You’ve been putting in a lot of work with Charles Hamilton. How did you guys come up with the idea to drop bimonthly mixtapes?
He actually had the idea and he gave it to me and it was dope. I was like, ‘Let’s knock it out and make history.’
Has it been hard doing a project every two weeks?
I mean, it’s tough. It’s a lot of work. I’m trying to finish one that’s supposed to be coming out tomorrow. It’s a lot of work and it’s even more on him because he has to come up with that much music, but as you can see the quality has been there.
How did you first meet Charles?
I got connected with him through my boy 3H, who was trying to sign him at the time. I had a connect through him. It wasn’t even a year ago. I heard one of his mixtapes right before Christmas and I thought he was dope. We met out in L.A. and we clicked off and the rest is history.
How did Charles’ music catch your ear?
Man, just hearing everything from the style to charisma to lyrics to delivery…Just everything, from personality to uniqueness. Everything he does, a lot of people don’t get it. They think he’s an imitator and trying to copy styles but that’s really how he is. He’s about everything he raps about and talks about. That’s literally who he is. It’s not normal but he has his own stuff and the music, it just speaks for itself. Forget the part that he can produce too. The dude is a genius. He’s on another planet mentally and in every aspect. It’s not just different to be different. It’s actually different but really good and he doesn’t try to be what he’s not. It’s just good music. He’s really the next wave.
How far can Charles Hamilton go in the game?
I think there are no real limits for an artist like him because of the style of music he makes and how he transforms. He’s been everywhere online and random girls get his music for the first time and love it. His fanbase is real. The reaction has been crazy. I thought it would take people a longer time to get the music and to accept it and like it. Music has to really grow on people for a long time and I thought it was too advanced because it’s not like what you hear on the radio. He broke out of that mold and a lot of people caught on quicker than we thought they initially would. I knew we had it but I didn’t think the reaction would be what it is.
Can there be a negative side to putting out so music at such a fast rate?
Definitely. Some people get overwhelmed by it and some people aren’t fans of all of that stuff. He’s the type of guy that can just go in and knock it out and make it happen.
Do you ever worry about the quality of music suffering when you’re dropping so many projects?
Definitely, if it’s rushed. But he’s not. He always has a lot of music. We just shot the video for “Brooklyn Girls” and it’s crazy but when we were there, I thought he would be excited about shooting the video and all he was talking about was some mixtape song he recorded the night before. He’s crazy. He doesn’t stop. Every day I’m getting new mp3s from him and everything.
How important is it for artists to utilize the free download promotional tool to really establish themselves?
It’s how mixtapes are. You can’t try to charge for it. Nobody buys CDs anymore so giving it away for free is the new mixtape lane and the new way of breaking it. It’s the new everything.
You also worked with Evidence on his first real mixtape, The Layover Mixtape. What made you want to get down with him on that?
I’ve known Evidence for a minute and it was just natural. He’s never even done his own mixtape before. They came to me with the music. I’ve known him for a minute and it just worked out perfectly.
You’ve been able to work with all different kinds of artists on mixtapes. Why do you think you can run the gamut as far as working with different artists goes?
I just try to work with different artists from gangsta rappers to the new age rappers. I just like music and I don’t like there to be any boundaries on it or whatever. I just try to add my style and flair to it. I don’t really flood everything but I try to make everything come out great. I appreciate all styles from the underground stuff to the mainstream stuff. You name it.
What exactly do you bring to the project when you’re asked to host a mixtape?
A lot of people ask me what I do. They think it’s just me sitting there and throwing my name on it. It’s literally sitting there and conceptualizing the whole theme of it. I’m a fan and I’m helping them find the beats and putting together the producers and putting the whole project together, making it more like an album. It’s really like a joint venture.
How much are you working with Black Wallstreet today?
We’ve always been cool and stuff and we’re always cool. He’s really been focusing on his whole stuff and I’ve been focusing on mine. We haven’t working as much as we have in the past but it’s not beef. I’ve really expanded and he’s out there doing his thing.
What is your role in Black Wallstreet today as more of their up-and-coming artists start getting more promotion and signing deals?
Just helping out. Helping new artists out with the music and breaking new records like I’ve always done.
I was speaking with Terrace Martin about how there’s not a lot of national excitement for the West Coast right now. Do you agree with statement?
