Interview with DJ Printz uncovers journey from the Opera ‘house’ to Kelly Rowland all the way to the ‘R&B Only’ tour.
Existing in music is a feeling made to bring people together, stitching people commonly of different backgrounds and social status. It means letting go, drifting away, singing in unison and reminiscing about a satisfying time of your life and making it real again today.
R&B Only is a party series drawing music’s most passionate sold-out crowds in LA, New York, and D.C. by spinning nothing but the best of R&B music from the 90’s to today (and a little bit more). R&B Only is a collaboration between DJ Printz from Los Angeles and Howard University graduate Jabari, the founder of Colors, which is becoming the next level of event promotions.
DJ Printz & Jabari are on tour this summer, bringing everyone a chance to experience what an R&B Only event is all about. Check out the entire listing of the tour dates on colorsworldwide.com
We sat down with DJ Printz to find out why R&B Only is so unique. And how the son of an opera singing mother and a Jazz musician father ended up performing for Hip-hop and R&B royalty like Kelly Rowland, Beyoncè, Jay-Z, Big Sean, Kanye West, N.O.R.E, Erykah Badu, Russell Simmons and more.
What was it like growing up in L.A.? What’s the vibe like?
DJ Printz: The vibe? I mean I’m an 80’s baby, so I grew up in pretty much the 90’s for the most part out in L.A. It was kinda crazy. You know that was the era of where you had gangsta rap coming out and it was pretty much the predominant form of entertainment for the inner city, which was where I was from, it was an interesting upbringing, I should say that… For the most part, California’s very very laid back and people out there like to take their time to really enjoy life. But at the same time, it’s the entertainment capital and so a lot of people come there trying to make moves. There are so many different cultures because people are trying to, pretty much, follow their dreams by coming and pouring into the city. You’re exposed to a lot of different cultures, people from so many different walks of life. I think that I had a very … how should I say it, a very wide spectrum of exposure to different peoples upbringings and that heavily influenced how I . . . being exposed to so many different cultures and so many different people … it gave me an open outlook on life and to be accepting of people, it definitely was a big influence on my musical taste and it helps me with what I do now.
Do you find the pace to be a little slower? I know you travel all over, so when you go to New York … it’s a fast city. I haven’t had too many experiences out on the west coast, It’s been years since I’ve been out to L.A. but I find the pace to be a little slower, do you get the same vibe when you’re trying to basically build something out in Cali?
DJ Printz: You know what, being that I grew up in it, I didn’t really notice how slow it was until I started to travel and went to New York … and saw how fast paced life can be… After being exposed to that and coming back to L.A. I realized there are people who are making moves and they’re going to move at whatever pace they want in order to execute. But for the most part … Yo, the Cali vibe? … again is very laid back and people are out there just following their dream. There’s a very big workforce out there with a lot of amazing people doing amazing things and it’s not all hustle bustle all the time like a New York. I feel like New York sometimes even when nothing’s going on or people may not have nothing to do they’re still in the “I’ve gotta make some moves mode” and just kinda headed all over the place. Which is funny because I just had a discussion with an Uber driver in New Orleans about that and he was comparing the lifestyle of the south to some New Yorkers he’s encountered in his Uber and he was saying they’re always headed somewhere and don’t have time to sit down and enjoy life, catch up with friends, I feel like in L.A. people tend to stop and do that a little bit more, they’ll catch up with you if they see you on the streets, if they haven’t seen you in a while … Yeah somewhat slower but like I said growing up there I didn’t notice how slow it was, it was just life, it’s kinda hard to explain.
So you really didn’t catch how different life’s pace could be in other places until you actually got out?
DJ Printz: Yeah, I didn’t notice it until I started traveling, it helped me get a grasp of just the different lifestyles that exists out there that I wasn’t exposed to out in California. For instance … like weather can be a big factor in executing something like an event or something like that or if you want to get something done like a festival then you need to be in the summer, spring time something like that where it’s not going to be affected. People are on a different schedule in Los Angeles. We got good weather all the time (laughs) and people get things done at their own pace. So, I noticed outside of LA, on the east coast and stuff people are very … they’re a little more, uh, I don’t wanna say they’re more motivated, cause I don’t think that’s what it is … I just think that’s just how they were brought up because the city moves at this ‘tempo’ and so they just match that ‘tempo’, that’s all they know.
