The DJ used to be the backbone of hip-hop. Grandmaster Flash, Jam Master Jay, and Eric B, all held down their corresponding MCs. Fast forward to 2005 and it’s quite a different story. Gap clothing, Sprite, and even Apple have all featured DJs in their commercials, and have given love to the art-form whose turntable was laughed at by the baby boomer generation who proclaimed “that’s not an instrument.” Though the producer is now more known than the disc jockey, some like DJ AM are steady on their rotating grind, going from gig to gig, wowing audiences, and even incorporating new technology to their sets.
Born Adam Goldstein, and hailing from Philadelphia, PA, DJ AM has gone from no name, illegally DJing gigs, to boasting a star-studded resume of elite celebrities and music industry heavyweights. From DJing for Damon Dash and Jay-Z, to keeping the crowd live with Diddy in the Hamptons, or keeping Jessica Alba and Tom Cruise’s guests asses on the dance floor, DJ AM knows how to rock the spot. Mixing and meshing rock, hip-hop, top 40, and various other gems, AM plays to the rhythm of his crowds’ drum.
BallerStatus.com caught up with the multi-tasked, sneaker fiend, producer, fiancée to Nicole Richie, DJ AM. We talked about everything from his first DJ setup, his thoughts on technology in the realm of DJing, and his possible reality show. Get to know one of the nicest DJs behind the wheels of steel.
DJ AM: I’m from Philly. DJ Mighty Mi of the High and The Mighty had the first set of turntables I ever saw. We used to have a group together in 1985, and I was the beat box. When I first saw him get down on the wheels, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
BallerStatus.com: What was your first setup, and who would you say your influences were?
DJ AM: My first set up was a boombox with a lil’ wired mic. I used to tape the mic to the TV speaker and make pause mixes. I would leave the tape deck of the boombox on record and pause, and un-pause it on one word at a time, and piece together sentences. Then I had my mom’s old school turntable, and I used to try to get down on. But that sh** had a belt drive and made chicks sound like dudes cause it was so slow. I then got up some money for one turntable (Technics 1200) and finally got another. I had some bunk ass Radio Shack mixer that mixed so smooth, but you could not cut on it.
BallerStatus.com: What would you say is your first gig that you could say really changed your career, and was the launching pad for where you’re at now?
DJ AM: The Boiler Room and Dragonfly; they were the first clubs in LA I had a regular weekly job at. The Boiler Room was an illegal after hours. We sold drinks after 2 a.m., and coke and guns too. Shots went off a few times; sh** was crazy there. But I played only what I wanted to, and it always turned into some spit-covered headphone (cause I had no mic) freestyle battle. I DJ’ed from 2 a.m. till 8 a.m. for $40 a night and free cans of Budweiser and coke too. I brought my long ass coffin with turntables, my home stereo receiver and HOME speakers too; sh** was mad ghetto. Then Dragonfly was my first “real” legal club. I played there for about a year till I realized I should maybe play only one hour of Wu-Tang and Main Source, instead of three and play a lil’ Michael Jackson and classics like that for the ladies.
BallerStatus.com: You’ve DJ’ed some pretty big names’ parties and done a lot thus far. How’d you build your name up or how did these people first gain exposure to your DJing?
DJ AM: I’m lucky man; I live in LA. Most of those big names live here, so I just happened to be DJ’ing in the right place at the right time and the RIGHT people happen to hear me and ask me to work for them.
BallerStatus.com: What’s your standard set-up when you’re doing a gig?
DJ AM: Two Techincs 1200s, a Rane ttm-56, a JBL E on on my left and that’s it.
BallerStatus.com: I understand you knew Alchemist earlier on, before you guys both had any big exposure, what was your relationship like then and now?
DJ AM: Al is one of my oldest homies. We met in 1991; he used to rap and DJ, and I was making beats. Funny thing is, he taught me how to DJ, and I taught him how to make beats. He was like my good friend then, and is like my brother now.
