MY FIVE FIRSTS: Atlanta’s Legendary DJ TOOMP


DJ Toomp’s impact has shaped Hip-Hop tremendously. From his work with Jay-Z to his impact on Grand Hustle, he’s a vet in the game, and still continues to share his insight and talents.

With all of his many influences, DJ Toomp’s had a lot of firsts in his career and life – here, he shares five of them with

First piece of advice that stuck:

“That came from none other than the legendary Betty Wright. She told me there are a lot of different things that can come right along with the good; just be on the lookout for that, and stay grounded. That’s something I got from her a long time ago. I don’t even think she remembers. Now she and I actually communicate often with each other. That was back in ’89 when I was down in Miami working with Luke, but I never forgot it.”

First hobby:

“That would be drawing, painting, and sculpturing. I still do some drawing, cartoon characters and what not. So I may take that to the next level sometime soon.”

djtoomp-2First song that made you fall in love with music:

“Earth, Wind, & Fire, “I’ll Write A Song For You,” was it. My dad taught me how to sing when I was a kid, so I used to sit in the den and sing that record word-for-word. That’s when you’d print the lyrics out to every song. Falling in love with that song made me really start digging more into the crates.”

First Grammy nomination:

“The first one we got was for the record, “You Don’t Know Me,” which was me and T.I., of course. I was excited with just the nomination. It made me feel like, ‘Wow, it’s way bigger than Atlanta.’ I was wondering how everybody else took to our sound, because we really started here. But sometimes you’ll hear your record on the radio, you’ll see the video, but you still don’t know how many people really love what you do. Then something like the Grammys comes about. That’s when you really see, okay, it’s just not a Southern thing. You see you have people in the Midwest, on the West Coast, and up north loving the music, too. So when the Grammy happened, I was definitely excited.

First time finding a niche with music:

“I knew music was my niche when I started DJ’ing. Nobody really taught me how to do it, either. I just watched somebody do it once, and naturally knew I could do it, too. It was the same thing with music. I’m actually learning music theory right now. But I’ve been teaching myself everything else so far. Well, just me and God. It’s a gift. I had my first record with Raheem The Dream in ’85 or ’86, and the minute that record hit the radio and I got the reaction that I did, I knew I was on to something. Even my teachers at the time – I was in the 9th or 10th grade – was asking me was that my song. After that, I was able to charge about $100 more than the average DJ. So that’s when I really just started taking it seriously. I really saw a career at that point.

Tawni Fears is a freelance writer and contributor to Follow her on Twitter (@brwnsugaT).