I saw a documentary, I can’t remember the name of it, but they were talking about producing music. And how in New York, you’ve got all these buildings close together and it’s a real rough sound. When you get out to Cali, it’s a lot of open space, a slower pace, you have time to smell the roses and take in life a little bit better. I always found that interesting, how where you’re location fits into what kind of music you produce.
DJ Printz: Oh yeah, most definitely, I agree with that. I haven’t seen that documentary, but I have to say, clearly when you listen to a producer like, a DJ Premier, you know what I mean, there’s nobody on the west coast who makes a beat that sounds anything remotely close to a Premier really. And I think it has a lot to do with where he grew up or just his surroundings for sure. If you take a Dr. Dre or a DJ Quik or something, it’s more of a Funk influence that just fits the vibe of the city on the West Coast. I had some discussions with people on the East Coast, looking at the 90’s as the Golden Era of hip-hop, it seems like a lot of Jazz and maybe a little bit of Soul. The West Coast’s early stuff, it kind of skipped over that, got a little funkier with Parliament and Ohio Players type stuff. That was where the samples were coming from. I think it just had a lot to do with the city and the surroundings of these people had a lot to do with what they were creating just like anybody. If I was a painter, for instance, and I lived out in the countryside, I’m not going to paint about the city because I’m in the countryside. So I’m going to be influenced and paint from what I know and from what I’m being inspired by, it goes the same with music. Even as a DJ, I’m sitting here playing music based on the people who are in the room. I can’t come out to New York and play a West Coast set to people who may not be into West Coast music. I’ve done it before. Played Snoop (Dogg) at the wrong time and nobody cared about Snoop. You’ve got to conform with, not completely, but you definitely have to appease the people who are in the room and I feel like with all art (laughter), the inspiration you’re surrounded by is a big influence on that.
When I told my parents, pretty much, I wanted to come back to LA and not finish my last year of college … They weren’t very happy with it at all. On top of the fact, that everybody knows, the entertainment industry is one that is very sketchy and nothing is guaranteed.
What was it like explaining to your parents that you wanted to DJ?
DJ Printz: It was a very interesting conversation actually, I started DJing (in L.A.) before I went to college and things were just too slow where I went to college. So I needed to come back to L.A. because I felt like I was losing the momentum I had kinda gained before I left. And when I told my parents, pretty much, I wanted to come back to LA and not finish my last year of college … They weren’t very happy with it at all. On top of the fact, that everybody knows, the entertainment industry is one that is very sketchy and nothing is guaranteed. There are a million people who want to be a DJ, actor, rapper or a producer or whatever and a very small percentage make it. And so pretty much that conversation went like “Hey, we think you’re special because you’re our son, but this world they’re going to look at you much differently, they’re not going to ‘believe’ in you like we believe in you.” And at that point, I’m like “Well it doesn’t even sound like ya’ll believe in me” (laughter). You know they’re definitely singing a different tune now and I’ve always been the type of kid who never allowed difficulties or anything like that to necessarily stop me or stop my vision. It’s like ‘alright cool’, nothing in this world comes easy and if it does come easy it’s not really worth doing. Cause you’re not really building much and you’re not really gaining any experience nor any knowledge … I feel like with hardship comes strength and education. So, pretty much, I just went against the grain. I moved out of my parent’s house … and just started building from there. And they (parents) supported me, they weren’t happy, but they supported me because they love me. But yeah, it was a trying time.
What did it feel like going out and taking on a big undertaking like this? Following your dream, being out of your parent’s house and having to make your own way. It sounded like immediately when you got home you said to them “Hey Mom and Dad ” this is what I wanna do and they were like “Okay, well you gotta to go”.
