How did the idea for the BYOB EP come about in the first place?
About a year ago I started working on an album with somebody else and it didn’t work out too well. I had a leftover verse from L.E.G.A.C.Y. that I didn’t know what to do with and I really liked it. I had my boy make a track around it and I saw I had the opportunity to do an EP and release it for free so I did one.
With the different artists on there, there’s still a nice flow to the EP. How did you maintain that consistency?
Definitely with the beats, I made sure every artist picked the beat they wanted to be on and every beat pretty much gave them the direction they wanted to go, like the Type Ill joint how he’s talking about his experiences in the war. Illa Ghee always wants the most craziest, gutterest tracks and the guitar on that is so haunting. He killed that. Everybody did what they wanted to do, like Chaundon and Little Vic and I laid down the hook scratch for it. Every artist was picking where they’d go.
How did “Story to Tell” with Chaundon and Little Vic come about?
Sickness, who produced the album, actually was supposed to have a track on Chaundon’s last Black Dynamite mixtape that me and Concept did. That didn’t pan out and we were looking for someone to jump on the EP. I had the Chaundon track and we asked him if we could use it and he said yeah. I listened to the verse and I came up with the scratch hook for it and it fit it so perfectly. Vic said he had something for it and he laid it down and it just came out so crazy.
How did Type Ill’s “Zonin’” come about?
That’s just hwat he came up with. I know he’s a new name, buth e’s a dude from my area nd the young man has already done two tours in Iraq and he’s seen some stuff over there. When he heard the track he knew what his heart was telling him to put on there. Who am I to tell a rapper what to do? It just came out big.
Kalibar is another dude who shines on the EP. Who is he?
He’s another dude me and COncept are working with out here in Long Island. We’ve known him for years and it’s time. Around here, he’s making a nice buzz and we felt working with him, we could take him to that level he needs to be at. I’ve always been pushing for Kalibar. We’ve been friends since 2001 and every time I try to do something, I wanted him to be a part of it. I knew that whatever track he did here, it was going to be big regardless.
How did you and DJ Concept start working together in the first place?
We were young. When we started DJing out here in Long Island, the hip-hop scene was still new back in ’99. I got a name for myself and Concept got a name for himself. It was only inevitable if you were a hot DJ that you were going to run into me. When we eventually ran into each other, we had the same likes. We had all the Rawkus records and all the Company Flow records. We were really underground nerds. (laughs) We just built a relationship off of that and when he got the Sirius show, he brought me on board with that and when the mixtapes took off, I brought him on board with that. He’s like my brother and every thing we do, we try to keep each other a part of it. We try to keep our names alive.
DJ Concept used to be the DJ for Crisis Center. What’d you think of their music when they were doing it?
I loved it! It’s crazy and I was with Undefined the other day. he has placements on Vinnie Paz’s solo album and Army of the Pharaohs and all that.
I wasn’t happy with him when he told me he wasn’t going to rhyme anymore.
Yeah. I mean, that was fun and that was back then when we did it, it was a fun experience and it taught us a lot about the industry and it was our big break into the industry. It got our foot in the door and we met all the independent artists that we work with now. It stinks that Undefined don’t rap no more, but with the beats he’s still doing it. And Concept just did Obie Trice’s artwork and he’s doing Eternia’s artwork. We’re all still in the mix doing what we do.
Do you still spin Crisis Center music?
Every now and then. I definitely have it on the Serato. Every now and then I’ll give it a spin. Some of those tracks are my favorite, like “Beautiful Music.” Those are dope.
You’re someone who’s definitely paid your dues and has taken the long road to come up. Is it finally paying off?
I think so. It took a little while, but it was just getting the right moment for me. I have a new label that’s backing me and they’re really giving me the green light for everything I want to do. They really appreciate what I have been doing and it was just a matter of time finding the right situation and the people you vibe with. We’ve all built reps for ourselves and then when we work together, it’s all just coming together. It’s like Voltron, bro! (laughs)
Does it bother you how many non-DJs throw the “DJ” in front of their name?
