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Lone Wolf

Interview

Office — What was your situation as a kid?

 

DJ Assault — I was born in Detroit, Michigan, on the west side. When I was about seven years old, we moved to a suburb called Southfield.

 

O — Was that a big change for you? Was it a positive thing?

 

DJA — Oh yeah, definitely. It was pretty easy for me, cause I’m the type of person—I don’t take to everybody, per se. I was like that as a kid, and I’m still sort of like that now. With a lot of people, I think we just see things a lot differently. So I don’t really have a problem being to myself sometimes. So it didn’t really affect me one way or another.

 

O — How early did your interest in music develop?

 

DJA — Well, around the same time, because I ended up having some kind of record collection when I was at least seven. I wasn’t really a DJ or nothing like that, but I did have records since I was like seven years old. My father had a lot of 45’s and stuff. I guess the popular, regular little records that I liked, I started collecting ‘em. I’m sure whatever was on the radio.

 

O — You say you were fine keeping to yourself, but you did connect with others at some point—you had the group Assault and Battery, was that your first collaborative effort in music?

 

DJA — [laughs] That’s funny you know about that. Yeah I think everything is kind of a lesson. It was a collaboration type of thing, but you know, that’s why I’m very anti-group now, because you can’t have the passion or the ambition or the drive for everybody. You never know where somebody’s heart is at with the whole thing, you know? So that’s one of those things about people, and that group, I feel. I mean, naturally, the past is the past, but it was just another life lesson. 

O — Do you think that group was still a stepping stone for you towards your solo career?

 

DJA —You can look at it like that. In a lot of ways I wish I was able to recognize people and their tendencies and personalities quicker. Because some stuff is a stepping stone, and some things is a waste of time. That’s the way I see it now.

 

O — So at what age were you starting to perform and flex your skills?

 

DJA — Well, I’ve been in talent shows since middle school, to be honest. Like sixth grade. People never see the stage performer, per se, usually I’m just performing as a DJ. But I’ve been literally doing stage performances of music since middle school. I was rapping—I wish I’d played instruments. Like now, I play piano, and I think I’m going to teach myself guitar within the next couple years. I’m pretty much self- taught. It’s just necessary, to understand music. It’s a natural progression, to understand stuff you hear, stuff you like, to understand how the notes were put together. It’s just about how far you want to go with it. When I was learning about samples, that was cool. To me samples aren’t really cool anymore, if you don’t really own it I don’t think, from a business standpoint it doesn’t make sense to sample. That’s an argument people will have. As a real businessperson, knowing the industry, I don’t want to clear your sample and pay you the publishing, when it’s for my record. It just doesn’t make sense.

 

O — When was it you were first exposed to booty music?

 

DJA — Well I have to give credit to the real Detroit people that started it. You know, how I heard The Wizard on the radio at the time, and then I knew about stuff like Model 500, Juan Atkins’ group, Kevin Saunderson had some big records. I don’t really want to skip people, I’m skipping people, but you know, those guys who came before me pretty much that was something mixed all together for me. Hearing them, the Detroit techno, I loved a lot of Chicago house, but I also wrote lyrics. I was rapping at ten, writing. Oh and then of course, with the bass and booty music, it was really Atlanta and Miami, and I was hearing that. So everything that I was influenced by went into what I did, my sound, which was original for Detroit at the time. I guess it was different, but it was me trying to find my way more so, with that booty music they refer to. Everybody want to take credit for the stuff, but I had those records before I even had a label, when I wasn’t getting paid to make music, so... Not that I care about the credit, but just to be accurate, they want to talk about pioneer this, who came up with this and that, and lump people into the same place, which I don’t think nobody else can be mentioned to be honest. That’s what I would say, as a public statement to anyone. If you’re talking out there Detroit booty music, ghetto music... People imitated me, that’s why I never played their records. I don’t need to. To this day. My songs are enough at my show, to not play the people that imitated my music. Imitation is not a form of flattery. To me. The industry is just fake, it’s very fake. So I’m just more about the fans, the people that’s into the music. It’s a big competition, which it really shouldn’t be. No one is really trying to work together anyway, unless someone is robbing someone, you know? It’s a shame, but it’s the truth. It’s not cynical, it’s unfortunate that artists will do anything to get to where they want to go, but then you pay the price. If you just educate yourself on how evil people are in the music industry you just avoid it. Nothing beats working hard for it, but people want to take the easy way out. I don’t believe in stars. Nobody’s a superstar to me, it’s just people.

 

O — So were you comfortable gaining popularity and visibility in Detroit and beyond? Or did you have to take precautions to not get taken advantage of?