DJ Printz: Yeah pretty much. It’s like “Hey, well you know, you gotta have a job or you’re in school”. Otherwise, now you’re making decisions where you sound like you’re grown enough and you have it all figured out. Go ahead and execute that. At the time, it was a little intimidating, but I never for a second felt like I had any other choice … It’s kind of hard to explain. I had an amazing feeling doing what I love and I loved what I was doing. I believed that my passion would carry me through any hardships. And there were definitely hardships and there still are to some degree, but … it was a time where I learned a lot. I had to get out there and do what I had to do. Make money to survive, while keeping in mind that I needed to nurture this passion of mine; which was DJing. I wasn’t great and I still am not the greatest or anything like that … I was lucky enough to have mentors. I had some mentors that were DJ’s and they were kind enough to show me a glimpse to do it the right way … So, I started being mentored by DJ Hoppa and another guy named Mr. Choc from the Beat Junkies, they just gave me a lot of game and then I started working with the Scratch DJ Academy and things just started falling into place. Cause now, instead of this thing just being my hobby, that I was passionate about, it became my life. Literally, everything that I was doing was DJing and DJ related. So, even if I wasn’t in front of a crowd, I was going through records and if I wasn’t going through records. I’m helping out with the (Scratch) Academy with administration work. So, it helped me out with my business skills to see how things were done on the other side of the game and not just the talent side, but you … gotta have some sort of knowledge about the business side as well if you’re going to try to be successful … this industry will try to eat you up (laughter).
So how did you get all your gear? did your parents get it for you? did you hustle it up yourself?
DJ Printz: Definitely hustled it up. So, man, I got my first gear pretty much … while I was interning with my mentor. I was interning at the Scratch Academy and he was actually the director of the Scratch Academy at the time. It all just worked out. I was working very closely with him and he saw how hard I was working. Eventually, that internship became a paid position and I saved all my money. Slowly, but surely, cause I still had bills to pay, I had rent that I had to pay too … I was able to save my money and I went on Craigslist. Found somebody and kept making deals, trying to get the perfect deal, where I wouldn’t be overpaying, but still giving them enough to where they can let go of their equipment. I bought two turntables … but I did not have a mixer because that was a whole other cost. At the time, the only mixer that I could afford was this very very cheap mixer … I was just being stubborn at the time because, on one hand, I was lucky enough to be around the Scratch Academy … I was constantly around there and I was able to practice. I didn’t need one and when I had gigs most of the places I went to had a mixer already. but I felt stupid because I had turntables setup in my room just waiting for me to get a mixer … eventually, I stopped being stubborn. I bought this very very cheap Stanton battle pack mixer … this thing was incredible for me. Cause, honestly, it gave me the ability to practice a lot of things that I wasn’t so confident practicing around other people. One because I didn’t want them to steal the ideas and two because this was early in my DJ career, where I was still kinda developing a lot of my skill set. And so, I was trying to be very ambitious with some of the things I was practicing. … I was kinda embarrassed to do them around these OG’s cause, I don’t know, it was intimidating. When you’re around some of the greatest DJ’s in the world, sometimes, you’re trying to do your thing and … they’re not impressed by anything (laughter) … it was an interesting situation.
So, what was it that made you go ‘I want to be a DJ’? Usually, most people see somebody and they’re like ‘That’s what I want to do, that’s what I want to do with my life?’
DJ Printz: You know what … I was about maybe 12 or 13 years old. I was in junior high school and my (older) brother … snuck me out of the house to go to a concert and it was with Common. It was my first concert ever and … honestly, he’s still one of my favorite rappers … I looked up to my older brother, it was cool being snuck out of the house … I got to stay out late, school the next day, all kinds of s***, you know what I mean? It was like ‘alright this is amazing’ … I saw DJ Dummy … he’s a very renowned tour DJ, I think he tours with J.Cole … DJ Dummy … did this routine that he still does today … he does this thing where he goes and does this juggle with these two records, he counts down … but then he goes backward and does all these different things with the numbers one, two, and three. It’s pretty cool how he does it, I being a child and this being my first concert, I was mesmerized by what this man was able to do. Another thing, I remember at the time … this was when ‘Like Water for Chocolate’ dropped (Common’s album). Karriem Riggins was there, J Dilla … I remember J Dilla being near the DJ booth at this time with DJ Rhettmatic. I didn’t know who any of these people were at the time, but I just remember them vibing so hard, really going off and going crazy. When I saw all the other people, like the crowd, how crazy they went … this was kind of like my real first experience with hip-hop in a live setting. Otherwise, it was literally the radio, that was the only sort of hip-hop experience I had, was me just listening to the radio. So, that was a defining moment … seeing DJ Dummy do that … seeing how he was able to control the crowd, just hanging on every movement he did and him executing flawlessly. I was impressed and I just became obsessed with DJing after that … I started buying records, I didn’t even have turntables. I went to a pawn shop with my best friend Val and we got some ‘record player’ from a pawn shop that was not supposed to be used for DJing at all. Trying to scratch on it, breaking the needle, broke the belt drive thing … it’s a big rubber band, so when that popped, it was game over after that (laughter). So, we had to wait until we got into high school and got some jobs, went to the same pawn shop, bought another joint and we just had one player. We used to share and play records … this one actually worked to scratch on the only thing was, we had one turntable and it was two of us. We didn’t have a mixer or anything. It was very (laughter) humble beginnings definitely.