It used to bother me and i used to talk about how they didn’t have skills, but it’s exactly how the game is and it’s the trend that’s happening right now. The real people recognize who’s real. They’re not stupid. If all they’re doing is putting out mixtapes, then you know that’s all they’re good for. They’re not a real DJ.
How long did it take for you to hone your skills at DJing?
It took me years. You remember when they used to always compare being a DJ to karate, because you had to train so hard? That’s what it took. It took me a few years to be nice on the turntable and then it took me a few years to get my name out there to be known. It took me a few years and a lot of hard work and it was all worth it. I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done.
You worked with Killa Sha. What was he like?
Every time I saw him and every time I had words with him, he was a great guy. Funny dude, good heart. He was also a DJ. To me, he represented an important part of hip-hop. I remember copping his vinyl when I was 16 and 17. It was hurtful when he passed. Hopefully we’ll keep his music alive. His manager sent me some new records. Yeah, I hope we get to keep the name alive.
What will you remember most about Killa Sha?
We weren’t, like, close friends, but he would call me in the middle of the night just to say what up. I guess just the friendliness. He was a good guy and it was all good when we’d see each other. I’ll never get to say what up to him again or chill out with him, but I’m still happy I got the chance.
You had a nice run on Sirius. What happened there?
It’s just the game. They had other DJs that they had to put up in front of me. It was no hard feelings. It was very disappointing that I couldn’t do the show and we had a good five year run. It was fun for us. We got to meet a lot of our favorite artists and it was good.
A lot of shows don’t make it that long. What was your favorite part about the show?
Really, just being excited about what interview we were going to do because every show we always had a rapper come through or a producer and we always had a great time. At first, the rapper would be doing the hard face and he’s a gangster but after the show we were all going out for beers. And then you know them and it’s all good. It was off the chain.
Are you satisfied listening to the radio today or do you stick to the iPod?
It depends. I don’t really listen to the radio like that. When certain DJs are on, I’ll listen to them but I get the music sent to me and I can listen to that whenever I like. I don’t listen to the radio like that.
Will you get back into that side of the game?
Yeah. I went back to college radio at Stony Brook. I’m doing the college thing right now and we had Little Vic up there last night. That was cool. That’s fun. I have a love for radio so every time I have the opportunity to do it, I’m gonna take it.
Are you going to get into more mixtapes too?
I definitely do want to do more mixtapes, but more artist-related mixtapes. I did one with Last Emperor, which was cool and me and Concept did the Chaundon mixtape. Me and Illa Ghee did a mixtape as well. I want to do more of that and linking up with artists and doing mixtapes that way, the way we used to do them.
What’s the next move for Mickey Knox?
Right now it’s a solo album. We’re hopefully going to get started recording at the top of February so we can have a summer release.
If you and Concept are the Bash Brothers, who’s Mark McGwire and who’s Jose Canseco?
I’m Canseco, only because I’m Spanish! (laughs)
Did you ever shoot anyone with steroids?
Coming from Long Island, do you ever go down to the Jersey Shore for the summer?
No! No! No! Nah, not at all! I come from a whole different part of Long Island that no one knows about, man.
Sure you do.
(laughs) Oh, shit.
Now that you’ve seen Jersey Shore on MTV, are you going to come down to the Jersey Shore this summer?
Nah, that doesn’t interest me. That’s for the young kids. I’m good with what I do. I go to the industry parties and drink all the same drinks.
Does that have the same positive effect as fist pumping?
You and Illa Ghee should make a road trip this summer.
Oh, shit! Illa Ghee’s a big dude, too. But he’s such a great guy. You hear the music and then you hear the stories, but he’s a real cool brother. I got a lot of love for him and we’re probably going to start working on another mixtape and his album. He’s got some big things in the works. That’s why I had him on the EP, to help him get set up for what he’s doing. We need for all that stuff to go through before we start his album.
Who else do you want to work with?
Pretty much anybody that I can. I have a real love for hip-hop and I’m educated like that. I know who’s out there and what fanbases they have. I’m working with anybody I can get my hands on because I would like to see what we bring out of each other.