He’s an underground legend and a mixtape king. That’s how Rick Ross describes MMG’s in-house and prolific DJ Scream. Garnering the respect of the streets and fellow hip-hop legends is something that the 6-foot-8 DJ set out to do since his rabble-rousing, nappy-headed days as a kid. Even when his family encouraged him to pursue a basketball career, the young music junkie locked into his passion of moving crowds by spinning the hottest records.
“My family wanted me to play basketball, I hated basketball,” DJ Scream recently told VIBE. “So I bought my first pair of turntables. They were Fisher Price. I was about eleven years old. I saved all my lunch money to buy them.”
After years of making a name for himself by selling five dollar CDs as a Mathematics/Computer Science major at Tuskegee University to working in college radio at Georgia State and Auburn University, Scream’s dedication to DJing earned him hosting gigs on Hoodrich Radio alongside co-hosts Cory B and DJ Spin, which can be heard Atlanta’s Hot 107.9 ATL and Sirius XM Hip Hop Nation.
The MMG affiliate hit pause on his busy schedule of interviewing rappers and clocking in lengthy studio hours to chop it up with VIBE about his upcoming yet-to-be-titled project, tag teaming with Rick Ross, current affairs and his journey from childhood DJ to MMG MVP.
VIBE: How did you link with Rick Ross?
DJ Scream: I was just on my street mixtape grind and he would come to Atlanta, and he would just hear my name. So one day he just reached out and was like, I just wanted to let you know that whatever you doing, you doing your thing and I’m going to f*ck with you in the future. This was around 2007 or 2008, around the time “Speedin’” was out. I think also [DJ Khaled’s] “I’m So Hood” was out at the time. Two weeks later, he put out a freestyle over John Legend’s “Green Light.” My name was in there and I was like, ‘I appreciate that.’
Then we would go back and forth. I did a few mixtapes with Triple C’s, and one day, he hit me. He was like, So, as you see I got this situation, I got Meek, I got Wale and I want to chop it with you. We need power players on the team. I was like, ‘Cool, let me know what it is.’ He was like, ‘Aight, cool. I’ll have your plane ticket tonight.’ So the next day, I went out there to chop it up with him and he was like, I want you be part of the team, but I also want to put you in a situation with a major label to do an album. And we‘ve been rocking on that level for a minute now.
Is Rozay’s work ethic really that crucial?
I’m a person that has a very, very, very, very, very, very strong work ethic but when you get around him, you start to question your work ethic. It just kind of teaches you that you can get a lot done in a day. At the time, I was working but it kind of taught me at that time to work smarter. We a great team, too. You got to have a proper team. You can’t do it all yourself.
It seems like he’s getting some sh*t off his chest with Black Dollar. Did he play it for you before it dropped?
Yeah, I got to hear most of the project. He’ll bring me in and be like, I want you to hear it for yourself and tell me what you honestly think. And I was like, ‘Well, I hope it’s like Rozay.’ He played “Foreclosures,” the track with The Dream, the one with Gucci. He played about seven records.
What was your initial reaction?
It’s like the Rich Forever vibe. It’s the mixtape vibe but still good enough to be an album. I think the people gon’ enjoy it. Obviously, for “Foreclosures,” he got some sh*t to talk about. But even with Rich Forever, I was introduced to one project but when he put it out I was like, ‘This ain’t what I heard.’ So he takes it down to the last minute.
Switching gears, that “Grippin’ Grain” is a good look.
I just got to a space where just listening to music, it gets monotonous. For me, being a big fan of UGK, even sharing the same birthday as Pimp C, and being friends with Cory Mo—who’s the producer of “Grippin’ Grain.” When he let me hear the beat, I instantly went back to the ‘90s. I instantly went into Caprice Classic mode. And 8 Ball is someone that I did mixtape work with and I just heard his voice on it. I just knew he’d do this thing. And Scotty ATL, being familiar with him, I knew he’d do his thing. He has a lot of dope music out. He doing his thing in Atlanta. You know K.R.I.T., his names speaks for itself. And those three haven’t been on a track together. I know K.R.I.T. and Scotty have did some records but we haven’t had those three on a body of work together and that’s what I felt like I wanted to do. I could’ve reached out and go [with] whoever but I wanted to break the monotony and let people know that right now, what I’m on is trying to deliver music that’s good and going to make you happy. It bridges the gap for people who might not know about 8 ball and MJG.
That’s why films like Straight Outta Compton are important also.
I do a radio show and there were young people calling in like, ‘It was a great movie. I didn’t know Ice Cube and Dr. Dre was N.W.A.’ This is a whole new generation. If we are going to preserve this culture, they have to know about N.W.A., they have to know about UGK, they have to know about 8 Ball and MJG. In other cultures, they know about The Rolling Stones. They know about The Beatles, they’ll never forget that. But imagine somebody born in 1999. They’re 16 years old. Their first album was Migos or Future. That’s why I’m glad that that Outkast reunion happened last year, ‘cause I felt some of Atlanta started to slip from understanding what they are and who they are—the South.