Do you remember the first record you’ve ever mixed? A lot of guys practice and spend a lot of hours that first time around, what was that first record you were like
‘I blended that perfectly’ do remember?
DJ Printz: The first record that I blended perfectly. I don’t remember the first two records that I blended perfectly per se but I do know this … Actually, I do remember, because I used to steal my dad’s records, he had a lot of records … a huge Funk collection … My whole style was heavily influenced by funk music. I love Funk music. That’s where I started … I wasn’t even able to listen to hip-hop really as a child like that. I’d have to sneak and do it, but Funk music and Soul music was constantly playing in my home … it was ‘Cutie Pie’ by One Way and ‘More Bounce To The Ounce’ by Zapp & Roger. It was kind of easy because they were very close in BPM (Beats Per Minute) which is why I did it. But man the feeling, when I finally got those two joints to just blend perfectly was amazing. It took me a very long time to learn and then luckily I got a chance to go and work at the Scratch DJ Academy and they started breaking things down to me … you know just fine tuning these things, I was trying to do for so long. They broke it down and everything just became clear as day. I haven’t looked back since, but man that was an amazing day, I remember that day ( laughter).
I said ‘sure’. Then they told me who it was for and I almost crashed my car ( laughter) … When I heard the news it was like I had to pull over and ask him to say the name again, cuz I didn’t believe him …
Questlove told a story once about DJing a party for Prince and basically, he ended up being replaced by the movie ‘Finding Nemo’. At one point Prince just told him ‘alright stop playing’ in the middle of his set … have you ever DJ’d for somebody where you’re like ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this, I can’t believe I’m about to DJ for this person”.
DJ Printz: I’ve actually spun with Questlove, actually, I’m not going to tell that story (laughter). I respect that man for sure. Yes, I’ve spun with some people, actually, I still do. Every year I do Kelly Rowland‘s birthday and Kelly Rowland’s best friend … one of her best friends is Beyoncè and I’ve had the pleasure of being in the room, in a very intimate setting with Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Diddy and some of those people. A lot of those people, I’ve looked up to in the hip-hop and entertainment world. I’ve had the pleasure of being in the same room … having conversations with them and I never thought EVER that the boy breaking record players that weren’t meant for DJing would ever get this far. Even to the point where now, I’m traveling. It’s pretty amazing … at first when I started DJing for her (Kelly Rowland) I was definitely nervous … because they hinted at the fact that Beyoncè and Jay-Z were going to be there. And actually, there were going to be maybe 20 people in the room … I was DJing for 4 or 5 hours, I was just like ‘man, okay’. Now I’m sitting with … what I thought to be the rap god at the time, you know he still is the rap god to me (Jay-Z). I’m an 80s baby so he’s up there (laughter). Also, you know Queen Bey and then Kelly. I was still trying to process the fact that I was even there with Kelly, to me their Legends in R&B at this point and I’ve been blessed. It was definitely a nerve-wracking day … All this came about because (I think) her manager saw me play a Def Jam Grammy party and that was just days before. And that was like a high because I got to meet so many other people… it was an incredible week for me, that week was like top five of my life ( laughter). Because I think he was President of Def Jam at the time … and they just had so many people in the industry come through, pretty much everybody, except for Jay-Z and Beyoncè… Couple days later ‘Hey I heard you at this party, we’re doing a birthday for Kelly Rowland, we need a DJ, would you be interested?’. It was kind of crazy because at the time, I was doing a comedy show with Russell Simmons and the party happened to be on a Wednesday. I was doing that show every Wednesday and they asked me are you available this Wednesday … before they divulged any of the information, they were like ‘Hey we needed a DJ for an event tomorrow’ they didn’t say who it was for or whatever they were like ‘are you available?’ I was like ‘you know what I do this every week I can get somebody to cover’. I said ‘sure’. Then they told me who it was for and I almost crashed my car ( laughter) … When I heard the news it was like I had to pull over and ask him to say the name again, cuz I didn’t believe him … I thought somebody’s playing a joke on me, cuz the guy who called me was from the radio and they do that on the show sometimes. So, I’m thinking somebody’s trying to get me (laughter). It was a crazy day man, that’s probably my top ‘I never thought I would be in the same room experience’. I’ve been in a couple of rooms with people but nothing meant more to me. Because this was black excellence I was surrounded by … the Pinnacle and for everything that I do within the culture of Hip-Hop and just music. I don’t think I can top that, unless I’m in a room with Prince, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder at the same time (laughter).
