DJ Smooth Denali Interview

Big Chew: What’s going on Smooth Denali? Let the people know where you’re from and how long you’ve been doing your thing.

Smooth Denali: Whats poppin homie – first real quick thanks for the interview spot – appreciate that – straight outta Brentwood LI , NY – hometown of EPMD & CRAIG MACK, town away from KEITH MURRAY & JVC FORCE (CENTRAL ISLIP), 2 towns away from the THE GOD RAKIM ALLAH (WYNDANCH) , 3 towns away from DELASOUL (AMITYVILLE) and 20 mins away from PE & LONS (ROOSEVELT, HEMPSTEAD) … lol .. sorry I get carried away when people think LI has no history in HIP HOP.

DJin…man for a long time – lets put it like that – its bugged but I probably started djing before some cats on the board where born – buts its all good cuz I can still probably take 80% of them — lol …Im just playing – gotta watch what I say cause cats get real uptight and take shit too seriously.

Big Chew: How’s the mixtape catalogue doing these days? I was going back through my mixtape/CD collection and without question, quality mixtape for quality mixtape you’re are easily in the top 5 for mixtape DJs all time. How does that feel?

Smooth Denali: I don’t know about top 5 but I definitely put in work all the time when it comes to my mixtapes … Its something about keeping the listener from not skipping thru the cd thats makes it challenging … alot of cats don’t really understand that part of the mixtape game yet … I can’t slap songs together and just play them – its impossible for me because first and foremost I’m a dj – I take pride in my work – I want the praise all day for job well done -but that’s just me.

Big Chew: Do you feel any pressure when you release a new mixtape now considering the legacy you have created for yourself?

Smooth Denali: Of course – Cats might not realize but I got 5 RAPMULLET CLASSICS ratings ( R&B; CLASSICS vol. 2 THE COOLOUT, HIP HOP CLASSICS 4 & 5 THE NEW YORK EDITION, HIP HOP CLASSICS 8 hosted BY RED ALERT, REGGAE CLASSIC vol 1 & 2 and R&B; CLASSICS 7 – YOU KNOW I GOT SOUL) – and that all off of old school joints which I think its 10x’s harder to do because everybody knows the music – so the pressure is alway on – sometimes I will have a cd done for weeks but if it don’t feel right I won’t release it … I have to make sure its correct …. I’ve had plenty of conversations with mixtapes sites and store owners about old school and why they don’t carry a bigger selection but its because old school is a different breed all together – I alway hear that classics are classics and its nothing to it and there easy to make – sure they are because the music is accessible – but making it a classic is a different story – you gotta take your listener thru a ride and but them in that place where they have forgotten – when you can do that – you know you got something – I get calls all the time for people telling me DAMN you took me back – I get calls from everyone talking old school and that my cds stay in their rotation – I had RED ALERT call me out the blue and tell me he needed copies of my joints, I was in VEGAS and ED LOVER was out there and he’s was like ‘I got your cds in the truck right now’ – i got regular mixtape djs that tell me that rocking to my shit – thats makes it worth while for me …. when your own peers appreciate your work – then you know you got it right.

Big Chew: Out of your whole catalogue do you have a favorite mixtape or mixtape series?

Smooth Denali: You know – I’m thinking about it and I can’t say I have one favorite cd – each one is different in its own right … I’m a BIGGIE fan so if anything It would be MY GREATEST MC SERIES – vol.1 but The HIP HOP CLASSIC series took a life of its own and The R&B; classics seems to get crazier each time cuz I have to go diggin a little deeper in the crates – I’m finishing up my GREATEST MC SERIES now which took me 4 years – I’m dropping a DOUBLE VOLUME 9 & 10 featuring The legends of the game – RAKIM, KOOL G RAP, BIG DADDY KANE, SLICK RICK, LL COOL J, and KRS ONE – so I’m excited about that right there and after that I’m start a new series called THE GUEST SPOT – which will just open up the market for me to do best of HIP HOP and R&B; artists I’ve been wanting to do like BEANIE SEGAL, STYLES P , 50 Cent and artists like that – but I couldn’t fit them into my Greatest MC series but this just opens up another series where I can just take it anywhere – but that’s later this year … The R&B; Classics mixtapes are the most demanding though cause your have to make each era fit or the theme stick – Ive alway been into R&B; and OLD SCHOOL – I remember going digging for joints when I was younger and the older djs were surprise that I would be asking for joints that were considered old school back then … i know its cliche that everyone says today’s music can’t compare to Old school stuff but i truly believe it can’t.

