Interview: DJ 2DQ talks off mic [part 1 of 2]

dj 2dq photoDJ 2DQ is arguably Austin’s most popular DJ, largely due to his long time hip hop radio presence. Having arrived in Austin from El Paso in 1994, he has come a long way from working at clothing retailers and shoe stores. No more couch hopping or paying dues for him.

He came to Austin on the recommendation of a friend who came here from El Paso before him. What started as a small vacation, ended up being a permanent residence. Like most Austinites, he too lived on Riverside drive at one point in time.

Early on, the love and appreciation of the Austin Latino community kept him going during his early struggles. It was unlike anything he experienced in El Paso. Before he made his way to radio, like many DJs, he started playing house parties and small clubs. If you were in Austin during the 90s, you might have heard him spin at clubs that have now gone the wayside. Those wayside hip hop clubs included The Roxy and Club Inferno on 6th street.

Back then DJ 2DQ also made his name in the teen night circuit, at clubs like Club Moon, The Basement and Yoyo’s, which are also non existent today. Early on, he played hard house and any type of music the kids would break dance too. He made his way out of doing teen nights in fear of being type cast as a “teen” DJ. He was eager to move on into bigger clubs and spin for older audiences.

The first of his non-related radio gigs were on 6th street with any club or bar who would give him the opportunity. He was still working the shoe stores during the day, throwing whatever money he had into buying records even if it meant eating Ramen Noodles everyday. This was of course, before the digital age we live in today when DJs actually used records. According to 2DQ, there are still marks on his hands from years of carrying heavy record crates. Ask him today and he will point them out to you.

As far as the new school DJs, most of the time young, aspiring or up and coming DJs give him respect. It still warms his heart today when people come up to him and say to him “I grew up to you” or “you made me want to be a DJ.” Some of them, being young and foolish, try to battle him in hopes of making their name by doing so. He has stayed out of battles, simply for the fact that he just wanted to make girls dance. “Girls dancing, they don’t want to hear all that scratching. They just want to hear their song, you know” says 2DQ. He also knows that even if someone out battled him, he’d still win because of his name and popularity with the crowd. “It wouldn’t be fair to the other DJs and it just wasn’t my thing” he said referring to DJ battles.

His first big break that got him into radio in the late 90s came from his first mix tape, titled Party Mix 2000. He gave copies to former Beat 104.3 radio personalities Buzz Corona and Little B. At that time, Brown Boy James was the only mix DJ they had on air. After Brown Boy James’s departure from The Beat, program director Scooter B. Stephens got a hold of Party Mix 2000. DJ 2DQ answered Stephen’s call on his Prime Co. phone and accepted his offer to be the 5 o’ clock traffic mix DJ. Much to my surprise, 2DQ did the mix for free for one year. All he wanted, other than to pay his dues, was just to hear his name on the radio. “I used to listen for my name on the air, even if they said it just once” says 2DQ.

After 2DQ’s traffic mix segment started gaining more popularity out in the streets, the Beat 104.3 put him alongside popular Beat personality Boy Loco. Both 2DQ and Boy Loco started doing live remotes from clubs and 2DQ credits Loco for bringing up his name for him. DJ 2DQ was the mix DJ for The Beat 104.3 for almost the entire life of station’s existence.

Austin Vida caught up with 2DQ about the switch from The Beat to Hot 93.3.

How did you take the news then when you got word that The Beat 104.3 was no longer going to be in existence? Were you there when that happened?

Yeah I was there with Boy Loco, BJ and the other staff. We sat down with management and they said “The Beat is going away”. It was a big shock and no one could believe it. The station had been around forever.

Were you worried about what you were going to do now that the Beat was no longer? What was going through your mind after hearing that?

I was a little worried for sure, but what helped me out was that I was never afraid of working a 9 to 5 job if I had to. I got lucky as I was able to continue working the clubs and getting paid for that.

Did management seek input form you about keeping any kind of hip hop format even with the changes in target audience or demographic?

