Originally from St. Louis, MO, DJ Cuzzin B has rocked crowds all over the world with the True School Corporation (9th Wonder) as well as his own DJ collective, Point Blank DJ's. DJ Cuzzin B is one of the best and most active DJ's in the area. It doesn't matter if it's a day party at CIAA Weekend, or one of his many regular DJ sets around the city, this DJ will definitely make your day (or night). In a time when anyone with a computer and a pair of Beats By Dre headphones can call themselves a "DJ", Cuzzin B is a throwback, someone who lets his skills, not his co-signs, speak for him.
The Washington Informer caught up with DJ Cuzzin B before his DJ set at Muse Lounge to discuss connecting with 9th Wonder, his Soul 4 Sale mixtape series, and how exactly did he come up with his very family orientated DJ name.
Washington Informer: So, when did you start DJ'ing?
DJ Cuzzin B: I started DJ'ing in the late'90's...actually mid-'90's, mid to late'90's. I started off the usual way, doing house parties and at the skating rink back home in St. Louis during my junior/senior year in high school. I really got my feet wet when I went off to college in Mississippi. That's where I really got all of the know-how as far as rocking clubs and doing that kind of stuff, so I say like '97, '98, something like that.
Washington Informer: You grew up in St. Louis, you now live in Maryland. How did growing up in the Midwest influence you musically?
DJ Cuzzin B: I couldn't ask for a better place to grow up musically because we got it from every angle. I mean, St. Louis is right smack dab in the middle of the country. So we listened to west coast, we listened to east coast; we had a big, big southern influence. So, from a hip hop point of view, it was super ideal because we pretty much listened to everything as far as hip hop was concerned just because it came from all angles. We listened to a lot of NWA, 8 Ball and MJG, UGK, stuff like that. I will say it was definitely a lot more southern appeal, but back in those days, southern hip hop wasn't as big as it was now. [Laughs] When I was in high school, they used to call me "Little East Coast", because I was listening to Wu Tang, I was listening to Mic Geronimo, I was listening to DITC, Fat Joe, that kinda stuff. I was listening to that stuff when the masses, they weren't really messing with it just yet.
Washington Informer: Who were some of your musical influences?
DJ Cuzzin B: Stevie Wonder is the king to me. Like, nothing or nobody can touch Stevie Wonder, period. That's when I really, really, started getting' into music. Like when I started going through my Mom's records in the basement, when I blew the dust off of Songs In The Key Of Life, that's when I really wanted to find out everything I could know about music because he (Stevie Wonder) was just so creative and so ahead of his time and just so, so incredible. So, Stevie Wonder is the end-all-be-all. The big influence, deejay wise, for me, was this guy named DJ Kut in St. Louis. He was the first dude I heard on the radio playing everything. Other influences, of course, Jam Master J, Red Alert, and DJ Scrap.
Washington Informer: It seems easier now more than ever to be a DJ, What do you think of all the "celebrity" and iPod DJ's that have come up lately?
DJ Cuzzin B: I've talked about this with a lot of my DJ friends and my thing is, if you're gonna be a "celebrity" DJ and you're really, really serious about it, study your craft. That's not the case with most "celebrity" DJ's. I remember when hip-hop artists starting getting into acting, and there was a big backlash, like a lot of the established actors were coming out against and speaking out on and really being insulted that rappers were getting into Hollywood just on star power. I compare it to that. I hear a lot of DJ's saying the same thing, like, you know, the music business is not what it used to be so a lot of these people are looking for a quick hustle. So I say that to say, I'll respect a "celebrity" DJ when I see a "celebrity" DJ really get on the turntables, or CDJ's, or whatever they do, and do it well, and sound like they really put time and effort into actually learning the craft. Quite honestly, I haven't heard that from most "celebrity" DJ's.
Washington Informer: It seems like technology makes it a lot easier for them to jump in, as well.
DJ Cuzzin B: That's just people in general not only "celebrity" DJ's. You gotta lot of people calling themselves "DJ's" now because, they have a, a laptop and a music library. It takes so much more, more than that and quite honestly, it's insulting to us real DJ's out here who put in the time and effort. I remember back in the day, when I was becoming a DJ, I had to earn the name "DJ". When I was starting out, I was just "Cuzzin B" until I earned the right to put "DJ" in front of that name. It's just not like that anymore.
Washington Informer: How did you come up with the name "DJ Cuzzin B"? Did a family member give it to you?
