DJ Clue: Quiet Storm

2006 has been a year where the DJ returned to the mainstream consciousness of Hip-Hop. DJ Khaled supplied a crossover album in Listennn while DJ Drama’s Gangsta Grillz mixtapes brought the best out in everybody from Little Brother to Lil’ Wayne. Michael “5000” Watts chopped and screwed numerous albums as DJ Nasty produced bangers for Ludacris and Juelz Santana.

One obvious point: these are all southern DJs. It could be easily argued that without the late ‘90s successes of DJ Clue and Funkmaster Flex, DJ commercial success in Hip-Hop would be frontier terrain. For Clue, he made monstrous remixes, had some of the biggest exclusives on his mixtapes, and even hold down duties with MTV’s Direct Effect before returning to radio at Power 105 in New York. Clue never went away, but his duties have certainly shifted.

Over eight years removed from his first and platinum-selling Professional mixtape album, Clue drops a third installment before the close of 2006. With guests ranging from Kanye West to M.O.P. to Rick Ross, some things are familiar while others have changed. DJ Clue chronicles the consistencies and the switches in his format, plus the people he’s working with. I’m sure you’re getting it a lot in lieu of last week’s event, but what the hell do you think went wrong with The Mixtape Awards?

DJ Clue: [sighs] As far as the Mixtape Awards, I don’t know, man. I know they’re trying to do a positive thing as far as the awards and stuff like that, but as far as I know, it was an isolated incident where a fight started or something, and one thing led to another. You’re a veteran of the movement. A big part of that night was to be for Justo and DJ Red Alert, and they didn’t even seem to get the proper respect. Do you think that the people coming into the field have any respect for that?

DJ Clue: Probably not. Why would they? They think I’m out now. I wasn’t there, and I don’t know what happened. I guess whoever it happened with was trying to see somebody or whatever, I don’t know, I guess one thing led to the next. As far as the album, it’s been about five years since the last Professional album. How do you think the mixtape-album has changed with the immergence of people like DJ Khaled, Greg Street, and DJ Drama doing it now? When you and Funkmaster Flex started doing this, it always seemed like a New York thing…

DJ Clue: I don’t think it really has changed, I think music has changed. I don’t think the actual mixtape-album [has changed]. When music changes, anything with it is gonna have to change with the same token. Right, but looking at your first single “Like This” has Fabolous and Kanye West. On The Professional, with the exception of Made Men, it was almost entirely New York artists…

DJ Clue: As music went on and it evolved, these are artists that I grew to start feeling and other people grew to start feeling. When I did my first album, I didn’t really have as many contacts as I do now, as far as outside of New York. Then, slowly but surely, I started getting more connects and doing different things, and one thing led to the next. You’ve got personal relationships with a lot of the artists you’ve worked with over the years. There were people on that first album like Nature or Made Men who aren’t really in the consciousness of listeners anymore. Do you ever find yourself conflicted about who you can and cannot put on?

DJ Clue: Of course friendship has something to do with it, and why wouldn’t you want to help somebody? But at the same time, you’ve got to give people what they want to hear and what’s gonna sell. Looking at this year, many could say that with Jay’s album or Lupe’s that leaks ruined the excitement behind projects. As a DJ, you were always that dude who had exclusives throughout the ‘90s. How do you feel on the way that may’ve changed now with the Internet?

DJ Clue: It’s crazy. You know what it is? Back in the day, people would get albums early, but due to the fact of the Internet and how quickly you can send something, it’s like being able to spread a wildfire in a matter of 15 minutes. In 15 minutes, it can get all over the world, compared to back then [when] it wasn’t like that. But also, the way people listen is different. You can sit there and scan through and check for the beats and run through an album in a minute. Do you think that’s also affected us?

DJ Clue: Definitely. You can get so much music at one time, your attention span sometimes is not what it would have been a few years back. You get so much music now. You get freestyles, and mixtape after mixtape after mixtape; you get album after album. You get ‘em so quickly in a bigger volume. Oversaturation.

DJ Clue: Exactly. On the street tapes, you always branded them so well with the art, the interludes, and the series themes. Within the Professional, what do you think that stands for in terms of what these albums mean?

DJ Clue: I think The Professional [series] has really made a mark in history, as far as being the first DJ to go platinum. And on top of that, there’s so much music that people can relate to on there. They wouldn’t have heard Heltah Skeltah on there, and some of those other dudes on there, all the way across the country. I look at it as a mark in history, ‘cause like it gave millions of people the chance to hear all different kinds of music across the country at one time. You get a Snoop album, it’s all West Coast based, or a Nas album is all East Coast based. It gave a look from the East Coast perspective of artists from all over. As somebody who understands music and the industry, why is the fourth quarter of 2006 so cluttered with releases? With your album, you’ve got a stake in it too, but this season just seems to be tax write-offs left and right…

DJ Clue: The game, as a whole, is kind of in a recession. Record labels gotta make their [money]. They have quotas that they gotta meet to justify hiring the people they hire and spending the money they spent. If they have an album that’s done, they’re gonna put it out and try to make that money before the end of the year.

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