“Dubstep has been on my radar for a few years now. I really like the hard-hitting beats of dubstep because it compliments the real gangsta lyrics of West Coast rap. That’s why I had to team up with the U.K. homie MistaJam because he’s the master of dubstep…the pioneer!” – Snoop Dogg
From humble beginnings, MistaJam has rapidly ascended through the ranks of British radio and is now firmly established as one of the premier broadcasters in the land. A healthy combination of hard work, a huge personality and an incredibly diverse taste in music explain why MistaJam has been propelled into the spotlight and why his show is consistently the most listened to on the BBC Radio 1xtra network and on Radio 1 Saturday nights. He is a leading authority on forecasting new talent, regularly playing the stars of tomorrow often years before anyone else – Jessie J and Professor Green being just two recent examples, as a result he is now regarded as one of the go-to-men for breaking new music in British radio. Dan Prince speaks to the main man as he is parked up in a car park in Liverpool…
Good afternoon Pete. A big night tonight, the first of the Snoop Dog arena tours kicking off in Liverpool. How did this next cool chapter in your amazing career happen in the first place?
“Hi Dan. Well it has been kinda weird how all of a sudden these huge arena dates and my new ‘Throw Your Dubs Up’ mixtape release that I’ve done with Snoop, DJ Battlecat and Skullkandy have all happened. It all came together after Snoop heard me on the radio whilst he was over for all of the festivals he was doing in the summer. He liked what he heard and got in touch.”
Was it a surprise for you?
“It was and it wasn’t. In the past Snoop has done ‘Snoop Dogg Millionaire’ with Chase and Status and Snoop is renowned for trying stuff out before anyone else. It was however really humbling knowing someone like him is really enjoying what I am doing though.”
Snoop had a big year in Ibiza this summer alongside the likes of Kei$ha, Puff and 50 – no sign of you again though this summer on the white isle?
“No, I’ve not been over there since 2007. To be honest I just decided to completely focus on my broadcasting and the UK. I have had a really busy and fun festival summer, I just had to make sure the lawn in my back garden was green!”
Are you surprised at the success of dubstep – are you embracing its popularity or do you wish it had remained more underground?
“I think for me, the way that dubstep has gained it’s pop success has been very credible. The aesthetics in the way that dubstep records are being made haven’t changed, it’s just the way that mainstream ears have changed! Nero for instance a couple of years ago wouldn’t have got a look in, now they are on the Radio 1 A List! It’s the same way that Drum & Bass emerged in the late 90s, people just like it. There is a lot of jumping on the band wagon and that’s to be expected, but the dubstep gamekeepers are the same gatekeepers we’ve had all along. And if we aren’t all playing it, then it’s not a big tune.”
You were born up in Nottingham and, as most of us did, grew up listening to the music our parents were into. By the outcome, it looks like you had pretty cool parents – what sounds were they into?
“Random stuff really. A lot of pop stuff from the charts, the 90s were a great time for music. My mum was into Whitney Houston and the R&B end of the market, my dad’s taste was more varied. I can remember one day him coming home with the De La Soul ‘3 Feet High and Rising’ album – amazing! It was a very eclectic household with everything thrown into one big melting pot. But Dan, I would never say my mum had a cool taste in music!”
You were just 14 when Mr Tim Westwood invited you down to London to demonstrate your skills – how did that all come about and what was that like walking into the hallowed Radio 1 building?
“Well I have always loved to explore the world of DJing. I was playing with a Fisher Price record player at the age of two on the kitchen table! When I was 12 years old I discovered that by getting involved in a drugs awareness course in my home town enabled me to get involved in some free DJing and be able to learn production. I hooked up with a hip hop crew there and we were invited down to the BBC to go on the Westwood show, I went down as the DJ! That without doubt set my love of radio alight. Seeing the Green Room which is now the Live Lounge, walking into Westwood’s studio, seeing all of the promo Oasis mini discs lying around – wow. And to have Tim watching me play and then bigging me up, an amazing experience for a 12 year old!”
What did your parents think of your eventual career choice? Were they behind you?
