I was extremely excited at the fact that I landed an opportunity to interview a pioneer of hip hop. One of the founding members of the legendary Get Fresh Crew, yeah that one, with Doug E Fresh! His alias is DJ Chill Will and like many Hip Hop pioneers he helped lay the foundation for the genre of Hip Hop; a genre that goes beyond borders, religions, race, nation and creed.
Specializing in one of the major elements of Hip Hop, “DEE-JAYING”, DJ Chill Will has maintained a successful career in the field and has been fortunate and skilled enough to never have to work outside of his passion: music and entertainment. If you are not familiar with his impressive resume, you may recall a few of the many songs DJ Chill Will has co-produced in the late 80’s and into the golden era of Hip Hop, the 90’s’. Songs such as “Oh My God!” (1986), “The World’s Greatest Entertainer” (1988), “Doin’ What I Gotta Do” (1992)“Bustin Out!” (1992), “Superstition”(1994) and full production work on the popular single, “Where I Wanna Be Boy” by Miss Jones. Presently, DJ Chill Will has concentrated his focus on entrepreneurial endeavors and in broadcast media through radio. As a Radio Personality and DJ on WBLS, New York with Doug E Fresh, Dj Chill Will hosts a on-air show, Saturday 9pm to 11pm. Recently, the radio show has been picked up for national syndication. DJ Chill Will took the liberty of carving time out from his demanding schedule to allow me to interview him for Music-Existence.
M-E: As a founding Hip-Hop DJ, how do you feel about the current state of Hip-Hop?
DJ CHILL WILL: I appreciate hip hop today because it changed. Some of it I get, some of it I don’t. It was like that with us back in the day though. We weren’t Sam Cooke or the Commodores, so, our parents bugged out then. It wasn’t for them to get. Like now, Hip Hop isn’t made for me, so it isn’t for me to get everything. But it [Hip-Hop] had to change into something in order for it to survive. How long can you listen to the Doug E Fresh, and the Big Daddy Kane’s or the KRS One’s doing the same thing? Hip Hop had to change. Even if those same artists were still leading the Hip Hop scene, when those artists opt to change their style, people don’t follow that change, you know? And, if those artists remain the same in styling, their fans get bored. It’s geared to a different demographic of people now. It’s a whole different conversation with Hip Hop. It’s evolved into something new. Hip Hop used to be a lot more lighthearted. It’s become more business-focused now. Sometimes, even dangerous. People can get shot for what they say on record now. It used to be fun. It’s crazy how much its changed but, I think change had to happen in order for Hip Hop to survive. For some, it’s been very hard to accept this change but I understand that it had to change. Everything changes.
M-E: Now that production has fled from analog to digital in the realm of music production and distribution, when it comes to DJing, has technology made it so easier or harder; can anyone become a DJ?
DJ CHILL WILL: The technique is almost the same, and yes, it’s a lot easier now. A lot more people do it because the music is more accessible. Back in the day, when you had to carry around crates of records, no one wanted to do that. Now everything is through a computer. If you need a song, you just download it. There’s no such thing as rare finds on records; now, you can just Google it and you find the songs you need. There is no exclusivity anymore. So, in that regard, it has become easier. Back the day you had to work and sweat to DJ. I appreciate it today, a lot easier. Man, I had to carry crates of records, I had to sweat back then. Anyone can DJ now. I used to spend hours upon hours in a record store, just looking for the perfect records to scratch. Record stores don’t exist in abundance like that anymore. There was a time when a good day for a DJ was spent in the crates, looking for records, meeting new people, trading sounds and vinyl, networking and meeting other producers. Now a days, everyone uses text messages and emails. Social media, like really, how social is that? Everybody is kind of faceless.
M-E: Very true, you can’t feel the vibe from people that way. That’s what I appreciate most about DJ’s, their special affinity to feel the crowd, see the people, know the vibe of the space and keep their ear to what was going on around them. What advice would you give to the new artist trying to gain exposure with the internet now being so popular?
DJ CHILL WILL: You really have to stay on top of social media now, especially when you’re new as an artist or DJ anything. You have to be on every social media platform to be visible. But you also have to get out there in the real world. It’s always about visibility. As long as you don’t go over the top to be visible, you’re good. Extreme visibility wouldn’t be my first means of creating a buzz, but you know, just get on everything where you can share your music and perform for live venues too. Be visible. Another 15 years it could be something different. Back in the day, we just had to be at physical places. Now, you can just interact online; all you got do is like someone’s status, like something, anything, like a picture. People strive for likes now ’cause that could take you to a whole ‘nother level. *laughing* But that’s the language of the people right now. That’s just the way to do it. You have to be on there. Me personally, I use it exclusively for booking and management and networking.
