It didn’t take for us to have to watch Revolt TV’s new series Global Spin Presents: Respect the DJ [debuting tonight on the network at 7pm and 10pm ET] for our respect for DJ Envy to go to an all time high. In fact, after chatting it up with him and getting a more personal perspective of who he is outside of The Breakfast Club, we figured out being a DJ is only one minimal representation of who he really is. He gave us a quick rundown of a day in the life of DJ Envy, from the time he wakes up until he lays his head at night—and let’s just say he does more than some of us do in a week all within 24 hours.
After an early morning show with The Breakfast Club he is certain to make time for his family and as he likes to put it, he’s an “unpaid Uber driver” who chauffeurs his kids from school to piano to basketball practice all while making it home to watch Game of Thrones with his wife and read the little ones a bedtime story. Might we add he owns properties across the United States, as well as maintains new and old business ventures. After all of that, Envy can finally say he’s a DJ, as he takes a quick nap before heading back out into the nightlife to rock our favorite clubs and ensure everybody has a good time.
DJ Envy shared his thoughts on how he maintains a healthy marriage and family life to what he believes is the significance of the DJ in Hip Hop today. Check it out below:
With you being a DJ and an on air personality what changes in the process of you getting in character for both, if anything?
As a DJ it’s more tense, it’s more aggressive, it’s louder, it’s really trying to control a crowd and gain a reaction. On air as a personality it’s more of a conversation, going back and forth and listening to different sides. Sometimes we may have a subject like Drake’s album for example — we might have a conversation about Views and we all love Views and we all love the album. It’s my job to make sure that there is a little bit of conflict, to make sure that all of the conversation is not the same. If you’re in a relationship with somebody or if you were talking to somebody or a friend and you agreed on everything it would get kind of boring. “Yeah, I love the Views!” — “Me too!” “I love this” — “Me too!” “I love that!” — “Me too!” I have to be the one to guide the conversation and say, “Well, everybody likes Views but what about this about Views?” I have to open that dialect and open that conversation and make sure that the conversation doesn’t remain stale.
And knowing my co-hosts’ position on things and knowing what they’re going to say and knowing how they’re going to react to certain things. Knowing that if there is a certain guest in the room, I know what Charlemagne’s going to say before he says it to make sure he has that setup to say it. If Angela Yee has something I make sure she has that setup to say it. Things that usually happen on The Breakfast Club are not, “Oh wow, that just happened!” Those are usually setup and done at a point in time for an important or particular reason. Like, everything is setup. It’s not just, “Oh, they’re just going to go and talk.” I know where to guide the conversation and make sure we don’t go across that line and make sure we don’t get a fine and make sure we’re out in time for a break and make sure it sounds good on air and it’s not just continuous talk.
What’s the key to the longevity of your success and surviving the transitions of this industry?
I think for myself it’s a couple of things. One is gut feelings — knowing and understanding where my job is at that particular time. Knowing that one time mixtapes were doing great and I was moving mixtapes like — I have no idea, but knowing and saying what’s next. When everybody started jumping into mixtapes I made that right turn and said, “You know what? Let me start doing radio.” Mixtapes kind of fell off whether it was because of the streaming or whether it was because there were so many DJs now that nobody really cared about the music like they did before. At one time you could only get new music from DJs from mixtapes. But now its online and you can get it just as fast as the DJs. Before a lot of DJs had nothing else to go to, I was already doing radio. From there I was doing television, seven years ago at MTV. I’m always trying to foresee what’s next, my next working spot, and my next goal and what’s going to inspire me to work harder on that next project.
Could you explain the difference between the mixtape in more recent years compared to the dubbed cassettes and burned CDs and everything that mixtapes used to embody in Hip Hop’s prime? How do you feel about the change?
Mixtapes got watered down. I think what watered down the mixtapes was a couple of things. I really think it was the fact they made software that everybody could be a DJ. And also, the internet. I didn’t have to say, “Ok, I have to go buy or go get a DJ Envy mixtape” because usually when the song comes out it’s on a blog just as fast as its on a mixtape. By the time I’ve made the mixtape, I’ve dubbed it. I duplicated it. I sent it out. I did mixtape covers. For that 2 or 3 day process, the blog sites already have the song already and the song is old. So keeping up with the blogs was almost impossible so you almost just did a mixtape and just threw it out there. It didn’t become a business anymore. It became, “Oh this is just a hobby.” It wasn’t lucrative anymore. Nobody is going to buy my mixtape when they can get it online.
What is it that you still feel like you haven’t done enough of or in what areas do you believe you still need growth?
For myself it’s outside of music. I’ve done everything in music that you can possibly think of. I’ve done the mixtapes. I’ve worked for a record label. I’ve did radio. I’ve did television. I’ve pretty much done everything in the aspect of music that I wanted to do that I never even dreamed of. When I started out as a mixtape DJ I didn’t know where I was going to go from there. I just did it because I enjoyed it and it end up becoming a business and becoming a career.
Now I really enjoy investing money and doing other thing with money whether it’s a car wash or a sneaker store or jumping into the soda industry or the juice bar or owning properties across the country — those things really excite me. These are things I didn’t learn as a kid so for me, this is an Envy adventure. It’s taking money and throwing it into a business and try to make sure that business works. I wasn’t growing up like that. Some people their parents teach them how to make money and how to invest their money in the stock market and how to double and make money. A lot of our minority community, we really don’t learn that. The fact that I’m learning it on my own and being able to teach my kids and my family, it’s fun. And sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and those wins and those losses are just as important and just as great as us winning. You learn something new when you lose. You learn what not to do and it’s really fun.
