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Interview With DJ A-Beats


2 June 2004 No Comment

Born in Mexico City, Mexico, DJ A-Beats has been a music lover since his birth. Inspired by his parents love of music A-Beats experimented with many genres of music he found his true love, Hip Hop. We wanted to find out more about this Justo’s Mixtape Award Finalist. Check it out.

When did you move to the States and why did you leave Mexico?

A-Beats: I moved to the states around 88. I didn’t really have a say, my mom moved the family and the rest is history. 

Was it a culture shock?

A-Beats: Most definitely. I spoke very little English when I moved to the States. I learned quick, but it was a difficult transition. My brother and I use to get in fights all the time cause cats would pick on us because we didn’t speak English, trust me I picked up the language quickly after a couple of rumbles. Hahaha. 

Will you ever move back to Mexico?

A-Beats: Im not sure. I have thought about it many times and it is definitely not out of the question, but at the moment im not ready to go back. I want to travel around the world more. Right now im living in DC, but I want to move around and experience different cities. Then I might return to Mexico, who knows. 

What inspired you to become a mixtape dj? Was it a particular mixtape that you listened to or was it something that was being done by the folks in your area?

A-Beats: I didn’t start DJing to make mixes. I mean I was making mixes before I even began DJing. I called them “Pause Tapes”. I would get all my favorite tracks and add some skits and just make a tape using my boombox. In middle school and highschool all my boys loved them, so that inspired me to begin djing. But I was DJing for about 1 year before I made a mix. I started doing college radio at my alma mater, James Madison University and the transition into making mixes was natural. 

You’ve won some mixtape awards. Besides credibility what other incentives are there for mixtape dj’s when winning such awards?

A-Beats: Ive only really won one award for my mixtapes. I won a mixtape competition that Semp Rok, from Public Wizard Inc (out of Miami, www.publicwizardinc.com) put together. Nothing big, just some extra exposure. But I was nominated at this years Justo’s Mixtape Awards. I didn’t win my category, shit I was going up against Kay Slay, but the exposure has helped a lot. As far as incentives go, it is really all about gaining credibility. There really aren’t huge monetary rewards from winning these awards, its all just bragging rights. But for me it was definitely an honor to be in the same category with people like Kay Slay, Vlad, people who are know internationally. 

You work at college radio right? Do you think some of the regional stations in your area perceive them to be a threat?

A-Beats: Not really. The college stations in my area don’t really have a huge impact on the area. Its sad but it’s the truth. That is why I have concentrated most of my energy on mixtapes. In this area college radio is a dead end. I think satellite radio is the best outlet for real hip hop in this area. Companies like XM radio and Siruis Radio have a lot of dope hip hop programming that I think can make an impact in many regions. Expect that to be one of the next big things. 

Do you have your own remixes on your mixtapes? Do you see the mixtape as a vehicle to get you known as a beat maker?

A-Beats: I love doing RMX’s but I don’t do the beats on my cds. I guess I should clarify. The rmx’s on my mixes are actually blends (note: When somebody takes the acappella to one song and puts it on top of the instrumental of another song). Blends, when done right are amazing. They are just a way to add creativity to your mixes and give the listeners something exclusive, something they wont hear anywhere else but my cd. As far as production goes, I have started producing some stuff, but im definitely not at a point where I want to be showcasing my beats. I have a lot to learn in that arena. But trust me when I feel my beats are up to par, u will def hear them on my cds. 

What artists would you like to produce for? What is it about these artists that make you want to make beats for them?

A-Beats: For the future there are certainly many artists I would love to work with. Off the top of my head I would say Ghostface would probably be the person I would really want to work with. He is one of the most creative cats out there. He brings such passion to his songs and he continuously reinvents himself. That is why I love Ghost, he is always trying to break new ground. I would love to work with him in the future. 

Do you also do live shows?

A-Beats: Yeah I spin live shows. Its hard to get out and do parties when I have to work from 9-5, cause I cant be out till 3 in the morning with all my equipment, and 5 crates and then be at work at 8 or 9. That’s just not realistic. I do weekend gigs every now and then. You can usually catch me doing my thing at Club U-turn with my peoples Organized Theory (www.organizedtheory.com). 

What equipment do you have?

A-Beats: I keep it traditional, I got myself two 1200 Technics, Vestax 05 Pro and Sure SM-447 and some CDJ’s for mixtape purposes. 

There are literally thousands of mixtapes out there. Which dj’s do you think are really taking it to the next level?

