DJs are the new artists and with the success of spin doctors like DJ Khaled and DJ Drama, labels have been enlisting these DJs more and more to create hit singles and albums for them. Next on the list is Los Angeles radio DJ, Felli Fel.
Felli Fel has been a staple in Los Angeles for many years, but for whatever reason, he’s yet to get a record deal. That day has come though. He’s now an artist on Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def label and is preparing his major label debut, entitled Go DJ!.
In this interview with BallerStatus.com, the Atlanta raised DJ talks about his history, how he got to L.A. and how — after years of hard work — he’s finally living his dream. His position as a producer has risen in the industry and with a hit single in “Get Buck,” he’s ready to benefit from the fruits of his labor.
BallerStatus.com: Give us a little intro about yourself.
Felli Fel: I’m an on-air DJ, a club DJ, a mixtape DJ, and I’m a producer. I have a single out right now called “Get Buck,” you probably heard it. It features Akon, Ludacris, Lil Jon and Diddy on it. It’s a top 40 record right now.
I have a deal with Island Def Jam right now, which I signed in the middle of working on my debut album, Go DJ!. It’s the most crazy album, you’re ever gonna hear man. If you like you party, there’s a lot of party-club records, mixed with a little street sh**. For the most part, it’s a fun record. I had fun making it and it features everyone I really f*** with. The second single is with Kanye, Ne-Yo, Fabolous and Jermaine Dupri called “Finer Things.”
BallerStatus.com: Talk about how you came up, where you started, etc.
Felli Fel: I’m originally from Atlanta, Georgia. I grew up listening to the radio out there. The first time I ever scratched on a record was way back in the day on a Roxanne Shante record. That pretty much… I caught the bug DJing. My mom remarried and we moved to Los Angeles when I was about, probably, 17 years old. A couple years later, we moved to Dallas, Texas and that’s when I got into DJing at clubs and doing a lot more of producing of music. My family ended up moving back to Atlanta, but I stayed in Dallas. I was DJing clubs and doing house parties, and I ran across an SP1200 drum machine one day that a homie had, learned how to run it and it was history from there. That’s pretty much where it started.
BallerStatus.com: How’d you go from DJing at clubs to doing radio?
Felli Fel: I was all over the streets in Dallas and the program director at one of the local stations kept hearing my name. He gave me a call and offered me a DJ gig at the station, which turned into a pretty big gig. It went from a mixshow to a full-blown show.
Then, I did radio at K104 in Dallas for years, and several other stations. One day, I got a call from Power 106 in L.A. They recognized something in me and offered me a position out here and I’ve been tearing up the air waves ever since.
BallerStatus.com: You’ve been DJing for so long, and have become a staple in Los Angeles. Why do you think it’s taken so long for you to get a deal for an album?
Felli Fel: I’ve been working my ass off for years for this, and it’s finally here. I think it’s taken me as long as it has to get to this point as a producer and getting a record deal is because, first of all, I believe everything happens at different times for different reasons. As far as a business, the answer to that would be music changes. The music industry changes. What people wanna hear changes. There’s been a lot of DJs before me that have gotten record deals. The reason it’s happened to me now I think is because what I do is finally coming to light a little more.
I think the kind of records I do are more on a party vibe. Their more… I do a lot of party, feel good records. Before, it was more a mixtape type of thing. And, I do have records like that, a lot of street records. I can do records like that, but I prefer and I think my style is a party type of vibe. I like doing records that make the girls shake… “shake that thang, shake that thang.” It’s about timing. It’s about being at the right place at the right time and being prepared for the opportunity.
BallerStatus.com: Tell us more about the Go DJ! album. The first single has some huge artists on there.
Felli Fel: The Go DJ! album is gonna be crazy. Aside from the artists on the single, I got Too Short, Daz, Baby Bash, Keith Sweat… Ne-Yo, Snoop and a lot more. The album is gonna be very hit oriented, bump in your trunk, bump in the club DJ… and that’s why it’s called Go DJ!.
BallerStatus.com: One thing Drama had mentioned he had problems with while putting together his album was clearances. Is that something you’ve had to deal with?
Felli Fel: Clearances are a problem when it’s going to be a single. When it’s gonna be released as a single and you wanna do a video for it. It’s funny because I try not go in there and think about that. I meticulously put a record together. What I mean by that is when I finished the “Get Buck” record, after Akon did the hook, I was like “This record is a hit, I gotta get big artists on this record.” Diddy was the first person I thought about because I knew he had already finished an album. I thought of Ludacris because his album was done, and Lil Jon because he’s still working on his album and probably forever be working on his album. Finish your f***in’ album Lil Jon!!! (laughs) I picked artists that I thought were gonna be hot and the labels were gonna clear them because it wasn’t gonna interfere with their records.
You have to be careful. You put a big record together, and the last thing you want is to get shut down on the clearances. You just wasted a lot of time, energy, sometimes money. I’m not trying to do that. All the records I do from here on out, I’m getting these clearances ahead of time. Please believe that. It’s the most depressing thing as a producer, to do the hottest record in the world, of course it’s gonna get leaked out and when the real record comes out, they like “Hey how come T.I. wasn’t on that version?” I’m not trying to go that route.
BallerStatus.com: You’re a producer as well, as you mentioned. Are you producing your entire album?
Felli Fel: I am gonna be producing the whole album. That’s something that I’m proud of. I’m proud of the fact, that my hands, my fingers, are producing this whole album. It’s funny, when I stepped to Kanye and his camp about doing something for my album, the first thing that they said was “Oh cool, we gonna get you some beats” (laughs). I was like, “Nah, I don’t need a Kanye beat. I’m doing all the beats.” Everyone was telling me that Kanye don’t really get on other peoples’ records, but I gave him some heat and he liked it and he jumped on it.
I did everything on this album and I’m proud of that. The only thing is if you hear guitars here and there and stuff like that, I didn’t do that. I can a little, but it wasn’t me. The concepts, keys, etc. All that stuff is me. That stuff is fun, I wanna do that! Even when I don’t get paid, I do all that. I’m selfish, I’m stingy when it comes to producing. I don’t do collabos with producers, I can’t do that.
BallerStatus.com: Payola has been a big thing under the radar at major radio stations across the country, but we’ve heard from several artists (that aren’t chart-toppers) that when they come visit Felli at Power 106 in Los Angeles, he plays the records with no payola. Why is that important to you?
Felli Fel: Well, first of all, I can only play records that are hot. The day that I start playing records for any other reason, other than they’re just a hot hit record, is the day that I don’t have a job in radio, or at least I can say at this radio station. Power 106 (L.A.) and Hot 97, our sister station in New York, I think we pride ourselves in playing records that are hot. There ain’t no other way in the door. You got a hot record, it’s gonna get played. If it’s not hot, it’s not gonna get played. Or it might get played a little bit, but it’s not gonna amount to anything. At the end of the day, if your record’s not hot, we can play it, but the listeners aren’t gonna respond to it. A lot of people like to say “You never know if they’re gonna like it, unless you play it.” That’s true, but I also will never know if a relationship with a ugly, fat girl will work out, but I don’t need to date her to know that I wanna date [one of those girls]. Nothing against overweight people ’cause God knows I’m a little overweight, but you know what I’m saying. I can listen to a record and I don’t got to play it on the air to know that it’s not gonna go too far. So, you gotta have a hot record.