve been responsible for some of his dopest mixtapes, as well as ones from Big K.R.I.T., Slick Pulla, CTE, Rick Ross, and Lil Boosie. You recently put out Birdman and Mack Maine’s Billionaire Minds, so I have to ask, where do you even find the time to take a breath, man?
DJ Folk: Well, I try to balance it out and pace myself when it comes to my work schedule or whatever. People that know me know that I can sit in my studio and listen to beats for 12 hours straight some days and still have time to work out for two hours a day and then try to get like six hours of sleep a day somehow.
AllHipHop.com: You said before that Trappin Aint Dead was the mixtape that “put you on” and solidified who you were, but of all the projects you’ve worked on and released, which is your personal favorite?
DJ Folk: Trappin Aint Dead, Deep N Da Game 1 with Boyz N The Hood, that one was monumental. From The Trap To The Stroll was the first tape that anybody heard Big K.R.I.T. on; that one came out with Papa Smurf back in ’05, I think, and that one was huge.
AllHipHop.com: Would you then consider yourself as the man who discovered K.R.I.T., or at least the man who helped take his career to the next level?
DJ Folk: I would say that I helped him probably more development wise, because I used to be with K.R.I.T. doing “audio jackings” where you would freestyle over other peoples beats, so I used to always give him all these different beats to rip. You can see the potential in any of his first freestyles. Of course, Trappin Aint Dead got me all types of critical acclaim, and everybody wanted to know who I was and where I came from, just off of that tape. And then, I came right back with The 25th Hour with Boosie. I appreciate that so much more now because I see what kind of impact it had.
AllHipHop.com: How does it feel to be someone who worked with so many artists in the “development” stage, and then see the success that many of them have achieved throughout their own careers?
DJ Folk: It’s kind of a validation that I know what I’m doing as far as discovering talent goes. Like with me and K.R.I.T., people don’t understand, I’ve seen what was going on with him in ’05 when I heard his music. I just knew he needed development. We’re in an era where there’s no more true artist development like there was in, say, the earlier part of the decade or the late ’90’s.
AllHipHop.com: So, to transition to your other work, I know you worked closely with [Lil] Wayne and Birdman on Tha Carter IV and you co-hosted the Billionaire Minds project. How exactly did that mixtape come to be?
DJ Folk: Well, a lot of people don’t know that Bigger Than Life was the original title for his mixtape that we started on after he dropped Priceless in ’09. This is the craziest story, ‘cause I actually went to the studio with a beat from The Olympicks. I gave him like eight beats, he picked one and turned it out and rapped on it, and that one track led to all the stuff with Cash Money. That one moment of me f*cking with Birdman changed everything. Him and Slim are full of knowledge, so I’d have conversations with them all the time about the game, and I really appreciate them and everything they’ve done for me.
No matter where I am in the world, I try to help them to make their projects the best projects ever. So that “Stunna” placement led to me sending beats to Wayne’s engineer, and from that, I ended up working on the I Am Not A Human Being project, which led to me working on Tha Carter IV.
AllHipHop.com: Now, what was your actual title on Tha Carter IV?
DJ Folk: I was the production coordinator.
AllHipHop.com: What exactly does that entail? Is that more of an A&R thing?
DJ Folk: A lot of times when people send beats to people, they might not listen to them or pass them on; the difference between me and them is that I listen to every beat, and I know what fits with where Wayne wants to go sometimes. That “Mega Man” record, a lot of people don’t know, that Mega Man sent that to me in June and when I heard I knew it was for Wayne. I sent it over to him and within two to five days, Wayne’s engineer hit me and said they wanted to hold it, ’cause he really liked the record and then, of course, the record came out crazy. So it’s kind of a middleman of getting beats to artists, but I consider it more A&R’ing.
AllHipHop.com: Okay, I got you. Do you produce records as well?
DJ Folk: I used to when Fruity Loops first came out. I used to mess with that, so that’s why I think my ear for production is a little bit more advanced than a lot of people. I’m there a lot of the time with certain producers like The Olympicks and Mega Man in the studio and just give them some input or I might find a sample and send it to somebody to flip.
AllHipHop.com: If you don’t mind me asking, why did you stop producing?
