Q&A with Waleed Coyote of 102 Jamz and Othaz Records - Part One

Waleed Talks About Getting Started as a DJ and Setting Up His Label

Waleed Coyote
Waleed Coyote. Google Images

Waleed Coyote has so much going on it just won't fit into one interview. I had the chance to speak to him recently about his work as DJ, his record label Othaz Records and the Peace in the Middle East project he's been working on with MC Serch, and every bit of it is good reading for anyone trying to get started in music, so soak it up. Here in part one of the interview, learn what it takes to become a DJ and what Othaz Records has going on. Part two looks more closely at Peace in the Middle East.

Question: Can you tell me a little about how you got started as a DJ?

I got started as a DJing when I was a freshman at Western Carolina. After my parents brought us over here to American from Beirut, hip-hop found me at that age of 8 years old. What happened was it was around ‘84 and that was when hip hop started coming on the TV and since I was moved at that age to this country, I would sit and watch TV all day long. That’s how I learned how to speak English - through watching TV that whole summer. I didn’t go to any English as a second language classes, I just went to normal, just school. I would sit there and watch MTV all day long and got a real big interest in hip hop music.

Then the dude down the street from me, a guy by the name of Dana Lucci - Mixmasta D - who was in a group called The Bizzee Boyz – in the group you had Willski, on that label you had Mark Sparks, Fanatic – so many people, the list goes on and on of real famous hip-hop people that were just really producers and great entertainers out of this area with Payroll Records, so hip hop was something major.

I’m telling you that to tell you that it all influenced me and I was real big into hip hop carrying Dana’s records around and all that stuff. When I went to Western Carolina (University), it was a different movement up there. The music wasn’t popular and it wasn’t what I was used to. A guy down the hall from me was like, “yo, man they’re having a radio station meeting of the local radio station – the college station – we should go down and get a show because you have a lot of music” – I used to have all these CDs, just a huge collection of CDs, I was always into mix tapes and kept up with who was doing what, all the hip hop stuff, Yo!

MTV Raps and everything else – so I went and got a college radio show.

At first, I didn’t want to talk on the mic or anything, I just wanted to play the music. So I played the music – I talked a little bit on the mic – and the response was overwhelming to the show. The callers were just loving the selection. So then I got a college night with two other guys from the radio station and the first night we did a party like 1,000 people showed up. It was crazy. Overnight, I went from absolutely not knowing anyone at Western Carolina to having the main radio show and being the main DJ. So I kept back and forth with 102 Jamz doing my internship there and basically set my 10-year plan of starting a label and going all the way into the DJ/ personality thing to take it to the next level. It’s like a movie and a dream because so many things worked out where they were supposed to for my ability to get started, and the main thing I attribute it to was when the hip hop scene I was used to was taken away from me and then how everyone else responded to the music. I went to a school that was basically 93% white and everyone loved the music – and this was before you had the whole, “white audience” listening to hip-hop music, as far as breaking it down into demographics.

This was like ’96 you’re talking about – and I always believed that we could all come together – white, black, Hispanic, Arab, Jew – all together and party because everybody likes to have a good time and that was always what I wanted to do with the music. If people could always party together and hang out together, then everything else in life can be worked out.

So, did you go right from Western Carolina to your job at 102 Jamz?


You did your internship there?

Yeah, did my internship and then got hired part time, weekends, overnights. Basically, just worked my way up - any shift they needed to be covered, I would cover. In the meantime, I was in the streets, DJing parties, hosting parties, and going hard – just being real noticed. I worked real hard to try and get into that situation.

What would you tell people to do who didn’t have a chance to do college radio and find an internship to go about getting a start, trying to get on the air, and get attention?

The number one thing is making people around you believe in what you’re doing. The second thing is to get your craft to the point where it needs to be because if you’re going to go out and DJ parties, then you’d better have the best selection and you’d better be able to match them beats and make sure your pitch is right on and you saying the right thing to the crowd to make them react positive instead of negative.