DJ Cuzzin B: My partner, who's my cousin, Jay*Clipp gave me the name. This is a silly story, but we went to college together in Mississippi and we used to always run together. He was there a year before me; we had a crew called Third Eye. He was very, very popular in school and he always referred to me as his "cousin". Like, 'Yo, Yo, this is my cousin'. He was always introducing me to people as his cousin; everybody started calling me "Cuzzin Bobby" [laughs]. "Cuzzin Bobby" just sounded country, so eventually; I took the "Bobby" off and changed it to "Cuzzin B". I credit Jay*Clipp for coming up with the name "DJ Cuzzin B".
Washington Informer: So, how did you connect with 9th Wonder?
DJ Cuzzin B: It's funny man, around the time when The Listening was coming out, I met him. That was about ten years ago now, I was at a LB (Little Brother) show, I think they opened up for Gang Starr. Actually even before that, I talked to one of the guys that worked at ABB at the time, I forget his name. We were on the phone one time, he was like, 'Yo, I got 9th on the line'. I'm just a big fan so, he threw him on the phone and we just had so much in common, as far as the music and the way we came up and that kind of stuff. So he's like, 'Yo, when you come to the show, holla at me'. That weekend he ended up inviting me out to dinner with all of his peoples, he has a lot of people in the DMV area, and of course we went me to the car and we listened to beats. This was before the Black Album and all of that kind of stuff. That was 10 years ago and we just been family ever since, man.
Washington Informer: 9th Wonder obviously is a big name in music production. Tell me something that you've learned from him.
DJ Cuzzin B: I think more so than anything, my work ethic and my respect for hard work have multiplied tenfold since I met him. I'm willing to go harder now just watching him and watching his work ethic. Watching him churn out 50, 60 beats a day and keep going after that. You know, just sitting, watching him in the lab just crank out these beats all day every day. He's taught me, if I really wanna do this, if I really wanna do this DJ thing and transition it from hobby to career, you have to perfect it, you have to own your craft and constantly be practicing. Just watching him doing what he did with the production, I've learned to do the same thing on the DJ side. 9th is constantly working, the dude doesn't stop. Even now, he works like he's still trying to "get on" you know what I mean? So that's, that's the biggest thing I've learned from him. Just go hard and work hard and just really devote yourself to the craft.
Washington Informer: Do you have any plans of getting into the production side of the business?
DJ Cuzzin B: No, man. I know that's the usual path, DJ and going into production but, I'm not where I want to be on the DJ end yet. I got so much more to do on the DJ side, you know? I toy around with it, but you know I know myself and I know what's good. At this point in my career, I just wanna continue to evolve and get better as a DJ; I don't really see myself doing the production thing. I have a lot of ideas as far as different production, different projects, but actually making beats and that kind of stuff? I think I'm gonna leave that alone and leave that for the pros.
Washington Informer: You have your own crew, Point Blank DJ's, when did you start that?
DJ Cuzzin B: I started that a couple years out of school. Like I mentioned before, we had a crew called Third Eye Entertainment; myself, Jay*Clipp, DJ Phingaprint, B-Dub, DJ Conscience, and DJ Scrap. These are guys who are all my mentors, they all kinda took me under their wing and showed me the ropes, taught me how to get the DJ thing going. After graduation, myself, Clipp and Phingaprint really wanted to take it further and since we weren't in school anymore we just wanted to have a fresh start. So, about, I wanna, say 2002, 2003, Clipp and I did this mixtape called Soul for Sale, that's when we finally just said yeah we need to do this mixtape thing. People were really receptive to the mixtapes and we were constantly churning'em out. We just sat down and started to really concentrate on these events, these parties and these mixtapes and that's how Point Blank Entertainment started man.
Washington Informer: Speaking of mixtapes, most people probably know you from your Soul 4 Sale mixtape series. What is Soul 4 Sale?
DJ Cuzzin B: Soul 4 Sale is a mixtape series started in 2002, by myself & Jay*Clipp, that highlights new, untapped, soulful musicians from any genre. Our goal was to introduce people to new sounds, rhythms & voices, it's our baby. Many artists featured on Soul 4 Sale - Raheem DeVaughn, Dwele, Jazmine (Sullivan), etc., went on to become world renown names. Many people first heard these voices on Soul 4 Sale. Jay*Clipp and I are working on another installment; this is going to be Volume 10. We will release it sometime this year.
Washington Informer: Let's talk about Uplift: The Mixtape. How did you and Nike get together for this project?