There was an instance when I was interning and my mentor used to DJ with Macy Gray and we did a party with Christian Audigier. I got to open the show while people were walking in cuz I was just an intern or whatever, long story short, we performed … we had to catch a flight the next day, Snoop (Dogg) was performing after Macy Gray … they didn’t announce who else was performing, we left a little bit early and then I read in the paper … Michael Jackson came through and performed at the same show (laughter). That was just one of those things that hurt because I’ve never seen Michael Jackson live and I missed that.
Now one, it was stupid of me to even accept this gig, this was just me being too young and inexperienced … pretty much changed the whole course of my DJ career, because now, I just know better.
Have you ever had an experience, like Questlove, where you felt like you might have been off your game or maybe a little intimidated?
DJ Printz: Aw man, yeah everybody has their bad days. I don’t care how dope anybody is, I wouldn’t consider myself to be the dopest, I’m not going to say I’m weak either. Yes, so there was an instance when I was interning (again actually) I was called to come and DJ an African American Film Festival after-party … where my mentor usually did a party. They’re like we just need somebody to run background music. At the time I only had Funk and Soul records … it was for a radio station KJLH in L.A. which they play some Funk and Soul but mostly contemporary adult R&B. So, I said ‘Hey, I don’t really have that’ and they were just in a bind and so this person pretty much threw me into this and said hey you can use your mentors’ equipment. I used his laptop and at the time Serato just came out and I wasn’t really familiar with the program … Now one, it was stupid of me to even accept this gig, this was just me being too young and inexperienced … pretty much changed the whole course of my DJ career, because now, I just know better. Not to sit here and be too anxious, everything happens when it’s supposed to happen … well, pretty much I accepted the gig that was being hosted by a radio station full of DJs ( laughter) … Completely not ready for it, from equipment to music, to experience and knowledge … completely not ready and I accepted it because … this person was my mentor’s manager … so I wasn’t all at fault, she had a hand in this and she knows that ( laughter). But pretty much, she was like ‘yo you could do it’, she gassed me to the point where I was just overconfident in my ability to be able to do this like ‘Yo, I got this’. I’ve seen him run Serato so many times it’s easy, all I have to do is bring a laptop, bring a hard drive, boom … I know music … but I didn’t know how to use the program which killed me. So, I get there and I’m trying to mix the records, it’s just not working cuz again I’m not familiar with the program. Long story short, most of the people in the room were DJs at the radio station and radio people, they know music they know how it’s supposed to sound. They know how a good DJ sounds. I’m sitting there and I have to spin for like 2 hours in front of these people just train wrecking horribly. About an hour into it, another person that was mentoring me, Mr. Choc … he comes and he’s setting up for the party that usually goes on afterward (the regular night). I see him and I’m feeling relieved. I’m like ‘Yo, thank God’ my man is here right now. ‘Yo, Choc help me out? come through man, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m sitting here and I’m f****** up’ … he says ‘Naw, you shouldn’t have accepted the gig, now you gotta ride this out.’ So, instead of helping me out he goes and he joins those other DJs that were just looking at me shaking their heads, laughing. All kinds of stuff … it really humbled me to a point … not that I was even big headed, it just put me in a place, like ‘you shouldn’t accept things you’re not ready for.’ There’s a process … Even though I was paying my dues at the time … I was starting to spin small things (events) for these guys at that point but it just taught me a very big lesson on not only life but in the DJ world … You can’t run before you walk and you can’t walk before you crawl. So, take each step, really get a good grasp of each step in the whole process of whatever you’re trying to do before you take that next step. Because man, it’s gonna bite you in the ass. I’m just going to say, I’m glad I got bit in the ass. Because without that, I don’t know if I’d be the same person I am today or have the (same) opportunities … Cuz I see a lot of DJs out here now, it’s so easy to become a DJ … I see a lot of people take a lot of things (gigs) they shouldn’t be taking. So, I’m very glad that I got that lesson it was a very crucial lesson to be learned that helped to mold who I am.
