The deejay has always been one of the crucial elements of Hip Hop culture. Born and raised on the South Side of Queens, DJ Wayne Ski, decided to pursue a dynamic and fulfilling career as a mixmaster. Dating back to the early ’90s, he started mixing music for mixtapes while beginning to grasp the concept of the music industry. From landing an internship at Def Jam Records to working with legendary, Marley Marl and eventually spinning live on the radio and in venues, Wayne Ski’s journey as a deejay has and is definitely one to take note of. This Beatminerz affiliate is motivated to leave behind a legacy that mirrors those who he has drawn inspiration from. Voicing his opinion from past experiences to his present endeavors as a deejay, HipHopDX spoke with DJ Wayne Ski on a variety of subjects.
HipHopDX: When did your passion for music start to take shape?
DJ Wayne Ski: It started from when I was growing up with my pops. My pops was a big music-lover. He had a bunch of records from all types of genres. Coming from Trinidad, he would get all types of music and our house would be the hub for all the parties. Family and friends from Queens would come over. And he played everything. From Hip Hop to Jazz, to Soca, Calypso, Soul, R&B, to everything.
DX: Exposed to so many genres, what were you drawn to the most initially?
DJ Wayne Ski: I was drawn to, of course, hip-hop first because I remember stumbling upon Video Music Box with my sister in ’86 or ’87. And all the hip-hop artists just looked so cool in the videos. They were wearing the same things we were wearing back in the day and that’s where the initial connection came from.
DX: Jumping forward a bit, how did your internship at Def Jam help your understanding of the music business?
DJ Wayne Ski: At Def Jam, I learned how political the game really is on the business side of things. It’s really all about who you know and pretty much once you have your foot in the door, you gotta make those connections asap ‘cos they can turn the lights off on you real quick. I also learned you gotta get your connections up and never stop promoting yourself and speaking on your behalf.
DX: What were some lessons you learned that has stuck with you since then; and still apply to your work ethic or how you handle things now?
DJ Wayne Ski: Especially as a DJ, don’t get stuck in time; always know what’s going on around you. Be on top of your game ’cause there’s always new artists and new DJ’s who become competition. I still like to go listen to other deejays and draw inspiration from them. I still listen to other producers, and go to blogs just to stay up to date with the music scene. ‘Cause you could wake up one day and realize you’ve fallen behind on the latest music because you weren’t on top of your game.
DX: How did you first get into the world of radio as a DJ? And describe your experiences.
DJ Wayne Ski: My first radio gig was at Hofstra University. Now, here’s the thing, I wasn’t a student but one of the guys I used to work with at Def Jam who used to bring CDs for deejays from Hofstra. I’d go with him to the station and sort of just bumrush the station and start deejaying. This was like 1999, and eventually we got caught but that was my introcution to radio.
DX: What was your initial reaction to your interaction with the listners at the station?
DJ Wayne Ski: At first, I was nervous but eventually after awhile I felt like I knew I was supposed to be there you know? I knew what I was doing because I always practiced.
DX: Who has influenced or inspired you as a deejay and just music, in general?
DJ Wayne Ski: Influences on the deejay side, from Queens, it would have to be Grandmaster Vic. All those Queens deejays like Brother Bill, Ike Love and [DJ] Clue. When I was coming through and started doing my own little mixtapes in the ’90s, these were the deejays who were hot in Queens. But what really got me into it was watching Video Music Box. I was still too young back then to hit up the clubs and hear what deejays were currently playing. From Video Music Box, I still have this one VHS I recorded of Kid Capri on the turntables, tearing down the club and that was it for me. When I saw him do it, and to see the crowd reaction in the club, there was no doubt in mind that that was what I wanted to do. As far as the music side or production side, Marley Marl, hands down has influenced me – as well as Pete Rock, DJ Premier and that’s who I still bump to, to this day. Those guys are incredible musicians, producers, whatever. Those guys influence me, period.
DX: Going back to DJ Marley Marl, how was it being able to work with him? And what were some of the things you learned?
DJ Wayne Ski: One of boys pretty much came up to me and was like “Yo, I can get you in with Marley Marl. Just send me a CD.” It wasn’t really a contest, Marley was just accepting submissions from young deejays. And if he liked you, he’s gonna tell you to come over to his crib and spin for him live. I eventually got the invite to his crib and what broke the ice when I got there, is when I set up my equipment and played EPMD “So Whatcha Sayin’?” As soon as I played that, Marley ran down the fuckin’ steps and was like, “Yo, you’re doin’ it right! This is my shit!” I was in his house mixing the new shit with the classic shit, you know? And that’s what broke the ice; we been cool ever since. At that time, I was already doing my thing and making moves but when I had Marley cosign me like “Yo, this kid is really doing his thing,” that got me through some doors that I would have never gotten into by myself. Just by him mentioning my name, you know, that’s how everything came about.
