A Tale of Two Deejays: Mick Boogie & Nick Catchdubs For its first installment, iHipHop sat down with renowned DJs Mick Boogie and Nick Catchdubs for a conversation about button-pushers, DJ Drama, terrible gigs and must-haves when DJing for Jay-Z.
Hey Nick, hey Boogie. Thank you both for being a part of the first-ever iHipHop.com Tale of Two Deejays. To take it way back – what was your first gig as a DJ?
Nick Catchdubs: New Year’s Eve party at a friend’s apartment in New Brunswick in 2003. A bunch of dudes were grilling me the whole time I was setting up, but the Lox remix of “Fiesta” got them giving “oh shit” look to each other and it was chill after that.
Mick Boogie: My first ever residency was at Spy Bar in Cleveland in the late 90s. playing all instrumentals and “trip-hop.”
Where did you go to college? And while you were there, did you DJ at all?
NC: I went to NYU, and was playing in bands, doing posters and flyers for shows, and collecting records the whole time but didn’t start DJing until the summer I graduated.
MB: John Carroll University in Cleveland. I did college radio from 96 til about2001 at WJCU. Fun times.
What was the first CD/record you ever bought with your own money?
NC: Guns N Roses Use Your Illusion I and II
MB: “He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper.” A classic until this day.What was the first concert you ever attended? Don’t be embarrassed. NC: Soul Asylum at Garden State Arts Center in Jersey. I begged and begged my mom to let me go to every single concert that summer, and the least cool one happened to be the one she gave in on. MB: The Pharcyde in 1996 in Pittsburgh, PA.
First piece of equipment you bought for either production or DJing?
NC: Two Technics 1200s and a Rane 56 mixer.
MB: Some bullshit Realistic mixer from Radio Shack. It was cutting edge for themid 90’s though.
What do you see for the future of hip-hop? Not in regards to sales, but in regards to sound.
NC: Options are going to increase while industry gatekeepers hold less and less power, which is healthy for the music. Creatively, everything goes in cycles – I think for every artist who goes in a more left-field direction, you’ll have guys coming back to rap over the most basic, classic breakbeats.
MB: More merging of styles…I.E. Underground rappers over hipster tracks, anddeejays placing rudimentary Southern a capellas over fun, electro or B-moretracks. Making them more interesting.
Is house music becoming more of a presence in pop music? In hip-hop?
NC: Yes, because the bigger artists and producers are going to those clubs. If you’re a millionaire (or an aspiring one), you’re not going to the grimy hip-hop spot, you’re getting bottle service somewhere expensive in Miami! Uptempo shit has always been around, but specific elements of house and other electronic music keep creeping in more and more as a result of that. Pitbull’s last few singles have all sampled huge mainstream house tracks like “Calabria” and “Cream.”
MB: Totally. Uptempo music in general is making a big comeback, and I am VERY happy about that.
We all get bored with what we’re used to. So, name three artists who genuinely have you excited about new music, in any genre.
NC: The whole Fool’s Gold roster is what I’m most excited about, obviously. I think Wale has a great rap record in him. And everything I’ve heard off the TV On The Radio album has been incredible.
MB: I really like The Ting-Tings and Tokyo Police Club. Hiphop-wise, I like this group Fly Union. They’re dope.
Is the Rock the Bells tour the best thing to happen to hip-hop?
NC: Yes and no – they’ll never admit it, but it’s basically an oldies show, the same way rock music has had package tours for Poison and Skid Row and Ratt to keep touring and make money together for years. I’m not comparing Q-Tip to Brett Michaels but you catch my drift. It’s a strong lineup and a very dope tour, but it’s no revolution, just another show geared towards an adult, 25-30+ crowd who miss being able to hear their favorites perform. This year they made a conscious effort to get younger, more “alternative” acts on the bill, but they played out in the parking lot while everyone inside was getting hyped to “Passing Me By.” A good start but they can do more to be relevant.
Does it bug you to watch artists who have “DJs” who just stand behind the turntables and watch the crowd? Are some DJs getting more and more lazy, or just less and less useful?
