Rob Swift, of the legendary X-Ecutioners, hosts an online radio show on ScionAV.com called “Dope on Plastic.” Rob chooses a special guest DJ to provide the featured mix each month, always highlighting unique styles and a wide variety of music. I am honored to announce that Rob has chosen me as July’s featured guest DJ. Special shoutout to Rob Swift for this amazing opportunity to showcase my talents. My interview with Rob is below. My set goes live on July 9th, 2013 and will be up all month long. You can stream it HERE.
Monopoli: Thank YOU. It is an absolute honor to be a part of this!
Rob Swift: It’s my pleasure to showcase you on July’s installment of Dope On Plastic. I’m looking forward to introduce you to my listeners. You’re fairly new to the DJing scene. Thus, I’m sure most of those who tune in this month will be listening to you rock for the first time. For those who are unfamiliar with who DJ Monopoli is, please give us some background on how you got started as a DJ.
Monopoli: Most DJ’s I meet have some kind of musical background from their childhood, or maybe their parents were musicians, SOMETHING. This wasn’t the case for me. I had no musical background, no musicians in the family, and no equipment to mess around with. Despite all that, one thing I did always have was a love for music. I can remember making mixtapes off the radio, and then eventually burning my friends mix CD’s with all the hottest new music that was out. I watched MTV and always admired what DJ’s did, but never considered trying it. It wasn’t until my senior year in college that a friend of mine mentioned that she had some equipment lying around at home collecting dust. My eyes lit up and I immediately asked her if I could use it.
I was hooked. I bought books on the history and culture of DJing and studied hours upon hours of videos online. I enjoyed learning about every style of deejaying, but there was something about turntables, vinyl, and the art of turntablism that caught my attention and never let it go. I immediately ran out and got my hands on the first set of Technics I could find. The rest, as they say, was history.
Rob Swift: It’s dope that you took the time to study and learn about the history of DJing before actually getting your hands on your first pair of turntables. Respect! You’ve been Djing for a relatively short period of time, only 4 years. What would you say are the skill sets that within this short time frame have been the most challenging to master and why?
Monopoli: I honestly think that the most challenging thing has been the fact that I began DJing in the “digital age.” Many DJ’s who start on Serato or other DJ software are often looked down upon by veteran DJ’s and others who began long before there was digital software available. However, there is a vast difference between those who learn how to DJ with some kind of software/technology and use it as a crutch, and those DJ’s who are introduced to the technology first, but take the time to backtrack and thoroughly learn the foundations of real DJing – like myself. I focused on building the proper foundations and mastering the basic skill sets of DJing, and THEN incorporated the technology to figure out how I can take it to the next level.
As far as the most challenging SKILL SET goes, I would no doubt have to say scratching and beat juggling. The complexity and artistry of scratching and beat juggling is what awes me, and also challenges me each and every day.
Rob Swift: What would you say has been the most easiest for you to perfect and why?
Monopoli: There will never come a day where I will say I have “perfected” an element of DJing. One of the things that I love most about DJing is the creative aspect. You may have mastered how to mix, but there is someone out there who is trying to take it one step further. Sure, there were aspects that came to me much more quickly than others, but I will continue to challenge myself to improve everyday.
Rob Swift: That’s a dope attitude to have man! I touched my first Technic turntable in 1983 (*totally dated myself there, LOL). None of my friends were DJs. None of them cared to learn. My peers were more interested in becoming B-Boys, MCs or graff writers. I attribute it to how difficult and expensive it was to purchase equipment. Thankfully I had a father who was a DJ so I learned on his equipment. When I was coming up one Technic 1200 turntable would run you approximately $400. Now, you can spend $300 on controllers and be up and running within seconds. DJing is way more accessible to your generation. Every body’s a DJ. How does the current state of the culture, with all it’s popularity, reality shows, etc., affect your ability to establish name and identity?
Monopoli: The current state is frustrating, no doubt. I can only imagine how it must feel for revolutionaries, such as yourself, seeing the art of DJing become so watered down. I may be new to the game, but I have a pretty old-school point of view on the subject. I respect all styles, as long they are bringing something to the table. It’s our job to take the foundations of DJing and IMPROVE them, not dummy them down. Djing is the “cool thing” to do right now. Mainstream media is more focused on the entertainment aspects of DJing, instead of the art form. We are part of a culture that idolizes DJ’s who BARELY DJ when they perform.. If that doesn’t make you stop and think for a second, than I don’t know what will. When I tell people that I DJ I often get a sarcastic response. Most people automatically think you’re in it for the attention, money, girls, and all of the other assumed “perks” attached to being a DJ. They also assume you just press buttons and the software does the work for you. “Anyone can DJ” is a phrase I see thrown around the internet all the time. It’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t change my approach. The DJ’s that grind and work for everything they are given will have long careers, full of success. Consistency equals longevity. The DJ’s who ride trends and rely on fancy controllers will eventually be exposed.
