Nowadays, you might catch DJ Whoo Kid rocking a party in Dubai surrounded by foreign models, or interviewing A-list rappers and celebrities on his Shade 45 radio show. But back in the late ’90s and 2000s, he was running around New York City, killing the mixtape game. Many people’s first introduction to Whoo Kid was through his work on the infamous string of G-Unit mixtapes that helped turn 50 Cent into a rap superstar. And before that, he was in the mix with fellow Queens tape monsters like DJ Clue and DJ Envy, chasing after exclusives, trying to make a name for himself, and stay one step ahead of the competition.
In Part 1 of our Mixtape Memories interview with DJ Whoo Kid, he takes us back to his first introduction to making mixtapes, and recalls the ins and outs of his hustle to get exclusive songs, and also how he would tell elaborate lies to Def Jam personnel to get free records. Plus, he goes into detail about the time Big Pun kidnapped him over the release of a diss record, his legendary mixtape collaborations with Stretch Armstrong and G-Unit, and how his craftiness creating 50 Cent duets with unreleased Biggie and 2Pac acapellas had both Puff Daddy and Suge Knight trying to hunt him down. Read below, and stay tuned for more crazy antics and stories in Part 2, coming soon. Sada pop!
Influences/First Mixtape Experiences
DJ Whoo Kid: “The first time I made a tape was at my boy’s house. I used to hang with these Haitians that looked like they were Puerto Rican, but they were actually Haitian. DJ Cash, well, he was known as Blinthon—everyone thought he was my cousin because we went to the same college—he had turntables. I couldn’t afford turntables back then. They were like $1,000 or some b******* each. I used to just practice and f*** around. He had all the records. And for me, it was like a hobby. I would to go to his house and do blend tapes. At that time, the Ron G tapes were out, Kid Capri had a mixtape. I was in college, so I was like eighteen or nineteen. This is like ‘92.
“Then, this DJ named Dirty Harry came out, and he was a Queens DJ. And [I heard his tapes], and I was like, ‘Holy s***.’ Meanwhile, I was living next door to Clue. Clue and Envy both lived down the block, across from each other. So I was already influenced by what Clue was doing. But Clue was stealing music, and I didn’t have any connections at that time.
“I tried to emulate what Dirty Harry was doing, but Dirty Harry was doing like digital blending with his mixes, using like an early type of Pro Tools. He was ahead of his time. I was doing it the old school way, mixing like [Michael Jackson’s] ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ with Rakim. I’d get an R&B acapella and mix it with a hip-hop joint that was new, like Das EFX or whatever. And blends were hot back then. If you did an ill blend, people would love it. But I still wasn’t a known DJ. I just did it because that’s what I wanted to hear. I just loved the mixes. Dirty Harry, Ron G, Kid Capri, I used to look up to those dudes.
“I made a cassette tape called The Afterparty. That was my first tape. Then professionally, when I started doing hip-hop mixtapes, I went heavy with The Afterparty [series]. I would come out with the exclusives [on my hip-hop tape], and then if I wanted a little extra money because I was hot, I would come out with a blend joint. But back then, all I had was blends.
“I made three hundred [copies of my first tape] and put them out on Jamaica Avenue, and was running around like I was famous. I used to have [DJ Clue’s] dubbing machine, but [he] was so famous that he never knew. The dubbing machines were like $3,000 at that time. So I would have his dubbing machine, and copy all my tapes, and give it back to him before he knew about it.
“You’d put in one master, and [the dubbing machine] would copy like three other tapes [at once]. It was painstaking. You’d have to sit there [dubbing them yourself over and over]. But I had to. When he would leave his parent’s house, [I’d go borrow the machine]. We were all on the same block. I went to Queensborough [Community] College with him, and then he quit and took up DJing professionally. I stayed a little longer before I quit. I definitely got influenced by him. He had the Nissan Sentra, the box one, then went to like a BMW 320i or some s***. I was like, ‘This m*********** got a Beemer, son! F*** that s***, n****! I’m gonna start doing tapes!’
“People hated Clue because he probably was in the right place at the right time, but he knew how to maneuver to get the exclusives. Stealing exclusives was big. The day I really knew I wanted to be a DJ is when Biggie was on Hot 97 talking about, ‘I want to kill DJ Clue for leaking ‘One More Chance.’ It’s unfinished. It’s one verse.’ But to a DJ, one verse is enough. You’re gonna buy the CD, but we got the record [before it came out in stores]. This is the record. So it was the adrenaline rush of an artist looking for you, and you know you ain’t supposed to put this out. And the fans, they went crazy, like, ‘Oh s***, a new Clue tape’s coming out with more [exclusives].’”
“After I did the blends for a good year and change, I linked up with Clue’s camp. And Envy, who was like his underboss DJ, he introduced me to how to get exclusives. So I would get in their whip, and go through to all the labels with them. Back then, Justo (RIP), he was at Sony I think. We would go there and meet the A&Rs, and they’d give us DATs. Some A&Rs would give us unfinished stuff. But the number one places where we used to get the music from was the rap magazines. They had to rate the albums, so [the labels] had to send them [advanced copies]. And these guys that are rating the albums are making like $5 an hour, or they’re interns. So we’d show up with $300 or $400, like, ‘Give us all the albums you got here,’ and they’d give you all of them. That’s why labels started ink-marking the [audio], putting a drop, or saying, ‘Property of Interscope’ or whatever. So then the people who would rate them, that drop would be on their copy, and [the labels] could figure out who gave [the music to the mixtape DJs]. But for us, it was strictly some hustle s***.
“Another way we would get songs was from mixers. They don’t get paid either, and they’re there mixing the s*** until six, seven in the morning. They have all those recording DATs on the wall, and there’s one DAT that records the whole session. So there would be different versions. That’s why we had Biggie rapping Lil’ Kim’s verses on ‘Queen B****,’ talking about sucking d*** and all this s***. So we’d save those for a month where we had no exclusives. Like, we know [it’s him doing a reference track for Lil’ Kim], but it sounds f***** up. [Laughs.] I still have a lot of those kind of songs.
“[The labels] didn’t understand it. We didn’t even understand it. We just saw it as a way to make money. [If I have a Biggie exclusive], I’m outta here! But I used to look at DJ Clue like, ‘You’re putting out all this new s***. You’re down with Jay Z and all these guys.’ It was too competitive. Every time I’d go to the store [trying to sell them my tapes, they’d be like], ‘Oh, we got Clue, we don’t need your s***.’”