Mr. DJ: Hey Mr DJ!

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ome things seem like they were just made for each other. Like chicken and waffles, Will and Jada, and in the case if Outkast and Mr. DJ, it’s more than just chance or even luck that they met. Undoubtedly, each of them would have been successful as individuals, but together they will forever hold a permanent place in not only Hip-Hop, but music history. If you’re not familiar with his name your not alone. Having referred to himself as a man that is often heard but rarely seen, Mr. DJ has made it a point to stay out of the limelight and under the Outkast umbrella. But even though his image has been low-key, don’t think for a second that his music has been as well. Winner of two Grammy’s, one for Producer of the Year for “Ms. Jackson,” the other for Album of the Year, Mr. DJ could arguably put up a stiff competition with Three-6-Mafia for the title of the most known unknown.

AllHipHop.com: Most people are familiar with your music but don‘t even know who you are, can you introduce yourself to those that don’t already know you and your affiliation with Outkast?

Mr. DJ: I met Outkast through Rico Wade, my cousin, he is one of the members of Organized Noize. Well, we had beat machines and we were trying to get in the music business and my cousin met Outkast and they started working on Outkast’s album. I was a DJ, I been DJin’ since my high school days and even before that. I had asked my cousin if I could be the DJ for Outkast and that was kinda how I met them. We started to work on the Southernplayalisticadillacmuzic album and that was back in ’94 and at that time we [Outkast and I] weren’t quite producers, we just watched Organized Noize make beats. We kinda picked up on what they were doing everyday, [they were] beatin’ on beat machines so we got beat machines and kinda mimicked those guys. By the second album we had actually gotten pretty good at makin’ beats, Dre, Big, and I, ‘cause we used to practice while we were on the road. Dre decided to rap on one [of our beats], which was “Elevators” and that was kinda one of the first tracks that we, Earthtone III, produced. That was the start of the whole production thing for me.

AllHipHop.com: You, Big Boi, and Andre decided to form Earthtone III because you were all producing tracks together but did one person end up taking on more of the work than the others?

Mr. DJ: Well, actually, it was a three-way split between us. Most of the time, Dre and I tended to do most of the production, Big wasn’t much into doing the tracks, he’s more into that now, but back then they were on the road a lot. After we formed the Earthtone III company I wasn’t DJing anymore so, they would be on the road and I would be back at the studio tending to the new artists we had, Slimm Calhoun, who was an artist I discovered and brought to them. So, I was more like the producer/A&R. I would get everybody’s album together and make sure they were tight while they were on the road, that was really my thing.

AllHipHop.com: Is the Earthtone III label the reason why you don’t receive your first production credits until Aquemini? All the previous albums you’re only credited with scratches…

Mr. DJ: Yeah, at the time we were in between forming Earthtone III and I think if you look at the credits it will say “Produced by Outkast for Earthtone Musi”c and that was all of us, we just weren’t getting individual credits at that time. But, there was a time before I got with ET3 that I was an associate producer for Organized Noize and that was when I produced the 8Ball & MJG album, Goodie Mob’s “They Don’t Dance No More,” “Black Ice,” you will see my credits as produced by Mr. DJ on those. Once we went under the ET3 name, it kinda put a shadow over everything ’cause people always thought that everything was produced by Outkast, so I never got my just due for it. Now, I’m in the process of making my own name because I’ve been under the Outkast umbrella for so long.

AllHipHop.com: You’ve stated that your often heard but rarely seen and you seem to have made it a point to stay out of the spotlight, why is that?

Mr. DJ: When we started doing this thing, Dre and Big were just regular people and as things progressed, I started to notice a change in their lives. Like, they weren’t able to go to the store or just be normal people and lead normal lives due to their success. I’m a private person, and I realized that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted everything that comes along with being a producer or being famous, as far as being able to take care of my family and the respect of it all but I never really been a fan of being in the limelight. I’ve always been in the back and I kinda like it that way.

AllHipHop.com: Songs like “Da Art of Storytellin” or “B.O.B.” make the listener feel like they’re actually in the song or at a live show, it seems like the music comes to life. What is your creative process when making your music?

Mr. DJ: My process is just, uh, smoke a few. It takes me a minute to get in the mode, first of all, I need to feel like making music. There are times when months go by and I’m just not feelin’ creative and I get no work done, then there are times I can go in and make a beat in ten minutes. I guess my…my, what’s the word? What do you call it when you do something on the regular?

AllHipHop.com: Your ritual?