Well after the old Beat started paying Howard Stern in the mornings and then did the Coyote station thing, I told them people will wait a bit for their hip hop. I mean, our hip hop listeners aren’t all morning people exactly, so they will wait to hear their music is what I told the station management. Also, Hot 93.3 wasn’t around at the time. Then they emerged within that six months or so the Beat was gone, so that really put them on the map.

With Hot 93.3 being the only Hip Hop game in town, they really came up.

Yeah. They had some really strong jocs (disc jockeys) and the right idea about what to do. They came at the perfect time. Then all of a sudden 104.3 came back as a hip hop station.

Well there wasn’t that big of a gap between the time The Beat 104.3 and its return. How did you hear of the return? Did they contact you?

I remember driving around in my old Ford Festiva, hearing John Hyatt’s voice on the air saying that because of everyone wanting The Beat back, they were going to bring it back. At that point I wondered if they were going to call me back. The next day, I got a phone call from The Beat asking me to please come back.

Weren’t you working for Hot 93.3 somehow at that specific time? Doing an on air mix?

Yeah I did a morning mix with Ty Bentley and Mimi. I remember thinking I did not want to burn a bridge with Hot 93.3 because they were good people and taking care of me, but I did want to do more than just a mix. I wanted to be on the air.

So how did you break this to Hot 93.3 at the time?

At the time, the program director was a guy named Bob Lewis. I sat down with Bob and I said “I really hate to do this and burn a bridge, but 104.3 is offering me the opportunity to be on air”.

How did Mr. Lewis take that?

He didn’t take it well. He then said to me before he stepped into a meeting, “Don’t leave. Stay here in my office. I really want you to continue working for us”. What happened after that was I just grabbed my stuff and left. I headed back to The Beat. As promised, The Beat let me do on air at night.

So now you‘re back at the Beat, a new sort of hip hop style battle of words between the two stations ensued. I remember comments like “Off Beat” and things of that nature. What was that time like? Were you the catalyst for that?

The thing about Hot 93.3 that I really liked, was their program director at the time. His name was Jay Michaels and he was very aggressive. They were hungry. Our station had been around for minute. After Scooter B. Stevens left, the new management took it for granted I think. I mean they thought that since they had been around and we were 104.3, people loved us and would always come back. The talent at Hot 93.3 was talented, aggressive and wanted to win. All that smack talk was really smart on their part. They were the under dog and had nothing to lose.

That didn’t set off a fire inside you at all? Did this come up at meetings?

Kind of. I give it to Boy Loco. He was funny. I remember him telling me a story about wanting to fight one of their jocs at HEB in the fruit department. I was like “dude, c’mon. We are not in high school anymore”. I give him props for having love for his station though. I personally wasn’t going to physically fight for it. At the end of the day its just business. When you’re off air, they are just normal people trying to pay bills. Lucky for me, I wasn’t like that or I would have never got the opportunities I have today.

What was the street response to that?

I think people love the negative stuff. People would come up to me and say “Did you hear what they are saying about you?”. I didn’t let it bother me. That was just their way of trying to get on the map and it worked.

Listening to you now, it is hard for me to believe that the Beat management didn’t take it that serious. In this hip hop market, I get the impression that they were just a bunch of suits who didn’t know their audience.

I think that’s what it was. There was a bunch of people in the building at that time that just weren’t into it. They just saw hip hop as a big money maker and weren’t that into it like the jocs. When the Beat 104.3 came back, it just wasn’t the same Beat. A lot of sales people still tell me that today.

That didn’t worry you at all when you saw that?

Yeah, but there was nothing I could do about it. I would drop things in their ear here and there, but if they didn’t want to do it then that was that. They didn’t understand we needed to be more aggressive. That’s what I liked about Hot 93.3 was that the wanted to take over completely. I looked at it as we can both exist, there’s enough room in Austin for both of us. I was always neutral. I knew they were a threat, but my bosses didn’t see it that way I guess.

Interesting. During this same time I noticed your mix tape fame was blowing up gradually. I remember seeing them at all the local record stores.

Yeah it was. I started doing my tapes before I got on radio. That first mix tape was what helped me get on the Beat. I just kept doing them so people could have something they could listen to over and over again. It made me feel good when people told that they had my mix tapes and that they listened to them. There was really no money into it. I’d barely break even. I did it for the love. As I look back it on now, the mix tapes really did help me come up.

