Interview by Alan Ng
Words by Ryan Goldade
Photography by Alan Ng
Location: Halifax[Show Text Only Version][Hide Text Only Version]
The justalilhype! Crew met up with DJ IV to get a first hand look at the hip-hop and DJ scene on the East Coast. Hailing from Halifax, the East Coast influences are definitely strong but it’s also combined with a flavor and style that isn’t usually found in such a small city. He has been a DJ for many years and has witnessed the scene both grow and collapse over the years. The city has its challenges of growing a hip-hop market in the midst of a revolving door of university students, which make up the majority of the nightlife. Despite this adversity, DJ IV has managed to build a career out of DJ’ing and even toured as the official DJ for the Halifax native Classified. He looks forward to touring with Classified in the USA this summer and to future endeavors with his local crew IV League.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I’m DJ IV from Halifax, Nova Scotia, born and raised. I’ve been DJ’ing for about twelve years.
What’s the story behind your DJ name?
I needed a DJ name and I didn’t really have one and I saw it on a road sign. I thought that would be a cool DJ name and you could spell it as the Roman numeral for four. It has kind of backfired for me because I’ve been called DJ Four on national radio. That’s the origin of it though: from a road sign. IV, giving it straight to your veins.
You were recently awarded the 2011 Stylus Awards’ East Coast DJ of the Year. First of all, congrats. Throughout your DJ career you’ve been active and winning awards regularly. What do these awards and DJ battles mean to you and what keeps you motivated and progressing as a DJ?
DJ Battles are the funnest thing, period. I enjoy preparing for a DJ battle. It was my first gig as a DJ into the Halifax scene. Battles for me have always been home base because I started out with just scratching and learning tricks. That’s what I loved about DJ’ing because you can take other people’s music and manipulate it and make it something else. That’s what grabbed me for DJ’ing in the beginning.
What inspired you to start DJ’ing? A lot of DJ’s we’ve interviewed have said that the movie Juice inspired them. Was this the case for you?
I’d have to say that I saw Juice after I started DJ’ing. The first time I saw a DJ, it was Jorun. He’s a local DJ from here and he’s a legend. He’s helped with many artists, DJ’s, and producers. Many people from different aspects of the hip-hop scene have a story about Jorun. At some point in their careers, they’ve met him and he’s influenced them. Jorun was the first DJ I ever saw and he was mixing House of Pain and A Tribe Called Quest and Blacksheep. I was just like, “This is crazy. I can’t believe you’re doing this with songs that I love.” It blew my mind. It was at a skate competition and I sat there and watched him for three hours.
How old were you?
I was 18 when I saw him. I was volunteering at an all-ages club and my buddy Sonny D was DJ’ing and I would sit there and watch him do it. It was the same place that I saw Jorun do it. I would watch Sonny do it and sometimes he would have to get me to step in for a second. He said to me, “Here, put this record on. It’s all ready to go, all you have to do is watch these little lights and make sure the lights match up.” There’s where I got my first chance to play with records. It was a whole new thing for me and I picked it up right away.
Tell us about your relationship with IV League studios.
I’ve always worked with emcees throughout my career. Throughout my battle history and people starting to know me, I started to work with other artists like Universal Soul and Classified. It’s always been a part of me to back up emcees. Through DJ’ing for all of them, I learned what works for a show because I’ve been involved in so many live shows. It enables me to know what I want when I pick the people that I want to work with today. I’m not a record label; IV League is basically a conglomerate of men who want to work together and artists with the same goal. These are guys that I’ve noticed are continually out at events and supporting the scene. They’re not just sitting at home making tracks and posting them on the internet. These are the guys that are about their product.
For 2011, are there any major projects that you’re working on?
We’ve got Matty Boh working on an album. He’s a producer on our label. He’s a fresh, new, young guy. He has a great sound and is really in tune with the young crowd. He’s making great beats. Quake’s album is coming out in the summer. We’ve got the Cable series that Al Boogie started with an installment called Basic Cable. The next one will be called Digital Cable. Eventually, an album so we’re working up to that. We’ve got Jay Mayne working on the Chop Trees series. He’s working up to putting an album out. Ghettochild is working on a new album. I’m working on production and hopefully put out a compilation before the end of the year. Universal Soul is finishing up a few things here and there. A couple more tracks and we’re done that album. We’re really looking forward to that because it’s been since 2003 that we’ve put out an album with them. We’ve got J-Bru working with a new artist called LinA. She’s a female artist and she’s going to blow minds away. She’s something else and I’m excited for her to come out.
