When the ball dropped in Times Square in New York City and ushered in the year 2014 it also officially made 1994–one of what many would consider the greatest year of Hip-Hop’s Golden Age–twenty years old. Though often debated and sometimes over-analyzed, there’s little room to argue that during an era known for classics that defined the genre, the 365 days of the nine-four saw some of best music Hip-Hop culture had to offer.
As one of the premiere Hip-Hop DJ’s in the world Funkmaster Flex had a front row seat through it all. The on-air personality, DJ and car enthusiast is currently hosting McDonald’s popular “Flavor Battle” competition, so it was only right that he sat with TheUrbanDaily to give us his thoughts on where the music is now, where it’s going and what helped make the golden era so golden.
TUD: When it comes to DJ’s in this Flavor Battle competition, what do you look for?
Of course creativity, skill, image, style, swag. I think in 2014 there’s a lot more that you look for in a DJ than you used to. Like I think they [have to be] a complete package and how they handle the role. This is my second year being a part of it, it usually gets pretty intense. All the DJ’s usually concentrate on everything. From catching the record to cutting to blends to sometimes throwing on a lot of records real fast, so it’s always a wide range when it comes to this battle.
WATCH: McDonald’s Flavor Battle Finalist, DJ R Tistic Mixes Live on Sway in the Morning
As someone who’s seen the transition from crates to Serato, which one did you feel was better for the culture?
You know what, I think about that sometimes and today in 2014 I like knowing that all my records are in my garage and in my basement and that they’re there. I enjoy the Serato because I feel like I don’t have to take my records out anymore and worry about them being damaged. It’s weird because I like every era. I like when it was fun with disco break beats to cut. I like when it was just a few rap records, I like when there was a ton of records, I liked when I got on the radio and the most prized possession for being on the radio is when record companies start to mail you records. There’s no better feeling than that but the Serato, I like that too. Has it changed the DJ landscape a little bit? Yeah! I mean it makes it so the hobbyist element is out there for more people. I mean anybody can buy a computer and get Serato and download some songs… I’m not mad at it, it just makes you compete more.
Another argument is that it thins the culture out because now you have everyone getting involved whether they’re honestly passionate about it or not.
Yeah, but I’ve been fortunate to stand out a little bit more than the other DJ’s thank God. And just because you have Serato doesn’t mean you’re a DJ.
This is true…
And you got more celebrities DJ’ing now. I think Idris Elba DJ’s, Solange, Paris Hilton… I’m kinda ok with it. I mean I get it, I understand and you know what, if that makes you cool and it’s a cool thing you want to be a part of then I think it’s great.
For the record I am NOT cool with Paris Hilton DJ’ing, but moving on…
(Laughs) You know what, it’s what she wants to do, she’s not doing it for the money, she’s doing it because she thinks it’s cool!
Yeah, we call those people “posers”.
Or hypebeast? (Laughs)
(Laughs) Nah, I understand, I do. I understand.
That brings me to another question. As someone who’s managed to walk the line between the purist and the pure commercial DJ, how do you see things going forward?
In terms of the DJ culture, the essence of the turntable and the mixer has always been to move the crowd. I think if it continues to be used as such, it will grow. I mean, something that I’m doing is once a month I’m bringing back The Tunnel parties I used to do. Not doing it at The Tunnel nightclub but at different clubs once a month. And the objective of it is… see I don’t think the DJ is the reason that the club scene or certain things have taken a shift. I think somewhere along the line, we started to think that a strip club was cool, and I think somewhere a long the line guys started to believe that strippers were ok to marry and it’s ok to go to the club and toss money around. And look, that’s good for some but I think there was always an alternative and that used to be a small part on New York City.
I think it’s going to go back to that. I mean the last party you were probably in, when the music’s on, people were all on their phone [or on] Instagram. There’s a lot happening right now, the culture has changed. I don’t think that it’s changed for the worst. When something gets overdone, it usually has to scale back. I think it’s gonna come back to people having a good time in the club dancing on the dance floor.
So sort of like the MC’s vs rappers debate where the culture has shifted back to lyrics with guys like Kendrick and Drake on top and less ring-tone style raps.
Yes! I think the MC and the DJ… it’s always underneath, it’s always there, it’s always present. That’s why the McDonald’s program is so big. I’m not a part of a lot of programs but when it’s about the DJ, and this is really just about the DJ not anything else. It’s about two turntables… or CDJ’s (laughs) and a DJ trying to make a name for himself. That’s what DJ’ing is about man. February 13th 9pm on TheFlavorBattles.com, it’s gonna blast off. You’re gonna see some good DJ’s cutting it up and doing their thing for some big money.
And you’re gonna keep the standards high, yes?
Yo, [judges] DJ Clue and Spinderella and Just Blaze, they don’t let it sag man, they keeps it high. I’m hosting and I give my little two scents but those judges man, they really look at it a certain way. And also last year’s winner is going to judg, too which makes a lot of sense because he knows what it takes to bring it home. Seriously, you’re not gonna see somebody win that shouldn’t.
Is 1994 the best year in Hip-hop? Click to read what does Flex have to say!