DJ Cuzzin B: We have a mutual friend by the name of Jason Mayden. He is the Director of Innovation for Nike Digital Sport, which is responsible for the Nike Fuel Band, that's the big craze right now. In 2010, he invited us out to Portland to DJ his going away party, Nike sent him away to Stanford for a year so we went out to Portland to do a party for him. Right after that he's like, 'Yo, when I come back, I'm gonna need you out here, I don't know what I'm gonna use you for but we need you'. It was a really good party so fast forward to February, this past February; Nike had an event called "Sneaker Ball". They hold it annually for Black History month; basically, it's a party and an auction benefiting The Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization. I was asked if I could do a mixed tape to compliment the event and of course I was down. Uplift is basically a bunch of jams with artists like Most Def, NWA, etc., with not necessarily a positive message, but a message talking about the black experience, be it, positive or negative. So, I just worked on that for a couple of months and that was the mixtape. We got about 500 copies in Portland and it's available on our website pointblankdjs.com. We got a really, really good response and I'm really proud of that project - I put a lot of work into it. Not only because I put a lot of work into it, but the message behind it, it's definitely good music. I really wanted people to hear it, especially the kids, it's clean and it has a good message. You know the musical climate today, so, I feel a responsibility to try and get some kind of message out there with these jams. You know what I mean?
Washington Informer: What's your most memorable DJ experience?
DJ Cuzzin B: I'm gonna say the party we did in London that was 2009 I think. The party was just...it was almost spiritual. It was completely packed, some parties that are just packed wall to wall like that, they can get uncomfortable, but the energy and the way that the crowd just looked at us and just held onto our every move and every single song...it was almost like the crowd was reaching for the next song or the next selection. That London party was just an energy I will never ever forget man. I mean, it was completely uncomfortable climate wise. It was hot, I had stripped down to this small [expletive] tee shirt, but I will never ever forget that party man. That energy was just so crazy and we just went everywhere. It was a round robin; it was actually a True School party. It was me, it was 9th (Wonder), it was DJ Face, (Jay*) Clipp and we just took turns slapping them in the head, man [laughs]. It was so much fun, that energy man, that energy was crazy, that's like one of those parties that I just chase today.
Washington Informer: A lot of DJ's say that crowds overseas are different from crowds in the states. Do you feel the same way?
DJ Cuzzin B: Yeah, I do man, they respect DJ culture so much. Your average crowd here in the States, I mean you have those here that respect the craft and understand what it takes to do what you do but it's just a different beast out there (overseas). Not only do they respect DJ culture, they have a respect for American hip-hop culture in general, like they really look at you in a different way. Me, I'm not a huge name, but when I went out to London, when I went to Paris, they treated me like a superstar. They know promoters aren't just bringing anybody out there, you know what I mean? Even before you step on stage or power up the turntables, they respect what you're about to do and when you deliver, it's just a great feeling. They look at DJ culture a lot different out there, it's a greater respect.
Washington Informer: I've been told that rappers want to be athletes and athletes want to be rappers. What do DJ's want to be?
DJ Cuzzin B: [Laughs] You know what, man; I wouldn't want to be anything else. We control it, I don't know for sure but I think if I asked a drummer if they would want to be the lead guitar, bass guitar or the lead singer, I don't think they would want to be anything else. The drummer is the backbone and that's the same way with the DJ. You take the DJ out of the equation, you have nothing. I wouldn't want to be anything else man, like I don't want to be a rapper, and I don't want to be a singer. I wouldn't want to be anything else man, I'm so proud to be a DJ.
Washington Informer: You're always busy; you're always on the go. What do you have coming up next?
DJ Cuzzin B: We're gonna be heading to New York in late April, early May, hopefully. We've been wanting to get out there for a long time, like I got people in New York who are really salty and feel some kind of way that we haven't been back out there in like two or three years.
Washington Informer: Is this a True School party?
DJ Cuzzin B: Yeah, it's gonna be a True School party, we're looking at a couple of venues right now, we've got some people helping us out, but yeah, True School will be back in New York very, very soon. What else? We are actually working on doing some follow up stuff with Nike. We're just chatting about it right now, but please stay tuned to the next project that we do with Nike because, just from our discussions with these guys, it's gonna be a big game changer and something very, very positive. So, stay tuned for that.
For more information on DJ Cuzzin B, visit: www.pointblankdjs.com,
A Tribe Called Best Vol. III – A Musical Tribute to Mos Def and Andre 3000
Music By: DJ Spinster Tracy and DJ Cuzzin B. Saturday, April 7.
Muse Lounge, 717 6th Street NW, WDC. Doors open at 10 p.m.
For more information visit www.clubmusedc.com