Meet Kembo Tom and Karl Carter, the brains behind the hit DJ battle series.
In the late '90s Karl Carter and Kembo Tom were doing marketing and club promotions in Washington D.C. and Atlanta, Ga. They crossed paths early in their careers, partnered in the summer of 2000 and started GTM, a full service advertising and media agency. Along with Darius Evans, Shawn Howard and Courtney Count, the 360-degree media company also generates original, branded and digital content. Their first major client was the wildly popular anti-smoking “Truth” campaign. Since then, Karl and Kembo have linked with David Tapscott of the world's best-selling vodka, Smirnoff, to produce the DJ competition series, Master Of The Mix.
Season one featured established DJs like Jazzy Joyce, Rich Medina and DJ Scratch, who became the series' first champ. But this season features up-and-coming DJs from across the country participating in various challenges to prove not only their technical prowess, but also their ability to rock a crowd. Just Blaze returns as the host, while Amber Rose joins the legendary DJ Kid Capri and season one runner-up Vikter Duplaix as a judge.
The show airs Saturdays at midnight on BET beginning November 5. Read on for what’s next on the horizon for GTM, what to expect from the show this season, why Karl and Kembo chose Amber Rose as a host, and more.
How did the idea for Master of the Mix come about?
Karl: Smirnoff had been a client of ours for many years. They came to us looking for a solution for DJs and we brainstormed the idea, Kembo fine-tuned the idea, Smirnoff gave the green light and we went to BET for distribution.
Kembo: We took a central theme that was important to the brand and to their consumer, nightlife and club life, and connected it to a reality show, which gave [Smirnoff] the media platform to talk to millions of people. Instead of a 60-second spot, they now have a 27-minute conversation with their consumer.
Last season you had some major players in the DJ world participate in the show, including Biz Markie. Why do you think so many people wanted to participate?
Kembo: It takes a long time for a DJ to get to a national platform. You have to really work your local market to achieve celebrity status. And we created a platform for DJs to quickly get onto a national stage, show what they’re made of, their versatility, their cutting ability, how they work the crowd and really market themselves. Being a DJ is a small business in itself. A DJ must have a brand, so this allows them to brand themselves and say this who I am and this is what I do.
What can viewers expect this season?
Kembo: The show last year gave us the best of the best, from London to Los Angeles. This season we have aspiring DJs who are not as well established. The challenges are a bit more gritty from a competition perspective. Last year there was a baseline commonality and a mutual respect between the established DJs. This year we’ve got younger, hungrier DJs dying to make a name for themselves and you see the gloves come off. You see people really show that the $250,000 grand prize is really vital to them. This is their chance to make it or break it in their careers.
Amber Rose is an unexpected new addition. What made you choose to add her to the cast?
Kembo: The judge's panel consists of three people — Kid Capri, he’s our authority. He knows DJ culture and how to rock a party. And we’ve added Vikter Duplaix, our runner-up from last year. Vikter brings the international flavor and dance culture. Now Amber is a queen of nightlife. She is a socialite who’s been to every hot club that the globe has to offer. So she’s there to judge strictly from a nightlife perspective. As in, “I’m on the dance floor, that mix was hot and I’m dancing some more. Or, that mix was not and I’m going to the bar.” In a lot of ways, this is Amber’s coming-out platform. Most people don’t know anything about her, just that she wears these elaborate outfits. And she dated some famous folks. But she’s intriguing because she’s mysterious and when she shows up, she turns heads. In that way, she’s like our modern-day Grace Jones.
Speaking of icons, word is that you have an upcoming project with Madonna. Can you share a bit about that?
Karl and Kembo: We’re doing a program between 20 countries worldwide where Smirnoff takes nightlife from Japan and exports it to Jamaica and vice versa called the Nightlife Exchange Project. On November 12, there will be a culminating event for all the countries at Roseland Ballroom in NYC, where 11 of the best dancers selected from the represented global cities will compete to perform on tour for one year, with none other than Madonna, who will crown the winner herself.
(Photo: Uptown Magazine/Keith Major)