There’s always cats hustling and people have a buzz but nobody’s really made it and had that smash outside of the region with the exception of Game. There’s no real middle. There’s either the bottom or the top. It’s weird. Atlanta has mid-level artists and they do their thing and people are trying to get their name to the top. It’s just a weird situation. There’s just a lot more camaraderie in other areas and the whole gang stuff in L.A. kind of messes everything up. People don’t work together and everybody seems to be beefing with each other and they’re not on the same page. I’ve been trying to help that. People need to come out and get together and make music that’s going to be accepted outside of the region and is not the same stuff that people expect.
Who can carry the torch out West?
I think there’s a lot of dudes coming out that could. Glasses’ single is getting played nationally. I think he has some great records. There’s Bishop, who has good records, to Jay Rock to Omar Cruz. But nobody’s really been able to break outside of it yet. There’s a whole list of 20 artists who have good talent and all of that but nobody’s really done it yet or had good enough records to really break outside of that.
Crooked I is probably the internet community’s choice to come out of the West. Can he do it?
I mean, Crooked is one of the most incredible rappers that I’ve ever heard in my life. That’s why I love working with him. When he was doing the Hip-Hop Weekly’s and we came together on that one last one, I wanted to make that last one special with all of the beat-switching. But in terms of breaking out, Crooked I has a big fanbase online but he’s never had a record to catapult him outside of that online demographic and break him onto the radio. He just doesn’t have the right record to get him known outside of that world, unfortunately. And he has had some good ones but he has to have the right label. It does take some label support to get the radio push and all of that and get the single serviced to DJs and get it known outside of the region and make records that the girls will like and that kind of stuff too and he hasn’t had it.
Can artists out West have more camaraderie or do you think there will always be divisions?
I mean, I wish there could be but of course at this time it’s not happening and it hasn’t’ for years. It’s definitely something that I think needs to happen more. People need to get together and realize that when one person blows up everybody blows up. That’s what they’ve really done in Florida and Atlanta. Rick Ross is on everybody else’s records out there and it will help break a Flo Rida and everybody gets it. People have their issues everywhere, but if I’m a big DJ and the bigger the DJ next to me gets, he’ll have a bigger audience and when I get bigger I’ll get a bigger audience and we can share that with everybody. There can’t be just one. If there are others blowing up it’s going to help everybody across the board.
Do you a lot of behind-the-scenes work with up-and-coming artists that we never hear about?
Definitely. That’s what I do out here. They always come to me. I started off on the label side and on the marketing side and from there I really helped to break a lot of these artists. Everybody wants to always know how to break an artist out West and a lot of labels come out here and look for a simple solution but I tell them it’s the long grind that you have to hit them with.
You’re also a big radio DJ. What do you think the most important avenue artists can hit today to be successful?
It’s a combination of stuff. You can’t just rely on the mixtapes or radio or the internet. You really have to have a combination of each and it seems like artists might have one thing strong but just having one thing strong won’t do it. Look at all of these one-hit wonders. They’re not hitting the mixtapes so they don’t have a street presence and nobody is checking out stuff online and then you got a person with an online following but then they won’t have any radio records to crossover. It’s really a grind to hit all areas and it’s not easy. You have to lay the foundation and the groundwork and that’s what Wayne did. He had the mixtapes going crazy and the radio going crazy. It was a combination of everything and that’s why he came together and did so much.
Artists are more accessible to fans now than they’ve ever been in the past thanks to MySpace, Twitter and other networking sites. Can artists ever be too reachable where it turns into a bad thing?
Not really. There are some artists who are just too arrogant and they don’t have the personality but for a lot of people that’s how they are as artists.
You’re known for traveling around the country and meeting artists. How important is that to finding new talent?
It’s crucial, man. I just got back from Atlanta. That’s why I love going everywhere, because you can see what’s cracking in different areas and see what’s going on and the different vibes. Atlanta is so crazy. I just got back from there and they’re playing records there that I never heard. They’re doing all of this playing records that I have never heard in my life.
How important has Skee TV been to you bringing what you do to a wider audience?
It’s been great. I really tried to be innovative. I’ve done stuff before and I’m not trying to be like every other DJ. I really tried to innovate with that with breaking music and artists and songs. We do the radio interviews and now we stepped it up a notch since everybody tried to do it. I have a ridiculous production team that’s just going crazy. We expanded beyond the video clips. You name it. We’re going to shoot everybody across the board. We have a lot of interesting deals on the table. It’s just been phenomenal; and it’s done better than we ever expected it to do.
We’re trying to step up the quality and be different from everybody else. People are just throwing stuff up. That’s really how we started off but the rest is history. It’s about having the best production style and doing something different from everybody else.
