Hey Mr. DJ: 10 Questions for Scram Jones
Need exclusive beats? Call Scram Jones. Want a versatile DJ? Call Scram Jones. The New Rochelle, New York native isn’t satisfied with laying claim to one career goal, as his 11-plus years experience in the music industry proves. He’s even mastered the art of spitting rhymes on the mic. Obviously this turntablist is in a league of his own. From creating original production for the likes of Mariah Carey to touring with the Wu-Tang Clan, Scram’s résumé reads like a wannabe DJ’s wish list.
Armed with a degree in audio engineering and sociology from Ithaca College, this record spinner relied on the fundamentals of his studies—formulating beats and crowd watching—to lock down a lucrative occupation. Not many can say they rub elbows with iconic rappers in the studio one day then spin for top models and rich kids at some of New York City’s posh hotspots. Yet Scram Jones does it all with a hip-hop edge.
After all, the boom bap of rap music is where he got his start. But his longevity in the game is due to his ability to take his mastery of hip-hop on all levels—MC, producer, and DJ—and mash it with genres like electro, rock, and house. As 2012 approaches, he’s in a good position, with two albums set for release, club residencies in effect, and a production schedule that beats any stock broker’s calendar.
Delve into the mind of Scram Jones.
1. How long have you been a DJ?
I got my first turntables 18 years ago—the end of ’92, beginning of ’93. I was always DJing from then on, I was in high school. I was doing the mixtape stuff, little battles, the house parties. Professionally, I was doing clubs during college in ’99. Then in the city, probably around 2000.
2. What are you currently working on?
I’ve been a resident DJ at Greenhouse in New York City since it opened three years ago. Every Saturday I’ve been doing that. Fridays I do this spot Juliet [Supperclub] and Wednesdays at this new spot called W.i.P. in New York City. Also Fridays I do Shade 45 satellite radio from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m. with Lord Sear. It’s called the “Extended Drunk Mix.” On the mixtape circuit, Raekwon is dropping a mixtape on January 1 and I produced four tracks on there. It’s called Unexpected Victory. Next week I’m dropping an instrumental CD with J. Armz. That’s just a bunch of beats that I’ve come out with before that have landed on people’s albums. So people can do freestyles or whatever and I just show my discography. And I just dropped a mixtape called The Hat Trick, that’s me being the artist with all original music.
3. How did you get your first big break?
DJing, I was always doing gigs with the crates but when Serato started I had taken a hiatus to do beats. I came back in and I DJ’d a club called 1OAK [in New York City] and it took me to a whole other circuit, which was open format and more upscale. Before that, I was always the hip-hop guy with the crates, scratching it up. I didn’t known about the open format scene and then light bulbs went off in my head, like people really appreciated the mixing of genres. Going back a little further was when I got up with Roc Raida, rest in peace. He put me on the The X-Ecutioners album [Revolutions], and I realized I was amongst greatness.
4. Moment when you knew you had made it?
On the beat level, that would be one of the first times I heard one of my songs playing on Hot 97. I did a song with Jae Millz called “No, No, No” and [Funkmaster] Flex and them started playing it. Cam’ron and T.I. jumped on it and I was a nobody before that. He said my name on the record and I was like, “Wow, I’m really in there now.” On another level, I was working with N.O.R.E.—engineering for free, doing beats for free—and Mariah Carey walked in. I had put one of my beats CDs in on the low, while we were hanging out. She heard one of the beats and basically she liked it. I got on her The Emancipation of Mimi album. That was the most surreal thing ever because she wasn’t supposed to hear my beats, I wasn’t even supposed to be in that room. The song is called “Your Girl.” On the DJing level, last year I did the 2010 American Music Awards after-party in Hollywood and Bon Jovi was there, a bunch of non-hip-hop rock stars basically. That was pretty crazy.
5. Favorite artists right now?
I like different genres. In the hip-hop world, I’m old school. I still love Raekwon. I still love Nas and all these guys. I’m still stuck with their sound. I’m not a Drake hater. I’m actually really impressed with Drake and the types of music he’s making—the R&B and the rap. But then like the house music world, dudes like Avicii and Skrillex, that’s crazy.
6. Artists to look out for in 2012?
Sean Price. I like Sean Price just because I think he’s a clever, funny rapper. His new album’s gonna be hot. He embraces the underground and won’t change it. Every time he comes out, he has huge underground fans. Another one is French Montana. I’ve known him for years. His movement, he’s been pushing for so long. You’ve got to respect his persistence. His music has definitely improved. Action Bronson, I like the rawness of his music and the consistency. He’s a hard spitter and still has a sense of humor.
7. What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
My greatest accomplishment would probably be [landing a song on] Mariah Carey’s album. My greatest accomplishment in life would be having my son. But in music, just still paying bills off music. I think that’s miraculous. That’s why I do so many things—produce, DJ, rap, manage—because it’s hard to do music right now. Music is free and everybody wants favors. It’s just a hard business right now. On that level, I’m surprised and grateful that I haven’t ever had to get a 9-to-5 yet.
8. Future goals?
I’m dropping two albums. One is basically production for a bunch of artists rapping over my beats. I’m calling that Beast Music Vol. 1. I got Raekwon on there, Styles P and Sheek Louch from the Lox, Beanie Sigel, Vado, Fat Joe, Joell Ortiz, Red Café, Mistah F.A.B., Ras Kass. It’s coming out through Nature Sounds. That will probably be out the first quarter of 2012. Then I’m dropping my solo album called Wasted Talent. I’ll probably come out with that mid-year. Then just get into any lane I can get into. Just keep pushing.
9. What record always gets the party started?
It depends on the crowd. If I got a real hip-hop crowd, I’ll play “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” [Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth]. Then if I got a southern crew, something from Rick Ross or 2 Chainz. And then in the house world, right now obviously the Rihanna song “We Found Love.” The second you drop that song the party starts.
10. What’s your advice to aspiring DJs?
I would say just be original. Find your own style. It’s good to listen to other DJs, but try to find your own style. Obviously DJs are going to play the same records when you’re playing a Top 40 crowd but there’s definitely clever ways to mix them and interesting ways to mash them together. Work on unique transitions. When it comes to open format, find those records that you haven’t heard DJs play that are going to wow a crowd. Definitely get into remixing, it gets you more gigs and is a bit easier with technology now.
To find out more about Scram Jones, visit his website and follow him on Twitter @ScramJones.