Raw Hip-Hop Under a DJ’s Control – An Interview With Statik Selektah
The Massachusetts-bred, New York-based producer/DJ Statik Selektah has done nothing but live by creating his own lane. For over the past decade, Statik has established himself as an underground product that pushes the edge of the mainstream, consistently pumping out his boom-bap inspired beats to artists like Nas and Talib Kweli, keeping his turntable skills sharp and running his independent label, Showoff Records.
But let’s not forget his ability to mix records, which has landed him a successful spot as a radio personality on Eminem’s uncut channel Shady 45 every Thursday. As Statik puts it, he’s not there to spin radio-friendly records, but “people are going to bump me to do Biggie, A Tribe Called Quest and Nas.”
It’s safe to say that the hard work has finally paid off.
For the upcoming release of Population Control due out on October 25th, fans can expect Statik to be running on all cylinders. He has separated himself from his battle scene days of sharing the name DJ Statik (Selekath came shortly after an announcer at a show unknowingly shouted “DJ Statik Selektah!”) to gathering the best new school artists and veterans here. With all original beats, guest spots like Big K.R.I.T., Mac Miller, Nitty Scott, MC, Bun B, Styles P and seasoned DJ co-signs, this final compilation is a classic in a making. You can pre-order Population Control on iTunes now.
Check out the interview, as well as the tracklisting for Population Control after the jump.
Why did you decide to bring together well-established rappers and new artists on this album?
Well, at first, I wanted to keep it strictly new artists. You know the new generation of artists who I co-sign. Towards the middle, you know what … I wanted to put a couple of the dudes I really rocked with. Like Styles, and you know, Lil’ Fame, people like that … I wanted to put of them on there. That’s why there’s a couple of OGs on there, but for the most part, its new artists. I got pretty much who I wanted except for Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole. But we’ll do something in the future.
You have quite a few East Coast up-and-comers on this album, and fans will also appreciate the Dom Kennedy feature. What’s your take on West? It’s been blowing up lately.
On the West Coast? Yeah, Dom’s real dope. I did a couple things with Nipsey, but none of them made the album, but I definitely mess with Nipsey. Kendrick. The West Coast has got a new sound to it – it’s cool.
What do you like about it specifically?
I think it’s a good mix. It’s not regional as some of the west was in the last ten years. I think they sound more like Kendrick; he’s not in any box, he can do any sound. I think it’s cool that the west has got dudes. I’m not saying everyone was one-dimensional before, but a lot of it started to get stagnant like the same way New York did.
So for your new album, why did you title it Population Control?
Just cause everybody thinks they’re a rapper, everybody’s a DJ. It’s really for the kids, man. It’s like a subliminal message. There are a lot of people who are doing it who shouldn’t be doing it and this is who I think meets the par.
I feel like this album showcases the best of the best.
Yeah. I mean they’re a lot of people who do a lot of irresponsible stuff and throw their lives away and their futures. Trying to be what they aren’t really meant to be. You know, I’m not trying to shut down anyone’s dream, but there are a lot of kids who throw away their education to be rappers and they just don’t have it.
I’m assuming like your other albums, you handled all the production.
Yeah, everything. I mixed, mastered, engineered – everything.
You’re mostly known as a DJ, but with this new release, fans are starting to recognize your sound behind the boards. What inspired you to start making beats?
I’ve always been making beats, but I never really took it seriously until about five years ago. I started getting placements kind of by mistake; through remixes I was doing stuff. The first couple placements I got were on with KRS-ONE, Eazy and Foxy Brown. But, I started to take it seriously when I did my first album [Spell My Name Right] then I used the last couple albums kind of business parts. Artists didn’t even know I had beats. They would hear the records that I was doing, and they be like: ‘Yo, who did that?’ I be like: ‘I did it.’ And they eventually reach out. So now it’s ill that I get requests from like Nas, Talib Kweli, and Styles. I’m on so many albums that are about to come out its real dope. You know, it’s not the easiest transition.
Is there anybody else that’s been hitting you up besides those guys?
I mean everybody has at some point or another – it’s crazy. But I actually have placements with those guys. Like Nas have done a couple of records on my beats recently. I’m on Styles album that’s about to come out. I’m on Kweli’s next album about to come out. I’m on Evidence’s album. I’m on the next … man it’s hard to remember them all.
You really have this talent of matching the right beat with the right artist, and I think they are started to see that.
Thanks, I appreciate that.
I’ve noticed your frequent collaborations with Term, as well as with Freddie Gibbs, Action Bronson, Saigon and Freeway. Do you enjoy producing mixtapes and albums for one artist, or crafting compilations?
I like both. The compilation thing … like this will probably be my last for a little while. I feel like this is end of the series. I mean, I might do one later down the line like a part two to Population Control, maybe. I wouldn’t keep doing random albums. But you know, me and Action Bronson got a whole album about to come out, me and Freeway are going to do something else, me and Saigon are gonna do somethin’, me and Term already finished our next 1982 album.
I like doing full albums with people, but I prefer to just do individual songs that end up on other people’s albums. I rather have the best song on an album, then to do a bunch. Growing up, the reason why Premier and Pete Rock – all those guys – had such a name because when they did a song on album, it was usually the best. I remember I used to buy an album because there was a Primo beat on it. So I had fans say stuff to me like that now. And it’s like bugged out. That was what I was shootin’ for in the beginning.
DJ Premier was one of your influences in becoming a DJ. Is that why you want to have that one track on an album?
Yeah, he was the number one influence growing up. Now, he is a really good friend of mine; we build on stuff all the time. So definitely, he’s one of the big influences there. Him, Pete Rock, Tray, you know, a lot of people.
You have a song with him on your album called “A DJ Saved My Life.”
It’s a song about all the DJ’s that passed away. A lot of were friends of ours, and he shouts ‘em all out and I shout out a couple. This song is a two part song and changes and it’s just like … I got DJ Babu, Scram Jones, Craze scratching crazy. And I’m scratching too, but it’s a DJ record.
So if you had to choose which express you more, what would you choose? DJing or producing?
DJing while playing the records I produce. That’s the best feeling in the world.
Can you describe a moment when you were doing that?
The second time I went to Japan. The first time I went was with Q-Tip. The second time I went to Japan, I was booked as a DJ and it was a six-city tour. And after the first night, the promoter was like: ‘Yeah, they were kind of disappointed.’ And I was like: ‘What? I killed it. What are you talkin’ about?’ She was like: ‘Yeah, but a lot of people want you to only play your records.’ And I was like: ‘What?’ So, the next night I played strictly songs I produced – the whole night. The people were going crazy like it was bananas. That was a whole new experience. That was the first time I ever did a party or a show where all I played was my stuff, it was pretty bugged out.
That’s nice. So after Population Control drops, what’s next for Showoff/Duck Down Music?
I mean as far as the partnership we got, it’s just for this album as of right now. I’m definitely doing something with Sean Price down the line; we’re working on it slowly. As far as Showoff, we got the Action Bronson album that’s coming out in late November and the second 1982 album with Term that’s dropping in December.
But you’re still laying low on the compilations?
Yeah, for right now. Who knows? I’ve said that before.
Door Eric Diep