Maurice Slade of E.Z. Mo Breezy Speaks on Music Industry, Grits and Biscuits & Jay-Z and Beyoncé
Maurice Slade, was one of the young hopefuls who, after finishing college, arrived to New York City with dreams of working for an esteemed record label. He started off as an intern for Matthew Knowles in Houston, followed by various internships throughout college. He landed a position at Universal Motown, where he oversaw the digital marketing of acts such as Busta Rhymes, Kid Cudi, and Pac Div. Now, working under Roc Nation as Digital Marketing Manager, he continues to push forth new marketing initiatives for the music powerhouse.
But, Maurice along with his brother Alzo Slade and Erika Lewis have been garnering attention for their afterwork involvements. Collectively as E.Z. Mo Breezy, the three partners have started a series of Dirty South parties in New York City that have garnered much attention in the local news outlets and partygoers throughout the five boroughs. Launched in 2010, the party series has expanded to four times a year in New York City, with two times held in Washington, D.C. Each time, the function gets jam packed, with folks intensely wilding out to the throwback southern gems ranging back as far as the late '80s, making it the premier Dirty Douth party on the East Coast. Even to the point, the Queen of Houston, Beyoncé Knowles, rolled through to dance with her husband Jay-Z at the last function back in April. With the party series celebrating its two-year anniversary this weekend with a back-to-back jumpoff (both Friday and Saturday) at Irving Plaza in New York City (purchase tickets here), XXL sat down with Maurice Slade a.k.a DJ Square Biz to hear about his music industry stories and the origins of the popular party series. —Jaeki Cho (@JaekiCho)
Growing Up in Houston and Interning for Matthew Knowles
When I was 15, I knew that I wanted to be in the music business. I started off DJing when I was 15, and I got my first internship when I was 16 years old with Matthew Knowles, Beyoncé's dad, when I was growing up in Houston. I never actually worked on Destiny’s Child. He had a lot of teen acts at the time when I was there. I can’t remember the names of any to be honest. They were so flash in the pan, like, signed today gone tomorrow kind of acts.
Working as a Label Rep in College and Meeting Young Jeezy
I went to Florida A&M University. I would DJ little teen parties in Houston and then in college I tried to keep that going so I started DJing in college. And then along with DJing, I became a college rep for Def Jam. So whenever there were acts or certain college promotions [Def Jam] wanted to kick off they would talk to me. I remember when I was a sophomore, they had Young Jeezy and he had just got signed to Def Jam, like in '05 I think. Jeezy had his Trap or Die mixtape. It was like the hottest shit in the streets at that time. Every DJ had like five to 10 song set that was nothing, but Jeezy for like 30 minutes of the party. So he was on smash in Atlanta and everywhere in the south. So while that was happening, Young Jeezy came to FAMU and we set up an listening session, a meet and greet and a show that night, and he did a college radio run as well. I was kicking [it] with Jeezy and I remember we were like what do you want to do next? And he was like, "Man, take me to the hood." I was like you got all these chicks around and all that, and he was like, "Nah, man. Take me to the 'hood. I wanna kick it with my folks." And that's when I was like, "Man, this guy Jeezy is the shit. He is the real deal." You know, getting to meet Jeezy before he really became like, the shit.
Working for Universal Motown
The first artist I dealt with was Busta Rhymes, which was funny because I was working on his site and he wasn't really into Twitter or social networking shit yet, and I had to help him really make the transition into social media and help him maintain his site. But where they kind of gave me free reign to do what I wanted, and they really had faith in my skill set was Kid Cudi's first project. That was to this day my favorite project. Man on the Moon and Man on the Moon II. We literally were breaking an artist from the ground up, I got to see it happen from the ground up. Funny story is he moved to New York at the same time I moved to New York and I would see him around at different parties, and he would perform at some of these corporate functions. I remember this one [time] he performed, and nobody was paying attention to him at all, and nobody gave a fuck about Kid Cudi. At the end of his set he was like, “Y'all muthafuckas are going to remember me, y'all mutha fuckas are going to know my name!” And everybody was like, "Yeah, whatever, fuck it.” And literally a year later, he’s on and popping. Seeing an artist build from the ground up, and being able to say you were a part of it, it’s something special.
Getting Back into DJing
When I moved here, I hadn't DJ'd for like a year or two. Me and my boys had been throwing crawfish boils in our backyards, but we never had music. The second one we threw, how about we get some music or whatever, “Don’t you DJ?" I was like, “I ain't about to DJ, I’m rusty as hell.” “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to play, I haven’t updated my playlist in forever.” They’re like, “Fuck it, man, just play whatever you want, it’s all good.” That’s exactly what I did, I set up my equipment and I was nervous as hell, and shaking like a muthafucka. The way we promoted it, we promoted it more as a party, not just some dudes hanging out in the back just chilling. I think about 500 people showed up.
