Chicago media figure DJ First Class lives the phrase, "your network is your net worth." He started as strictly a DJ and evolved into a multi-faceted figure. In the past, he interviewed hip-hop figures like Curren$y, Rick Ross, Dave East, Hit-Boy, and Fendi P. Now, he is the co-owner of the Billionaire Minds Build Brands and a writer for Revolt. He can also be found curating playlists and marketing for artists. His resume includes working with platforms such as No Jumper, Revolt, Daily Rap Facts, iLLANOiZE, Earmilk, and RESPECT Magazine.
Jay: How was the DJ scene growing up in Chicago? Did any of the local DJs play an influence on your career?
DJ: Actually, I got into DJ'ng because of DJ Drama. Back in 4th-5th grade, I saw him build Gangsta Grillz (the greatest mixtape series EVER) from the ground up and listened to his work with artists like Lil Wayne (my favorite rapper of all time), Jeezy, T.I., and Gucci Mane.
I knew I wanted to do what he did when I got older or at least ANYTHING in the music industry. I didn't start to DJ until I got to Western Illinois University in 2011 teaching myself how to do it. From there, I started to DJ all of the fraternity and sorority parties on and off-campus until my departure. The late DJ Timbuk2 played a part in influence as well.
Jay: You have done some writing with Revolt and Audiomack, notably covering IDK & Friends 2 and Ye Ali’s Dangerous on Revolt. What would be some advice you would give for freelance writers aspiring to get on those platforms?
DJ: NETWORKING is key. I didn't realize I enjoyed music writing until 2017 and I kind of just dived into it. I wrote for RESPECT Magazine for a brief period of time and from there, I joined iLLANOiZE Media here in Chicago as a music contributor. I remained consistent with reaching out to other writers I wanted to connect with for a long time until I was fortunate enough to land a writing position with REVOLT TV where I currently serve as the freelance weekend music editor. I would highly suggest writers strengthen their pen game and continue to push forward with it. Send pitches to various platforms, find out who the head music editors are, and connect with them via social media and email.
Jay: Let’s talk about your collaborations with Jonathan Stewart. You two made a banger in Envy Like Charlamagne back in 2020 and dropped numerous projects such as The Vent 3 (TV3), Ratatttattat, and Rich Ain’t Wealthy 1.5. How did you two meet and build that camaraderie over the years?
DJ: Jonathan & I actually met back in college in 2010, that's family! We connected by having the same music interests in Tyga's Well Done mixtape with DJ Drama and other underground music at the time. He is a very talented rapper but it took my poise and passion for it to see that in him even when he didn't. There was a point in time when I forged his name on sign-up sheets for open mic events around campus and somewhat served as his manager at the time. Long story short, he then knew his passion was music and he founded our record label BILLIONAIRE MINDS BUILD BRANDS RECORDS and the rest is history. He actually has an album dropping this year that's going to be crazy!
Jay: The iLLANOiZE focus is press and media coverage, broadcasting, podcasting, marketing, promotion, website design, app development, and distribution. The platform has allowed its members to transcend from a movement into a well-recognized brand that allows upcoming artists, entrepreneurs, and creatives to get noticed. What do you do for the IllaNoize platform and how did you first learn about the founder Bekoe?
DJ: Jonathan told me about iLLANOiZE back in 2017. I checked them out and liked what I saw so I reached out and applied to join the family. I am a writer and social media manager for them. I do help run the marketing and promotions for the brand for our radio shows and concerts. Bekoe is also family! Shoutout to his vision that created something bigger than himself for the city of Chicago.
Jay: For those who have never been to Chicago, what are some venues that people must go to?
DJ: For those who've never been to Chicago --- there are more restaurants to visit than venues. Italian Fiesta, Portillos, Baba's, Home Of The Hoagy, Uncle Remus, Harolds, Johnnies, the list goes on and on haha. As far as venues, I'd say the House of Blues, The Chicago Theatre, and Sub T.
Jay: In your First Class Interview with Rick Ross about his book and collaborations, you said that he “went from being the hunted to being the hunter.” Then you asked him if he saw himself having his type of success today. I’ll ask you the same. When you started, did you see yourself having that same type of success and outreach in the hip-hop community today?
DJ: Yes indeed! I didn't know exactly what I would be doing but I always believed in myself and knew that I was destined to do great things in this space. The journey is far from over but like the late, great Nipsey said --- it's a marathon! I'm just currently pacing.
Jay: What was the best no that you have ever received and why?
DJ: I don't think that "no" has come yet! There is a lot that I am currently working towards in the music and media landscape and I'm just grateful to be here.
Jay: Who are some indie artists that you want to shout out?
DJ: Rashida Briana, Jonathan Stewart, Kid Breeze, Devlin Tellis, Heavy Crownz, Richie Wes, Flex, Brittney Carter, OG Stevo, Joel Q, Jae Haze, Weasel Sims, 7ThaCapper, Frenchii 2x, Korporate.
Man, there are A LOT haha. Shoutout to CHICAGO!