Rob Swift: Damn dude. You don’t sound like the typical young DJ. Your outlook on the DJing culture, considering you’re on the younger side, is refreshing. My first gig was at my Junior High School dance. Once my friends discovered I DJed, they started asking me to make them mixtapes, to DJ their birthday parties and gradually my reputation started to spread. I went from making a name for myself in Jackson Heights, to branching out to other neighboring parts of Queens like Corona and Astoria. It was a process that took time. Now, you can record a 60 minute mix, upload it to soundcloud, and within seconds… people in Tokyo, Japan are hip to your sound. Has the accessibility to people all over the world helped your quest to make your mark on the music community?
Monopoli: The ability to upload your work online and have it instantly accessible to the world is definitely dope. Is it cool knowing some kid in Tokyo is rockin out to my mix? Absolutely. But I’m much more concerned with the connections I’m making each and every time someone comes out to hear me live. When I take the time to create a mix, I am focused on giving you a taste of my style and love for different types of music, with hopes that it makes you want to come see me live. That’s when I am really in my element, feeding off of people’s energy and emotions. The accessibility is a tool that, just like anything else, needs to be utilized correctly. But, if you ask me, word of mouth is still the best tool available to us.
Rob Swift: Yeah man, there’s nothing like a referral!!! You’re a 4 year veteran. One could make an argument that you have a stronger connection to the young generation of DJs than I do because you’re one of them. That being said, what advice do you have for a person who reads this interview and decides “I want to be a DJ like Monopoli!”?
Monopoli: Man.. My number one piece of advice would have to be: Do it for the right reasons. You shouldn’t do it because you wanna be like someone or have the things that someone else has. You should do it because of the feeling it gives you each and every time you do it. Research the art form, learn the culture, and practice the foundations. Have respect for those that paved the way. And lastly, don’t ever for a second act like you’re better than anyone who came before you or anyone who will come after you.
Rob Swift: Right on! Do you have any long term goals as a DJ? If so, what are they?
Monopoli: Long term, long term.. I would love to one day be traveling the world, showcasing my talents in places I would have never dreamed of ever getting the opportunity to see. Right now, I’m focused solely on DJing. However, sometime in the near future I would definitely like to dabble in some production and see where it takes me. At the end of the day, my goals are to continue improving and continue living my passion. Sky’s the limit.
Rob Swift: Lastly, before we wrap this up, I gotta say, your set for July’s Dope On Plastic was really cool man. The thing I appreciate about it the most was your ability to embrace a wide range of music. That’s evident in the kind of music you played in your set. Any one that plays MF DOOM, Erykah Badu, Nu Shooz, Madonna and Cypress Hill has eclectic taste in music. You actually remind me of me when I first started DJing. Why the variety? Why not just focus on one genre of music like most DJs do?
Monopoli: Ha, yeah I wasn’t sure how it was going to be received, but I wanted to stay true to my style and the music that I love and enjoy playing. Truthfully, I just love MANY different types of music. If someone went through my iPod or my Pandora they would probably be pretty surprised by the diversity of my music. As a DJ, we have the opportunity to bring people music that they wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to before. One of my favorite DJ’s is Jazzy Jeff. Jeff takes you on a musical JOURNEY with his sets, but still incorporates tracks that are hot right now. The ability to be versatile is definitely one of my strong points and I try to highlight that each time I DJ.
Rob Swift: I hear that! Monopoli, I’m so excited for my listeners to check your set out man. Thanks for contributing your talents to my show and thanks again for stopping by Table Talk. Where can folks check for you online?
Monopoli: Thanks again for the opportunity, Rob, it was an absolute honor.
Links to all of my content can be found on www.iamDJmonopoli.com . You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud & YouTube – Just search: Deejay Monopoli.
DJ Monopoli’s set on the July episode of Dope On Plastic (Scion AV) debuts Thursday at 9pm (EST)
– See more at: http://www.djrobswift.com/2013/07/02/table-talk-with-dj-monopoli/