DJ Skee: Diversify Your Hustle

DJ Skee is something of a West phenom. The New York born-Minneapolis raised DJ started his humble beginnings grinding for Steve Rifkind’s SRC recording label. After helping to establish artists such as The Game and Akon, Skee linked up with the newly crowned West Coast King to be his official DJ. After establishing himself amongst the who’s who of influential DJs on the Left Coast, Skee rose to the exclusive elite.

It took hard work for the young man all of 26-years-old, but after dropping world premiere gems of The Game’s “300 Bars And Runnin'” and was the exclusive DJ for the You Know What It Is, Vol. 3 classic mixtape — Skee easily became The Game’s favorite DJ. Now, the man who could be found behind the wheels of steel is behind some of your favorite product’s marketing campaigns.

DJ Skee is seen as an industry visionary and sits down with to talk about his humble beginnings, how to effectively brand yourself and urges for a change in the music industry. How did you meet up with The Game?

: I met with Game right when he got signed with Aftermath. I was working with SRC at the time. They played me his sh– and I went crazy once I heard it. He had a star quality that showed that he was talented. He wasn’t there yet, he was still trying to find his style, but I was getting demos at the time, but I knew that he was it. You quickly made your name as the DJ on the West Coast. What do you look at as a few key moments in building up your reputation?

DJ Skee: Honestly, coming to Los Angeles, I’m from New York and I grew up in Minneapolis. Steve Rifkind moved me out here [Los Angeles] to work for Loud, so that was that. There have been a lot of legendary DJs out here, but they haven’t taken hold of the full commercial value. The West Coast DJs were just cast as West Coast DJs. I had put a game plan in my head and I put it out to be worked. “300 Bars” was a great record and especially when the beat kept switching up, it got my name out there. Another move that was big for me was when I first broke Akon. I got him his first mixtape; that was my project at SRC once he blew up. As hip-hop sales continually dwindle, how does the future of the hip-hop industry look to you?

DJ Skee: People have to flip their hustle. The online marketplace is growing. Growing up, regardless of income, people are definitely getting their music for free. I look at it like saying that the music is reaching more people. Within the first month, there were 11 million illegal bootlegs of Game’s album. How I look at that, it’s like there’s more money for advertising and doing shows. We have to learn how to deal with the changing climate of the music business. People are going to be giving away music for free. You have to take advantage of it. You just have to figure it out. The industry hasn’t figure out a way to realize that and capitalize on it. Is that the reason why you branched out into branding your name alongside products like the T-Mobile Sidekick, Dodge Magnum, Daimler-Chrysler and Jordan Brand, just to name a few?

DJ Skee: It’s about seeing a vision, a realistic vision. People think that they’re bigger than what they are. Like with T-Mobile, I saw that everyone had the Motorola 2-way pager. So, when I saw the Sidekick at the time, I came to them and I saw that it had a real place in this market. I came to them after seeing how the 2-way was broke into the market and proposed it to them. It was originally called the Hip-Top. I heard about it two months before it came out and I put together a presentation and it was on from there. The key about to succeeding is about being able to see the future.

It’s about figuring out what your skills are. If you can’t rap, don’t try to be a rapper. Think about how to build your name from there. You have to put together a vision and how to obtain them. You can say that you want a billion dollars, but if you don’t know what you’re doing then you’re out of luck. You just have to follow that path. From then on, it’s about executing. If you can work, you’re going to get it. Especially in this business, people get in the office at 11 a.m. and don’t leave until 3 p.m. Once you get into that lane, all you have to do is work hard. In this Internet Age, how does Skee TV fair against other mediums like YouTube or OnSmash?

DJ Skee: The way we’re looking at it is that YouTube broke the bank with that, it’s all user-generated content. Rarely does everything on there get watched. Online is full of so many videos, but it’s bullsh** that most fans or whoever put on the site. We’re trying to be that daily channel that’s almost the voice of today’s generation. I want to cover things that are relevant to people now. We’ve been able to pull it off and we’re taking it to the next level. With the industry under fire from Congress, critics and the like, will the death of the culture come sooner than anticipated?

DJ Skee: No, not at all. There is going to be new stuff that’ll come out. Hip-hop has been around for 30 years, if it hasn’t died yet, it’s not going to happen. You had Kanye and 50 drop on the same day and that had major buzz. Everything is influenced by hip-hop. We were talking about the Sidekick earlier and we broke that in the streets and in hip-hop first, before everyone else. We determine what’s hot. Hip-hop is the youth. It’s beyond the inner city streets. You have all those guys in extreme sports that are influenced greatly by hip-hop. But, it seems like everyone wants to create a spot in this business, so can there still be new rap superstars — aside from a Lil’ Wayne, Young Jeezy or T.I.?

DJ Skee: Absolutely. There are always going to be superstars. They just have to figure out the new platforms. The traditional mixtape places like and stuff like that was the way to break. That doesn’t exist right now due to the state of the industry. I don’t do mixtapes; we do street albums and give them away for free online. Artists have to figure out the new way to get it out to the people. It just takes time. How did you go from a position behind the scenes to being a tastemaker behind some very lucrative products?

DJ Skee: I would just do my research and see how it and I would fit in the market together. The Game has been rumored to say that he’s going to drop one more album and then retire. Is there any truth to that?

DJ Skee: That’s what he’s saying so we’ll have to wait and see. When you first got into the business, what was one thing that surprised you about it that you weren’t expecting?

DJ Skee: How much bullsh** there is. People don’t follow through, they’d be lazy. I thought that if all my ideas came out I’d be a billionaire by now. One problem — especially in hip-hop — people would put their boy on in a position to handle their whole career as a manager or something. You have to figure out the right way to work the business. Your boy is controlling millions and that could be a liability. That’s one thing that really surprised me — that lack of follow-through and commitment. In real estate, everything is cut and dry, but in hip-hop people say things and never follow through. You’re going to fail with 90% of the things you do, but all you need is that one thing to pop in order to breakthrough. For those interested in being in the business, but don’t want to be a rapper or video vixen, what is the next best gig to have?

DJ Skee: Honestly, there’s a ton of stuff. With the online stuff there is a lot of things. But I would say that one should be a lawyer. My lawyer bills are crazy (laughs). It’s crazy high, especially when you get in the business, so that’s a good job to have. Get your education and you can get into publishing, too. You can do research and see what your lane is and you can make it happen. Just smash and go get it. I’m a dude that grew up in the mid-West and ended up being the biggest DJ in the West. People can say whatever, but I know the market and I push to do everything. I’m trying to support good music. Especially in the digital age, you can be in Idaho and make a hot song. Has the subject of race ever plagued any of your business dealings?

DJ Skee: Just on the mixtape side, but never really too tough. They shut down the whole traditional mixtape game. It’s hurting people right now because it’s been based on the mixtape — so without it’s prominence, there are no superstars to headline it. You just have to learn how to move and roll with the punches. Last question: What projects do you have coming up that people should be looking out for?

DJ Skee: Too much stuff. I’m re-launching Skee.TV. We’re going to really smash in our lane. I may be doing a compilation album. Between the radio stuff, that gets bigger and bigger, but we’re going to do the street albums in a different way. If it has my name on it, though, you’ll know that it’s official.

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