DJ Funkmaster Flex started DJing before a lot of today’s hip-hop fans were even born — and he’s still here. With more than 20 years under his belt as one of the most charismatic and competitive forces in New York radio, Funkmaster Flex deserves the respect he commands, even if you don’t like the fact that he knows it.
VIBE caught up with Flex to discuss a few things — including his new gig with Sean Diddy Combs. As the digital advisor to Revolt, The Bronx DJ will be using his self-taught digital savvy to build the brand’s voice online. Once we got business out of the way, Flex — who is never afraid to say what he really feels — weighed in on Kendrick Lamar’s new single “i,” his upcoming honor at the third annual Global Spin Awards and a hard lesson he learned early on about the music industry.
VIBE: You have a new job title, among the many that you already have. You’re the new digital advisor at Revolt. Tell me about it.
Funkmaster Flex: Correct! On my website, InFlexWeTrust.com, I built that from scratch and after building that, I built my app. So when I dropped the app, Diddy gave me a buzz. We were just talking ideas, we weren’t even really talking working together. With Revolt, I love the excitement and what they’re bringing. They’re very grassroots. They’re very in touch with the music and their audience is growing and I want to add to that. I want to help them get more content and be bigger in the digital space. That’s what I do on a daily basis.
People know who Funkmaster Flex is. Was it difficult to build what you have been able to build digitally even though you are such an accomplished DJ?
Absolutely! It was difficult because if you’re not in the digital space, you just think that Funkmaster Flex is a radio/TV personality. It’s like what else does he do? But people in the digital space, they understand me. I’m excited about Revolt. What I like about Revolt and Diddy and Keith Clinkscales is that they don’t do anything unless its innovative. These guys have done Ciroc. Bad Boy. Water. They get it.
Let’s switch gears a little bit. You’re going to be honored at this year’s Global Spin Awards. How do you feel about that?
I love it. Shawn Prez is such a fan of the DJ and has total understanding of what the DJ means to the culture and not just to the culture of music, but what the DJ means as a tastemaker. I thinks its very cool that he’s recognizing the innovation of certain DJs.
When you found out that you were being honored, honestly, did it make you feel old?
You know what? I got inducted into the New York Radio Hall of Fame and I think the first thing I said was ‘I have a lot more to do.’ [LAUGHS] Let’s not wrap me up. It’s a blessing. I love being on the radio. But I’m more excited to build websites and apps and enjoy doing digital mischief over playing in the clubs. Its a blessing that I get to do it when I feel like it and its not a necessity. Radio is number one. Building sites and apps is number two and playing in the clubs when I want at my leisure is number three because I like to spend time with my children. What’s great about Shawn Prez is that he comes from Bad Boy. He has a great mentor. No one understands the power of the DJ like Diddy and second 50 cent.
How has the digital space impacted the way we digest music?
What’s changed about the club scene is the night club broke more music. Before it was let me go to the club to see what records are poppin’. Now its let me go to the club and hear the song I saw on Vine, that I heard on Pandora, that I heard on Spotify and that I saw on YouTube, that is now what you hear when you go to the club. That’s not a bad thing and that’s why the digital space is so exciting to me. The digital space is the equivalent of the night club 20 years ago. That is where you go for new music and your favorite dance. I think Bobby Shmurda is a great example of what is going on. Is he going to sell a million records? I don’t know. This is a song about a kid making a video doing a dance and is a little intoxicated. It really resonated with the kids. They went from 300,000 views and now they’re at four or five million. Then it got big in the club and now the radio is playing it. Bobby Shmurda is true way of looking at how the music is breaking.
How do you do feel about Kendrick Lamar’s “i”?
I think it was important for him to make a good record without a feature. I had the song early and I put it on my app and paid attention to Twitter and Instagram and you’re fans can help you and hurt you, man. People sometimes get stuck and they’ll say ‘oh, it’s not Reasonable Doubt.’ Obviously! It’s not “Control” and it’s not going to be. He made that already. He’s going to have hardcore lyrics on the album. I like this.
Has there ever been a song you thought was trash that you didn’t play on the radio?
I may have songs that I don’t like but the one thing I never get caught up in is my personal opinion. If I’m at my warehouse and I’m working on cars and school lets out and I leave my garage door half cracked and I’m on a busy street if there’s a song that I may think is trash, and I hear it come out of three cars while working, I’ll go in that night and I’ll be on that song. I use it as a barometer.
Flex, thank you… truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect when I interviewed you. You’re actually very personable, so thank you for that.
Oh, for sure. I’m only a dick on the radio, you know. [LAUGHS] That’s my personality on the radio, but look, I’m competitive. I’ve probably lost a couple of friendships over it. If you want to be on the radio the same time I’m on the radio. I look at you as a competitor and I am going to make that difficult for you. But hey, that’s just my personality.