NC: I don’t mind the button pushers on Instant Replay as long as the show is still fun. DJing for an artist is not about scratching – the best DJs are more like musical directors, leading the energy and ups and downs of the show. Of course, you need to be attentive and flexible and in full control of the music and the mix in order to do that.
MB: Yeah. I mean, DO something. It’s great that someone like Jay-Z has always employed real deejays, no matter how big he has gotten. From Just Blaze to Green Lantern, and now my homie Neil Armstrong. He has always had dope deejays. Kanye, too, obviously, with A-Trak.
What do you think about the ubiquitous “You never spun vinyl, so you’re not a real DJ” accusations?
NC: I learned a hell of a lot about music from collecting and digging for records, setting up crates and picking out records before shows, lugging all my gear around, and all that other “paying dues” stuff. But in a few years, NO new DJs will have spun vinyl, so who cares? There’s more than one way to learn, and if you’re good, you’re good on any format, and programs like Serato only give you more options and opportunities. If you’re wack, you’re still gonna be wack.
MB: I love that I came up in the vinyl era, and then switched to Serato. Makes you appreciate it more. But today’s kids won’t be able to find new stuff on vinyl. So we can’t be mad at them. Not their fault.
Which is more important (for you, and for hip-hop in general) – Dr. Dre’s Detox, Nas’s planned album with DJ Premier, or Eminem’s return?
NC: I don’t think any of those are necessarily “important” in the great scheme of things (sorry guys), but Nas is one of my favorites and I think he and Primo have the potential to cook up something great if they can get it together.
MB: Detox, definitely. Hip-hop needs that. A solid album from beginning to end would be remarkable, and probably impossible in 2008.
Who is one artist you really rooted for, but never quite made it the way you thought they would?
NC: Way too many to name. So many guys from the Bay (The Federation, Turf Talk, Keak Da Sneak), perrenial underdogs like Devin The Dude, shit, I always wished The Firm would stay together, you know?
MB: Joe Budden. He has really gotten shafted along the way, after such a promising debut.
Should producers/song-writers (i.e. Swizz Beatz, Sean Garrett, The-Dream, Timbaland) stay behind the scenes rather than coming out with their own music and albums?
NC: Not necessarily, if you have the desire to be a performer go all out for it! But these guys should also make sure their tracks go to the best artist for the job. A hot song is a hot song, but a hot song in the hands of a real superstar becomes a classic. People respond to iconic personalities – a lot of producers have tons of raw talent, but don’t always bring that added element, that X factor.
MB: No. Swizz and Timbaland had some of the best deejay-friendly songs of the year. I wish more artists would come out with songs like “It’s Me” and “The Way I Are” rather than some of the crap they come out with.
How important are mixtapes nowadays? Have they lost their essence because of the Internet, or are they still as great a tool as ever?
NC: If anything has hurt the essence of mixtapes, its total over saturation. When everyone has a free mixtape out every few weeks, it helps create an environment of disposability. You have to really put the work in on creative concepts and real MIXES, not just a collection of songs, in order to be memorable and stand out.
MB: It’s a new concept. Digital. Marketing. Promotion. Added-value (branding it with limited edition tees and hats). It’s definitely not about spending $5 on a burned disc anymore. Not at all.
In five words or less, describe how you feel about DJ Drama getting arrested last year for the mixtape fiasco with the FBI.
NC: Depressing but inspiring. Game-changing.
MB: Unfair and unjust.
Mark Ronson was a very successful DJ for years and was a staple on the NYC DJing scene before he segued into producing for everyone from Amy Winehouse to Nas. DJ Green Lantern and Preemo join Mark Ronson as DJs-cum-producers. Is DJ-to-Producer the natural progression?
NC: I look up to Mark a whole lot, his transition has been incredible yet somehow totally natural. I don’t think all DJs are meant to be producers, but it is great training for making music that can’t be gained elsewhere.
MB: I think so. It makes sense. We know rhythm and know what people want. Even though I’m not really producing a lot, I executive produce lots of things. By telling my producers exactly what I want, and thankfully, they are talented enough to make it perfect.
