You remember DJ Unk, right? The 26-year old Atlanta DJ made the whole country “Walk It Out” back in 2006, and after selling over 200 thousand copies of his debut album, Beat’n Down Yo Block!, he’s occupied his time touring the world and making notable guest appearances (Three 6 Mafia’s “I’d Rather,” and the remix to VIC’s “Get Silly,”among others), while creepin on another come-up. Meanwhile, DJ Montay, who produced the lion’s share of UNK’s debut, went on to score Flo Rida’s record-breaking single “Low,” while continuing to DJ both on radio in Atlanta and in the clubs.
The two Big Oomp Camp alums are now back with DJ Unk’s new single, “Show Out,” from his sophomore LP, 2nd Season, due out November 4th. I recently caught up with Montay and Unk, here’s how the conversation went.
Scratch: NBA 2k9 just hit stores and you’re track “In Yo Face” is used in the trailers. Talk about how that song came together and what went into making it
DJ Unk: They have this segment [in Atlanta] on the news where it’s Fox 5 News Sports “In Your Face.” It’s real big in the high schools, the football games, the different teams and the games. The rivalry, this side better than your side. That was where I got the whole concept of “In Yo Face” from. When I went to Montay with the idea, his mind was already set with the track, as far as the bands, the trumpets and the horns. The liveness of trying to bring the song out. I never knew it’d land on 2k9, which is a blessing.
Scratch: Be honest, 2k9 or NBA Live?
DJ Unk: 2k9 Baby!
Scratch: “Show Out” is the new single. It’s kinda self explanatory. But what were you trying to do with that joint?
DJ Unk: I dedicated that song to my fans because I been out on the road for three years, been around the world- Japan, Italy, Greece, Germany. They didn’t think I was gonna come back, so I had to push out something first to get everybody attention back. Not saying I lost my fans, but I been out for so long, they been asking when you gonna put something new out? So I just figured, second season, this 2nd time around, we gon show out.
Scratch: Montay, was that a beat you had made specifically for Unk or was it up for grabs to anyone and everyone?
Montay: It was up for grabs. It was on the same beat CD as “Walk it Out.” Like, we finna do it again. He did the song, we recorded the song, and that was it.
Scratch: When you collaborate, are you in the studio together or doing a bunch of beats and putting them on a CD and then whatever happens happens?
Montay: Nah, we’re in the studio a lot together. We worked hand in hand for 90% of the album, the rest come off a beat CD. Everything that is on his album is really stuff that ain’t nobody heard yet.
Scratch: Is there a difference what type of tracks you’re giving him and what you’re giving others? Do you have a stash for Unk?
Scratch: Nah, we’ll just sit down. He’ll tell me what kinda song he got and what kinda songs he wanna do and what kinda direction he wanna go in, and I go in and make the beat right then. I just make beats. But if there’s an idea he wants to come with, we’ll just come up with it right then.
Scratch: How long does it take?
Montay: Normally we’ll do about 2 or 3 songs a day. And then he’ll probably just take the beat home and study the beat and study what he gonna say, his lyrics and everything else, and then we’ll just put it together. When he comes up with his full ideas, I might add something in between, like this needs to break down right here.
Scratch: When Unk lays his vocals down, are you in the studio or do you record separately?
Montay: I’m in the studio. I might not be the actual person recording him, but I’m there. I’m there all the time because I wanna make sure he’s laying his vocals right while he there, because he’s always on the road. So I gotta get him while he’s in there.
Scratch: How important do you think it is for you guys to physically be in the same place when the recording is happening?
Montay: It’s important. Because from his end to my end, he like I don’t want nothing that you give everybody. He makes me step it up production-wise. I give him the best beats for his album than the normal stuff I give everybody else. From my end, when he rapping, I make him bring it out. Just add that little swag. We complement each other.
Scratch: What equipment are you using now?
Scratch: That’s it?
Scratch: You program in there?
Scratch: All the crazy drum rolls?
Montay: Yep, in Logic.
Scratch: What controllers do you use?
Montay: Everything is done in Logic. Logic and a little keyboard, a MIDI USB keyboard. One of them 99 dollar keyboards.
Scratch: How long have you been on that?
Montay: I been on Logic for about two or three years now.
Scratch: You prefer that to an MPC?
Montay: Yeah. I can take it wherever I want to. I can take my sounds, tweak my sounds how I want it, from my MP, and just put them in Logic. And whenever I travel somewhere, I can make beats anywhere.
Unk: He makes beats while he’s sitting down on the commode.
Montay: That’s how I made the song on his album called “I’m On My Shit” (laughs)
Scratch: You did the Flo Rida joint, “Low,” that sounds like a record I could almost hear Unk on. Do you feel like people are coming to you for that particular sound or have you been able to diversify?
Montay: They asking for that sound, but I switched it up so it won’t be the same. We got an up-tempo record on Unks abums with Ray J. We got another with Ying Yang Twinz. Doing the up-tempo stuff just expanded my production.
Scratch: What other projects have you been able to get on?
Montay: Juvenile. I did the Michelle remix with Flo Rida. I’m working with Plies. There’s a lot of people I’m just getting in with now, making a lot of stuff happen.
Scratch: Because you guys are DJs, the sound you’ve introduced folks to outside of Atlanta, how do you think the sound you’ve created draws from your experience working in the clubs?
Montay: I get to see myself what works and what don’t work. It’s first hand experience. There’s a lot of people that don’t get the chance to see their record in clubs. They thinking they’ll do this record and put it out and it’s an automatic club record. Nah. We get to test our records. That’s where I get my whole style and sound from, the club. I gotta be in the club, and eventually it’ll hit radio. If you got the streets, then you gonna have the radio. They ain’t gonna have no other joints.
Scratch: Unk, you want to comment on that?
UNK: For one, you get to see what’s going on. A DJ knows what to play to get the crowd to do anything. If you want the crowd to dance, you know what to play. If you want the crowd to find the swag, throw on some TI. We’ll take [our records] and go straight to the club and test it, see if its right or wrong. You get that first reaction, and people doing something to it, you know we workin wth something.
Scratch: How are you finding the balance between being DJs, producers, and performing artists?
Unk: I love my job. I love my beginning, I don’t know what my end is. But I love DJing, I always love to rock a crowd. But I also love being on the stage and being right there with the fans. I’d love to expand my career as far as learning production. So it’s all a learning experience for me. I don’t want to drop nothing I’m doing, I want to learn more and continue pushing forward.
Montay: I love DJing still. And I do radio here as well. I love DJing and I love producing.
Scratch: Any last words?
Unk: We’re looking for artists and producers all over, we ain’t doing nothing but expanding and taking over.