Navigating the turgid, contentious waters of hip-hop in Colorado as a DJ isn't easy. Discussions involving radio play and "breaking records" plague conversations daily. Whether real or perceived, there is a fear that the DJ's role has all but disappeared into ringtone oblivion. The days of DJs on the block carrying crates have devolved into 140 character rants with mixtape links and subtle disses, resulting in more clatter than music.
Despite the heavy hand of technology, though, there are signs of life in the DJ universe, DJs that hold true to the foundation of deejaying. And DJ Ktone, who belongs to Core DJs -- a consortium of DJs from all across the country who move together and work together to influence the music that's being put out -- is right in the thick of it all.
Ktone has established himself as The Turf DJ of Denver. According to Graffiti Black, "turf music" consists of sounds made from the ground up: Locally produced, grown and promoted, the turf is organic. Born of the streets for which he creates the soundtrack, Ktone is also the unofficial mayor of pure Colorado deep rap. No backpacks here. We caught up with the Turf DJ recently and chopped it up with him on power, substance and the never ending role of the DJ.
WW (Ru Johnson): Were you really mixing your Sesame Street tapes as a child?
KTone: Yes, I was. I wasn't actually "mixing," because it was only one turntable, but I thought I could scratch on it. I knew nothing about being a DJ at all, but I was fascinated by how you could do that to a record.
WW: You made a go at rapping once. How did you make the decision between rapping and deejaying, and which do you prefer?
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Kt: Well, I've rapped my whole life. When I was in elementary and middle school, I was in talent shows rapping, dancing and everything; it was natural. Always freestyling every damn day, until this day. I do it so much, it rubs off on my kids; they rap and beat on walls all day. I don't know why I do it but I can't help it. I actually like rapping and deejaying equally. Some say I'm a better DJ than rapper; others think it's the other way around, and I should really pursue it. But I think I'm doing what I do best at this time.
WW: Why is the Colorado music scene so tense?
Kt: Because everyone wants to be the first to blow. Everyone feels like they are so much better than the next person. Majority of the artists are stuck right here in the box. They never leave the city to expand and explore or to even try and get heard elsewhere, as well as here. Not enough support for each other; [there's] a lot of hate.
WW: What's your side of the constant argument of "breaking records?"
Kt: That's what a part of deejaying is about. Radio took focus off of that part, but there are plenty of DJs who still break records. There is a difference between "playing" a record and "breaking" one. Anybody can just play a record. Breaking one requires DJs to break a record in and get people to really believe in the song. Why should you dance to this? [Why should you] play this request? "Because as a DJ, I'm co-signing it, and I said so" -- that should be the record breaking mentality.
WW: Your twitter bio says: "I don't need radio, radio needs me." Is radio the primary source of heavy rotation these days?
Kt: It depends on who you ask and what you consider to be successful. Not in my opinion. I see more financial success from artists that I don't even hear on radio or see on TV often. I think if you beat the streets up enough, then you will reach a level of success. It just might not be full Hollywood TV or radio success, but it can definitely be a great career.
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WW: What constitutes real talent, and who are those who "have what it takes?"
Kt: I think a lot of artists have "big" dreams, as they should. But some need to wake up out that dream and see this isn't for them. I think an artist needs to be versatile, having club records, conscious records, crossover appeal, dialect and all [that], to really be ready for the big leagues. I don't think a lot of artists does their research on the times or reach outside the box enough to make their sound appealing to those outside of their own basement.
WW: How are you able to carry the title of "Turf DJ" with no problem?
Kt: I have earned a lot of respect in my town, because I really come from where these brothers and sisters come from. I show love to the people, and I'm at the same spots they are in. I'm in the same restaurants, the same corner stores, the same barbershops. I really do this for a living, so people take me serious out of state, which enables me to do more in state. I'm the turf DJ because I'm from Park Hill and represent all of Colorado.