DJing as job
Statik was born in Lawrence, MA, a town about 30 minutes north of Boston. When he was four years old, he would play with his parents’ 8-track cassettes and pretend he was on the radio. His parents got divorced when he was eleven and he started acting out in school -- throwing a chair at a classmate, threatening the principal, and similar “dumb shit.” He was sent to a school for troubled kids and educated himself by bumping the prevalent hip hop of that particular era: The Chronic, Doggystyle, and the like.“It was very graphic, and I had to learn what condoms and blunts were,” he said.
Soon after he returned home a few months later, Statik started making beats by looping drums on a cassette deck. He picked up DJing and worked constantly when he wasn’t in school to save money to spend on vinyls. “I was spending more on records than most people spend on their bills,” he recalls.
Statik says the worst place he ever worked was McDonalds. But he doesn’t regret it. “A lot of this kids wish they worked at McDonalds and bought turntables instead of fucking around,” he said. “I threw my first show off working at McDonalds. I’m proud of that shit.”
Statik was performing DJ sets at such frequency that he was able to justify renting an apartment in Boston before he graduated from high school. He was making respectable money from his DJ sets, except for a brief stint when a club he performed at shut down. “I had to get a real job for a couple months,” he said. “I worked for a packing store. It was humbling because I was like, “damn, I thought I was good already.’ Right after that, I started grinding.”
He soon leveled up from a 6-dollar-an-hour gig putting up stickers for Raucous Records to running his own street team that worked with everyone from G-Unit to Reebok to Def Jam. Five years later, he left Boston for New York City.
Statik has now been living in NYC for over ten years now. Despite the unfathomable amount of music he has released in that time period, it appears that his days of wheeling & dealing on full throttle are over. His wife’s strenuous pregnancy and the task of caring for an infant have put a dent in his studio time, let alone his ability to travel. He estimates that 99% of STATIK KXNG, his collaborative album with Los Angeles vet and Slaughterhouse rep KXNG Crooked, was created over email.
“It’s funny, we’ve talked on the phone a thousand times, we’ve emailed a thousand times, but we’ve probably only hung out in real life like five times,” Statik said. “That’s not the way I usually work with people. People usually sleep on the couch and we have nine-in-the-morning sessions.”
DJing as art
Statik's commitment to DJing and the medium of vinyl is multifaceted. Perhaps the biggest reason he has been unwilling to compromise with current hip hop trends is the pride he takes in his craft. He is a true craftsman, and he likes to work with other craftsmen. That's what drew him to KXNG Crooked. “He’s really about his art form," Statik said of Crooked," and so am I. I look at DJing the way he looks at rapping. I’ll go for your neck if you’re not on your shit. I think the bar needs to be raised, and he’s the same way."
The other reason: due in large part to advancements in music technology, DJing is becoming something of a dying art, and Statik views himself as a sort of torch bearer. "It's become a responsibility of us to make sure the kids know what’s going on and know the right way to DJ," he explains. "As far as making a career out of DJing with real vinyl, that’s never gonna be relevant again. As long as they learn how to use the turntables and learn how to scratch and mix the right way, I’m happy with that."
A nostalgic backlash against online streaming has caused vinyl sales to rise 32% in 2015 to $416 million, their highest total since 1988. This rekindled interest in vinyl encourages Statik.
"One of the best parts of touring with Joey is the kids getting to see it," he said. "Because it’s such a young crowd, they’ve never even seen like a real DJ with turntables and all that. Having kids come up to me after the show like, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that.’ Especially nowadays, a lot of these dudes are performing with like fake-ass DJs or dudes pressing buttons and shit. I try and carry that tradition of Premo and Pete Rock and all them. I have to balance the street hip hop, the scratch world, turntablism, and my radio show. I try to take every world of DJing that I come from and hold the torch. Hopefully I get to pass it down the way they did to me."