Who are some of the artist’s you DJ for on tour?
DJ Printz: I’ve worked with a lot of Independent Artists on the LA scene. There’s an artist named El Prez from Inglewood and there’s another artist named Shawn Chrystopher from Inglewood as well … With Shawn Chrystopher, I was able to go on tour with Big Sean … We started as an opening act who was fairly unknown … Shawn Chrystopher’s very talented and he had a management deal with the same people as Big Sean at the time. We were put on this tour and we were underestimated … because they hadn’t heard of us like they heard of Big Sean. At the time, I think that song “Dance (Ass)” just came out, so everybody wanted to see him. On top of that, there was Cyhi the Prynce too, who was on that tour. They were very familiar names, they were affiliates of G.O.O.D Music with Kanye West, they had that going … We were treated like ‘these are the opening scrubs’ not by Big Sean or Cyhi they were very nice, they were cool. Most of the production places, they weren’t trying to show us any love. We weren’t the headliners. It was pretty much like ‘Yo, pay your dues all over again’, except this time I’m with an artist. I had the pleasure of pretty much going on Big Sean’s first tour … We did like 60 dates for like 3 months, it was amazing. I learned a lot. I got a lot of experiences. Also learned, there’s a difference between rockin’ a club and rockin’ a show. You need to make it a show, you need to get people’s attention, there’s no time for failure. Keep your energy up, it’s very important to set the artist off the right way and introduce them … So, we started one way and we end it with … instead of being an opening runt, now suddenly we started getting billed (listed) on different things … The tour manager, he really enjoyed us, he saw a lot of potential in us. He talked to Shawn Chrystopher and he said ‘Yo, you guys are amazing you’re pretty much giving this show a lot.’ He saw we weren’t just in there doing the same ol’ dancing around like a lot of artists do in that position. We went in there and we rocked it like we were the headliners. To the point where they even put my name on the call sheets … gave me a set time, which is something I had to volunteer and ask (for). They just threw it to me like ‘we don’t care’ and then eventually they were like ‘Printz you want to do some more time?’ it was kind of crazy. I would say the first, maybe, 15 dates we were treated one way … those next 45 dates it was a whole nother story. It was like ‘alright’ we’re getting the respect that we were earning and yeah man … You see where Big Sean is now? I’m really proud of that guy. It’s been a long time … I did a run with N.O.R.E (Noriega) a couple of times. Did some dates with a group called Pac Div Pacific Division out of Los Angeles … As far as supporting them (artists) on tours, those were the artists … DJing for artists ‘events’ that’s a whole nother thing.
What do you feel is the one major difference to being the “artist’s” band comparing to rocking a club? Cuz I would imagine that being very different.
DJ Printz: Honestly, I came into DJing where the culture started to switch, at least by the time … I was getting some of these bigger gigs. The culture of clubbing started to switch. The DJ was no longer the focal point in the club anymore … dancing kind of stopped, bottle service became big. So, no matter how good of a DJ you were the attention was just not all there … I think the biggest difference is when people come to see a show, they’re literally just focused on that stage. You could just play background music if you want and just mix … you might have some people dancing but you’‘re not setting yourself up to be rememberable … The biggest thing is the opportunity to really get creative and show people, not only how deep your crates can be, but how creative you are with your transitions. Because now all this attention is on you and that’s the biggest difference. You can’t take opportunities like that for granted cuz who knows how often they’re going to come around if ever again … The energy you get from people when your DJing is amazing, it’s pretty powerful up there, you kind of have people in a trance.
