Thursday, September 4, 2014

DJ MLK talks T.I.'s new album, how he brought Iggy Azalea to Grand Hustle

Posted By on Thu, Sep 4, 2014 at 7:09 AM

DJ MLK
  • Courtesy The ADJency
  • DJ MLK
Last month, T.I. stopped by The Tonight Show to perform two songs off his ninth studio album Paperwork, out Oct. 21. He was the first to bring up his most talked-about Grand Hustle signee, Iggy Azalea, as if to save host Jimmy Fallon the trouble.

“Well, actually my guy DJ MLK, he just said, 'You should check these people out.' I went, and there was Iggy, and I was like, 'Oh yeah, you're right. Thank you.'”

“Martin Luther King?"

Not exactly. Born Marlon LaTodd King in Washington, Ga., DJ MLK now splits his time between DJ Scream's Hoodrich Entertainment and T.I.'s Grand Hustle. For nearly the past decade, as seen on The Tonight Show and VH1 Storytellers, he has worked as T.I.'s touring DJ. And during the last week of July, he caught up with CL at the Boxcar Grocer to talk about his largely unseen role in Paperwork, Grand Hustle's latest Hustle Gang compilation, and introducing Azalea to T.I. two years ago.

What's the most memorable show you've done as T.I.'s touring DJ?
Aw man, my first two shows ever, in San Diego and LA. Probably between '06 and '08. … I was home, and [Grand Hustle manager] Clay Evans said, “You on deck.” I was still in school, too, so I had a choice: Either go to Hartsfield-Jackson and catch that flight, or go to class. That was my first car show in San Diego, and then we had a full concert the same day. If I remember correctly, I messed up once.

During your set?
Yeah. There's a machine called Instant Replay, and I had never used one. Also, I'm thinking that at a concert, you do a full song. I didn't know you do H-V-H — hook, verse, hook. So I messed up the very first time I played. I stopped the song too early, and by then Tip did not have too many people DJ for him. I was like, “Aw man,” but by the next show that same day, and from there on out, it was settled.

You manage a producer who's involved with Paperwork, correct?
I actually got a company called Life Without Music. I have one producer under my belt: Jazzfeezy, out of Toronto. He's worked with Drake for a while, but he got placements in the Nelson Mandela movie that just came out [Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom]. … Right now we got placements with Sevyn Streeter, Meek Mill. We got a lot of stuff coming up. We got Tip coming in September. [Ed: Columbia Records announced on August 26 that Paperwork is now out October 21.]

Why manage Jazzfeezy?
I've dealt with a bunch of different people emailing me beats. I'm one of those people who's like, “Don't tease me.” If I like you, send me some more stuff. One of my homies from Canada was like, “MLK, check out this guy right here.” We reached out to him and said, “Man, let me see your range.” I got nine beats with nine different hooks on them. When I told him I need some backpacker music or some dope music for Kanye, Jay Z, or CyHi the Prynce, he knew. He understood Wu-Tang Clan, and he kept up with what was going on with Future and Young Thug. His ear reminded me of my ear, because I'm an open-format DJ. You come to a particular club where I'm DJing, and I can play anything.

Paperwork is a sequel to Paper Trail, correct?
Yeah, we didn't want it to be called Paper Trail 2, but it's going to sound like Paper Trail on steroids.

How far along is the project?
We're done. Even his next album is done. He's a workaholic. We also got that Hustle Gang mixtape.

What can fans expect of that?
It will show the growth of the younger guys: Shad Da God, Yung Booke. Young Dro. B.o.B. got some records. There are some records from [the late] Doe B. It's pretty much showing that in the music industry, you can't sleep.

Is there a song that's going to blow fans away?
I can't speak on that yet. There's a lot of surprises and so many records; nothing is finalized.

What about on Paperwork?
There's a song that's on there where you gon' think that Tip is back.

What is the title?
I can look on my phone. No, wait — it's on my iPod in the car. I know Problem is on there. I don't know the exact name of the song, but you're gonna think it's Tupac. It's that Cali feel, but it's a universal sound and everyone's gonna relate to it. The energy is — damn.

T.I. vs. T.I.P. is about T.I. struggling to balance his hustling past with his business-oriented, more pop-informed present. How does he deal with those aspects in Paperwork?
I feel like that old him is in this new album, man. It's pretty much gonna feel like the first time you heard Trap Muzik, the first time you heard King — that album you been waiting on. Paper Trail is classic and everything, but in No Mercy you felt that it's him but not the real him. You felt like he was going through something. No more. “Boom. My mind is clear. Everything is good.”

You helped out with Paperwork's arrangements, correct?
Yes. I'm the second A&R of this album. I'm helping out with features, beat selection, the arrangements, everything.

Who else will be featured?
Problem, Victoria Monet. Iggy on there ["No Mediocre"]. Young Thug ["About the Money"]. Trae tha Truth, Mitchelle'l Sium, who kind of sounds like a young Maxwell. No big A-listers or whatever, but it's a classic. DJ Toomp did a track on there. Pharrell's the executive producer; he and Tip are super tight. Pharrell did some dope production. Jeezy is on there — Pharrell did that track too. [Ed: DJ MLK later emailed saying that the “A-list artists” appearing on Paperwork also include Rick Ross, Chris Brown and Nipsey Hussle.]

What do you make of the accusations surrounding Iggy Azalea after the BET Awards, these rumors that she has ghostwriters?
I'm pretty much the reason she met Tip. There was an article on Rap Radar or something. We were at Fox Sports Grill before it shut down. Tip's like, “Man, we need some more talent. We need a dope female.” 2 Chainz had just broke through. [Rich Homie] Quan was bubbling. Trinidad [Jame$] was bubbling. Most of them were already signed — except for Iggy and Travi$ Scott. I was like, “Tip, you might need to look into [Iggy].” I had done the research and saw her videos. She had been doing her thing for the longest, and she had the look.

Tip met both of them in the same day; I set up everything. The first time me and Iggy bumped heads, but when Tip told her, “MLK, he was the one who really put me on,” she was like, “Wow.” Me and her been cool since then.

Moving forward with the BET thing — once again, it's a competition and it's the female lane. Every time I've been the studio with her, everything is her. Of course everyone can critique certain stuff, but every time I've been in the studio with her, she does her own thing.

Is there anything I missed?
Of course I got my mixtape series [GoodNight Don't Exist in Atlanta]; I'm working on volume 5. [Ed: The fifth installation of GoodNight Don't Exist in Atlanta dropped Aug. 25.] It showcases new music in Atlanta. I may grab a significant R&B artist, host, or person of the city to speak on it. I may go to different cities to showcase different movements. People only caught on just now, because they're like, “Man, when y'all coming to my town? What's hot in North Dakota and Montana?”

Who's a new artist that you showcase in the new mixtape?
The intro's done by K Major. He's a dope artist in Atlanta, a young guy who's been working for a minute. Shad Da God with Grand Hustle, he and Yung Booke got a song on there. … For the other half of the CD, I'm showcasing some significant cats in Virginia.

Who's putting you on to Virginia artists?
My homeboy, his name is DJ Infamous. I told him, “Just make sure that you get the cats that can represent the whole Virginia.” So he's doing a portion of the CD that's going to represent VA.

To wrap: Say you had a night off from DJing. Where are you hanging out?
Koo Koo Room. It's an open-format spot, so you might hear anything, from reggaeton to the whole nine yards. I DJ there, but I also met Denzel Washington up in there. I met Clint Eastwood. You may see anybody in there. It's a dope spot. The atmosphere and ambiance is crazy.

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