Tell us about your relationship with Classified.
We met through Spesh K. I grew up with him in the same neighbourhood so we’ve been tight since we were kids. I would always bug Spesh when we would do shows together and say, “Yo man, is Class coming down?” I had been a fan before I ever met him. I first heard of Class when I was 15. Fast forward, I met Class at a show when Spesh had brought him down. The first time I met him, he flicked me a CD and I put it in the CD player. That was the first time I met Class. A couple of times he needed a DJ and asked me to fill in. A couple months later he needed cuts on a song and I went over to his house and we banged out a track called ‘This is For’ off of Trial & Error. Ever since then, we just clicked. If he needed cuts or a DJ he would give me a shout. I was kind of hinting towards being his fulltime DJ but then I got scooped up by Universal Soul because they needed one. I was just doing stuff with them for a while and Class would say he’s going on tour and would ask me. I couldn’t go because I was busy and had commitments. He would always ask me if I wanted to do tours. At this point, we were playing shows together on the regular. I could never commit to a tour until everything else kind of died down for me and in 2006, he asked me if I was ready to go on tour. I told that I was ready to make the most official commitment and to be his DJ forever. Ever since 2006, that’s how it’s been. When it comes to the live shows and the set, he puts it together the way he wants to portray it. The way that we communicate on stage is so well established that all he has to do is turn around and look at me. He could just wave his hand a certain way and I’ll know exactly what he wants. My role for him is to make sure his show is as tight as he can get so he doesn’t have to be distracted. I just want to take all the pressure off him.
What’s the next big gig that you guys will be working on?
We’re heading to the states in [the summer], we’re doing a tour with Kidz in the Hall. We brought them up here to tour with us in Canada back in April and now we’re going down there with them for ten days. The first show we’re doing is Tech N9ne’s 4th of July party. We’re doing the mid-West. We’ll also being doing a couple festivals in Toronto, etc.
Going back to being a DJ, where do you see the trend of the DJ culture moving to in the future?
When I got into DJ’ing, DJ battles were the shit. That was the hottest thing going, but now, the way the DMC competition is run, you weren’t allowed to use any outside materials other than records. Nobody’s using records anymore. Even that battle has diminished to the point where it’s now an online battle. They don’t even do it live until the finals now. For a competition of that magnitude to have to change and say you can use any tools you want, it’s a huge question of “where is this going?” Every year there’s something new coming out.
We’re in the whole digital DJ era now where a lot of these guys don’t know what it’s like to carry crates of records to a gig. A lot of dudes are back to the visual mixing. Like I said before, my friend Sonny once told me to mix the records by making sure the lights match up. That’s what I went on but then a DJ friend of mine said, “Don’t worry about the lights, listen with your ears because not every mixer will have the two lights.” The flashing lights are now back in, they’re watching the screen without really learning how to beat match.
How do you view the current Halifax hip-hop community?
Right now it’s kind of weird because we’re in a spot where we’re constantly losing venues. We just lost one about a month ago and we just lost one yesterday. The one that closed was a big one called the Paragon. We had the last one on Sunday. It seems to be the problem that we’re losing venues and the city is a University town so the kids don’t really know the scene here. Kids that are coming here now for school are 18 and they don’t know Das Efx or any of those groups. Are they going to come here and know any of us? We find that the kids that are coming here now don’t take the time to learn about it unless their friends force them to go to it. So it’s all about trying to convince the new kids to go to it instead of going to the big box clubs. The scene has kind of been stagnant because of those factors and because there aren’t any fans anymore. Everyone is an artist now and they stick with their own crew. Getting people out now is like pulling teeth.
What is HYPE?
HYPE is when you’re at the club, it’s primetime and everything is on point.