DJ Funkmaster Flex is legendary for mixing tracks in nightclubs and on New York’s Hot 97 radio station. For his new project, Who You Mad At? Me or Yourself?, Flex mixed and matched a diverse range of artists from hip hop’s mainstream and underground scenes to craft his long-awaited return to the mixtape game.
The game has changed a lot since Flex revolutionized it in the late 1990s by introducing the concept of the commercial mixtape to the masses. Now with the web as his newest weapon, the ultra-competitive Bronx native is attacking the digital space full throttle. He already rules the blog world with his highly trafficked website InFlexWeTrust.com. And he’s optimistic about the recent launch of the DJ Funk Flex app for iPhones, convinced that mobile phones are "the new radio." But what else can the outspoken DJ do to extend his reach in the rapidly expanding universe of the Internet?
By placing superstars like Rick Ross, Chris Brown and Fabolous alongside promising upstarts like A$AP Rocky and Childish Gambino, Flex may be on the verge of dropping another bomb on the music industry when Who You Mad At?... is released April 17. BET.com caught up with the self-proclaimed King of New York radio to talk about his evolution, his belief in rap’s next generation and his refusal to be satisfied with success.
BET.com: What made you want to come back to the mixtape game?
Funkmaster Flex: I haven’t had a mixtape in a long time. And I felt that there was a lot of good artists out there that I wanted to definitely get tracks to. The best way to put it is, my mixtape has the obvious: The Young Jeezys, the Rick Rosses, the Fabolouses, the LOXes, the Busta Rhymeses. It has a lot of that good talent. But something that was just as exciting to me was working with Action Bronson and A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg; Childish Gambino, Chevy Woods, the Mac Millers of the world. Doing a mixtape with those kids, the next generation, and being able to get them tracks from great producers like Jahlil Beats [and] DJ Mustard was very cool, man. To mix and mash, get a whole lot of people involved. That’s what made me want to get into the digital mixtape game.
How did the project come together with this wide array of artists?
This wasn’t just like a, 'Oh, let’s just get this done' type of project. I’m not gonna say names, but more than 50 percent of the artists on this tape had to go back and do their vocals again because we wanted to get it right. Knowing that this was gonna break ground in a new and innovating way, we wanted to get it right… I know what Chris Webby’s style is, but I enjoyed bringing him into my world and getting him some tracks that were a little unorthodox for him. Him, Troy Ave, Uncle Murda, I gave them a lot of tracks that were a little unorthodox for their style. That’s what I liked most. And that’s what made me want to do a mixtape again because I was excited about working with a lot of new people.
How has the Internet changed the mixtape game in your eyes?
I think there’s a little bit less success in record sales, but I think what that has done is make artists work more to build their name. So I think they’ve become more self-made. And I think you have different genres of self-made artists. I think you have street artists, I think you have Internet artists, I think you have mainstream artists, you have artists that become stars because their records play on the radio and you have some artists that become stars because they sell out venues at an early date. There’s a bigger pool of artists to pick from.
What’s the significance of your new iPhone app to the mixtape release?
The app is available right now. The only way you’re gonna be able to get this mixtape is through the app. My website is very successful. And the mobile traffic has increased with everyone’s websites. So to me, the phone’s the new radio. And I wanted to provide something that would enable people to kind of see what I’m about through the phone. The app, it also has all my freestyles that I’ve done over the years, past and present. It also provides breaking news, as well as my new mixtape. When I have exclusive content, I’m also gonna provide it on the app.
So you’re trying to go from the King of NY radio to the King of Apps?
I’m on the radio, but you know I’m very strong in the digital space, in the DJ space, in the nightclub space. I’m very focused on taking my show on the road. On InFlexWeTrust.com, we do 1 million unique views and I do 12 million page views. And I’ve learned a lot from that side of the business. I love the traffic that’s out there. I love the digital space, I think it’s very cool. I want to provide a new platform for mixtapes instead of the way we’re used to, like CDs or downloading off of websites. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if I was gonna come back, I wanted to come back new and different.
What’s been keeping you motivated after all you’ve accomplished throughout these different fields?
I love the music and I’m very competitive. So I like to come up with new ways of doing things. And I enjoy it. I really, really enjoy it. I have a good time with it. I am focused on changing the way people think about this music. To me, this reminds me of when I was the first one to do a commercial mixtape. This reminds me of a similar type of accomplishment, man. It’s a big step into the digital space instead of the way we’re used to doing some stuff.
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(Photo: Jerritt Clark/Getty Images)