DX: So, as more opportunities unfolded, describe how you felt with each new gig and your most memorable one thus far?
DJ Wayne Ski: Man, all those sleepless nights wondering where should I go with my career and what should I do? Then having been able to talk to Marley Marl and Nate Dogg, you know, having talked to certain people that I’ve worked with, that always kept me grounded when opportunities came my way. It kept me on the right track and I knew I just had to keep doing me and that made way to a lot of memborable moments. One of my most memorable definitely had to be meeting Marley Marl at his House of Hits [Studios]. Also playing at the Roxy at a holiday party for Warner Music in 2001, that was a big highlight of my career. As of now and for my future highlights, I’m about to knock this album out with Freddie Foxxx, a/k/a Bumpy Knuckles, that’s gonna be insane and I’m excited about it.
DX: Looking back at all these memories you’ve made and are currently making, what kind of legacy do you want to leave behind for others look back on?
DJ Wayne Ski: If you don’t work, you don’t eat. When people look at my legacy, that’s the state of mind I want to instill in them. You gotta put in work cos nobody is gonna hand anything to you. Also, you can be who you are and what you’re about and still maintain your integrity. If you’re doing dope shit and your a dope mothafucka, even people who don’t like you are gonna be forced to like you. So you don’t have to front for anyone, just do what the fuck you do and understand and love whatever it is that you’re doing. It’s about putting in work man. If you think you can just sit behind your computer waiting for someone to hand you an opportunity, you might as well start filling out applications and get a regular nine-to-five. Not saying there’s anything wrong wit a nine-to-five ’cause I held down a nine-to-five while still doing parties and radio. You gotta hustle, so that’s the legacy I want to leave behind. You gotta work. You don’t have to scumbag people to get your way. Just focus on your craft and perfect it. That’s pretty much it.
DX: How do you perceive music as an artist as opposed to how you perceive music as a fan?
DJ Wayne Ski: As an artist, I like the grit and grime of rap. That’s what I like, listen to and make. Just straight boom-bap music that bangs. As a fan, I like so many different genres. It’s unbelievable how I can listen to Gang Starr then go throw on some Slum Village then Katy Perry, for example. That’s just who I am. Other deejays just float to what’s considered “hot.” Again, I can from Jay-Z to Patti LaBelle or Guns & Roses. This is music I grew up on and I just genuinely love music. That’s another thing I want people to know about me. I genuinely love music, I’m doing it ’cause it’s “cool.” I mean, I wasn’t cool growing up, I was a fuckin’ nerd you know? All I liked was music, that was it. I didn’t do it to be cool, I’m a fan of music first. The only issue I have with music nowadays is that when the mainstream tries to tell you that that’s the only thing out there to listen to but it’s not. And not to say that that’s not good music, it’s just not the only thing out there to listen to. The same 15 records on rotation? You gotta be kidding me. Good music is there, if you look for it, you’ll find it. And that’s the thing with blogs nowadays; they’re a gift and a curse. They’re putting out music from both the mainstream and a lot of new shit from underground artists as well.
DX: A lot of people say it’s the DJ’s responsibility to get the music out there. What do you think more deejays should be doing in this day and age of hip-hop or music, in general?
DJ Wayne Ski: I think more deejayss need to stop copying and biting. There’s a lot of records and artists out there. Go back and align yourself with artists who you feel is dope. I mean, if you’re gonna play what the radio deejays are playing, how does that set you apart from what they’re doing? You’re pretty much just a lower end version of what they are. Find your niche and go wit it. If everybody is on the top train, you ain’t gotta get on the top train. If boom-bap is what you do, then do boom-bap and make it work for you.
DX: I definitely feel you on that. So how were you able to find your niche?
DJ Wayne Ski: You know, I don’t think I’ve found a niche. You know what I call it? I just be fallin’ into shit ass-backwards. I just go wit’ it. If I like something, I’ll play with. I don’t care who the artist is. I don’t care who doesn’t like who. That’s not why I’m here. If I like it, I’m gonna play it, period. It’s never gonna be a situation where I won’t play something just because somebody else might have an issue wit it. And anybody who has heard me deejay before know that if I like it, I’m gonna play it.
DX: So do you blend a lot of genres since you mentioned Jay-Z and Katy Perry?
DJ Wayne Ski: I don’t knock it but I’m not really a mash-up deejay. It’s not really my thing.
DX: If Hip Hop were a person, what would you say to him/her?
DJ Wayne Ski: Thank you! and thank God! If it wasn’t for you, I don’t know what kind of trouble my ass woulda been. I’m able to feed myself and my family so thank you, Hip Hop