Big Chew: What was the first mixtape you ever put out? What was your mindset like at that time. Did you ever think it would lead you to where you are now?

Smooth Denali: I been doing my mixtapes for a long time in my hood but it wasn’t until maybe 95 or 96 that I put my own mixtape on the streets – I was just thinking damn – cats is getting $10, 15 & 20 a tape and I need in … so I started slow and got a little team together and we just started selling them anywhere we went – had some kids in the highs chool selling them and in the clubs – where ever we went – I had mixtapes wit me.

My biggest selling cassette (funny to say that right) was this cd called ME & MY CRAZY WORLD … I didn’t have mad stores back then since I was new to the game as far as mixtapes were concerned but I lucked out on that tape cuz I was one of the first cat with BUSTAS – PUT YOUR EYES WHERE MY EYES CAN SEE – it was a blend/new joints/commerical – lol – Had BEATNUTS – OFF THE HOOK with PUN and DRU HILL’s IN MY BED REMIX on there also- back then I had 2 spots in QUEENs and 1 spot in BROOKLYN and 3 in LONG ISLAND – (no names to protect the Innocent) I dropped the tape on a Thursday (1000 cassettes) sold out by Saturday and lets just say we had a good run on that cassette (avg. 200 tape every 3-4 days) – I know some of the young cats are reading this and saying 1000 is nothing – and your right for todays prices but back then we wasnt getting 1 or 2 bucks a cassette -Did my interior over in the BEAMER , new system , copped some new rims .. took a cruise off of that one tape -I probably ended up moving over 3000 on that cassette alone – (DO THE MATH) and that was in 96 -97′ …

I took a long break from cds for a while and just did the club thing but it wasn’t until my man THREAT passed away and met JLOVE that the game took a turn and he pushed me to put out cds again and that was my WHOS THE GREATEST MC vol.1 BIGGIE and to this date is still my best moving cd – but how times have changed.

Big Chew: Looking back from when you first got into the mixtape game till now, how has the game changed? For better or worse?

Smooth Denali: I can’t call it – some cats just don’t get the game and some do … think about this – back in the days mixtape djs used to put out tapes with no tracking listings and a STAMP of their name on the cassette & sold tons of them … and now its all about the list — why – cause back then it was quality over quantity (The name of the DJ HELD WEIGHT) there were no fil-in tracks – Alot of the new mixtapes djs feel them selves too much but the gotta ask themselves this question?? … when a consumer looks at a rack of cds – are the buying the cd for the name or the tracking listing???? – if you can’t answer that – then you’re not there yet.

When a consumer can just say BIG MIKE – let me get that, KAY SLAY let me get that without lookin at what there buying then you know your there … djs nowadays thinks its all about the listing but at the end of the day you just a reg cat that gets new music and puts it on a cd – Me and J Love talk about this all the time and at the end of the day 80% of djs out there are MISC … it would’t matter if they stopped making cds

Big Chew: Lets talk about the radio show you have with J Love on Serius. How did that situation come about? Is it safe to say mixtapes played a major part in that situation?

Smooth Denali: Well .. I’ve been on SIRIUS now 3 years – I had the show for a year by myself and the opportunity came thru MY MAN’s THREAT’s (RIP) connect with the programmer – He was feeling the whole Turntable Assassin movement and asked If I wanted to be a part of it and took it from there – JLOVE came in 2 years ago cause the show need a change and who better that 3X Justo AWARDS winner

Big Chew: What goes into the show each and every week? How do you determine who gets their music spun?