Who are your business partners helping you open the juice bar in Brooklyn?
Angela Yee is one of my business partners in Brooklyn and also, Styles P. Styles P, of course, has shops in Yonkers and Mt. Vernon already. He talked to Yee and I about possible opening one in Brooklyn. We had the same goals and same vision as far as juicing and as far as community so we said let’s do it. Hopefully, it’ll be open soon.
No set date or month that we can expect it to be open?
No, not as of yet. We do have the place already and we’ve already started breaking ground as far as getting it together but no we don’t have a particular day yet.
What’s one of the biggest misconceptions people have of you?
Right now, I really don’t know. Before I did radio people used to think I was mean. I think they would think I was mean because I’m very into my business. Like when I used to get to the club, it wasn’t that I was going there to chill and pop bottles and stand on the couch. No, I’m here to do a job. I think people forget that sometimes. I think they forget that this is how DJs pay their bills. Yeah, its fun. Yeah, its enjoyable to sit at the club and have drinks and have people around you. Yeah, that’s great! But I’m doing this for a job. Just how people go and work their 9-5 and they get paid on a Friday or get paid at the end of the night, the same thing with me. You know I came here to work and get paid and make sure I can make it home safe to my family. So when I’m in DJ mode, I’m focused. And a lot of people will think that I’m too serious or I’m mean or I’m nasty when actually I was just really in there to get my work done and get my job done and I can play and hackle after. But when I get in there I’m focused on burning this club down making sure it’s crazy, getting paid an making sure I’m great.
Can you tell us the significance of the DJ in Hip Hop today and things that may be overlooked about DJs?
I think the DJ is overlooked because there are so many DJs now. You have people that are DJing that’s never touched a turntable. You have people that are DJing that probably never owned a record or seen a record. I’m not saying that you have to own a record, because nobody really uses records anymore, but learn where we started from. Learn how to actually use a turntable and how to mix and how to blend and how to do all of these things. When I first started, I started off as a battle DJ and I was practicing trick moves by watching DJ Scratch on Video Music Box doing tricks through his shows. A lot of people and a lot of DJs have no clue what that means and what that is.
What is the key to surviving a marriage while maintaining a high profile career?
Honestly, I’m still figuring it out. It’s been 15 years but it’s still a work in progress. It’s a matter of mixing time and family — a matter of honesty. It’s also a matter of bringing my family along with me. If I have an opportunity to take them with me, I do. It’s no different from if your dad works for a company — my dad was a police officer and my mom worked for an insurance company. There were times that I was able to get to go to work with them and just see their job experience and hang out with them for a little bit. And it’s no different with my kids. If I’m going to a place that’s warm that I know their going to love, whether it’s Miami or Bermuda or whatever, it may be I’m taking the whole family with me and let them enjoy that. If it’s All Star instead of going out with my boys and hanging out, I’m going to take my kids and let them experience All Star in a different city. If there’s places I can take my wife — if it’s Vegas and I know it’s going to be fun, we all go together and we all have fun. We all get to experience what music has brought me.
At first I was just like, I got a party in Japan. I’m going to Japan. Now if I got a party in Japan I’m like this is better than any textbook. The fact that my son or my daughter can say that I’ve been to Japan or the fact that they can say I’ve been to Johannesburg. I was able to see South Africa. I was able to see a safari. I was able to see where Nelson Mandela lived and where they shot up his house. Those things that as a kid I didn’t see nor did I really care about because you love history but you never really get to see it and touch it. But now here I am in South Africa, really seeing what was in this textbook about Nelson Mandela and where he lived where they came and shot him and dragged him out of his house. They really get to see a safari: not the Bronx Zoo, not the Brooklyn Zoo, not Prospect Park. They’re actually driving through a safari. These are thing you can never teach and you never get to experience and that’s some of the things that music has been able to show. We’re going to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in a couple of weeks and I’m bringing my whole family and that’s something that they’ll get to experience. And when they go back to school they’ll get to experience what a mosque is, going inside and the proper attire that they have to wear to go inside that mosque and see the people and see the different things and communities and different areas. Sometimes I feel like living that life and seeing that stuff outside of your classroom and outside of your book I think it’s no better than that.
Most underrated rappers in the game right now?
I think Fabolous is underrated as a rapper. I think he gets a lot of credit, but not enough.
Without giving it all away, please tell us what we can expect from your Global Spin Presents: Respect the DJ episode that we may not know or haven’t already gotten from DJ Envy.
I think they’re going to get the surprise of their life. I think they’re going to get a side of DJ Envy that’s going to shock a lot of people. I think it’s also going to shock them by the fact that people will see how hard I work and how much of it is not only just music but it’s business and creating a brand. They’re going to get to see a lifestyle that’s going to be shocking. At the end of the day a lot of people like to look at it like, “He’s just a DJ” and they will get to see what “just a DJ” is all about whether it’s my life, it’s how I live, my cars, my family, my work, my work ethic, me going hard, me doing what I do. They’ll get to see my life in a whole different vision and aspect.
Global Spin Presents: Respect the DJ airs tonight [May 5th] on REVOLT at 7pm and 10pm.