Tuesday, June 10, 2014




It’s mid-week in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and one of the world’s most successful producers is up early in the city planning his next move. DJ Mustard is not new to the game, although his sound has taken over the sound waves of urban radio for the past two years. Hitters like ‘Rack City’, ‘I’m Different’ and work on Clyde Carson’s recently released thematic and trunk-rattling new classic, Playboy, have caught and kept the attention of DJs, MCs and fans alike… In other words DJ Mustard’s impact is one capable of lasting for a long time.   

Mustard started his career as a DJ in LA, but starting fiddling around with sounds himself whilst in his era of rocking parties and sets for his homies in Los Angeles. He hails from a notorious/famous area of LA – South Central is what they call it. ‘I grew up near the jungles and went to Dorsey High School – a lot of different races there – Blacks, Mexicans and Latinos… I got along fine at Dorsey’, says DJ Mustard. The heavy set, low-spoken soundman lets his music speak for him most of the time, but today he feels like talking about some of his pathways and pursuits and who and what influenced him. 

‘I grew up in an area where the gang life was deep’, says DJ Mustard. ‘It was hard, but even though I grew up in the middle of the gangs, I was supported with the thing that I was doing – music.’ Fortunate, no doubt, a lot of talented cats in the so-called ‘hoods wind up being sucked into the destructive and downward spiraling gang culture, despite their best efforts. Even as an affiliate or just related to members of the set, it is easier said than done to depart the ‘hood unscathed – especially in places like Los Angeles where the gang culture is an official institution – as institutional as UCLA, The Mayor’s Office and Disneyland. DJ Mustard’s support system had to be strong for him to elevate his game. ‘My people were very supportive and so was the hood – the gang life and politics didn’t affect me the same, based on that support and my focus.’ DJ Mustard was and is focused. He’s on tour now with his homeboy from Compton aka 'Bompton' (the age-old reference employed by Blood and Piru Gang sets from the in/famous city, known for references of NWA, Compton’s Most Wanted, DJ Quik and gang culture), YG. YG’s My Krazy Life Tour is in effect and DJ Mustard supplies more than the soundscape for the tour, he’s also DJaying sets, paying homage to his original position within the culture. Still… He’s about the beats. 

At the turn of the century digital audio production was a niche market – only a small percentage of musicians, producers and artists were competent and in proximity to digital studio equipment and access. Today, any and everyone is seemingly a ‘producer’, ‘beatmaker’ and/or ‘artists’. Which begs the question, who’s left to be the ‘fan’? So to refine the question – ‘what is the difference between a producer and a beatmaker – according to DJ Mustard?’ The line must be made clear with the game so oversaturated and such easy access to creative tools, digitally. ‘The difference between a producer and beatmaker is this: the producer is putting in hours of work in the studio for arrangement, mixing, mastering and [perfecting a finished product]. Anybody can make a beat, but a producer is more involved in the process of creating an entire track.’ DJ Mustard not only involves himself as a producer, but is adaptable with today’s version of studio sessions, where the session might be in-studio or the tracks may be recorded and then emailed. ‘Sometimes I send the track – I’m okay with sending the track or working in the studio – I have no preference.’ Rather than focus on the initial recording, DJ Mustard focuses on refining tracks, as is the case for his new project with RocNation entitled ’Ten Summers’.
Ten Summers (due Summer 2014) marks DJ Mustard’s debut offering to the world. As a featured producer on tracks by some of today’s most notable and sought after MC/vocalists, like YG, Young Jeezy and 2 Chainz – now DJ Mustard will feature his chosen MCs on his own offering. ‘I got YG, 2 Chainz, Nipsey (amongst others) – they’re all on Ten Summers’, says DJ Mustard with a grinning light laugh. Don’t look for Jay-Z on this one, Mustard relishes Jay-Z’s presence for more long-term goals. Ten Summers sets the stage for DJ Mustard to follow in the footsteps of his most influential and favorite soundmen who have released projects as executive producers more than as ‘vocal artists’. His role models are Dr. Dre, Lil Jon, Timbaland, Swizz Beatz and Kanye West. We briefly discuss what we both consider the genius of Kanye West’s sharp-'leftesque', popularly questioned and critically-critiqued project, Yeezus, with Mustard stating that ‘sometimes you have to do something different and sometimes the sound chooses you.’ Each of the ultra-successful producer/artists, whom Mustard admires, have designed and delivered sonic platforms for some of the most successful and/or critically acclaimed Hip-Hop/Rap projects ever released – guess where Mustard wants to go? 

'It's bigger than money for me [I can't let that change me], it’s really about the culture’, states DJ Mustard. For an artist lauded for his sound being overlapped by vocals that glorify the monetary, material, sexually exploitative and overall ‘lush’ life portrayed with such popularity in today’s era of Rap and Hip-Hop, it is a refreshing moment to hear DJ Mustard speak about ‘the culture’. Clearly intelligent, but soft (and quickly) spoken, Mustard values his current position and where it can catapult him for the future. Culturally speaking, DJ Mustard has a boss from the block to the boardroom as a mentor/coach – Jay-Z. ‘Jay says ‘stick to the culture [and change it], don’t let it change you [in terms of the fast-paced life that goes hand in hand with success in the world of entertainment and sport.]’

He has Jay-Z at his disposal at a moment’s notice and is part of one of the most popular and successful youth movements in Hip-Hop. He’s in motion and has his ears open as one of RocNation’s latest signees. ‘Being with somebody [Jay-Z and RocNation] who supports me and sees my vision – as a management group and helping with my sound and goals is big. The older homie, Jay-Z is teaching me the roots and culture – it’s cool. Anytime I have a problem, I have access and can just ask [Jay-Z], you know what I’m saying’, expresses DJ Mustard. When discussing the pitfalls and power moves experienced in ‘the life’. Preparing to exit his Philly hotel room, board the tour bus and be on to the next one, Mustard, in a moment of spitting wisdom, explains with his short life’s experience and game-gained that there are ways to be and not to be. ‘You gotta stick to what is true about you; stay true to the culture and what you represent, and what represents you.’ That’s GAME for you. 

A LUVVA J Conversation.  J$GJr.