As cold weather storms into his hometown of Toronto, Ontario, just north of the US border in Canada, DJ Shoestring made his way Florida to spin some records, eat some seafood, and most importantly, enjoy the sunshine. DJ Shoestring is only 20 years old so while he isn't old enough to drink in some of the clubs that he spins records in here in the states, he still manages to have one of the best résumé for any DJ under 21. He has been featured on major outlets such as MTV Canada, BET's 106 and Park (Freestyle Friday), and Shoestring was a guest DJ on last year's Toronto Music Fest.
DJ Shoestring is a pure Hip Hop DJ, and besides actually spinning real turntables, he also puts out a mixtape series, That Real That Rugged, that has been downloaded over a million times on major mixtapes sites such as HardKnockTapes and IceCreamTapes.
I got a chance to sit down with Shoestring at Creative Minds Studio in Orlando, Florida to chat with the Canadian about being a DJ in today's game, his favorite record to close a club, and his new spot with Universal Records.
1. What is going on with DJ Shoestring right now?
DJS: Right now, I am just enjoying the weather here in Florida, handling some meetings with a few people, putting together my new mixtape, putting together my debut album, working with Universal, and well just working..(laughing)
2. You do seem quite busy! Let's talk about That Real That Rugged, your mixtape series that you put out that has over 1 million downloads online, can you speak on that?
DJS: Yeah, That Real and That Rugged, it's really my attempt to get the audience some real hip hop, some stuff they don't hear on the radio, and really give them a chance to hear that stuff that I call, that realness.
3. So what are the qualifications for records to get on this?
DJS: It just has to be authentic. If the music is real from a level that isn't on some sellout sh*t, then it has a chance. I never take money for spots either, ever!
4. Ok that does sound cool, who have you had on that wasn't big before you and what can we expect with the next installment?
DJS: I love to mix it up. I will put some mainstream but hard stuff like Lloyd Banks, Fabolous, maybe some new Mobb Deep, who is my favorite group of all time, and then I mix in some underground cats with talent, KingCo, Smoove Gotti, Michael Barber, and my favorite underground MC, Matty Moe. I like to keep the tape exciting to the listening, I want them to hear that new track as well as something the heard before but didn't know where you heard it. Mobb Deep and the Wu Tang Clan are still putting out solid music just a lot of people don't get a chance to hear it because it's not on the radio.
5. Ok good stuff, let's talk about your new venture with Universal Records?
DJS: Yeah, well for one my label, Slamhouse, has major distribution now with Universal. I am working on putting out a full record. Just me producing and cutting and MCs really going in as far as bars and spitting. I want it to be like an old school DJ Clue tape, it's in the works. I would say it comes out in the summer. I really want to sign and develop acts, that is what I have set up is to develop cats from just rappers to all around artists that can put out a full length album and beyond.
6. Ok awesome! Do you have a name for it or is it going to be called, That Real That Rugged?
DJS: No, I have a name for it. I have a lot of it set up actually, I just want it to be as good as I can. As for a name, I have one, but I am not releasing that yet! (laughs)
7. So how did you come up with the name DJ Shoestring and how long have you been doing this?
DJS: I have been DJing since I was 9. I learned how to cut from my older brother at maybe, 13 or so. I grew up on hip hop with 3 older brothers playing a lot of east coast stuff, mobb deep, the wu tang, 50 Cent, of course the Nas and Jay-Zs and Biggies, but I got the underground stuff too. Cormega, AZ, The Lox, D-Block, just real street records that kids 13-14 years old weren't hearing in my environment. But to Answer your question, I actually got my name from my boy Johnny, he use to say that my budget for DJing was "on a shoestring budget," and well, I just ran with it. DJ Shoestring.
8. What is the Toronto MC scene like right now, we had Drake come out of Toronto, but who is buzzing up there right now?
DJS: You know it is really hard for me to say, I can't speak for Toronto 100% as my family has moved out of the district and I have just moved from Syracuse New York where I was going to school to New York City. I am going back to Syracuse to finish up some schooling after the New Year hits, and then this summer I will be full time in New York. But as far as Toronto MCs and DJs, I am starting a tape of only Toronto rappers and it's going be some real street stuff.
9. Sounds interesting we all will have to keep our eyes and ears open. So you recently started a new tastemaker blog, East1999, with Anthony "Goodbarz" Goodwin, how did that come to fruition and what is that blog like?
DJS: Well that blog is really just us posting new music that we feel is hot. I have known Anthony for a minute now, and we both had our own little music outlets. It was a chance for us to help some upcoming artists get exposure and to move forward in this game of haters. East 1999 is a play on a group that I have a ton of respect for, Bone Thugs and Harmony.
10. So you do the club scene, how much longer until you have your own FM show?
DJS: Show? I want my own station!(laughing)...I really don't know, I haven't pursued that yet, but I think I am going to after I get a few more things stocked up!
11. Ok so you are in a club, it's last call, what song do you play?
DJS: Nas "I Can"....
12. Any reason why that song?
DJS: I just like to give people a positive message as they go into the moment of life after the club. There tends to be a lot of fights and things, I like to keep it positive.
(Shoestring was interrupted by a phone call, and a ride picking him up as he had to spin at an Orlando nightclub known as 23. In his short stint in Orlando he played 4 clubs and he did 2 other events)
For more information on DJ Shoestring visit him on twitter @DJShoestring40z