DJ Folk: Man, I was doing too much. I was DJ’ing, producing, I was doing everything, and I had to just find my niche in this business and find out where I was going to be able to be productive and have a career. It took me a while to figure out what my niche was in this between doing mixtapes, A&R’ing, and artist development, which was more my niche, so that’s what I stuck with.
AllHipHop.com: You mentioned before that you are working with Birdman on his upcoming album, Bigger Than Life, and Wayne’s I Am Not A Human Being 2. What roles are you playing in those projects, and what are your thoughts on what you’ve heard so far from both of them?
DJ Folk: I’m doing pretty much the same thing as what I got credit for last time. Birdman’s been working on Bigger Than Life for two years. Everyone sees Wayne doing this and him doing this, but they really work, man. They’re in the studio like 10 to 12 hours a day. I’ve given them a lot of new producers’ beats, so you’re going to hear a little bit of a different sound on Bigger Than Life. I don’t know how far they are with I Am Not A Human Being 2, as far as what records they’re going to keep, but I know they’ve hit me for about six beats for Wayne. I’m guessing that out of the six, that probably two will get on there, and you’ll see my name in the credits for those records on that.
AllHipHop.com: You said earlier that you get sent a ton of beats on a daily basis. What catches your ear about some of the stuff production-wise that you listen to? How do you know that ‘this is the record’ for ‘this person’?
DJ Folk: It’s got to be original. I hear a lot of people’s stuff trying to sound like what’s going on and what’s coming out now. It can’t sound like anything else, and it has to be incredibly dope. I would say that in an average week, I got 1,500 beat submissions and out of those 1,500, I would say maybe only 80 to 100 of them are quality. [laughter] It’s bad out here.
AllHipHop.com: [laughter] I guess everyone thinks they can be a producer nowadays, just like everyone thinks they can be a rapper.
DJ Folk: Yeah, man, it’s like the NBA. There’s all these kids playing basketball across the country, and there’s only really, on average, with the draft ,there’s like 65, so you might have 15 undrafted free agents. So that’s like 75 out of 2,000-3,000 people are going to make it.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, I hear you on that. So we talked about Young Money and Cash Money; now I want to know about the work you’re doing right now with Young Jeezy and CTE, and what your current role is within that label and brand.
DJ Folk: Well, you know, he’s always going to need a street A&R to always know what’s going on, and I probably bring him more stuff, between me and his other guy, probably bring him most of what he raps on; unless of course the producers bring it straight to him. He’s got a lot of good relationships with big name producers, but they’re working on the CTE World album, and then I think he’s really going to start sitting down and coming up with the concepts for his next album, because this last album [TM103] took too long, and he doesn’t want to take off too much time right now. He feels like he has to come right back.
AllHipHop.com: I know that TM103 was just certified Gold in the past couple of weeks, and that’s definitely something for all of you involved to be proud of, so congratulations.
DJ Folk: Yeah, man. Thanks. We knew what it was going to do, and we knew how high the anticipation was and that everyone would love it once they got it, so we’re all happy for now. I wouldn’t be surprised to be honest, if sooner than later, he drops a new mixtape to keep everybody happy. But that may or may not be true so don’t hold me to that; I think he will.
AllHipHop.com: Perhaps Trappin Aint Dead 2?
DJ Folk: I mean, that’s what the people want, but I don’t know where he is on it or what he wants to do with it.
AllHipHop.com: Fair enough. We got to talk about a lot already, but is there anything else we didn’t discuss that you want the readers and listeners to be looking out for?
DJ Folk: Yeah. Me, Birdman, Mack Maine and, I think, DJ Khaled are doing Billionaire Minds 2. I also got a huge deal to announce soon, involving The Olympicks, just can’t talk about it right this second. And you might be seeing me in one of these label buildings over here in a minute. I’ve been taking a lot of meetings and talking to a lot of people, so you never know what’s going to happen with me, that’s why you’ve always got to stay tuned in with me.
AllHipHop.com: Well, I’m definitely looking forward to what you’ve got coming out and to hear about all these big things you have in the works. Thanks for your time, Folk.
DJ Folk: Alright, JP, I appreciate it. Thank you.
Follow DJ Folk On Twitter: @DJFolk