A-Beats: First and foremost I have to say Green Lantern. I don’t care if u don’t like all of his selection, this cat puts together great mixes. He is original, shows his skills and takes time with his projects. He has raised the bar. Other people that are really doing it are Vlad (his Rap Phenomenon series is bananas) and Mick Boogie also puts out great CD’s. These are the people who right now are making the best mixes. 

Have you traveled overseas yet? Any country you’d like to go to?

A-Beats: I have been extremely lucky as far as traveling. I have been blessed with the opportunity to have traveled a good amount at my young age. I’ve been all over Latin America (Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Ecuador and Belize) and spent a little time in Europe (Italy, Spain, England and France). Its one of my favorite things to do and I look forward to visiting Asia, Africa and the rest of the world. Traveling is the best way to learn about different cultures. I love it, especially trying different foods. 

Right now, today in your area, who are the hottest hip hop artists?

A-Beats: Man there is a lot of talent in the DC metro area. In Virginia you have cats like Doujah Raze, Born Unique, Sketch, Nails, Team Demolition, and this is just Northern VA, im not even bringing the rest of the state into this. Then in DC you have cats like Head-Roc, Southpaw, Defined Print. And there is also a shitload of talent in Maryland. You have Critically Acclaimed, Kev Brown, Cy Young, Kaimbr, Oddisee, the whole Low Budget crew. They are really making a lot of noise. So as can see the DC area has a lot to offer, its just a matter of time before we get the recognition this area deserves. 

Do you only play a particular style of hip hop? For instance if the 36 Mafia brought out a banger would you play that or is that a style you not into?

A-Beats: On the real I play whatever I like. Im not a big fan of 36, but if they dropped a track that I was feeling, you best believe I would be playing the shit out of the track. I hate when people wont play songs because its too underground, or its too commercial. If its hot its hot and it will get burn on my 1200’s. Too many people try and categorize hip hop. If you like something play it. 

When deciding on track selection what is it that you look for? 

A-Beats: Heat! That’s it. Like I just said. If it’s hot I will play the hell out of the song. When I make a mix I want every single song to be dope, from track 1 all the way to the end. I really try and make every song on the cd something that will catch peoples ears. That’s it, its pretty simple with me. 

Have you been responsible for blowing up a song?

A-Beats: I wouldn’t say Ive been responsible for making a song blow up, but I have defenitly exposed people to new music. That’s what I do best, expose new artists. I love when people tell me “Yo, so and so on ur mix is dope as hell, I never heard of him, but Im going to defenitly keep my ear open for that guy!!” I love when people respond like that. It makes me happy to know I can spread the word about good music. 

Are Americans aware of the hip hop scene in Africa?

A-Beats: I would have to say that the majority of Americans have no idea that hip hop is as universal as it is. I feel that only a small amout of hip hop fans know that hip hop is alive and kicking in the mother land. I personally have not heard much music, but I know there is a movement. I have read articles by Davey D and Bobito who speak on the subject. Hip Hop is such an amazing culture that everybody in the world has embraced it and everybody will make their contributions. Its just a matter of time before the US begins to recognize foreign Hip hop. 

Where do you want to take your career? What would have to happen for you to say “yes, this is the life I’m living and I love it”?

A-Beats: Wow, this is a great question. A tough one, but a good one. I’m really young, so right now I’m not really trying to set a clear picture of what I want to do. I have tons of goals and I am slowly achieving them, but as for specifics I cant tell you anything. That’s because I have no idea what I want to do. There are a couple of things I’m sure about. Like I know I want to travel and live in as many different places as possible while I don’t have any concrete responsibilities, aka a child. I want to def live of hip hop. Not rape it, but be able to profit from something I love. I think this is something we all aim for in life, not just musicians. Eventually have a fam and some little A-Beats running around reciting KRS, but trust me, that is not in the near future. I have a hard enough time balancing my life, I cant even imagine having to be responsible for a child. Wow, props to all the young parents that love their kids!

Tell us something about you that no website, no magazine knows about you?

A-Beats: I got my undergraduate degree in chemistry and I make my living using my degree. It shocks people in both of my careers to tell them what I do for a living and as a hobby, and hopefully future career. In the hip hop world there aren’t many people involved with science. Don’t get me wrong more and more people from every type of educational background are infiltrating hip hop, but lets just say not many DJ’s are chemists, and vice versa. The funniest thing is telling people at work that I DJ. Like when I had to ask my boss for time off to go to Justo’s Mixtape Awards. I had to explain to her that I DJ and I make mix cd’s. She was real cool with it, but just a little surprised. So there u go man, its out in the open I make my living working in the sciences, and you heard it here first!