Dream artist to work with?
NC: I want to find an R&B singer – or even a more rock or indie singer – open to working on projects the same way I’d work with a rapper, sending tracks back and forth, doing blends, etc.
MB: Shawn Corey Carter.
Worst artist you’ve ever worked with?
NC: I’ve been lucky enough to steer clear of jerks so far…
MB: They know who they are.
Favorite mixtape so far of 2008?
NC: Not a lot so far. Diplo and Santogold’s Top Ranking mix is solid. I re-discovered Morse Code’s Fusion Batches mix, which is all modern soul and jazz fusion, and that hasn’t left my tapedeck in months. And all my tapes, of course!
MB: Me and Busta’s Dilla tribute – Dillagence. Although it came out around theholidays of 07, it lasted wayyyyy into ’08. Dilla RIP.
Dream city and/or venue to DJ?
NC: I can’t wait to go to Tokyo.
MB: I really want to do Ibiza and Dubai and those far-away, exotic locales.
Recite four lines from your favorite hip-hop track ever.
NC: I sip the Dom P, watchin Gandhi till I’m charged/ Writin in my book of rhymes all the words past the margin/ To hold the mic I’m throbbin, mechanical movement/ Understandable smooth shit that murderers move with.
MB: Honey, check it out, you got me mesmerized/With your black hair and your fat-ass thighs/Street poetry is my everyday/But yo I gotta stop when you drop my way.
Dream person to DJ for?
NC: I think a young (but not totally green), energetic artist like Juelz or Fabolous would be real fun to put together a killer DJ set for. They have a good back catalog, and people respect them as MCs, but their live shows are kind of unremarkable. A complete show with tons of energy and changes is the missing puzzle piece to take them to the next level as artists and performers.
MB: Tie: Jay-Z and Red Hot Chili Peppers
Worst party you ever DJ’d at?
NC: Corporate party in a midtown office early in the afternoon. Vibe could best be described as “thoroughly bizarre.”
MB: I drove 3 hours to this party in the middle of Ohio once, and there were about 10 people there.
If you could say one thing to Nick Catchdubs/Mick Boogie, what would it be?
NC: Welcome to Brooklyn! Lets do some parties.MB: I want to do a Fool’s Gold mixtape!
If you could say one thing to Jam-Master Jay, what would it be?
NC: Thank you for so much music and style. And for Bob James!MB: Thank you.
Hypothetical – Jay-Z is hosting a party on a rooftop in NYC next weekend, and he asks you to DJ. It’s going to be his close friends, Def Jam label-mates, Beyonce’s friends, and some random guests – totaling about 100 people. Name three things that you bring with you (besides the technical stuff), and five tracks that are an absolute must for an event like this.
NC: Personal cameraman, Patron silver, fresh sunglasses. Gotta go with some bbq classics (Maze “Before I Let Go”), some rapper-approved rock stuff (maybe Swizz’s Coldplay-sampling “That Oprah” to split the difference), some curveballs (I made a blend of “Roc Boys” that goes into the “So Ghetto” beat that always kills) some non-single cuts off new street records (new Jeezy album for sure), and as always, the hits. Wait for it…wait for it…BBD “Poison.” 110% of the time, it works every time.
MB: My new, limited shiny purple YSL sneakers (gotta make a statement!)My wife (most beautiful woman in the world!)A deejay friend (who can open for me so I can enjoy the soiree)Jay-Z: PSA (obviously)Luther Vandross: Never Too Much (classics like this always get the floormoving)Biggie: Hypnotize (again, obviously)NERD: She Wants To Move (chicks dig it, and Pharrell would probably be there)Common: The Light (truthfully, Jay wants to rhyme like him, so might as wellplay him)Note: Nick Catchdubs is co-founder of Fool’s Gold Records and has recently put out mixtapes with Izza Kizza and Wale. Meanwhile, Mick Boogie has recently worked on mixtapes with Talib Kweli, Busta Rhymes and Young Chris and is a resident DJ for the Cleveland Cavs.