How many mix tapes have you made?

Fifty two. I don’t do them anymore.

Why is that? Time?

I think time was a big part of it, but it was the whole copyright thing. I just figured I needed to quit while I was ahead. I didn’t want to mess with the legal stuff.

I’m surprised as it is a lucrative business now. Rappers and DJs make their names on mix tapes now, start battles, and the right mix tape can break new artists. Here you are, arguably Austin’s most popular DJ, and you don’t have any mix tapes that put someone on the map or launch careers.

Yeah I got asked before by people if they could get on my next mix tape. I just thank them and politely tell them I don’t have time. It is really because I don’t want to have any legal issues or mess with all that. Now that my name is bigger, I would be a target. They (referring to the RIAA) look for the bigger fish, not the street DJs. Right now I am doing so good with radio, and I have two little girls to worry about. I try to stay away from that now.

Understood. Another thing I am surprised I don’t see you doing, is being a tour DJ for some hot Texas artist. I mean if I am major hip hop artist, especially in Texas, I’m going to call you to take you with me on tour. Has anyone offered you that opportunity?

That’s funny you say that because I have had more than a couple of offers from people to go on tour. Rappers would tell me “Let me take you on tour. You’re going to be my DJ, we’re going to be big”. The only reason I don’t do that is because I have worked so hard to get into radio. In radio, I am not exactly where I want to be yet. I want to be on air with my own show like I did on The Beat. Right now I am still trying to pay my dues in radio and get better. I can’t afford to take time off and have someone take me touring. This is what got me where I am at and it pays my bills.

What if was a big enough name 2D?

Oh yeah maybe…I think if it was an artist so big and established, I’d think about it. Austin has been good to me, so it would have to be big for me to leave.

I agree. Austin is good to you. I mean, you were the DJ of my era, people in their twenties. This is almost 15 years later for those folks who you spun for at Club Moon or Yo Yo’s.

It’s funny because I tell people, like my boss Chase at Hot (93.3), that I don’t want to be this old dude in the clubs or a mix DJ forever. Then I started thinking about it and thought wouldn’t be anything wrong with that if it were my own club or my own business. I know a lot of those people I spun for as teens, now in their twenties, are out in the clubs drinking. They have their own families and still tell me “I saw you at Yo Yo’s”. They are going to look to me as their DJ, seeing that the have listened to me since they were a kid. If they are going to have that love and trust for me now, they will have trust in me later and follow me.

How does it make you feel when teens today are still showing you love and coming up to you?

It is weird because of lot of these teens don’t really know that I’m “up there”, ya know? They think I am like them, this little cool cat or someone just like them.

Is that humbling?

Yeah its weird though. A teen can stop me on the street and because of our age difference, the way we talk is so different. Their lingo is different. Our mentalities are different. They are about dressing cool and stuff, and we’re about responsibilities. They aren’t thinking like that. Despite that, I don’t treat them any different. When I do teen nights now, I don’t treat it like a teen night. I treat it like any other gig for them. I don’t play 18 and up records. I don’t try to remind them they are teens. They hear that or get treated that way from their parents. I just want them to have a good time. I don’t want them to feel dissed in any way.

I bet they love you for it too. Now let’s talk about the 104.9 decline the second time around. A lot of people were surprised, but how was it for you to hear this a second time?

I remember it well. It was hard hearing it a second time. We are at a desk at a meeting, my friend Lady K (former Beat personality) was on vacation. Swerve, Snoop Daniel, and I were sitting in an office with the main guy. He said “I really hate to do this to you guys again, because I know some of you have been through this before. We are blowing up The Beat”.

Blowing up The Beat? That’s an interesting way of putting it.

I wasn’t sure what he meant at first. He then said that “Today is your last day guys, I am going to have to let you all go”. I thought to myself, “I just got fired. What do I do? Hot 93 isn’t going to take me back. I just want to be on the radio and mix”. I was also worried about my friend there. Lady K just got married, Snoop worked so hard. What were these people going to do? I guess its reflective of these tough times.

