EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Hamilton Ontario artist DJ GEE talks new album, ‘The Industry Nightmare’, learning from DJ Qbert, and what he really thinks of the state of the rap industry
The turntablism industry is in for a rude awakening – and Ontario artist DJ GEE, is promising to be the one to do it.
The Canadian DJ is on a mission to wake the music industry from the “nightmare” it’s currently in, with his upcoming sixth studio album, ‘The Industry Nightmare’, releasing later this year on YGRECORDS and DJGEETV. The new record, a follow up to his 2018’s ‘The Comeback’, is a collaboration with rapper Tree Dogg MR ATM, and also features other artists from YGRATMBOYS.
Throwing it back to a time when DJing was physical and all about turntablism technique, the new album is heavily inspired by ‘80s and ‘90s hip hop and rap, as well as the current rap charts, as we discover in our exclusive interview with DJ GEE. Ever eclectic, the influences on his music stretch from 2Pac and DJ AM, to beyond the barriers of your average hip hop album to country and jazz, DJ GEE tells us.
We spoke to the rapper about The Industry Nightmare, learning Turntablism from DJ Qbert, and working harder than DJ Khaled…
Tell us about your new album, The Industry Nightmare – where does the name come from?
DJ GEE: The name for the album was an idea from my label mate, rapper Tree Dogg MR ATM. It’s all based around our experience of the Billboard Top 10 and the hip hop and rap charts. We’ve targeted these chart tracks and have come up with our own unique versions.
What’s been your favourite memory from making the new album?
DJ GEE: Honestly, the whole process of making it. Everything that goes into getting the album started – from the beats to our time in the studio, to the remixing of the tracks.
What is your favourite track on the album and why?
DJ GEE: It’s impossible to pick a favourite track on the album because you can take something away from all of them. Each track has its own vision, realized on the final album.
What sets your music apart from other artists?
DJ GEE: We work as hard as DJ Khaled or harder. YG Records and DJGEETV Records are the best label in the business. All of our music is made independently, without being signed to a major label – so far. Our music is a throwback to the way rap music was founded, based on the four elements of hip hop.
How did you learn turntablism?
DJ GEE: I learned Turntablism from many well-known turntablists: DJ Jazzy Jeff, Canadian DJs Skratch Bastid, Sara Simms, DJ Grouch, DJ Dopey, DJ Vekked, DJ Starting From Scratch, and most notably, American legend DJ Qbert from The Invisible Skratch Piklz, Thudrumble, Qbert Skratch University and Rock Steady Crew.
I also learned from the late great DJ AM – his way of mixing music, open format, while scratching and using Turntablism inspired me to want to learn and master the same type of style. I also attended Scratch Lab in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to finetune my skills.
Talk us through some of the biggest influences on your music?
DJ GEE: My biggest influences, to name a few, are 2Pac and The Notorious BIG, 50 Cent, The Game, and then ‘80s and ‘90s hip hop and rap. There are lots of DJs who have inspired my music – A-Trak, DJ AM, DJ Shadow, DJ Premier, DJ Qbert, DJ Craze, DJ Shiftee, Jam Master J, DJ Shortkut, DJ Babu, DJ Melo D, DJ Skratch Bastid, DJ AM, Cut Chemist, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Mix Master Mik, DJ Spider, DJ Green Lantern, DJ Khaled, The X-Ecutioners, Roc Raida, Beat Junkies, and DJ Rob Swift. And those are just some of them.
You cite an eclectic mix of music genres – from hip hop to jazz, to country. Could you tell us about how those different genres come together to make your sound?
DJ GEE: Tree Dogg MR ATM and I have done beats and remixes with a lot of other genres – jazz and country, like you mention, as well as R&B, to name a few. We can adapt to any style, while keeping our main genre, rap and hip hop, at the forefront. DJ GEE likes all genres of music.
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
DJ GEE: There are many artists I’d like to collaborate with – if I could collaborate with anyone it would be DJ Qbert, Drake, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Eminem, 50 Cent, and The Game. We have big plans for the future.
You’re from Hamilton, Ontario – how has that shaped you as an artist?
DJ GEE: Hamilton, Ontario is a robust and diverse mid-sized music market located handily close to Toronto, Ontario. Hamilton is known for its rich and crazy ecosystem of independent artists and bands in all genres – we even have a community concert band. The scratch DJ scene here is a tight community that reaches many parts of Ontario, too.
It’s very competitive and unique. I truly believe that music can change someone’s world, in the same way, music has shaped me into the person I am today. My city is a great community, full of great hard-working blue-collar people. Music has always played a huge role in my life, allowing me to make sense of all of life’s hardships and triumphs and I truly hope to help others through my music.
A lot of DJ shows now involve watching a DJ stand behind a laptop – turntablism doesn’t particularly lend itself to that. What’s your own live performance setup like?
DJ GEE: My performances consist of open format mixing of all genres, beat juggling, scratching, and remixing. Very soon, I think computers will be built right into the DJ mixer. Everyone can have fun being a DJ, but it still takes a lot more to be a turntablist and scratch musician.
What can fans expect from a DJ Gee live show?
DJ GEE: These days, every DJ knows how to push buttons, play music, and smash the beat-sync button. But how many DJs can prove themselves on the crossfader when it comes to being able to scratch? In the early days of hip-hop especially, you had to be able to manipulate vinyl like a god before you could even call yourself a DJ.
What do you think about modern DJing from just a laptop?
DJ GEE: Today, the artform of scratching is seemingly becoming lost thanks to the advent of digital DJing. To put it simply, scratching is a technique where the DJ/Turntablist moves a record back and forth on a turntable in order to produce unique sounds and effects – that’s what we call scratching. The DJ will also be using a crossfader on a DJ mixer to cut between two records simultaneously.
Scratching originated during the emergence of hip hop music in the 70s and is still primarily associated with the genre. It’s also still widely regarded as one of the most valuable skills a DJ can have. This is why you’ll find a number of dedicated scratching competitions held all around the world including the renowned DMC World DJ Championship heavily sponsored by Rane & Serato.
Following on the points above, scratching is a part of DJing history. Before there were digital DJ controllers and beat-sync buttons, you couldn’t call yourself a DJ unless you knew how to scratch. So what better way to pay homage than to learn the skills of the DJs that came before you. It’s only going to increase your rep as a DJ and improve your skills in all areas on the turntables!
As a DJ, you express your personality through the songs you’re playing during your set. Add scratching into the mix and you’ve got just another outlet for adding your own personal flair to your performance. Think of it like being a chef, everyone spices things up in different ways. Scratching gives you the opportunity to add your individual seasoning to your performance!
What’s your dream for the future – where do you envision your music taking you?
DJ GEE: My dream for the future is to keep making music and inspiring others while hopefully gaining more fans, more recognition, and working with more well-known artists to expand my reach.
- ‘The Industry Nightmare’ will release later this year on YGRECORDS and DJGEETV. Follow DJ GEE on Twitter @djgee @djgeetv, Facebook @iamdjgee @djgeetv, Instagram @iamdjgee @djgeetv, YouTube at djgeetv86, and on Twitch at DJGEETV . Keep up to date at iamdjgee.com