It’s not everyday you pick up the phone and there’s a multi-millionaire asking you about yourself…
We no inna dat bad mind gangsta business, so when my phone rings from an unknown number, I tend to pick it up because its about a 50/50 that there’s going to DJ work on the other side of the line. Last year, I received one such call from a man named Daymond John.
You may or may not recognize Mr John from entrepreneurial series “The Shark Tank” where venture capitalists listen to pitches from small business owners and then haggle based on the their marketing experience and try and beat each other out for a profit share in the business. His face is plastered all over NYC. I’d recently read one his books called The Brand Within (recommended reading), where he recounts his experiences in building the clothing brand FUBU (For Us By Us) into a world wide enterprise so I knew a bit about his history and the respect he commanded. He is one of the wealthiest African American men in the country and an inspirational figure to many a young business owner.
It’s not everyday you pick up the phone and there’s a multi-millionaire asking you about yourself. Its an exciting moment for someone like me that has a big imagination. Your mind races with the possibilities. He invited me to his office and explained that he was considering some celebrity DJ gigs in Las Vegas and was looking for someone to help him get his set together and possibly book some gigs as an opening act. This is something that might stick out as a bit of a sore spot for a lot of folks that put in the time to do this job, but if ever there was a busy man that really didn’t have time to be looking for music on soundcloud, it’s Daymond John.
You’ll really never meet a hungrier individual and that wants to do more and try new things and help folks out. He demands hard work and that people do their best and that’s something to respect when it feels like we’re surrounded by so much mediocrity and complacency. What was unfortunate for me was that I really wasn’t ready for that call when it came in and couldn’t figure out how to turn the opportunity around. I’ve been out in the global bass world for so long trying to push our scene forward, that I’d lost what little touch and interest I had to the hip hop community years ago. Knowing what Vegas is like and what would be expected of him in that context, I had to decline the offer and walked away.
My friends called me crazy. I could have done a hip hop set under some fake DJ name and no one would be the wiser but I just couldn’t commit the mental energy to doing something that my heart wasn’t into, even if the money was right. Part of me regrets not at least giving it a try but if I wasn’t going to give it my all, I was inevitably going to let him down and Daymond John doesn’t give second chances. Better to have walked away as the guy that knew he wasn’t right for the job and let him find someone that was a better match than to take the risk and burn the bridge.
Since then, I’ve tried to open up my listening and get my head above the underground and check for what the streets are listening to on mainstream radio. Its hard, but occasionally you come up with some remix hotness like this Jeremih Rezouk that Banginclude just did.
I try and find a middle ground that lets me connect with a wider audience now and still sound like myself. That’s in great part thanks to this experience. Every man do his ting a likkle way different.
There’s 1,000,000 DJs in New York (probably your city too) that will play you a Hot 97 set, but you don’t read about those DJ’s in magazines or catch them releasing dope mixes on Noisey like my compadre Uproot Andy. You won’t catch them playing at Lincoln Center or international music festivals. We’ve been building our brand for years and among the many things that I learned from Mr John its that if you have a good product that you believe in, and you put in the time an effort, you really can build an empire doing what you love. Respect to all you cats and kittens sticking to your guns and finding identity in what you do. Love is a major motivator round these parts and we’re happy you’re out there.