Remember 2007’s dance floor smash “Get Buck in Here”? Diddy and Akon saturated the song, but the mastermind behind it was producer and radio personality DJ Felli Fel. The Los Angeles resident, who’s a meld of Italian, Creole, and Portuguese, has transitioned from juggling beats in the back of apartment complexes 20 years ago to honing the perfect sound at state-of-the-art recording studios under his Rock Hill Productions imprint.
While production is at the forefront of his career, his prestigious gig as a jock and mixshow DJ at L.A.’s Power 106 is what keeps his name constantly buzzing on the West Coast. But the self-proclaimed History Channel buff doesn’t keep his feet planted in the city for too long—he’s got a party to attend. From Japan to Las Vegas, the South Carolina-born record spinner hops on a plane with the quickness to command the turntables at venues throughout the world.
As 2012 approaches, Felli Fel is dabbling in almost every aspect of entertainment, whether via computer screen or television. “We’re about to relaunch DJFelliFel.com at the top of the year [and] I’m hosting this new show called ‘Ride of Honor,’ which is from the same producers as ‘Pimp My Ride,’ and features soldiers returning from the war to find their rides hooked up,” he tells Rap-Up.com. With those projects in the bag, there’s a new plan to execute involving a rapper from Queens and a tattooed R&B star he’s particularly excited about.
Read on to find out what Felli’s got in store, which artist “blew his mind,” and why birthday celebrations are about to get a new anthem.
1. How long have you been a DJ?
Professionally, making money since 1989, when I was 19. Prior to that, like 16, 17, when I was doing little house parties. We’d rent out the party room in apartment complexes.
2. What are you currently working on?
I’m on the radio [Power 106 in L.A.] everyday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. We call it the “New at 2″ mix. It’s nothing but new music for one hour straight. That’s with our mid-day girl, she hosts it while I DJ. Then at 3 p.m., I start my afternoon show and it goes until 7 p.m. As far as clubs, this week I was at The Belasco. I brought Big Sean over there with me and he performed. Another big club in downtown L.A., called Icon, booked me and J. Cole recently. Just to give an example, I’m in Dallas over the holiday. On December 30, I’m in Vegas at the Hard Rock, then on December 31 I’m back in L.A. for a private party in Beverly Hills. I do random shit but I’m pretty busy. I usually go to Japan, China, Europe once a year. I DJ all over. We go where the money’s at and where the party is.
I got a new mixtape coming out called It’s Your Birthday. That’s actually the name of my next single I produced as well. It’s an uptempo kind of a club, electro record featuring Lil Jon and a girl named Jessie Malakouti. We’re about to release it top of the year. I just did 50 Cent’s new record with Chris Brown. I’m also working on records for New Boyz, Too $hort, Ludacris, Dorrough, and Akon.
3. How did you get your first big break?
When I was 19, my buddy Carlos, he had seen me do these random house parties. So he came to me one day and told me there was a salsa and merengue club that didn’t play English music. The owner wanted times during the night where they broke the monotony and played dance music. At first I really didn’t know what to expect. He took me there, I met the owner, and he’s the one that gave me my first club gig. I had to use their records, which was kinda awkward for me. Then he gave me the job. I ended up DJing three nights out of the week. Before you know it, I was DJing one of the biggest clubs in the city. This was all in Dallas at the time.
4. Moment when you knew you had made it?
That’s a tough question because I don’t like to ever think that I made it. I always say that when you stop learning and stop progressing, that’s the beginning of the end. What does “made it” mean? To some people, they’re putting a roof over their head every day. I guess I knew that I had something as far as a future in music probably when I got the shot to DJ on the radio. That was like, “Wow, I’m not just in a club. I’m on the air!” There’s no better feeling than hearing yourself on the radio. That was when it hit me. That was a community radio station in Dallas called KNON 89.3. I had this radio show every Saturday night that I was DJing on.
5. Favorite artists right now?
I’m gonna have to say Big Sean, just because Sean I think encompasses what hip-hop is right now and he understands it. He has a mentor in Kanye. He’s a humble kid. He’s probably my favorite. I think he’s gonna put out good music—no pun intended—for a long time.
6. Artists to look out for in 2012?
T. Mills. I had been playing one of his records during my “New at 2″ mix a while back, maybe six months ago. I didn’t really know too much about this kid. Sony recently had me DJ his showcase at The Roxy in West Hollywood and T. Mills performed. This shit blew me away. I saw the following. They knew all of his songs. Me and him talked more. I’m actually going to be getting in the studio with him—I’m producing some records for him. I just feel like the kid is a star. He has the potential to be a Mac Miller/Wiz Khalfia-meets-Eminem.
Then there’s DoZay. A buddy of mine that works with Akon manages him. He came to me and asked me, “What do you think about this kid?” I was blown away. He had the lyrics, he’s got the whole package.
7. What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
I think my greatest accomplishment has been the fact that I’ve been able to juggle three different types of jobs in the music industry. I’m an on-air personality, I’m a club DJ, and I’m a producer. I think normally people only do one of those things. If you’re a producer, you’re probably not an on-air personality or a DJ. We all know a lot of producers used to be DJs, but that’s just it—used to be. I have the No. 1 afternoon ratings in Los Angeles. My show has pretty much always been No. 1. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been able to do really well in all three categories and maintain and be consistent.
8. Future goals?
So many goals. On the production tip, my goal is to do hit records for other artists. For example, like it was great to be able to have the opportunity to do this record with 50 Cent. I hope I do a hit for Luda for his album. I hope I do a hit for Akon. I actually have a crazy record for Akon we’ve been working on. I think it’s a smash. My goal is to do hit records in 2012, and have multiple hits under my belt by the end of the year.
9. What record always gets the party started?
Definitely right now would be “Ni**as in Paris.” It’s just the energy of that record. You just see people immediately respond to it. It has a certain vibe and energy that really ignites the crowd. Although I don’t start with those records usually. “California Love,” and that’s not just in L.A. That’s everywhere.
10. What’s your advice to aspiring DJs?
I feel like you gotta put yourself around it. If you wanna be a football player, sleep on the football field. I’ve always said that and used that analogy. There’s no better way to learn than to physically put yourself in front of whatever it is that you want to do. Watch, ask questions, and learn and absorb it. That would be my advice. Putting yourself around it can also make someone realize if they really want to do this. Engulf yourself in it and keep your ears open.