 

DJA —Well I’m pretty much my own person, and I don’t care about a reputation or anything. So no one could change me into anything. What I do think—it was a lot of opportunists, and people that I thought were trying to help me, but it was for their own benefit, they really wasn’t helping me. People won’t admit it, but I made a lot of mistakes, business-wise, as I was growing and becoming bigger. I was just so happy to be able to make money off of music, and not have to work a job. So I thought ‘Oh, everybody is happy for me, and everybody is nice and wants to work with me, or help me,’ but that’s not the case, there’s a lot of opportunists. That was me being naïve. The horror stories are just from people signing stuff they had no business signing. Bottom line. That’s the whole music industry in one sentence. 

I think people need to grow up. Be a man, quit getting raped and robbed and caring about being on the TV and the radio.

O — So I imagine you’re not into collaborations these days?

 

DJA — Yeah because it’s kind of out of hand. I don’t see where that ever got me. I made money, but I think it’s other people just trying to feed off of your energy, you know? I never saw any step forward, and I don’t really see that, even collaborations that I look at now, I don’t see why people would do them unless they’re trying to charge a lot of money. So that’s kind of where I’m at, it’s priced to kind of weed out the riffraff. That’s another really hard thing, with no-ego to take a look at yourself in the mirror and be real. I mean I did a thousand remixes and collaborations, but I think maybe it made the brand weaker, not stronger.

 

O — A lot of the early music you’re known for is intentionally funny and explicitly sexual. To you, what’s the relationship between humor, sex and music?

 

DJA — Well that whole thing, it was all a part of my personality, to be honest. Pretty much being able to write songs was one thing, but people that really know me know that I’m a really silly type of guy. So it was funny to me, and you know, I love women. That was another key part of it. When you put it all together, I was just thinking huh, this is something funny for the people who’s not squares, you know, who wouldn’t get offended or want to call it misogynistic. I thought it was funny, and girls would like it. I didn’t care about guys, cause they’re just going to hate on you anyway, but if your girlfriend like it, then I’m cool.

 

O — But you think you’ve grown out of those themes?

 

DJA — To a degree. With this new age of the Internet and stuff, I’m still trying to see the exact direction for the future, but I think once everybody started doing that style, and it got to a point where it was just one record with this really dirty beat, and then the next record has a beat dirtier than that—it’s a repetitive type of spiral. At some point it gets kind of negative, I think, because how do I outdo somebody trying to outdo me? And it’s really just dirty lyrics and a bunch of cuss words and stuff, I mean it’s kind of going nowhere. At some point when a bunch of people are listening to you, is that all you have to say? That’s a little weird. I mean I’ve done it for so long it’s like, it’s easy to me. And everybody’s doing it now, even if you listen to hip-hop. I think my lyrics even influenced stuff that’s mainstream hip-hop, there’s a lot of hooks like what I would do, everybody is talking about the girls, and that gets fake too. The difference is I was talking about girls when I’d just started and I had no money, and it was really me. They’re talking about girls once they sign a deal, and they’re on TV every day. So who is the real player? If you want to take it there, like that. Just being real. I wasn’t on TV, and I wasn’t lying about the stuff you heard in the song.

 

O — Tell me about Jefferson Ave.

 

DJA — Jefferson Ave. is pretty much like me doing my own thing, the separation from different partners and people, just my own independent label. It’s about ownership. For the past ten years or so, I’ve been building up my publishing company. People won’t say it, but the publishing, that’s where all the money is, in the music business. Jefferson Ave. is about the ownership of the masters, and trying to exploit that commercially. Diversifying, I don’t know. I’m not going to stop being any of the things I’m known for, but it’s just different phases, you have to transition if you want to stay around.

 

O — So the way you see it, unless you’re working for yourself, it’s more or less guaranteed you’re being taken advantage of?

 

DJA — That’s why I couldn’t work a regular job. Because you get a check, but how much money are you generating for the company? Nobody thinks about that. Forget your check, I’ve got a lot of big checks, but how much money did I generate? I’m the source of revenue. So I think people need to grow up. Be a man, quit getting raped and robbed and caring about being on the TV and the radio. People should protect their dream, and not have it be stolen away by falsehoods. 

I didn’t care about guys, cause they’re just going to hate on you anyway, but if your girlfriend like it, then I’m cool.

O — But do you think, with the recent shifts in the music industry, and with artists now able to connect more directly with their fans, that the industry will keep getting weaker and artists could end up being empowered?

 

DJA — I think people will continue to get dumber and dumber, because they can’t see past social media. More knowledge about everything is out there than ever before, but nobody wants it, they choose to be ignorant and do what’s popular. So that’s weird. It’s a trip. I mean, I guess it’s just the time. People don’t care about people. It’s a gradual process, it won’t happen tomorrow. But if you put everything on a timeline, everything is just depreciating. If you went from fifty years ago even, to now, everything is worse, and worse, and worse, and worse. I guess the world is coming to an end. 

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