Mr. DJ: My ritual, riiight. I got my normal ritual where I smoke a few, put on some old records, have a few drinks and just get in the zone. Then it’s all about the energy. Some people go into the studio and say “Okay, I’ma make this kinda beat and I’ma do this kinda song,” I go in and whatever comes out of me beatin’ on the beat machine, whatever vibe I get from it, that’s what I use. It’s the energy at the time, I don’t plan anything. I don’t listen to a lot of radio here in Atlanta, so when I’m in other cities I listen to what goes on there. I listen to a lot of old records, I’m an old record head.

AllHipHop.com: So, what was that one record as a kid once you heard it, you knew that music was what you wanted to pursue?

Mr. DJ: I had to be around 10-years-old and that song “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down,” [by Rooftop Report] the original was playing. I lived in a apartment, so in the summertime when a jam would come on the radio there would be stereos in the windows. I would be outside jammin’ to those songs and when that particular song used to come on, it seemed like you would hear music all over the neighborhood. That’s what made me really love music, to see the way it moved people.

AllHipHop.com: Stankonia was the album that you received the most recognition as a producer and also an album that incorporates so many different musical influences, were there ever times you wanted to do something that others thought were too outrageous or extreme?

Mr. DJ: That was the good thing about working with Outkast, there were no boundaries and we were all kinda on the same page. What other people thought was weird, we thought was kinda cool, so that’s what made us make sweet music.

AllHipHop.com: Is it true that you don’t know how to read music?

Mr. DJ: I do not know how to read music. That’s not something I’m proud to say but I’ve been blessed in being able to create music pretty well. I can’t read music and I’m working on that, to me, I feel like it limits me, well, not exactly limits me but..

AllHipHop.com: Seems like you’ve been doing just fine so far.

Mr. DJ: Yeah, I’ve definitely been blessed I don’t like not knowing things. Even though you didn’t ask me this, I’ll tell you. When I was DJing for Outkast they used to have meetings in the studio and they would be talkin’, ya know, using music language and I really didn’t understand what they were talkin’ about. That made me feel handicapped, it made me feel like I was missing something, even though it didn’t pertain to me because I was only the DJ. I still wanted to know what they were talkin’ about. That’s what made me take it upon myself to learn more about the business and stay on top of the game. With that said, yes, I’ma learn how to read music.

AllHipHop.com: Talking about business, you started your own label in 2001, tell us more about Camp David Records.

Mr. DJ: Camp David is more than a label, it’s more of a lifestyle. Camp David is the place where the President goes to chill and vacates. Big Boi has the “Boom Boom Room” and my house is Camp David because all of us would go to my house and people’s wives and girlfriend’s would be looking for them and nobody would go home at night, we would just be partying all the time, so we called it Camp David, it was like our little compound. So, I decided to take that name and run with it. Camp David, as a label, consists of three artists that I’m concentrating on right now. Those artists are Jason Weaver, you know, from the ATL movie, Jeff B., and I just signed a new group, The Holograms.

AllHipHop.com: I was going to ask you about The Holograms because they’re style is more Rock/Pop than it is Hip-Hop, what was it about them that made you decide to sign them?

Mr. DJ: Well, my music doesn’t always scream Hip-Hop. My music, to me, is more than just Hip-Hop, music is music and to work with something other than Hip-Hop is kind of a relief. Sometimes I feel like I’m trapped in this rap world and rap and Hip-Hop is not all there is…oh wait, this is AllHipHop.com, I guess I shouldn’t say that [Laughs].

AllHipHop.com: It’s all good. Good music can’t be categorized.

Mr. DJ: Yeah. And if I did just Hip-Hop, I feel like that would limit my music and other people that can appreciate good music wouldn’t get to hear that variety. But, yeah, I’m on my way to L.A. to work on the Holograms album and also finish up Jeff B’s album. Jeff B. is currently in the process of working out a deal with Geffen, he wrote Jessica Simpson’s first single and he writes for a lot of other people, so be on the lookout for Jeff B. Jason Weaver is in talks with Atlantic, so hopefully, we have big things coming up.

AllHipHop.com: You already have movie productions under your belt, I take it you were involved in the Idlewild soundtrack?

Mr. DJ: Yeah, I have a couple of songs on the album, one called “Buggface.”

AllHipHop.com: I know we are going to continue to hear your work in the future but is there any chance you’ll decide to step into limelight?

Mr. DJ: Well, guess what? I am. I just realized that in order to get where I want and obtain what I want, that I’m going to have to step out into the limelight a little bit. I guess it’s all about how you step out, I won’t be walking around with big bodyguards , I’ll always keep myself grounded. I just want to succeed. So, if that means stepping out into the light a little bit, that’s what I’ll do.

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