Funkmaster Flex Returns to the Mixtape Game
After being away from the mixtape game for over a decade, Who You Mad At? Me Or Yourself? marks Funkmaster Flex’s official return. As one of the pioneers in radio, the Hot 97 DJ has managed to last throughout the years. When asked about the keys to his longevity, Flex says “I think it’s due to me taking the time to reinvent my interests.” From radio to web and now mobile, Flex continues to push forward. In this exclusive interview, we chop it up with Flex about his digital game, that relentless competitive spirit and the release of Who You Mad at? Me or yourself? This DJ wants answers.
-Danitha Jones (@lifelikejones)
There was way more to the process of making Who You Mad At Me Or Yourself? than your average mixtape. Artists and producers weren’t just submitting tracks.
It was a method behind the madness. I needed this mixtape to be my sound. I wanted every record to sound like what I’m about and who I am. I wanted that boom bap sound. When I say boom bap, I’m talking about that New York sound. I ended up listening to over 250 beats for this mixtape. It was a collective effort with my team. We all shared our thoughts. Next, we started to give certain artists certain tracks. I even gave some of them a phone call. In a lot of cases, I would say, “This is going to be a track that you’re not used to’ or I would say ‘It’s a little bit out of your comfort zone but I think it’s going to be great for what I’m trying to put together.”
Which artists do you think were challenged by the production you assigned?
It’s quite a few actually. Uncle Murda, Troy Ave, Maino, Ace Hood and Vado’s track are all a little different from what they’re used to doing but when they sent it back, they did really well on them. I was able to get some great producers like AraabMuzik, DJ Mustard, Statik Selektah, Jahlil Beats. Buda Da Future and Grandz Muzik did an incredible track for Chris Webby and Troy Ave. They sent another track over that I sent to Juelz Santana. It’s fire but it didn’t make it in time for this tape. It’s a lot of records that weren’t finished in time but they’ll possibly be on the next one. Q Tip got a banger that we didn’t finish in time. 50 Cent has something with Jahlil Beats that’s means. Then there’s a track from AraabMuzik for Kendrick Lamar that’s sick!
Why did you decided to release it through the DJ Funk Flex app?
Because I wanted to work with artists of my choice. I wanted to make it good. I haven’t put out a mixtape in 13 or 14 years. When I was putting out mixtapes on labels, I wasn’t really into it. The label would write you a check for a million dollars, you’d go in and record, you’d pay everybody. You’d pay the rappers and the producers. But then what I noticed is when you take those big advances, is that it didn’t really make sense. At least not for me because you’re not necessarily doing albums the way you want. You’re trying to sell a certain amount of records, you’re trying to please the label, make back the marketing money and after awhile, I wasn’t happy. With Who You Mad At? Me or Yourself? distribution, I didn’t want to go with the typical download method. I wanted a different channel for my mixtape to reach the right ears, be heard and be judged, unbiased.
Let’s go back really quick. After a 13-14 year hiatus, why are you returning to the mixtape game?
The mixtape game is still mine. I wanted to return as crown holder of those mixtapes. I’m a DJ. I’m better and I plan on holding that crown. I’m super competitive. The more people tell me I can’t do something, the more I do it. I’m not afraid of failure. A lot of people are afraid of the crown. They get the crown and then they have to hold it plus work five times as hard to keep it.
And that’s why you’re referred to as Flex Hogan. What brings out this intensity in you?
It comes from when I was a little kid. I’m Jamaican, dark-skinned, short and kids liked to snap on the corner with all these disses. You have to learn to get back at people because if not, you become a punching bag. It’s never, ever personal with any of my competitors. I’m okay with people saying things about me because I think everyone should have an opinion. If you’re a person on social media, I don’t believe in blocking people on those networks. I don’t care how much they are saying. To me, that’s their opinion. If you’re on these platforms and someone comes at you with an opinion, you have to be ready to dish it back. I think people misconstrue the whole Flex thing. I’m going to play the way you play. I let people set the tone. When I fire back at you, you gotta be ready for that. Not to complain and cry. You played the game. I’m alright with the game. If you play the game, make sure you’re ready to play forever.
Is that “intensity” good for the genre?
It’s what music and hip-hop is built on. It’s all about battling it out. That’s it. With sneakers, cars, everything. I’m competitive as a DJ because I feel I’m the best. I never attack first but I talk shit…like a blanket of shit. If you get on a platform and want to challenge me, we’ll see who rocks better. In my eyes, I always have an imaginary enemy. It’s never personal with me, man.
And that brings us to our last question, Who you mad at? Me or yourself?
Exactly. Who are you mad it? Me? You can run up against me. You can try to get in my lane. It’s all a good game and I love it.
The Spin is a weekly column where we’ll be talking to DJs about their lifestyles.