When you create that type of hype and create that type of believing in you and you rock – and work harder than the next man. Get yourself a ten-year plan. Today I might be carrying the DJs records, tomorrow I might buy my turntables, then I might put out my first mix tape, and then I might do my first party, now I’m doing my 10th party, and now I’m getting booked at a certain rate and I’m giving the people what I want, and then I’m creating such a hype about what I do and creating such a hype about my trade and my show that radio has to come get me – because I’m on every commercial, because my tapes are in every store and you just can’t get away from me. That’s the attitude you’ve got to have – a real persistent attitude.

You’ve got to set realistic goals. You can’t say I’m going to start DJing tomorrow and then I’m gonna be on MTV the next day. But you have to set realistic goals, have a plan and stick to it – and understand that there are going to be a lot of rough times in life and things may not go as planned. You might be in a situation one day where the club owner won’t pay you or the mic shorts out or people start acting crazy because the power cuts off and the first person they blame is the DJ.

You want to be real, real aggressive and go hard for your goals, stay on the path. And be around people who are doing it. Go around the best. Don’t go around the worst. Try to study the best of the best and know what you’re doing.

A lot of people get into this thing like a hobby. Once you make it a life –it’s not a 9 to 5, it’s a 12 to 12 – you are that every day. It’s not like I go in on the radio and then I get off and I’m not the same dude. Or I do a party and then it’s like, man, I’m done. It’s still going on – every second.

When you’re on air, how much control do you have over your playlist?

The playlist – I do what I’m told. Whatever the radio lineup is, that’s what it is. I don’t change it up. We have the mix shows at night, we can have fun there, but that’s at the DJs discretion. My main thing is just getting the music out. The radio does a real good job of determining the hit records, whatever the hit records due to the research and the request.

The music department does a real excellent job – Tap Money and the whole music department - it’s a trip because 9 times out of ten, I’ll be playing a record and then 2 songs later someone will request that record, so it’s what the people want.

What’s a typical shift like?

It’s a lot of fun. My show especially, I try to make it as much fun for the listener and for me as possible.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I got MCs battling live on the radio for a real dope prize – they actually come to the radio station and get it in and the people decide who wins. You can see it on YouTube, MySpace, on 102 Jamz.com – it’s like a real cool thing. I’ve got Exotic Wednesdays, exotic entertainments comes through and they entertain the people from 10pm on – you never know what you’re going to get on that station much less on my show because I try to take it to another level every night.

In summer we do the Middle East Car Shows and go out to every city and every town in our listening area from here to VA and highlight the hottest cars in the city. It’s totally free, you can come out and display your car and people can come out and vote on the car. My show is about as much fun and as much empowerment for my area and this region.

Any other advice for aspiring DJs about getting started, practice, and so on?

All day every day. Practice your skills. You cannot do this for money. DJ is a craft and a lifestyle? You can DJ a party for money but you can’t live it for paper. You have to be willing to do this for free and you can’t give up or get discouraged. You have to stay strong if you’re really trying to make it.

Your mind and confidence level has to be at an all time high. And persistence.

So you have a label as well?

Yeah, Othaz Records.

Who do you work with on the label?

On the label I got a lot of artists I work with. We put out the record by Ricco Barrino I’m Rich and the Bubblegum record. I got videos online, I got a two new artist coming up plus a young group by the name of the 336 Boyz – they’ve got a song called Mickey Ds going crazy on the YouTube and on MySpace and we’re gonna get ready to break that. Also OShabazz and Juliani.

A slew of artists - R&B singers, producers – we’ve got so many talented people here in North Carolina and have always had them.

Just to give you the definition of Othaz – you know you’ve got black, white, Hispanic and then you got an “other” on the race on applications, and I’ve always filled out the “other” box.

Then when I got into corporate America and understanding how the break down the demographics of what a white male or black female should listen to or like. I always felt like if you’re an “other” than that’s what it is. As a label I can put out any music I want because I’m an “other.”

Also, I’m working with the kids from Peace in the Middle East – that’s really major, major, major. I’ve got SO.U.L. Purpose – real good friend of mine, known him for years – and also Noose, an up and coming rapper out of Jersey whose a real phenomenal street influenced rapper.

Learn more about the Peace in the Middle East project in Part 2 of the Waleed Coyote.