Big Mike: Mixtape Mastery

 |  January 7, 2007

By: William E. Ketchum III


      When it comes to mixtapes, Big Mike’s resume speaks for itself. Since his entrance into the game in the mid 90’s, the Connecticut native has worked with the likes of G-Unit and Jadakiss to make street classics like The Future Is Now and The Champ Is Here, respectively. His spot among mixtape DJs’ elite was solidified at last year’s Justo Mixtape Awards, where he won Best Hip-Hop Mixtape DJ, Best Mixtape, and Best Duo. Since then, Big Mike has continued to release a string of mixtapes, including his This Is Why I’m Hot series (Part 5: 4th Quarter Edition of the series is cosigned by this web site), and grabbed the Best Mixtape Personality award at this year’s Justo Awards. In an interview with CrackSpace via AOL Instant Messenger, Big Mike gives a rundown of his ascension to and his views on the mixtape scene.


HipHopCrack: First off, tell me about your come-up as far as DJing—how you started DJing, and when you decided to take it serious.


Big Mike: I’ve been DJing since 94. A friend of mine in school, DJ Don V, had turntables, and I would go to his house and mess around with his turntables. They were Gemini BD1600 turntables, with a Gemini mixer. Soon after that I ended up buying his, and that’s how I got my start. Where I’m from—Danbury, Connecticut—there there arnt a lot of record stores. I used to work at a supermarket making like $125 a week, and I would spend about 80 on records. I would buy them through the mail from Beat Street in Brooklyn, shout to DJ Kulcha, and also drive down to rock and soul when I got a chance. In 2001 I got serious, when I started droping mixtapes, networking reaching out to artist etc.


HipHopCrack: What made you decide to take that big step?


Big Mike:: I was tired of sititng on the sidelines, and I was ready to get in the game. I met a connect to get music before a lot of people, so he really helped me take it to the top.


HipHopCrack: As a mixtape DJ, getting exclusives is basically what makes you or breaks you. How difficult is it for you to get these songs before any other DJs get a hold of them?


Big Mike: Its very difficult right now even worst because of the internet u can’t stop working got to stay ahead of everyone. I have to keep my connects up, (and maintain) personal relationships with artists. Bottom line, no matter what field you are in, whoever is hot wants to fuck with someone else that’s hot.


There is really not a shortcut to this. You have to be consistent; any real artist that has achieved a leavel of success knows that it starts at the mixtapes, goes to the clubs, and then to the radio. You can’t build a house with out the foundation


HipHopCrack: Mixtapes are all over the place these days…How did you go about making your own brand of mixtapes to stand apart from everybody else’s?


Big Mike: My tapes are known for straight exclusives, shit you can’t hear anywhere else. Plus, I’ve got The LOX behind me. They’ve been killing the mixtapes, and I always get their stuff first.


HipHopCrack: You’ve spoken about getting connects, and that’s a crucial part of the business; but a lot of young DJs are reading this, wondering how to get connects in the first place. What kind of advice would you give them as far as networking?


Big Mike: To even to get to that leavel stay consistent and get your niche, and they will come to you—they have to.


HipHopCrack: You’ve been DJing since 1994. What would you say is a good change that’s happened in the DJing game since then, and what’s a bad change that’s happened since then?


Big Mike: Bad is the politics that goes on now. If you aren’t on a commercial radio station you get treated like shit, but it’s those same artist that get 1,000 spins a week but flop because they don’t get their base on the streets. They wonder why they flopped, and it’s because they shitted on the street mixtape DJ. That’s where your base comes from.


The good thing all my pears ahead of me—DJ Clue, DJ KaySlay, etc.—are are able to put out retail albums and get national TV exposure.


HipHopCrack: Rap’s history largely consists of the music being watered down once it gets more mainstream exposure. Do you think that this same thing can happen with mixtapes?


Big Mike: Yep, it’s probably on its way


HipHopCrack: How can that be prevented, while still getting mixtapes mainstream exposure?


Big Mike: Stay supporting the underground cats, before they get to that level.


HipHopCrack: You don’t think the underground cats will water themselves down for the masses once they actually get to that level?


Big Mike: No; that’s what radio is for.


HipHopCrack: What do you think is the most common misconception about being a mixtape DJ?


Big Mike: That we actually can’t DJ,which in my case is totally false. I’ve carried crates for the big doggs—SNS, Craig G, SNS, Craig G, Billy Busch.