In the world of hip-hop, mixtapes are the currency of the street, the vehicles that many underground artists use to create exposure and build their names outside the confines of major-label marketing campaigns. By creating a street-level buzz, such artists as 50 Cent have forced mainstream tastemakers to take notice. Conversely, mixtapes have also become a way for savvy majors to get the word out on emerging artists they're trying to break. Here in the Mile High, DJ Quote (aka Quentin Jones) is one of the most prolific DJs in the mixtape game (his work is available for download at www.djquotetv.com) -- and with the introduction of his new DVD mixtape series (available for purchase at Independent Records), Quote has taken things to a whole new level. We recently caught up with the DJ and asked about this latest move.
Westword (Dave Herrera): With nearly 300 mixtapes under your belt, it's safe to say that you've pretty much cornered the market in that aspect. What inspired you to step up your game with the introduction of DVD mixtapes?
DJ Quote: Honestly, mixtape DJs are pretty easy to find these days. Though I've put a lot of time and effort into making my mixtapes the best, I felt that it was time to use technology to accelerate my business. In today's world, with all the computer software and downloads, anybody can mash together a bunch of music, call it a mixtape and be considered a DJ. Video screens are everywhere -- on our desks, in our pockets, in our cars -- and that's where I want my video mixtapes to be. I've been doing mixtapes for over five years. It felt like it was time to enter a new area, to bring new energy into my work. Unless you're the lead dog, the view is always the same. By the time you read this sentence, DVD 4 will be on the streets.
WW: How big of an impact have the mixtapes had in terms of getting your name out there?
DJQ: Mixtapes have been my primary tool in "branding" myself. I've given away thousands of them. They're my audio business card. You can download mixtapes for free. If someone knows I'm going to be in their city, they can hear a mixtape ahead of time to know that they'll want to pay to hear me live.
WW: How does a DVD mixtape differ from a traditional mixtape?
DJQ: If you're familiar with audio mixtapes, you know that a smooth transition from one song to the next is a skill worth showing off. The idea is the same with videos, to move smoothly from one video into the next, but it's just a little trickier. Video also allows me to interview my hosts, the same way I did with audio mixtapes, only better. In this day and age, you can get a host to drop a few sentences in an e-mail. Can't do that as easily with video. I actually have to interview my hosts.
WW: What's your vision for the DVDs?
DJQ: I want them to be in more places than my CDs have been. I'm able to share my hosts and myself in ways that I haven't been able to do before. My online videos have been very popular. DVDs let me put that and more in mobile settings. Vision is my vision.
WW: How much work went into producing the first installment of the DVDs?
DJQ: I've been working on this for over a year, gathering equipment and digital sources. I've assembled a team that includes artists and a professional videographer. You can't imagine how many hours I've spent in the studio.
WW: Are you still planning to produce traditional mixtapes?
DJQ: Of course. Like I said, mixtapes have been my audio calling card. People can listen to music at times when they can't watch a video. Three hundred's a good number, but kinda small, don't you think? By the way, some of my DVDs will include a mixtape CD -- two for the price of one.
WW: You've had some pretty high profile artists and DJs appear on your mixtapes: How did you arrange that, and how receptive have the artists been when you approach them?
DJQ: I've been able to meet many of these artists and DJs where we were performing together. A great example of this would be when BET invited me to be on Rap City with Will.I.Am. Later, he invited me to join him in a studio session in New York. Core DJ retreats have allowed me to network with performers and other DJs. When I do a mixtape with a local artist or an artist who's not well known to my audience, it adds flavor to my mixtapes and exposes the artist to new listeners.
WW: How do you decide who's going to be featured on your mixes?
DJQ: I prefer new and upcoming artists, to help them to break into my market. I also like artists who are making noise themselves, but not people who are asking for a handout. I generally join forces with people I can help and they can help me.
In a way I'm an opportunist, willing to work with anyone who is willing to work with me.
WW: How have you evolved as a DJ, and how has the game changed?
DJQ: My mixes are better than the early days, for sure. I'm also a producer, and have produced for a lot of local artists. I've got a lot of work lined up with national artists for 2010.
As I stated earlier, anybody can become a DJ with a mixer and a bunch of downloads. You don't have to have 10,000 vinyl records like I have. A kid can download my whole library in a matter of hours,
WW: You're a member of the Core DJs. How and when did you become a member, and what are the benefits of being down with the crew?
DJQ: I think it was four years ago that I was voted into Core DJs by Tony Neal. It's a huge benefit to be part of a family of more than 290 DJs from all around the world. But it's no secret to know that you're more valuable if you can add to a team rather than just see what you can get from the group.
WW: In the past four years, you've gone from a resident DJ at various local clubs to a touring DJ that plays mostly high profile gigs these days. How and why did you make that transition.
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DJQ: I've always thought outside the box. I've never been satisfied to be only a local DJ. It's easy to say that you're representing Colorado and the best in Colorado, but until you've traveled to other markets you really aren't representing Colorado. How can you represent Colorado unless you're somewhere else? The most successful DJs also work outside their home markets. When this is your profession, what you do for a living, you should be working outside your home market at least twice a month. I'm not satisfied with being just a local entertainer.
WW: How have you otherwise evolved as a DJ in terms of techinique and approach?
DJQ: I've built a good reputation as a hip-hop DJ. I've enjoyed that, but I don't want to limit myself to too specific an audience. I've learned how to be an electronic DJ and a mashup DJ.