When you’re up there and you’re telling people to put their hands up or something like that and you see people doing it and genuinely having a good time. Not just being sheep, they’re coming to you and they’re saying ‘I haven’t heard that song in a long time’ or ‘When you played that song it took me back to one of the greatest times in my life’ or ‘a troubling time in my life but you were able to bring me out of that.’ … it just means a lot … music’s a very powerful thing, when you’re doing it at a show it’s just perceived differently than it is in the club … if you’re an opening DJ for a tour or if you’re on tour as a DJ … I’ve seen Questlove. I’ve had the opportunity to open for Questlove in a club situation and I felt like people did not appreciate his abilities. He’s an amazing DJ, he has a deep passion for the music and trying to educate people on different samples and all sorts of things. He’s very technical on his transitions, but in a club setting, nobody cared. I felt like it was crazy because people just ignored it and at one point the promoter came up to me and said ‘Hey, can you get back on?’ … it wasn’t a good fit for the thing (event) he was playing at, I know he’s a good DJ. I said ‘Yo, I’m not going to do that, this is a legend right here, and I’m not going to do that, like no … that’s not the way I want Questlove to remember who I am’ as this dude who went on after. That’s not respectful and that’s not cool. But, I think that in a different setting, for instance, last week we were in New Orleans. And on the bill, it said that he (Questlove) was going to be there this week and I know he did a show yesterday in New Orleans. He did like an hour where he was performing on Bourbon Street with a drum kit and then he did a late DJ set over at the House of Blues. I’m pretty sure that was perceived very well because the attentions just on him. People can dance they have the option … if they want to, but if they don’t, he’s still putting on a show for them. So, I felt like that was a way better fit … we’re blessed to have that option of being a tour DJ or being a showman.
You and Jabari seem like brothers, how did your bond build all the way up to R&B Only?
DJ Printz: (laughter) Man good question. Well, I actually met Jabari on tour with Shawn Chrystopher with Big Sean … he was throwing these parties and he was actually good friends with Shawn Chrystopher. He asked me to come in and do a guest set at his party, but since we were on tour, I wasn’t able to go … maybe two and a half years later he ended up moving to Los Angeles … he needed some DJ equipment for some other guy he had DJing and asked if he could use my equipment. I said ‘let me hop on the decks and do a set?’ and he said ‘Yo, that’s fair.’ So, I ended up hopping on the decks and … it was a crazy house party, he was just like ‘Yo, you’re good’ and he started his series Surprise Party. Then it was switched to Colors … in these parties, we used to do R&B breaks and I saw how people loved these R&B breaks … one day I approach him and I asked him ‘If it’s cool’ I said, ‘I think I’m going to play some more R&B, not just during the R&B break’ … So, we tested it out and it actually went okay, but I don’t think he was thinking ‘We’re going to make this into a party’ … but a few months later he just decided to do an all R&B party. It just went off and we’ve been building … I’ve just known him for a while, he’s a real good dude and I try to treat people like I want to be treated. So, we’ve just become close, really melding all our ideas … being as creative as possible, trying to just enhance the experience … it’s pouring over to becoming friends to becoming brothers really. So, that’s how that came to be, just two motivated people.
So, what made you guys decide to take R&B Only on the road? and was it difficult to create that same kind of success in other cities?
DJ Printz: Well, Jabari is the mastermind of all of this, his background in college was a marketing major and so it definitely helps with the success of it being on the road. I think the idea of taking it on the road was via social media. There were a lot of people who knew him from other cities, cuz he went to school at Howard, he went to school in D.C. … he had a lot of friends in D.C., hitting him up like ‘I see what you’re doing in L.A. that’s tight, but what about us over here?’ People in New York were probably feeling the same cuz he moved from New York. So, then … he just decided to take it on the road and tested in different markets. Eventually, it was like ‘Hey there are a lot of other markets that we don’t know people in maybe we should set up a tour?’ and the rest was history.