BallerStatus.com: So you produce as well, right? What’ve you produced thus far and is that something you look forward to doing more in the future?
DJ AM: I have messed with it for years. I’m really hard on myself now though. If it’s not bangin’, I throw it away. I have done one track that was on Dilated Peoples last album (Expansion Team). That’s it.
BallerStatus.com: There are DJs who claim they only play records they like, are you one of those, or do you play for the crowd?
DJ AM: I play for the crowd homie. I dislike a lot of what I have to play, but that’s why it’s called work and that’s why I get paid. At home, I don’t play that bullsh**. I’m there to make the crowd happy, not myself. I can do that in my car or at home. I always take a lil time of the night to play real hip-hop, but I focus on the majority of the crowd … and the ladies. If girls are dancing all crazy, it’s a good party.
BallerStatus.com: What’s your view on the current state of the DJ community?
DJ AM: DJ’ing is bigger then EVER; I love it. More and more people call themselves DJs when they are not, but at least they are trying.
BallerStatus.com: What do you think about the technology involved in DJ’ing now-a-days, is it good or bad for the art?
DJ AM: It’s GOOD. Serato Scratch Live is the best thing to happen to the art of Djing since the turntable. It basically gives you three hands, if you know how to use it right. As for the CDJ, I skipped that sh**. It’s just not a Techincs turntable, and that’s all I know.
BallerStatus.com: What are your top five favorite records of all time?
DJ AM: That’s a really tough question. Off the dome … BDP’s “My Philosphy,” Gangstarr’s “Just To Get A Rep,” Three Times Dope “Funky Dividends,” Can-I-Bus “Get Retarted” and maybe Herbie Hancock “Rock It.”
BallerStatus.com: Your style of DJ’ing finds you blending a variety of music, as well as hip-hop/rap/rock, do you think we’ll see more “mash up” type of music being made as people like yourself and other DJs showcase it to listeners?
DJ AM: Absolutely, hip-hop is kinda sleeping right now. If I hear one more rhyme about “rims” or “being in the VIP section,” I think I’m gonna crap. People need to make it fun again or shut up. Therefore, I like to play all kinds of music. If you CAN DJ WELL, you can freak it in there and pull it off.
BallerStatus.com: If not for DJ’ing, what would you be doing these days?
DJ AM: I would have some hustle for sure. I have done it all man: dishwasher at Denny’s, drilled bowling balls, sold drugs … I would be doing SOMEHTING.
BallerStatus.com: I believe you had mentioned a reality show with possibly MTV or VH1, can you tell me a little more about that, and how soon it’ll become an official thing?
DJ AM: I’m in talks about it. I hope it will happen on MY terms. The idea at hand is like Dr. Phil meets a DMC battle video [laughs]. Basically, me DJ’ing clubs and talking about why these hungry desperate ass girls NEED the attention from guys SO bad. Why do they NEED to go get jocked to boost their ego?; WHY do dudes park their leased Benz’s in front to show off?; WHAT DOES ANY OF THAT HAVE TO DO WITH WHO YOU ARE IN GOD’S EYES? — that’s the basic breakdown. I like to keep it real.
BallerStatus.com: What is your fondest memory in your career thus far?
DJ AM: Right after JMJ was murdered, I was DJ’ing a party in San Diego with Mix Master Mike (Invisbl Skratch Piklz and the Beastie Boys). Run and DMC walked in, in their RIP JMJ jackets. I threw on “Jam Master Jammin’,” and I cut up “then take a count … 1,2,3 … Jam Master Jay … ” and I cut up the Jam Master Jay part then slammed in “REST IN PEACE!” from Gangstarr’s “Full Clip.” DMC put a fist in the air, looked at me, and a tear came out of his eye. I was frozen. Knowing I touched someone who helped inspire me to be what I am was an AMAZING feeling. Like I could die right there and be cool. Stevie Wonder came to the DJ booth once to meet me too. That sh** f***ed me up; He rules.