What’s the most common question that people ask you in interviews?

A-Beats: A lot of people ask me how I got started DJing, who inspired me to DJ, what artists am I feeling, etc…. Things of that nature. Its refreshing to have people ask you different questions. 

Where can people get your mixtapes from?

A-Beats: Right now my CDs are everywhere. You can get the directly from my website, www.djabeats.com. In the DC metro area they are in almost any store that carries Hip Hop music, from Tower Records to mom and pop record stores. I’m all over this area. You can also check for them on many websites. From mixtape websites like www.mixtapeusa.com, www.mixtapeone.com to general online stores like www.ughh.com. Just do a Google search and a lot of stores will pop up. 

Tell us a little something about Dynas?

A-Beats: Dynas is a crazy talented MC from the Miami area. Hes been doing his thing for a while. He released a couple of 12″s on Beyond Real with production from DJ Spinna and he is about to drop his LP later this year. I’ve heard a lot of the tracks and trust me, this guy has some major heat. For more info on Dynas check out www.badgramma.com.

What is a typical day like for you?

A-Beats: A grind man! That’s all I do is grind! I got to work, you know 9-5, but I try to squeeze in as many emails as I can, got to politic, it’s a very important aspect of the business. Then I go home, usually hit the gym, cook dinner, and most of the time work on some music. I go out to as many shows as I can, try and promote myself as much as I can. It’s a hustle trying to get my cds reviewed and in stores. It takes a lot of time and dedication, but its slowly paying off and I think in the long run it will all pay off. 

What’s your favourite food and drink?

A-Beats: Yo on the real I love to eat and drink man. Those are two of my favorite things to do. On the food tip I have to go with some good old Mexican food. Some cochinita pibil, or tacos al pastor, choriquesos, tamales, mole, cheviche, man there is so much good food. But don’t front I love some pasta, and steaks man. I’m a skinny dude, but trust me I’ll put down a good meal. As for drinks I love beer. That is almost my drink of choice, but if its not a drinking occasion then I gotta go with some fresh juices, water or some agues preparadas, like horchata, jamaica, tamarindo, sandia, all my latinos know what’s up! I could talk about food for years man!

Your top 5 tracks right now?

A-Beats: wow I have a lot of tracks I’m really bumpin. But top 5 I would have to go like this:

1. The whole Ghostface “Pretty Tony Album” (this man is crazy dope. Besides Jay-z he is the most consistent MC in the game. He continues to reinvent himself. Really feeling the soul on this LP)
2. The New Prince LP “Musicology” (there needs to be no explanation for this one. If u haven’t peeped it yet, do yourself a favor and cop it!!!)
3. Masta Ace “Beautiful” (This song is amazing, Ace will be releasing a concept LP that is a Prequel to “Disposable Arts” and I am very hyped about this project)
4. Jadakiss “The Champ is Here” (on a street level Jadakiss is the most consistent MC in the game. Period. This track is bananas. Green Lantern really shows his talent on the production/cuts)
5. Mobb Deep “Got it Twisted” (Alchemist gives these guys another banger, if you are not feeling this track you really need to get you head checked cause this is in constant rotation)

How many mixtapes do you release in a year?

A-Beats: For the past 2.5 years I have been putting out a mix every 3-4 months. As of late I have been doing one every 2-3 months, so in one year I will probably drop anywhere between 4-6 cd’s. 

Have you ever had to scrap a mixtape due to a bad mix or do you just let that mix slide?

A-Beats: I really try hard to let my mixes speak for themselves, so I’m always trying to make every mix sound as good as possible. I work real hard on every mix and I take a lot of pride in that. So no you wont hear a bad mix on my part, I am building a reputation and I am slowly gaining momentum, I don’t want to jeopardize that by dropping some sub par material. 

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, do you have any last words?

A-Beats: First off, huge shouts to African Gateways for this dope opportunity. You guys asked some dope questions and I appreciate the opportunity to voice my opinion. I definitely want to thank everybody who has shown love to any of my projects. Thank you to yall. It means a lot. And yeah make sure you stay tuned to www.djabeats.com for all of the updates regarding A-Beats mixes and projects. There is a lot of dope stuff coming from my way, so you don’t want to miss it! Holla!

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