Interview: Gavin Godfrey
When DJ Dirrty AKA J. Dirrt talks about his move from Atlanta to New York City it came down to the simple problems most early 20-somethings face.
“Living in Atlanta I felt like I was just going to keep doing the same thing and probably end up getting a DUI,” DJ Dirrty tells on the phone in New York, having just returned from ATL. “In New York there’s no driving – you can skate everywhere you want to go. You can skate drunk too!”
Flash forward some years and the young kid from Marietta is using his Baller’s Eve radio show to remind New York and the world the South’s got something to say as far as Hip Hop music goes. DJ Dirrty opened up about first landing in New York, returning to the South and why he’s not a mentor.
Coming up in Atlanta what were your first memories of the city?
I mean I remember the dirt roads being more prevalent than the shopping centers that are all over the place now. I remember more of like a real landscape per say know what I’m saying? I don’t want to shift credit or anything but that Atlanta that I grew up with is definitely different than the one you see now.
Being an Atlanta kid what were your first impressions of New York?
I was psyched, man. Honestly I’m from Atlanta, but my parents were born and raised in Brooklyn. I had a really good feel for New York al- ready. Up here, everybody thinks you’re not going to last. They’re all, “Oh well let’s see how long you last.” It’s a very transient city, a lot of people in and out. I had to do my time, establish myself. I mean the first year was tough, man, but at the same time I was psyched, I was breaking my mold just coming into who I am. I was 25 when I moved to New York, so I was just starting to really kind of put it together, figure it out, put myself in a direction. I was up here and I was DJ’ing, I was directing some music videos and doing some shit like that and bartending and waiting tables and just fucking partying and having fun.
So why would it eventually become important for you to bridge that gap between southern music and New York?
I grew up with what the quote unquote “real Hip Hop” would be considered or whatever. I love all that shit, grew up with it, but there’s people that like hang on to all that shit and it’s just kind of all corny you know what I’m saying? I felt like when I got to New York there were people that had no acceptance for what was going on down South. Whether it was OutKast, Goodie MOB or something like a little bit more crazy or turned up like a Pastor Troy, they looped it all in the same kind of category and it was just like ‘Bama shit. They just didn’t get it. Everyone was just like, “Put on some Jay-Z, put on some Mobb Deep.” All that shit is great, but there was like nobody repping for the South or the culture I grew up with which is people that drive around, smoke weed and listen to that [southern] shit. Baller’s Eve, that’s what we kind of felt like was missing in this New York world, which has everything, but that was one thing it didn’t have.
Why do you bother coming back to Atlanta?
I mean for what we’ve established is just as important that somebody has their ear to the ground and be accessible and actually goes out there and sees artists perform and see what’s going on. I’m not just some guy who sits in front of a computer and checks music out on the internet and judges it all on that. I’ll go to the hood and I’ll go see some- body where they came from to go check them out. I’m not afraid to be mobile, go check it out, see what it really is, go have a drink in their hood, take a trip in their ride. I’ll go see them perform at their local strip club or whatever the fuck it is, that’s just kind of what I do. It’s not like people are just going out and searching the internet for shit, we actually go out and get it.
Folks credit you with breaking artists and helping build their movements...
I didn’t really get into this to mentor people, but some folks just kind of look to me for shit and I feel obligated to kind of always reach back and help the young kids coming up. Baller’s Eve has opened doors for southern artists coming to New York, it’s always been like that. If you holler at us, and you’ve got a song, just come on we’ll play your song, we’ll talk to you for a minute, plug your shit and that’s it. That’s kind of how we built relation- ships with a lot of artists. Now exponentially people are considering us as breaking artists, but it’s really just a grassroots movement that kind of grew into what it’s become just through relationships. I’d like to say we’re just good dudes who kind of know good music and kind of do the right thing and after 10 years it eventually works in your favor (laughs).
What’s the biggest thing you take away from your time in Atlanta? There’s a lot of things Atlanta has taught me, how to be myself in my own kind of way. It led me to be the person that I am. I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s a lesson it’s just kind like a life living experience. Atlanta makes me appreciative of people and what they do. I feel like Atlanta’s one of those places where people appreciate people and what they do differently.