For someone popularly known as “The Question Mark Man,” DJ Clue doesn’t seem to like answering questions very much. Still, after the Queens native announced recently that he was leaving his longtime home, Hot 97, for a primetime slot on rival New York station Power 105, we knew we had to track him down to find out why he made the switch. Having talked to Clue just days after Hot 97 experienced the third shooting outside its studios in five years, we can hardly blame the mild-mannered DJ for wanting to focus on the future. With a new Def Jam album, The Professional III, coming soon, along with Fabolous signing with Def Jam, 2006 may be the year of Desert Storm’s resurgence. Although the exact date of Desert Storm Radio’s arrival at Power is still up in the air, Clue’s show is slated for national syndication. Though tight-lipped about his dissatisfaction with Hot 97 and working with the newly minted President Carter, Clue was more than happy to clear up rumors about beef with Joe Budden and whether or not he uses ghost producers. Do remember!
Hot 97 has seen its fair share of controversy lately. Why did you decide to leave the station?
I feel like I’d been there long enough. I left because I wanted to further my career, take a bigger step in the radio game.
You don’t think Hot 97 would have helped you further your career?
I don’t think there was room over there for me to do that at this point. They got Flex, they got Angie, their roster’s pretty much set. And plus, I wouldn’t feel right taking a spot from Hot 97. I’d rather start somewhere fresh, do my own shit.
What was it about Power 105 specifically that you thought would make it a better fit?
It was some place where I could get a whole new look. There’s certain people over at Hot 97, they wasn’t playing the same kind of stuff. Power 105 is a little bit different. It’s all about change and doing something different.
In your new time slot, you’ll be in direct competition with Funkmaster Flex’s show on Hot 97. Have you had a chance to speak to Flex about the potential rivalry?
Me and Flex talked about the whole thing the day I put in the resignation. It’s not a rivalry, me and Flex are cool. Of course people are going to make it out to be a competition. I just do me and if people like it, there’s nothing I can do about that. I let people make the judgment on their own.
You were there for New York hip-hop’s heyday in the ’90s. Why do you think no one cares about New York rap anymore?
I think a lot of music is all over the place now. People are just making music and not adjusting to what you need to get played in New York. People are trying to do what other people do rather than doing themselves. Before, New York people set the bar and now other people set the bar. You follow [and] it’s not going to work.
How has Jay-Z being the head of Def Jam affected things for you at the label?
Even back when I was doing my projects, Jay didn’t really have anything to do with my project. I would do my project and hand it in. I would make my own decisions.
But at the same time, whoever’s running your label can affect a lot of things: when your album comes out, what singles get released, etc. Have you found the business situation to be different with Jay in charge?
In some ways, yeah.
I mean, nothing I really want to comment on. It’s a little bit different. He definitely expects certain things.
I see. So how much did you have to do with bringing Fab over to Def Jam?
It’s something that me and Jay had spoken about before. It was something that was in the air for a while, and when it did come up, we made it happen. It’s definitely a whole different look for Fab, and we felt he kind of needed that. But no matter what label he’s on, I have a say on everything.
Are you at all worried about how his project will be handled? Lately, it seems that Def Jam has been kind of hit or miss with rap.
[Laughs] Wow, Def Jam is hit or miss [laughs]. Um, I mean, it’s all about, coming to the project with the right records from the jump. I don’t like to put my faith in anyone else’s hands. Whether it be Def Jam, Atlantic or whoever it is. I like doing that ’cause I learned from past experiences.
When you hear Fab shouting “Street Fam” all the time, do you ever worry that he might not be repping Desert Storm correctly?
Nah, it’s all love. Of course he’s going to try to bring up his own, but we still got the foundation there. As long as you know what the foundation is, it’s all good.
Interesting you say that, because on Mood Muzik 2, Joe Budden had a line where he said “I came out screaming Desert Storm every day/And as soon as I stopped, he don’t want to play.” Some people assumed he was talking to you.
I don’t know what the hell that was a reference to. I have no idea what that kid talking about sometimes. He say shit sometimes and then someone asks him about it and he’s like, Nah, I wasn’t referring to that. But it is what it is, man. Everyone has their own opinion. Everyone has those kind of days. But there’s no bad blood between us or anything. It’s not like that at all. Not with me, anyway. I don’t have beef with nobody.
Desert Storm recently signed Magnificent, from Houston. How did you hook up with him?
My cousin, DJ Storm, is from Houston, so he told me about him. I’ve been knew all these dudes, but this is when we had the Sony situation and Tommy Mottola left. Back then I could’ve signed Mike Jones. I was messing with Mike Jones for a year and a half before he got signed to Swisha. I could have signed Mike Jones, Paul Wall, all of them, but I didn’t have an outlet like that.
Your commercial albums have been pretty successful when compared to other DJs. Why do you think other DJs don’t do quite as well when it comes time to sell albums?
It all starts in the street. I think I have a big street following. Most of the artists that have came up, you heard them first through Clue. You can associate yourself with it, so people are like, When I first started feeling Jay-Z and I heard “Aint No Nigga,” I heard it on Clue first. Or, When I first heard that crazy Nas freestyle way back when, I heard it on Clue. When I first heard Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s “Players Anthem,” I heard it on Clue. When I first heard DMX, I heard it on Clue. That means something. When you think about what kind of Cola you want, you get Coca-Cola. Pepsi is big, but you think Coca-Cola. I feel like it’s the same type of thing. A lot of the artists who are considered the greatest of all time, you heard on Clue first. It sets a certain level of expectation and hype.
Most producers have a specific sound they’re known for. Do you think your beats have a “sound”?
I’ve heard that before, but I don’t really see that. I can tell if it’s a Timbaland beat or if it’s Preemo, but if they asked how can you tell, I couldn’t tell them. I think a lot of my joints are different. A lot of people think I have a ghost producer for some reason. A lot of people think I just put my name on shit.
Okay, so for the record: Clue makes all his own beats. Right?
In all honesty, have you heard that rumor before?
I’ve heard rumors here and there, sure.
Yeah, it’s definitely people talking. Next time you speak to Mariah, ask her that. She’ll tell you.