Compiled and edited by Michael Krieger for The Higher Plane
As many of you know, I have been a big fan and supporter of Mick Boogie for some time now. I want to send a big thank you to Mick Boogie for taking time out of his busy schedule to complete this interview for this week’s Big Ten with The Higher Plane.
Mick touches upon a variety of topics from his early days of college radio and move to NYC to his critically acclaimed mixtapes and his favorite new artists. Lot of insight here, so let’s get into it. Enjoy.
THP: Who is this international turntablist they call Mick Boogie? And from your vantage point, what skill set is required to have truly earned those two letters that are your title…DJ?
MB: I’m a normal guy who loves music and is blessed to have made it my career. Skill set required mostly is an understanding of music. Technical skill, practice, and new technology helps, but at the end of the day you have to know what to play with what.
THP: Now, you grew up in Youngstown. Knowing the area, it has great pizza shops, but not exactly a vibrant hip-hop scene. Take us on your musical journey as a youth. At what point did you realize hip-hop had a tight grip on you, and what could you even do about it living in a town lacking a culture for music?
MB: I started falling in love with it in middle school, and kept learning more and more thanks to Yo! MTV Raps. Trips to Florida (where they had “urban” radio) and reading the two books about hip-hop in the library [laughs]. I got into deejaying from playing instruments. So as I finished up high school, and before I moved to Cleveland, I taught myself how to deejay in my bedroom.
THP: You recently made the move out to Brookyln. How has the transition from Cleveland to New York City been? At what point did you know this was a necessary step for the evolution of your career? I mean wasn’t your situation similar to LeBron’s impending free agency? As in, NYC needs Mick Boogie more than Mick needs NYC.
MB: It’s been amazing. Night and day. Cleveland is a nice place to live and raise a family, but not if you want to do what I’m doing. It’s a blue collar city. It has good people and nice natural resources. However, if you’re doing anything progressive in media, entertainment and the arts, it’s not for you. I realized that when I was in NYC two times a month, minimum, that it was time to take the plunge and move. NYC definitely doesn’t need me. There are lots of great deejays here! And I don’t need it. I could have continued to grow, but at a much slower pace. However, when you combine the blessings that I have with the pulse of this city, it’s amazing. Regarding Lebron, well, we will all have to wait and see [laughs].
THP: When deejaying a party or event, do you go in with a pre-determined set list to help create a vibe, or do you let the vibe of the party, crowd and atmosphere dictate what you end up spinning?
MB: Definitely go with the vibe. I have things I like to play together like little sets. Every deejay does, but you have to base the overall performance on the vibe and mood of the crowd.
THP: Let’s move to the mixtape scene for a minute. Having followed your career relatively early on (circa 2002), I think there has been a clear evolution in your product. Now I didn’t hear you in your early college radio days, but many of your mixtapes contained a bunch dope blends and some still do.
Your critically acclaimed projects, Viva La Hova (Jay-Z/Coldplay) and Adele 1988 (Adele/Break Beats) have been more conceptual or creative projects with original sounds from your team of producers. You also have the Motiviation series with DJ Benzi. Have all these different avenues just been a natural progression in your career? And how do you maintain such a good balance of working with industry heavyweights and up and coming artists, while balancing those genre crossovers?
MB: I’ve always been about being creative. I remember being a freshman in college in my dorm room mixing classical string records with Nas drumbeats, etc. You have to find a way to fuse cool things together to make even cooler things. I love hip-hop, especially good hip-hop. I always have and always will. But what I loved about hip-hop is that it always borrowed creatively from other genres. So, in a sense, we are doing that in reverse now by adding Jay-Z to Coldplay, or adding break beats to Adele.
THP: Speaking of the team of producers you have around you (6th Sense, Garbs Infinite, Remot, The Kickdrums, nVme to name a few), how does your process work on these projects? What role do you play from concept to creative execution to the fully mastered final cut?
MB: Well, a) these guys know what we like at this point and b) I’ll come up with a concept and give them some rough parameters. Sometimes it’s an email, sometimes a phone call, sometimes a rough blend I threw together using records that need a formal redo in a real studio. Then we send it back and forth making adjustments until everyone is happy.
THP: Now that the Internet is going nuts and traditional record sales continue to lag, is there a business model for the industry that will allow it to prosper in the digital era that you can identify?
MB: Touring is essential. I don’t make ANY money on mixtapes. You have to look at music as a free commodity these days that leads to other opportunities. Kids today simply aren’t going to pay, so we must adjust and move on.
THP: What principles, core values or concepts have allowed you to rise to the top of your profession?
MB: Ethics, honesty, being a good person and having a good team. The team has changed and evolved over the years, but you can’t do everything yourself no matter how much you think you can.
THP: Let’s talk about your show with Terry Urban on Shade 45, The Press Play Show. Is it your intention to use that platform differently, or does it simply exist as a brand extension of your blog, mixtapes and live events? And how does it feel to be on a platform like satellite radio?
MB: It’s all brand extension. We have a blog that does well focusing on certain topics, types of music, and other issues. The show reflects that 100%. Why not? It’s an audio blog, if you will.
THP: What projects can we be on the lookout for in the near future from Mick Boogie and Terry Urban? Oh, and is the League Crew still in existence?
MB: Well, The League was originally a mixtape crew nationwide, but then mixtapes died. Then, on a local level, The League were the 4 hottest deejays in the Cleveland club scene. Then two of us moved. So now you got two of them there now doing EVERYTHING and killing it. Terry and I are here in NYC navigating new waters. But everyone is still all good. I just texted with Steph Floss and DJ Fresh today.
THP: Finally, I know you are both a huge Native Tongues and Hov fan. There is a perceived resistance taking place in hip-hop. On one hand you have established artists seemingly toward the end of their careers, while the new cats are constantly labeled and cannot escape ridicule. So I ask, where has all the creativity and open-mindedness disappeared to?
MB: It’s out here. You just have to look for it. Listen to KiD CuDi and Big Sean. U-N-I and Pac Div. Sixth Sense. Drake. B.o.B. Asher Roth. Hip-hop is alive and well…
Overtime with Mick Boogie
THP: Five technologies You Can’t Live Without
Blackberry, iPhone, Serato, Apple computers and whatever they use at Chipotle…haha.
THP: Top 5 Hip-Hop Albums of All-Time
De La Soul – Stakes Is High
Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders
Jay-Z – Blueprint
Biggie – Ready To Die
Snoop Dogg – Doggystyle
THP: Top 3 Sneaker Styles