DJs have always been the backbone of Hip-Hop. They’re responsible for scoring the soundtrack to our lives. Amongst those behind the Wheels of Steel is VA’s own DJ Strez. Amped Sounds correspondent Giovonni Pratt recently had an opportunity to catch up with Strez to discuss his time in the college and corporate radio circuits.
Peace Strez, How you doing today?
Strez: I’m good, blessed, and I can’t complain you know?
Who or what inspired you to become a DJ?
Strez: Actually, I was always in love with music from birth. No one actually taught me, but my hands on experience came from going to one of my close friends, Joe City’s, home. He used to let me make mix tapes to sell in school.
Who gave you the name Strez?
Strez: Well, before I went by the name Strez. I went by the name M. Smoove. My cousin gave me the name “Stress.” We were in the studio, and I was making a beat, but the keyboard kept rebooting and I kept getting aggravated. He said, “you always looked stressed out. I’m going call u stress from now on!” So, I took the name and replaced the two S’s into one Z. A lot of people say it wrong though (lol!), but it’s all good.
You were born and raised in Norfolk Virginia. Describe what the Hip-Hop scene was during your teenage years in Virginia.
Strez: Man! It was during the best years for real Hip Hop (88-98). That’s when Hip-Hop was at its best, I think. The music had a message; people were partying and talking about money, but in a different way. It was more about looking the part, and not putting it all in songs. You really didn’t have to brag and boost like today. Back then, it was clothes like Used and Damaged jeans along with different color stonewashed gear (lol!)… I look back and laugh because it was fun then. Now a day’s it’s too much copy catting. Everybody wants to be the same.
Let’s talk about your first big Break. In 1999 WNSB, Norfolk State Radio gave you a chance to shine. How did that all come about?
Strez: Well, I was a part of a crew called the “Drop Squad”. One of my fellow colleges, Jack of Spades, came from the same crew as well. We were the first ones to have a Hip-Hop and R&B show ever on that station (Norfolk State University Radio). Before us, it was an all jazz and public service station. We built it to where it is today, and you can check it out by visiting www.hot91online.com.
You mentioned that you were in a crew called “The Drop Squad” along with DJ Jack of Spade. Take us back to the very first moment you were asked to be a part of the crew.
Strez: Even though it was a college radio station I actually was proud to be a part of it. I knew it would set the pace for me being on commercial radio if I worked hard. It was like being a first round draft pick, and the pressure was at an all time high for me but it paid off.
Shortly after joining “The Drop Squad” you started working closely with commercial radio. Was this something you always dreamed of doing?
Strez: Yes, My uncle was a huge factor in commercial radio, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. I made him proud, too.
Now, a lot of people don’t know what goes on behind the scenes of commercial radio. Can you describe the politics behind it? Would you say it’s centered around the same politics as those found in Major music corporations where the artist can be described as a puppet?
Strez: Oh HELL YEAH! People think it’s the DJs who have all of the control, but we have bosses as well. I can go on and on about what happens, but I would have to write a book. Let’s just say it’s not easy and you have to have a strong focused mind to succeed in the “Corporate” radio world. Even college radio has gotten that way.
You worked alongside M.C Search at 92.1 The Beat. What was it like working with him?
Strez: It was a blessing and a good experience at the same time. It taught me how to be myself in this game, and not let anybody take advantage of me because of who they were. That also applied to their status as well. I appreciate Search for giving me the opportunity to be heard out there, but I really saw the “face value” of everything. It’s all entertainment, but behind the walls it’s different. That situation taught me to always be myself whether I’m on the radio or not, and that’s real!
92.1 The Beat played a huge part in the Local Seven Cities Virginia area, but like all things, it came to an end. The day 92.1 The Beat closed its doors was a shock to some in the local area. Why did the powers that be shut down the station?
Strez: They shut it down because we were taking too much attention away from our mother station, and I guess other corporate reasons. I’m just glad I had the opportunity to experience that situation because it led me to bigger and better things.
You have been the go to guy for breaking a lot of the local talent in the 757 area. Do you feel you get enough credit for your contributions?
Strez: To be honest, I really don’t care about credit because at the end of the day…People know what I’ve done, and that’s all that matters. I still get emails and love from artists. Yes, there are some that “caught a big head” and forgot who shed blood sweat and tears for them, but hey! They are just “local” superstars, and will remain to be local while I take things international. Times have changed, and I’m changing with them. I don’t think local anymore because I’ve done that…I’m thinking worldwide.
You also do production for Hip-Hop artists. How is that working out for you, and are you gradually moving away from the local radio scene?
It’s working out fine. I lease beats and, I’m currently working on a couple of projects that I can’t speak on as of right now until the paperwork is done, but it’s a good situation. Yes, I’m progressing from local radio.
You have an online radio show, right? How long has it been on the air, and what are some of the perks of having your show online?
Strez:Yes, I have a show on wwradio.net. I’m also the music director for the station, and I can truly say I love it. I’m in control of what I do. I don’t have to answer to someone who doesn’t know ANYTHING about urban music telling me what to play, and how to play it. It’s growing as we speak; I’ve gotten a lot of good reviews on it. My show is called “Strezzed Out Radio.” You can catch me every Mon & Wed 10pm-12am, Fri 8-10pm, and Sat 8-10pm EST.
As a producer if you had a choice, who’s full length L.P. would you like to produce, and what would the first single be?
Strez: It would have to be Nas. I would have loved to work with Biggie though. His 1st album is up my lane (R.I.P), and it would be up to the labels for a first single… YOU KNOW HOW THAT GOES (LOL)!
How can people keep in contact with you?
Strez: My Myspace information is Myspace.com/djstrez. I can also be reached on twitter.com/strez757 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have any live performances coming up?
Strez: I’m currently DJing at Luxury Brown, a Club in Virginia Beach, VA. You can always catch the “Live” mixes on hot91onlne.com every Friday night from 10pm-12am EST. My show is called “Off the Cuff Radio” with my partner DJ Ruckus.
Is there any other information you would like to share that wasn’t covered in this interview?
Strez: I just would like to say thank you to all that supported me, and still supports me. I want to thank all the people that still make “Good Hip-Hop ” music.