The record pool is a lost art. It’s the way many got discovered, and it was a critical way to build careers throughout the late 80’s and 90’s. With many club and radio DJ’s moving to CD’s, most record pools went by the wayside. But among the few standing, is an influential house in the South.
Over this past decade, TJ Chapman has been the streets version of Donald Passman; educating many on how to make it in the music industry. From A&R’s to Music & Program Directors at radio stations; TJ has brought more exclusives than Stephen A. Smith’s NBA league sources.
In October the Florida-based, TJ’s DJ’s celebrated their tenth year anniversary. We’ll speak with the person who has helped make Lil Jon, Trick Daddy, RZA, David Banner, Ying Yang Twins, Lil’ Scrappy, Trillville, and Jacki-O household names. TJ’s DJ’s will let us know the beginning, the present, and the future.
AllHipHop.com: Tell me bout yourself. How did it begin?
TJ: I started DJ’ing in 1984. [In college], I was DJ’ing on the radio, house parties, big events, and the club. One day Big Master Clay D heard me spin, and I started spinning at his club. From spinning at his club, I started to spin on the road. It was like evolution; from being on the road it brought me into road management. Then I became Clay D’s personal manager when I did my first deal in 1992, when Clay D signed with Pandisc Records. Things started to fall in place from there. Being young and knowing the music gave me respect with other cats in the game. From there I started managing other cats. I managed the deal for Prince Rakeem [later known as RZA] on 4th & Broadway, Dynamite from Miami who was signed to Pandisc Records but released a single deal with So So Def Bass All Stars, Crazy Legs [Rock Steady Crew] who was big in the Miami Bass scene.
With me it’s been progression. From me managing a lot of hot artists club owners started to take notice and wanted me to book their shows, even the groups I wasn’t managing. From there, I was booking clubs in a lot of different cities for my artists and artists I didn’t manage. Dealing with management, I had to make sure my artists records were being played and I had to make sure the record companies we’re doing what they we’re supposed to be doing. Checking radio, retail, and the clubs. From doing all that, I started getting in good with all the big players in those cities.
In 1994 is when I started TJ’s DJ’s Record Pool. I started with ten DJ’s from another local record pool. Now today on the record pool side we service up to 100 plus DJ’s.
AllHipHop.com: Tell me who is involved with the pool.
TJ: Lil’ Jon was a member of the pool for seven years. Lil’ Jon was an A&R at So So Def, and he was a radio DJ in Atlanta. We made sure he stayed in tune with all the good music. Shannon Houchins [producer for Jermaine Dupri and Bubba Sparxx] was a member of the record pool. A lot of different people have been involved with the record pool that’ve gone on and done some great things.
AllHipHop.com: TJ you’ve played a significant role in the career of many successful people with the pool…
TJ: Yeah, there’ve just been a few names as far as the pool but that’s not even on the artist side…
AllHipHop.com: For Real. There’s been David Banner, Lil’ Scrappy, Trillville…
TJ: Ying Yang Twins, we broke Khia on the national. There have been so many records we broke over the years.
AllHipHop.com: During that time did any labels come at you with A&R positions?
TJ: Well naw, and I never been approached with an A&R position, but A&R’s call me constantly trying to find out who the next breaking artist is. You know the labels send a list of records that they’re trying to catch up with, and I make sure they get the music on that artist and their contact info.
AllHipHop.com: Yeah, you get the music to all the tastemakers.
TJ: Yep, all the tastemakers and a tastemaker is somebody that sets the standards in their industries; but nowadays I am interested in a profession like that whether it be regular radio or satellite!
AllHipHop.com: TJ what is your view of the last ten years in Hip-Hop?
TJ: Well I’ve seen a change of sounds; a change in the industry on how we receive music, and the way we purchase music. But the bottom line is, I’ve seen the South come around a genre of Hip-Hop for people just always downplaying our stuff, saying that we couldn’t talk bout anything unless it was some booty or some dance or something doing with. They never respected us for our record abilities or lyrics, and that’s with anything. I’ve been a firm believer on “what goes around comes around,” cause right now the South is on top. When it comes to the East coast stuff, I’m always gonna feel that. But if you pay attention man, these cats’ music stinks. They don’t have that old school East coast hardcore Hip-Hop Rap flows anymore. They’re not coming out with the old school hardcore beats. You know they dropping club records. You seeing all these collabo’s now. You see these southern producers – Lil’ Jon doing tracks for Nas.
AllHipHop.com: The vinyl game has turned to the CD game of all a sudden, how does that strike you?
TJ: Within the music industry; Itunes jus hit the 230 million downloads mark. On the CD side, these labels don’t relate CD’s to DJ’s, and still don’t. I still don’t know why they don’t supply that need . We’ve been laughed at by other record pools and others in the industry about carrying CD’s. Labels are sending records at $1.60 a piece, where if you press up a CD single it’s .60 to .80 cents and then shipping costs is a lot cheaper it’s gon’ be half of the price of records. They can’t get the instrumentals or the exclusives early like the record DJ’s, and if these companies don’t change then they really gon’ miss out. For a person who breaks records, they [must] have a CD player in they setup.
AllHipHop.com: Tell me about The Southern Entertainment Award you received recently.
TJ: Well, the Southern Entertainment Award we received was an impact award. It goes to the people who made the biggest moves and impact for the music industry for 2004, and they gave out two awards. One went to myself and the other went to Wendy Day [founder of the Rap Coalition] and that right there meant a whole lot to me. She’s such a power player in the industry from David Banner, to the Cash Money deal, to Eminem The whole awards were real nice. We also got nominated for an award for record pool of the year by the Bumsquad DJ’s. So that’s something positive right now too.
AllHipHop.com: TJ’s DJ’s is big in helping the music community, any charitable programs you do for the community of Tallahassee?
TJ: I speak often to underprivileged youth from elementary school to high schools, community centers and the urban league. I’ve also spoken on topics of entrepreneurship with the students; and it’s totally different when you go and talk to them, and they’re talking to someone who looks just like them and I’m not an uptight professor or a doctor with a PhD or none of that. I’m just one of them; you know I got braids and a big ole’ beard. I can say some stuff and then afterwards, they’ll come back and ask me questions or even repeat half the stuff I said, word for word. That’s because of music; the music is that mental ground that allows you to get to the kids. Well I use it; whether it be educating, business, or mentoring I try to use it.
AllHipHop.com: How can the people get in contact, or join the pool?
TJ: They can log on to www.tjsdjs.com