Compiled and edited by Michael Krieger for The Higher Plane
Let’s kick off November with our Big Ten series and guest Terry Urban. An Ohio native, Urban, also with a skate and graf background, has blazed his deejay trail through Cleveland and on to NYC. Urban is one of the nation’s most sought after club DJs, and he is known for his incorporation of juxtaposing genres on his acclaimed mixtapes. He is also a frequent collaborator with fellow Ohio native, the renowned deejay and Higher Plane favorite Mick Boogie. Their tapes have captivated listeners all over the globe, and their radio show, The Press Play Show can be found on Sirius Satellite Radio.
THP: Can we get the obligatory introduction? Just provide us with a little background on Terry Urban and how long you have been doing this music thing.
Terry Urban: Hi, my name is Terry Urban, and I’ve been intrigued by music all my life.
THP: Growing up in Northeast Ohio, who were some of your influences musically when you were growing up? How was Hip-hop introduced to you?
Terry Urban: Growing up I listened to a lot of NWA, Eazy E, ATCQ [A Tribe Called Quest], De La Soul, Eric B & Rakim and BBD [Bell Biv DeVoe]. I was introduced to Hip-hop through a NYC mixtape compilation that I bought at a Gold Circle because I thought the artwork cover was dope. I remember the tape had BDP’s [Boogie Down Productions] My Philosophy on it, and I memorized every word while listening on my Walkman.
THP: Beyond starting off doing house parties, how did you come to be one of the most sought after club DJ’s in Cleveland?
Terry Urban: With a little bit of talent and a lot of help from Mick Boogie.
THP: You have had a long standing working relationship with Mick Boogie. How did you first start working together and how has that working relationship evolved over the years?
Terry Urban: I started working at a club called Cloud 9 because I knew the owner at the time. He gave me a weekly and then introduced me to Mick Boogie who was gonna help close the weekly night out. Mick and I became best friends and then started to work together musically.
THP: You guys seem to have a pretty successful formula in place. For you, what was the added value in becoming collaborators rather than being competitors?
Terry Urban: Mick and I have always had similar ideas. It was only a matter of time before we started working together and collabing on mixtapes. We both are down to Earth dudes and would never want to compete against each other. We would rather try to help each other than to hurt.
THP: How did you decide it was time to move on from Cleveland? What were you looking for in your career that Cleveland couldn’t provide, and has the move been a successful one in your opinion?
Terry Urban: Cleveland is a great small city. However, I could only accomplish so much in a small city as a DJ. So I had to move to a bigger city where there’s more influence for me and people that can help me further my career. NYC has been nothing but good to me and so has Cleveland.
THP: Let’s talk about your tapes for a minute. You have done a lot of mash-up records spanning different genres. How do you even determine these opposing sounds would blend well together?
Terry Urban: Ideas are constantly going through my head. For example, if I hear a sound/song that I like… I automatically wanna do something with it. I’ve had the urge to create music all my life.
THP: The Viva La Hova project has garnered critical acclaim and deservedly so, but what has been your favorite project?
Terry Urban: How My Brain Works series. It’s basically a mixtape for me and for listeners with a wide knowledge of music.
THP: Did the Santigold incident where you recieved a C&D from her label affect the way you approach mixtapes, or is it something you just brushed off at the end of a day and attributed to the nature of the industry?
Terry Urban: I was upset because I loved Santi’s album so much that I wanted to do something with it. When I got the C&D, I automatically thought that no one would hear this mixtape that I put a lot of time and effort into. I laugh now when looking back at it… it’s just silly politics.
THP: One thing that stands out to me on your tapes with Mick is the fact you get a lot of original production from a bevy of producers. Does that make it more difficult to coordinate a project, and how much do you think original production adds to a mixtape concept project?
Terry Urban: Yes, it’s very difficult organizing a tape with a wide range of producers and artists. Mick and I are basically the executive producers of the mixtapes. We put our hands into everything that the mixtape has to offer. Whether it be a lyric that needs to be moved or a kick drum that needs to be beefed up. We’re kinda like the Quincy Jones of the Thriller album.
THP: First, what advice would you give to aspiring club DJs trying to become successful? Second, what advice would you give aspiring artists, and is there anything specifc you look for in new artists?
Terry Urban: Learn the art of DJing. Please don’t go buy the latest new technology, then play a party and call yourself a DJ. As for artists, its very tough out there right now. Everyone is jumping on whatever is hot at the moment right now. I like, and look, for artists to be themselves. I feel and hope that being yourself will last in the long run.
THP: What is on the horizon for Terry Urban? Any chance we will see the How My Brain Works III tape?
Terry Urban: Working on How My Brain Works III right now. I cant wait for the listeners to hear it.
Overtime with The Higher Plane
THP: G.O.A.T city to DJ in?
Terry Urban: NYC
THP: G.O.A.T. Venue to DJ In?
Terry Urban: Touch Club in Cleveland for I Got 5 On It Party.
THP: Top 5 Albums of All-Time
Terry Urban: MJ’s Off The Wall, BBD’s Poison, ATCQ’s Low End Theory, Nirvana’s Nevermind and Dr. Dre’s Chronic.