Smooth Denali: Im not gonna front – we are real bias when it comes to music – if you look at our playlistings – real NY hip hop – shit gotta be hard and we both weigh the pro’s and con’s of joints that get played – we play everything from MOBB, DIP, to KILLA SHA to WU to GAME GUNIT – as long as its hot – we now incorporated more commerical stuff into our show because are listeners have been asking for it but we still try to keep the integrity of the show intact.

Big Chew: Work wise what’s harder to do; the radio show or putting together a mixtape?

Smooth Denali: MIXTAPE by far – I guess since you have more time to pick and choose and research music for the cd … The show is 2 hours then its on to the next show- MIXTAPES need longevity so you have to really put stuff together right so its doesn’t get dated if you can understand what Im saying – My mindset is never what Im going to move on an individual cd but what it brings to the catalog … you see a little mixtape 101 right now … cats will hit the street with there new drop maybe 1or 2 cds on them and stores might that 20 each … 30 each thats max 100cds … When I bring out the catalog with my new drops – 2 new cds with re-up (52 cd catalog and counting) – totally different story now.

Big Chew: Lets talk a little about the art of rocking a party. I haven’t heard you spin live yet but I hear good things. What’s the most important thing need to be able to do when DJing a party?

Smooth Denali: The CROWD … I learned to rock from BIZMARKIE – when he’s on his A GAME he is probably one of the best club djs have ever heard .. The key to clubs is the natural progression in the night where you can keep the intensity at a certain level whether your rocking new or old and still keep the crowd rockin. You have to keep the crowd involved so I do alot of talking and crowd responses. The idea that i can take it from level 10 to level 20 is what makes it crazier – Ive been banned from so many clubs in Long Island for start Riots when i spin cause the energy gets crazy …. I think the invention of serato will change to way cats rock because now you have alot more music at your disposal.

Big Chew: Can you run down a quick live set of records you would spin back to back to back. Say its a late 20’s early 30’s crowd and its the almost the peak of the night. What records are you hitting the people in the head with?

Smooth Denali: It depends to be honest – in NY clubs – 2am – I hitting everything from 50 to JAY Z to MISSY ELLIOT , take em thru some old school MICHAEL Jackson to RICK JAMES ( me and UNexpected always talk about the first time he heard me rock and he can testify – I definitely can do my thing) then take em to some house JUNGLE BROTHERs, FOLLOW ME ALLYUS, some DANCE, ZOMBIE Nation, DERB ( IMPACT, 151 – what yall now about that) – if its crazier – maybe some NIRVANA – and then back to square one with some LIL SCRAPPY, some BIA BIA, hit them with some DAMION MARLEY, Shelly Thunder Kuff, – I try to end the end on some R&B; so maybe some 112 Only You, Lenny Kravitz – I Belong to You/

Big Chew: You have the mixtapes, you have the radio show, you have the parties but you also have a family. How do balance everything from the DJing to the wife to the kids?

Smooth Denali: I got a wifey that’s real understanding …. that’s how … You gotta make time – thats the only way its gonna work – I do this on my off hours but I make sure I have that quality time with my family every night and Sundays is my OFFDAY – unless someone is cuttin a CHECK.

Big Chew: Thanks for taking time out to answer some questions today. Any shout outs? Also let the people know what projects you got coming up, when to check for the radio show or any parties you have coming up.

Smooth Denali: As far as shoutouts man – all day MY MAN RODINI, MAXIMUM GRAFX, JLOVE, the TURNTABLE ASSASSINS, VIOLATOR ALLSTAR DJS, DJ IMPACT, DJ 151, UNexpected, TAPEMASTA (cats – listen to this DUDE – he knows what he’s talking about) , LEGENDARY DJ SHOWTIME, REST in PEACE , DJ THREAT, BLU WARTA ..the RAPMULLET COMMUNITY.