When people think of DJs most people think of Hip-Hop. As an ‘open format’ DJ, is it difficult to just go ‘Okay I’m just gonna spin R&B’? This event is an R&B centric event, was it difficult to pick things to play how was that?
DJ Printz: Oh, not at all. Honestly, I’m a firm believer in good music, is good music. No matter what it is, no matter what genre … There’s a reason why even with marketing and commercial stuff, you get certain songs played. You’re susceptible to enjoying them because it’s just subconscious. You don’t even realize you’re familiar with the song. Just based off of hearing it for years and decades … growing up with it … The Motown era that was a huge influence on a lot of music … you could play something from the Motown era at a hip-hop party and it feels good to people … they’re not going to be like ‘This isn’t Hip-Hop? why are you playing that?’ I think with being an open format DJ it’s helped me too kinda prepare for something like an R&B Only. Even though we’re playing a lot of R&B, people have different perceptions of what R&B is, your definition of what R&B is may be different than mine … my job is to really open up whatever your definition is in terms of trying to get you on the same wavelength. But not do it to a point, where I’m trying to force it down your throat … I’m presenting it to you in a way which you’re going to be open to it because I have an idea of what your taste is … I’m trying to color in the lines, to get you to taste a couple of other things while you’re at it … I’m giving you SWV, I’m giving you Jodeci but I’m also going to give you some of these newer guys. Even though you don’t consider The Weeknd to be R&B or consider an Ed Sheeran, because he’s more pop, but this guy has a little bit of soul … depending on the market and the room, in a situation like that, being an open format DJ has definitely helped me … learning how to weave in and out of different feelings and different genres. I feel like with ‘R&B Only’ it … helps to sharpen my skills even more because I don’t have the option to weave in and out of a lot of different genres. Now, I’m just staying within this one genre, but I’m trying to also bring other elements from other genres if they fit with the R&B feeling … it’s ironic because it’s called ‘R&B Only’ but today it’s not about the genre per se it’s more about the feeling … it might have an R&B feel but it may not be R&B by definition. It might be jazz. It might be Soul music … I might play Teddy Pendergrass, some people might be like ‘oh is that R&B or Soul? I don’t know?’ (laughter).
What would you like to tell people about R&B Only, as far as, what they can expect at this type of event?
DJ Printz: Okay, I feel like when you come to R&B Only, what you can expect, is not only to revisit a lot of songs you haven’t heard in awhile but also to be educated on a lot of new songs you don’t know. I think one of the most fulfilling things, I hear on the road is ‘Hey, not only did you take me down memory lane, but you know you played a couple of songs that I wasn’t familiar with and I had to Shazam them or had to ask somebody what song is that?’ … they see the reaction it got from the people. How some people know it and some people don’t, they go and they ask those people … ‘What song is that?’ … that’s the experience we provide. It is kind of unmatched. It’s not a club, it’s not a concert, it’s like this middle in between hybrid of both. It’s just an experience that is better seen than it is described. I encourage anybody who loves R&B music to come out because we found a lot of love from people and they say it’s amazing. They want us to come back. They want us to do it every month … we’re only two guys and there’s a lot of different cities we have to hit and it would be crazy … I wish I could do a lot of these places every month or every other month, but unfortunately, there’s only so many hours in a day. Some of those hours we have to rest (laughter).
When DJ Printz isn’t on the road, what does he do? are you watching Netflix? imagine you sitting around watching the get down and the brakes.
DJ Printz: When I’m not on the road, believe it or not, I’m actually at home trying to create edits and doing a lot of DJing stuff … I’m practicing my craft or I am trying to become a better business person. So, I’m probably with Jabari scheming on what our next move is … we’re still working. Some people say no days off and I hate when they say it, cuz it sounds so clichè. But man, I’ve learned that when it comes to trying to create a movement and just fighting for success, the more time you take off, the more you let opportunities go. I try to fit as much work in as possible to keep the momentum going and really grow. I don’t feel like I could DJ forever. So, I’m trying to get in as much as possible, while I’m still young and still considered kind of cool for doing this (laughter) … Making sure that I make the most of it. And learn as much as I can to move on to whatever the next thing is.