While most people know DJ Vlad these days for his website VladTV.com, the Bay Area native got his start making mixtapes like his popular Rap Phenomenon series.
In our final installment of the “Smirnoff Inspire” DJ series the man who says he launched “The TMZ of Hip-Hop” shares how his early influences actually made him reevaluate his career as a DJ.
TheUrban Daily: Who inspired you to DJ, and why?
Before I ever started DJing I was doing mixtapes, and the people who inspired me to do mixtapes were like Dirty Harry and Green Lantern. You could kind of tell that they were producers, and I kind of had a time where I was really focusing on production as well, so it was like I could see the real heavy production in their mixtapes. The way they did their blends and they chopped up the beat, they put in different elements from other things into their mixtapes. And I could just see the artistic level of it that very few people were doing outside of them. It was cool, I got to work with both of them on some projects. That was a real cool thing. It kind of made me step up my game. Being in the studio with them and talking to them constantly, I just saw different ways to do things and I learned a lot from these sessions, in terms of how they do it and how they put it together. After working with them I became better at what I did on the mixtape side.
What about on the DJing side?
I remember when I saw Kid Capri DJ for the first time. When I came to New York back in 2002 I really thought that I was gonna make my mark as a club DJ. I was making my rounds, doing all the New York clubs like China Club, Envy and so forth. I remember when I saw Kid Capri [and admired] the level of vocal control that he had. He had this way to control the crowd, the way he used the records, it was something I had never really seen coming from the West Coast. It was really more about how you could transition one record to another and how you could really musically kind of put these two songs together to sort of create a new song and kind of keep the mood. Whereas like in New York, it was different. It was more about getting on the mic and hyping up the crowd, and kind of just dropping records in and it didn’t really matter how you transitioned them. And seeing Kid Capri do that I feel that he’s definitely the best at that “thing,” that East Coast DJ thing. And it really made me kind of realize that you know I don’t know if I’m ever going to get to this level, I don’t know if I really want to focus on this thing because of people like him [Capri].
When it comes to my career, my businesses, the decisions I make with my career, I really feel that if I can’t be the very best at a certain thing within a reasonable amount of time, I should probably look at other things to do. And that was honestly like the club DJ thing, I think I’m going to put less focus on, even though I’m always going to like doing it, but it was the Kid Capris of the world that kind of showed me how much they had elevated that art-form. They made me kind of switch up a little bit, to be honest. I don’t know how many people would do that but I’ma keep it a hundred. [On the West Coast] DJ Rectangle was definitely an influence on the mixtape side. One of the very first mixtapes I had heard was a DJ Rectangle one, where it was that same level of production and that same level of creativity on the mixtape project. DJ Q-Bert was always a big influence, because he was such a big figure from the Bay Area. It was just interesting to see a Bay Area DJ be considered like the best in the world at that thing, in terms of a turntablist. I never really went down the turntabilist route myself, but it was just inspiring. I remember I had actually interviewed him early on before I had started DJing. We sat down at his house. He had this huge house with like you know this huge basement with all these turntables set up and everything. It was kind of inspirational because it was like wow, this guy got all this from DJing. He had his own business, his own scratch records, his own products, his own videos. That was like the first time I saw that you could really turn DJing into an actual career and an actual business if you’re successful at what you do.
What advice would you give aspiring DJs on the come up?
I think there’s a few things. The first thing is, that as hard as it may be, I think it’s important to never really give up. If you feel that DJing is really what you want to do, if it’s really something that you want to devote your life to it’s not just a hobby that you wanna do on the side. If it’s really something that you want to pursue, I don’t think you really do it while having a 9-to-5 job. Because best believe all the top DJs, the ones you read about and see, those are all people who devote a massive amount of time to what they do. They wake up in the morning and they do it until they go to sleep at night. And if you try to juggle that between a 9-to-5 job, you have a huge disadvantage with those people. It’s just simply a time thing. You’re just not gonna be able to put in the same level of work and same level of practice as someone who’s really at this full-time. I think that’s the number one advice I would give. Other than that I think it’s important to figure what you are going to concentrate on and really focus on that thing as opposed to being a “jack of all trades.”