M-E: *laughing* I totally understand. Speaking of networking, I’ve read that you have an entertainment label and booking agency. Very Impressive. How many hats does the ‘legendary DJ Chill Will’ wear? Would you be willing to tell me more about your label and booking agency?
DJ CHILL WILL: I’m a DJ, Producer, Booking Agent, and I was a Manager at one point. I no longer manage because it requires a lot time to develop an artist and I have so many other ventures in motion. I don’t have the time to invest in it the way I’d like to. My label is Chilltown Entertainment. I started the company in 2003. I wanted to be a one stop shop for all the professionals in my genre of music. I wanted it to be a place where everyone or any in the industry could call to hire entertainment acts. We needed it to be set up this way as a one stop and it would also aid in cutting expenses for booking events for gigs. I had taken the business from just booking old school acts to a lot of different types of acts and the roster of artists picked up quickly. During networking, I’d make calls to inquire about an act and end up gaining new talent-acts along the way. I now book every genre, any talent in the entertainment field. My clients include actors, comedians, host, reality stars, artists, you name it! I book everybody. It just took on a life of its own. “Chilltown Entertainment” now, goes way beyond just music. People contact us for acts and we make sure we make it happen. I’m open to working with any type of established artist that has the pull to draw a crowd.
M-E: That’s big! I think it’s awesome that you have a successful Booking Agency and that you’ve been able to pivot in this industry. Can you tell me more about your Radio show with Doug E Fresh?
DJ CHILL WILL: Yes, its WBLS, we just got picked up for syndication. Its moving along really well. We’ll be in a bunch of markets soon. It’s very interesting doing radio. I had my own radio show a while ago, about three years ago to be exact, 2012. So, I do have on-air experience that I am carrying over to WBLS. This Radio show will include myself, Doug E and Barry. I spin on there (DJing). Topics we cover, we talk about what we do during the week, like a recap, we are out working during the week. Doug E will come in and talk about what we’ve done and what we have coming up like events and gigs. Those are the topics we talk about. We play and feature lots of old school Hip-Hop. There’s a guy that works with us as well, Kev Ski, he has archives of all the beats, and live performances of groups that a lot of people never even heard of, the ones that created Hip Hop. We play a lot of their live stuff on air. We air every Saturday from 9pm to 11 pm.
M-E: Old School Hip Hop is a great market! A lot of people will be tuned in I am sure, especially in New York, the fact you guys have expanded to more markets is so dope. I think what’s doper is you and Barry and Doug still working together after all these years. How’s that been? What’s it like working with them both?
DJ CHILL WILL: We started out in High School, we’ve been friends forever. When we started out Hip Hop was just a hobby it wasn’t making a living. It was just cool to do. It was fun! We were fortunate enough to do only this. Its all we know and this is all we’ve ever done. This has been a blessing.
M-E: DJing is one of the elements of Hip Hop. Do you feel that modern day Hip Hop has lost respect for the DJ as an essential element?
DJ CHILL WILL: I don’t think that Hip Hop lost respect for the DJ; they just don’t understand the role of the DJ. I think the focus has shifted to the artist. The artist tends to stand out more. The DJ used to be upfront, and the emcee was just there to spice things up because the DJ wasn’t doing much talking, just a whole lot of scratching. It wasn’t until records started being made and recorded that those emcees or hype men became more visible. Today a lot of the people that are making music don’t really understand the role the DJ once played. A DJ can switch things up on the fly, their music library makes them versatile like that; say for instance, an artist can perform over a beat on a CD, but that’s where the sound stops; when you perform live on that instrumental, that’s all you have [to lean on]. Back in the day we could get to a venue and the crowd be different from what we expected, as a DJ, if that happened, I could switch it up [ and cater to that audience]. As an artist, if walk around with a CD and get to a venue that is outside of your expectation, you’re stuck with what you got on the record. I can change it up though. A DJ is a rapper’s band. That’s what made it fun, a band, a hype man an emcee.
M-E: Wow, I never thought about it like that. I guess I was just as ignorant to the role of DJing, and the versatility myself. Any last statements you’d like to make regarding the art?
DJ CHILL WILL: Hip Hop isn’t fun anymore. We’ve got to get back to it being fun. It’s too business-centered now. So much weighs on what the emcee says and does. Especially when its recorded. If an artist says something crazy, everything is out the window. Its all business now. This is how people get shot. because money got involved. But again, its like I mentioned, sometimes it has to change for the art to survive; my hope is that we remember why we started, for the Love of Hip Hop.
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