“Very much so. My dad was a sheet metal worker and still is. He just wanted to make sure I made a career out of something I loved, something that he hadn’t been able to do.”
Before all of this incredible success – what has been the worst job you have had?
“The worst job I ever had in a way turned out to be the best job I have ever had because I met my missus there. It was working for a big credit card company selling loans on the phone, a really horrible telesales job. Morally awful but as I said, it turned out okay in the end!”
You seem to be mates with everyone at Radio 1 and Radio 1Xtra and beyond, you even had The Observer’s Miranda Sawyer telling her readers to move the dial from Radio 2 and check your show out!
“Haha. Well yes we do all get on, it’s very rare to find such a good working environment that we have down at the BBC towers.”
So is the aim to one day to take over from Westwood?
“Listen, there will never be another Tim Westwood. Anyone who is seeking to be the next Tim Westwood is just limiting himself, I want to be the first Mistajam! I love the fact that I am not playlisted and I can play any genre of music that I want, I love what I am doing and that’s all that counts.”
Tonight sees the launch of the mighty Snoop Tour – are you going to change your set in any way for the tour?
“Well Snoop has asked me to play some dubstep so it’s going to be interesting to see how that goes down with what predominately will be a hip hop crowd. I know though that I will have to play some west coast classics to keep everyone happy – including the big man Snoop! It’s kinda weird, once upon a time I started my career up in Nottingham playing hip hop with my crews and now I am getting a bit nervous playing the same records!”
What has been the best gig of your year?
“The most memorable has to be Glastonbury. This year was the second time I’d played there and even though it took me three and a half hours to trudge through the mud from the car park to get to the East Dance tent, it was still amazing. A brilliant gig where I DJ’d and did the whole comparing thing as well. Loved it.”
“I was always say that any DJ who can answer that question quickly cannot be a good DJ. I’ll get back to you on that one Dan.”
What is the big tune you are spinning at the moment?
“There’s two. Switch ft. Andrea Martin ‘I Still Love You’ which is such a beautiful record and B.o.B ‘Strange Clouds’ which is just an amazing tune.”
You are renowned for spotting talent way before other presenters, Jessie Jay and Professor Green being the obvious candidates – who should we be looking out for in 2012?
“Got to be Flux Pavillion and his new album project. Joshua is classically trained, can play six instruments and is a very strong song writer. I know everyone including Moylesy was all over ‘Base Cannon’ but he is going to surprise a lot of people next year and show the world that he doesn’t just make screechy, angry, take your shirt off dubstep!”
Last week saw the MOBOS take place, what are your thoughts on the MOBOs? Usually the American big guns don’t turn up, but this year it didn’t matter as it’s the UK leading the way in the urban stakes at the moment – why is that? And also, are the MOBOS really that relevant?
“I think we have people making music nowadays who really understand popular culture. It’s not about one artist anymore having a huge hit then disappearing without a trace. 2011 has been an incredible year for so many artists, look at the breakthrough twelve months Wretch 21 has had! As for the MOBOs, well they are going in the right direction but I’m not sure they really represent what they claim they do. I think they are about five years away.”
You’ve played for Mark Ronson in New York and at shows for the likes of Kanye and Jay Z – do you still get nervous meeting dudes like this?
“Yes very, very much so. Mark is such a nice guy, he was very cool when we first met, telling me all about his Olympics project with Coca Cola that he was doing, he was so approachable. As for the likes of Kanye and co., well I grew up listening to these people. I can remember standing at the bus stop on my way to primary school listening to ‘Doggy Dogg’ on my Walkman and watching the ‘What’s My Name’ video at school where we had Cable. That’s when it gets scary.”
Your anthem of the summer?
“I have been finishing every big set this year with the same track by Cambridge producer Bioviolence and his remix of Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’. An incredible dubstep bootleg taking Adele’s anthemic, haunting vocals into a jump up and down dubstep monster.”
What are the plans for 2012?
“Well my main focus at the moment has to be the radio shows on 1Xtra and Radio 1. I am loving it so much and that remains my priority until they kick me out of the building. However in January I will be ready to announce a new project called Sneaker Box which is taking shape, I can’t say too much at the moment so watch this space!”