So talk me through the next day for you. What happened that allowed you to make the transition back to Hot 93.3. I would think you leaving last time The Beat was off the air made it kind of a sticky situation for you?

Well I got very lucky. At the time I was working for this guy at Paradox (which is no longer in existence today) and he had really good ties with Hot 93. He was in the building when I was got let go. I rode the elevator with him and told him we were let go and The Beat was gone. He couldn’t believe it. He then called a guy named Chase, the program director over at Hot 93.3.

How’d that go?

He told me Chase said to give him a call. I remember getting in my car and shaking, just ecstatic. I mean, he didn’t have to take my phone call. We were done at The Beat. He told me to talk to him the following Monday.

Obviously that went well for you, but how did Hot 93.3 want to handle the situation? I mean it seems to me it would be a delicate situation given the popularity of The Beat and with it being a second departure.

Well they offered me the remote broadcast from Paradox live on Saturdays, but they didn’t want me to talk right away. They didn’t want to freak people out or come across as disrespectful. They were aware a lot of fans of The Beat were going to be sad. So, I agreed not to talk.

So what was the first day at the office like at Hot 93.3? Walk me through that.

I remember going dressed kind of nice. I was just concerned about making a good first impression. I remember sitting with Chase, and him telling me that they already had a full staff. He asked me, “What it is it that you expect me or us to do for you?”. I told him because I felt like I burned a bridge with them when The Beat came back again, you didn’t have to have me in here today. I said whatever it is they wanted to give me, I’d take it. I felt like I was back to square one all over again.

Does that mean looking for your old Ford Festiva again?

Yeah…but no seriously I thought I would have to just do mixes for a year as if I were new. I didn’t care though. I was just so happy to be on radio again.

How did the other personalities welcome you?

Boogie, Deuce, Chase and Mimi (Hot 93.3 radio personalities) played a big part in me coming back. They could have brought any of the good talent we had there at The Beat. I was just flattered they wanted me. The offered me mornings, and I am not really a morning person, but I took it. I was just grateful.

No hate what so ever? No picking on the new guy at all?

No not at all man. Everyone was cool. Mimi and I have always been friends. Deuce was always cool to me in the clubs. I think because I never bad mouthed them, that really helped me comeback to Hot 93.3. My Beat jocs would always hassle me for being friendly with them. I was never a person to compete in that way. The first thing I told them in the first meeting I attended, was that I hoped it was okay with them that I was there. I really hoped no one felt threatened or hated me for anything. They were very receptive and to this day, not one of them has said anything bad.

So how do you feel now that there is only one prominent hip hop station in town? I mean I know about 88.7 and think they will pick up some listeners as a result of The Beat’s departure, but really Hot 93.3 is it for hip hop radio in Austin.

I was always thought Austin was big enough for more than one station. I just know that until another station emerges, Hot is it. That’s what’s here. Maybe it will just be Hot 93 for a while. We aren’t Dallas or Houston where the hip hop market is big enough for two or three stations to succeed. It’s a good thing Hot 93 has going. They know what they are doing. Even if competition was to try to come, they will be ready for it.

But from a listener’s perspective, I like having the options.

Yeah I think that is what people will miss the most. I will say this, when I was at 104.3 , I would get calls from people saying how much they loved The Beat. I don’t believe that one hundred percent. Now, those same people are calling Hot 93 saying the same thing. People will go to whatever station is playing their song or change stations during commercials. One thing I will say is that people will follow their favorite (radio) personality.

Thanks so much to 2DQ for addressing the switch for us. I am sure we at Austin Vida weren’t the only people wanting to hear from you about that.

To all our Austin Vida readers, check back for part two of our DJ 2DQ interview, where we talk to him about his life outside of radio. Mark your calendars for February 16th.

Ian Morales

Editor in Chief - Ian is a product of Round Rock High School and St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas. He is an alumnus of the National Hispanic Institute and learned to dance at a young age with the Round Rock Ballet Folklórico. Ian also serves as the Editor-in-Chief for Austin Vida's sister site, Red River Noise.

More Posts - Website - Twitter