Grits & Biscuits
When I was DJing the Crawfish Boil, maybe a little less than a year before that, my brother and Erika have been talking about throwing a Dirty South party. They had been talking about it for a while, trying to get it together, trying to figure out what it was going to look like, what it was going to sound like. They were getting ready to do it, and my brother was actually going to fly up one of his friends from Texas, to DJ the party. I was like, “Man, I'm not going to DJ the party,” same thing with the Crawfish Boil, but the Crawfish Boil went crazy! It was literally 500 people in the backyard, vibing out to music, drunk as fuck, having a good time. My brother saw that, and was like, “Man, you ready, you can DJ the Dirty South party! It’s the last piece, then we ready to go.” So after they had planned on it, they were like, “Do you want to come on as a DJ? Or come on as a partner?” So I came on as a partner, and the Crawfish Boil was in June? Then we had the first Grits and Biscuits in July, so it was kind of back to back. The first Grits and Biscuits was at Southpaw, same thing. It was a little over 500 people showed up at the first joint, and it was in the middle of Brooklyn, a fucking Dirty South party. People really see it as a release of energy, being stressed out all week. They come to Grits and Biscuits and have a good time. It’s a meditation period.
July (purchase tickets for Grits and Biscuits 2 Years Dirty, here) is our second anniversary. We do it four times a year in New York, and two times in Washington, D.C. I think it’s crazy how we can go to D.C. and throw the same thing. I didn’t know what it was going to be, when we went to D.C., it was like we were throwing the first party, like the one we threw at Southpaw, 'cause we had no clue what it was gonna be. I remember me, my brother, and Erika were talking about hiring promoters. We decided not to go with a promoter, and we decided do everything on our own. We went to D.C., telling a few friends, hoping word would spread, and that shit went viral again, it was crazy. I think it was like 700 people who showed up to the first one in D.C.? People call Grits and Biscuits the sweatbox. People were sweating from head to toe. It was crazy, man. It was like a real, old school, party.
People have been throwing Dirty South parties forever in New York. At the same time, there’s certain elements about our party that can’t be duplicated. One, is definitely the people that attend. It’s a crowd that comes out that wants to have fun, mostly young professional, African Americans, folks who are often couped up at their jobs, all week. They have to wear suits, they have to wear Dockers during the week. They get to go to Grits and Biscuits, and re-live their college years. A lot of the people that come to our parties went to historically black colleges. A lot of them get to re-live those college years that they spent Down South, listening to Dirty South music, going to those parties, when the south was crazy. Lil Jon, Ying Yang Twings, you had all the Houston shit, all of the Florida shit, David Banner from Mississippi. You had all that stuff going on when they were in college, so they get to re-live that four times a year when they go to Grits and Biscuits.
Jay-Z and Beyoncé at the Previous Grits & Biscuits
That shit was crazy! First of all, I was drunk off my ass when that shit happened. Funny story, my brother got a text from his friend, I think it said, “Jay-Z and Beyoncé are showing up tonight.” He got it, and he kind of blew it off, he tapped me on my shoulder, and said, “My homegirl said Jay and B are showing up tonight.” I was like, “Yeah, whatever,” because we get texts like that all the fucking time. Every time we throw a party, we get a text like, “Yo, Ciara is coming through tonight.” Or like, “Yo, The-Dream is coming through tonight.” I would get hyped. A lot of times it would be people who are trying to get in free, who have connections, so they're aligning themselves with someone to try get them in for free. So they name-drop people like The-Dream and Waka Flocka, they try to pull that type of shit. That’s what I found out, so when shit like that happens, I become numb to it. Like the Boy Who Cried Wolf.
So [my brother] got that text, and we both blew it off. And then, lo and behold, mid-party, I’m drunk off my ass, having a good time, DJing... Somebody taps me on my shoulder, like, “You heard Jay and Beyoncé are here?” I’m like, “Okay, whatever.” Then I go back to DJing, and they're like, “Nah, for real, Jay and B are here…” Then he pointed up to the corner where they where at, and I saw Beyoncé pointing. And I was like, “Oh shit! That's fucking Beyoncé right there! What the fuck?" At first I started bugging out, like, “Damn should I play some shit? Should I say something?” Then I was like, “Nah, we shouldn’t say anything, just play it cool.” So we played it cool, I did a little Houston set or whatever, to have her feeling like she was back at home, at the H. That was it. I was blown.
Make sure to log back on tomorrow for DJ Square Biz's 15 Dirty South Essential Songs.