Entrepeneurial Mixtape Magic, Sample Layering and Fine-Tuning
An interview with award-winning DJ, producer, remixer, composer, tv host, radio personality and entrepreneur DJ Skee (Dash Radio, Skee TV, Jay Z, The Game, NFL, NASCAR, Halo 4, Tradition).
“I love the ability to go in and draw layers using RipX DAW. Genius and incredible! Everything is segmented so nicely and the ability to fine-tune is incredible. I wish it was around when I grew up as I feel I’d be so much further today!”
Born in New York City and growing up in Texas and Florida before eventually ending up in Minnesota, Scott Keeney AKA DJ Skee was born into a musical family, his mother spending time as a radio DJ and his father an incredible jazz pianist. Music and DJing was always in his blood.
“I took a class in high school on recording engineering, and it opened up my passion for DJing. As soon as I got my first turntables, I knew it was my calling and I went all in on it. I started off doing mixtapes as a teenager and ended up on the local Minneapolis radio station when I was 15.
Back then, guys like DJ Clue, Whoo Kid, Kay Slay, Stretch Armstrong, and others ran the streets. Stretch helped mentor me early on and would take me up to his Hot 97 show which made a big impact on me. In LA, legends like Crazy Toones and Julio G paved the way for me on the mixtape and radio side, while DJ’s like AM (R.I.P.) showed me how to expand and how big DJing could become.
Even though it was a 4am shift, I fell in love with radio. I was always entrepreneurial, and I ended up meeting Steve Rifkind selling PS2’s (he needed one for his son for Christmas) after another DJ, Stretch Armstrong, introduced us. I stayed in touch with him and ultimately put together a proposal on what he was doing wrong with his label. He loved it so much he offered me a job when I was 16. I figured a way to graduate a year early, packed a U-Haul, and moved to LA to work for him.
From there, he learnt the industry working on the business side before his DJ career really took off – specifically when he produced ‘300 Bars’ for The Game. Later on, he launched Dash Radio which has since become the world’s largest all original digital radio network with investments from the likes of L.A. Reid, Adrian Peterson, Kevin Colleran, Michael Lazerow and more. Furthermore, Skee has used the platform to discover and play superstar artists including Kendrick Lamar, Justin Bieber, Akon, Lorde and Lady Gaga amongst many others.
“I launched Dash after being at Sirius XM for 10 years and iHeart for 7. I saw the opportunity to disrupt traditional radio by creating more cost-efficient content (no satellites or FM rights needed), empowering great talent to connect directly with their fans, and leveraging digital technology to syndicate it anywhere. This then led onto “Skee TV”, which is a one-hour original series that provides insider access to the hottest musical artists, athletes, celebrities and cultural tastemakers via exclusive interviews and live performances.”
In 2008, Skee was nominated in eight categories at Justo’s Mixtape Awards and won West Coast Mixtape DJ of the Year at the 2013 Global Spin Awards. But as a DJ who has released over 100 highly-regarded mixtapes throughout his career so far, does he have a personal favorite?
“Probably the American Godfather with Jay Z. I remixed his American Gangster album and brought in the hottest producers to sample music from The Godfather, and it was just perfect! We even dropped a collab hoodie around it and generated a project that was reviewed better than the original album. It taught me the power creative storytelling and mixing could bring together.”
“Mixtapes were the best because they were so pure! We didn’t have to deal with clearances, licensing, rules or label executives pushing us in any direction. In hip-hop, it was the rawest form of the art. We would get in the studio and jump on something existing (and try to do it better) or create original tracks without any goals of radio play or going viral. For me, the themes and creativity you have (and lack of limitations) make it all and really pull it together. If you pair the right concept with the right music and the right timing, they’d be better than any album!”
As for his DJ and music production set-up?
“It depends on the event and venue. In general, I use Serato as a base for DJing with my Macbook and a Pioneer controller. I like the REV7 the best, but when I need 4 channels, I’ll use an XDJ setup. For some of the sports events I do for the NFL, I have a small team with me and we bring in everything from custom Microsoft Surface tablets, live mixing boards, and multiple control machines. For production, I started and am still most comfortable in Pro Tools, but also use RipX DAW, Logic and even Garageband for quick edits. I love both DJing and music production but I’ll always be a DJ first (vinyl, digital and stem mixing); always quick mixing, in key, and across multiple genres, although my primary work is sampling.”
Skee is also a huge fan and regular user of RipX DAW, but what does he like most about it?
“I love the ability to go in and draw layers using RipX DAW. Genius and incredible! Everything is segmented so nicely and the ability to fine-tune is also incredible. I wish it was around when I grew up as I feel I’d be so much further today!”
Any views on AI music and the future of music tech, DJing and club culture?
“I love the power of technology and the new freedom it brings. The ability to create things easier is game-changing and will open so many doors. Like other forms of technology, including digital DJing, people are always scared, but I can’t imagine going back to carrying record crates and not being able to search or make edits on the fly. I always choose to move with technology versus fighting the inevitable.
I think the tech in general will keep becoming much more compact versus large setups, and a lot more creative. I predict there will be a new era of DJs who grow up with these AI music tools that do things far beyond our imagination and create some of the most energetic and exciting shows the world has ever seen. I can’t wait to see it and hopefully play a small part in it!
One other key thing I love about where we are right now is the inclusiveness of it all. When I grew up, it was so expensive to get into DJing. Not only equipment, but buying doubles of each single and then having to use expensive hardware to record. Today, many of these borders have been shattered and anyone from anywhere (vs. just major cities) can be heard!”
Finally, if he could offer one key piece of advice to anyone wanting to become a full-time/professional DJ, what would it be?
Don’t follow others. Find your lane, follow your passion and embrace all of the changes happening. Experiment with these incredible new tools and go make a name for yourself (while having fun!).
Follow DJ Skee on Instagram HERE.