How do you want fans to view DJ Skee?
I just want people to see me as me – somebody that comes with that shit no matter what it is I do across the board. And just know when you see my name with it that it’s going to be quality and you’re always going to get something good. Know that there’s going to be quality there instead of me just trying to go to the quick buck.
You left your show at Power 106 for KISS FM. What prompted you to make the switch?
KISS is the biggest radio station in the country as far as audience and ratings. L.A. is the biggest audience even though New York has more people. More people in L.A. are in their cars and we cover Riverside as well. It was a bigger opportunity in a way to really expand my brand. I love hip-hop and that’s my roots but this is helping me expand and cross new borders and help break guys like Charles on KISS. I’m helping with their music and the whole pop world. It’s just a great situation all the way across the board and the team that that have in place is incredible. It’s amazing. I couldn’t be happier right now.
Do you have enough freedom at KISS to play what you want?
I mean, absolutely. I wouldn’t have done the deal if I had to strictly follow the playlist. That doesn’t mean that I’m just going to sit there and play the underground hip-hop all day. That doesn’t make sense because you have to go to your target audience but when we have the right records for these guys, I can expose them to the bigger audience but it has to be the right record because this is a business.
How do you prepare for your radio show?
You just sit there and just work. It’s a lot of really listening to the new music. Working with the whole team over there has been great. It’s about putting in the worked and putting in the hours. You go to different markets and see what’s new and study the charts and do research to see what’s working. It’s a lot more difficult than what people think. You have to put in the work to get to where you want to be.
What does a new artist have to do to catch your ear?
It’s tough, especially on the radio and stuff. You really have to have a hit record and you really have to have a movement. It has to mean something. Why would I play a record that’s not going to benefit an artist if they don’t have stuff coming out?
Who’s the last artist that you’ve discovered that’s really impressed you?
Honestly, Charles. Definitely Charles. He’s the guy that’s really stood out. There’s this kid working with T.I. that definitely has some shit. There’s always new cats coming out.
A lot of big radio and mixtape DJs have made dropped official compilation albums. Are you working on a DJ Skee album?
Something is definitely in the works for the future. It just has to be something that makes sense. Khaled has really built his lane through that and killed it and a couple of other DJs have done it like that too. Especially with the time right now, why would I just put out an album when albums aren’t selling? What’s the point? It’s the day of the single where that’s what it’s all about so I would rather spend the time and money doing that. I love the mixtapes where you have the freedom with no sample issues. I just want to look for new ways to break music and something will definitely come. I just want to do something unique and different and capitalize on where the music business is today. I want to lead the path with innovative new ways instead of following the path that everybody else is doing.
You’ve done a lot of mixtape projects in the last few years. Is there a project that stands out as your favorite?
Oh, man. I mean, there’s a few for different reasons. Some of the Game ones were just incredible. “300 Bars” really helped build my name. And then you have the Evidence one that I love and the Jay-Z remix project. I just personally love that one. You name it. I don’t know. I like different ones for different reasons and when I put out a mixtape I want to really make it an event.
Game said L.A.X. would be his last album. Do you believe him?
I don’t think so. He can’t stay out of the studio.
What’s next for you and Charles?
We have just more of Charles being Charles. His album is coming along and stuff and he can come out next year. We’re going to get the album out. That’s the next goal. We’re actually about to drop the “Brooklyn Girls” video for him, which came out crazy. It’s basically him waking up and a day in the life of Charles Hamilton. He’s interacting with all of these different people across the board. He’s taking the train from Harlem to Brooklyn and interacting with a bunch of girls. He’s listening to his music through his big pink headphones and he did a song to his favorite porno star and there’s a cameo in there that his true fans can appreciate.
What’s coming up for you on the mixtapes?
The Charles ones are really the only ones. I have a couple of big ones I’m working on with artists but they’re not really finalized yet. I’m doing a couple of crazy things that might be coming real soon. I’m just doing some innovative stuff. I got my stuff coming and it should be coming next year. I got a lot coming. And a lot of it happens so quickly.
What haven’t you accomplished yet that you really need to?
There’s so much more left. I feel like I haven’t really done much yet. We just started doing music videos and I want to turn that whole thing into where people see Skee TV videos they think of Hype Williams back in the day. We have a long way to go in that aspect. On the music side I’ll keep coming out with releases and working on growing the brand on the radio. Everything, man. I’m taking the business to the next level. I’m nowhere near satisfied yet.