Is it easy for you to get rappers together as a DJ?
Nah, it’s not easy but it is a level of respect there because I did a mixtape project with Scotty, I did a project with 8 Ball, I know K.R.I.T. from way back. It was on the production tip we did records before the deal so I just told him like, ‘Yo, this is the deal.’ I told him the vision, this is what I’m trying to accomplish. We want people to pay attention to the sound and let them know that you can break the monotony of sound. 808s is cool. I love the sound but sometimes, I just want to lean back, grip the grain and ride.
So what will “Grippin’ Grain” be featured on?
“Grippin’ Grain” is from a forthcoming EP that is still untitled. I tried to have a title before I came to New York for the press run but it got to be the right title. It’s going to be somewhere along those lines of that good quality music. Might not be limited to the South but it will be good quality street music. In the imprint of Hood Rich, which is my side of things, we got so many dope producers—Danny Wolf, he produced the big record by iLoveMakonnen out now called “Trust Me Danny.” One K HoodRich, Dirty Costello, and of course, we got DJ Spinz. He’s doing his thing. He got Rich Homie Quan’s “Flex With Me,” “Commas” with Southside. So even if you don’t see me or hear me putting out records per se, I still got my hands on certain things as far as keeping the airwaves hot.
On your radio show, you briefly touch on social issues. Do you have strong political beliefs?
Oh yes. Actually, I’m in talks of doing some particular podcast that’s inspired by the radio show. On the show, we go everywhere. People know from the show that there’s a political side of me where I may drift off into what’s going on. I may get into stuff that’s going on in the world and that may be as serious as police brutality, or as entertaining as Kanye’s rants. In a radio show, people tune in to hear music so we can only talk so much. We have a duty to bring the hottest music, which is what we’ve been doing for years but sometimes we want to talk, and me and my co-hosts can talk for hours. Now, I think people are warming up to the podcast because they want to know what DJ Scream’s opinion is on this and that. We hear you every week but I don’t get to go as deep, so this will allow me and the crew to go deeper into things that we want to talk about.
“Even if you don’t see me or hear me putting out records per se, I still got my hands on certain things as far as keeping the airwaves hot”
So what’s your opinion of the 2016 election?
I think the Donald Trump aspect of it is a circus but you have to be fair with that, though, because money is powerful. We know what kind of budget [Mitt] Romney had but when people come together—and I think that’s the blessing of social media that you can spread the word that, ‘Hey, if you don’t do this or do that, this can happen.’ Now as a Democrat, I say this openly, I don’t think that Hillary Clinton is the resolution either.
It’s just not tight enough. Of all the candidates that I’ve heard—and I haven’t heard all of them—I listen to them. Y’all coming in after Obama. This has nothing to do with him being a black president, but y’all coming in after a guy that was like, ‘Okay, this is what I’m about to do. This is what I’m going to try to do, this is my plan. It’s calculated. Here’s step by step.’ He had his sh*t together. Even from a social media standpoint, he was like, I may not have the money like A or B but I got the people so if I can get these entertainers to influence the people who would never vote to vote, black president or not, then I can make it happen.
How would you rate Obama’s overall performance?
I think overall with Obama, he’s the president so everybody’s not 110 percent happy. As a president, you can’t make everything you say happen, but he did make some moves. You can never do everything you say you gon’ do as a president but he did make some moves so you got to respect that.
Are you a heavy reader?
Man, yes. I’ve read so much. This year has been all about the Compound Effect and I read a lot of Deepak Chopra. Moreso lighter reading this year because sometimes I read some deep stuff and I just be like, ‘Ahh, let me read something light, man.’ It can get deep. It’s one thing hearing something but then when you read it and internalize it, it’s like, ‘Damn.’Deepak is nice. He has some soul-stirring stuff about the universe. I’ve listened to some of his stuff. He just teaches the simple things like love, peace, silence. It’s the simple things that you can lose sight of when you running around hustling. Sometimes, regardless of what I’m doing, I just sit down and be quiet. It’s therapeutic to just be quiet and reflect. Let me just think about where I’m at and where I’ve come from. Let me be thankful and be humble. I’m a firm believer in just sitting down and being quiet sometimes. I’ve learned a lot from Deepak. He’s dope.
You said you’ve been reading the Compound Effect. Speak on it.
It’s by Darren Hardy and basically, it’s for people who are trying to accomplish something. He breaks it down, step by step. If you got to take it hour-by-hour or minute-by-minute then do that. Like, did you know that if you saved a penny everyday from the beginning of your life, you’d be rich? It asks, are your really doing everything that you can? Are you taking advantage of everyday?