Recently I’ve been given the chance to speak with my fellow “behind the scenes” workers; the people who hold the cameras for these photoshoots and videos, the writers and bloggers who are responsible for the posts of many artists you see on some of the mag sites, and the directors curating it all one step at a time. I felt recently that these people have not been getting the love and respect that they so truly deserve, I mean where would some of these artists be if they didn’t have music videos? photoshoots and footage of their shows? How would you even know what some of these people even look like? It wouldn’t be right if I myself didn’t even give these TRUE hard workers a chance to speak on themselves and their grind. And who else better to talk with than the hardest working 17-year-old you know? Meet Chicago visual director and writer DJayFilms, known mostly from his work with ELEVATOR, Mindset Music, and the work done with many of the Chicago artists that he manages. Me and DJay got to talk about a lot of things regarding the music scene as well as the magazine/blog scene as well, so far in the year this has been one of my favorite interviews I’ve done so I hope you all learn a lot from another perspective of a man behind the camera.
Who are you?
DJay: I am DJay aka DJAYFILMS aka MindsetDjay aka White boy.
Where are you from?
DJay: I am from Chicago Illinois, currently living in the burbs.
How old are you?
DJay: 17 years young.
What is it that you do?
DJay: I write about music I like, I shoot photos for dope artists and events, I shoot music videos, handle PR and communications, build websites, and manage raw talent.
You write for a lot of publications, where did you start at?
DJay: I actually started working for Rap Genius back before they were known as just “Genius”, then I started my own blog with a friend and pretty much took off from there
How did you get into writing?
DJay: Tbh growing up I actually hated writing, mostly because of the structure illinois curriculum had us follow for all our essays/papers. My schooling is a mix of Chicago public schools and an affluent suburban school district so when I moved to the burbs I was way behind everyone else. But then I started writing about things I actually enjoyed and my whole perspective on writing changed after that.
Favorite publication to write for?
DJay: Definitely my own lol, but if that doesn’t count I’d say Illanoize because I have the most creative freedom with them and can work as freely as I like and write as much as I want.
How did Mindset Music originate?
DJay: A friend of mine and I both were into the same thing except he was more photo/video oriented and I was more web oriented, so we kinda combined our skills together into one company.
In all your time of writing how has the music scene evolved?
DJay: To be honest the scenes changing everyday, so many dope artists are dropping material daily that its impossible to go one day without hearing something new or creative. When I first came in the game conscious rap was the “cool thing to listen to”, now it’s mostly the Dex/Carti wave of rappers.
Is there anything you wish you could change?
DJay: Regarding the music scene I wish the Dex/Carti wave wasn’t so popular to be honest, I feel it promotes a lot of drug use that negatively impacts mostly suburban communities above all others. I also feel that a lot of these artists talk about violent topics because they are heavily influenced by Drill/Trap however most of them really never lived that or are bout it so it gives a false image which I’m not a fan of.
How did you get into managing?
DJay: It really started because some of my close friends were making music and since I was super involved in the scene they felt that I could and should manage them. I was cool with it of course cuz they my homies even though I had no prior experience which I guess was a good test run. Eventually though I started getting mentored by experienced managers, label executives, A&Rs, PRs etc and trained my skills and turned myself into the plug virtually hahahaha.
How many artists do you manage?
DJay: Honestly it’s hard to give an exact number, at least 9 though, most aren’t finalized or I co-manage them with others.
Is it hard for you to manage so many artists?
DJay: Surprisingly no, most of them are pretty independent and smart guys and really only need me as like an advisor and for marketing/promotion. All my guys definitely wouldn’t be where their at without me, however if we were to go our separate ways at this current point in time I think most of them would do ok without me.
Do you also handle all photo/video work for these artists?
DJay: Most of them no actually. They all for the most part have their own photo/video friends that are much better and more experienced than me so I would prefer they work with those guys instead of myself. Sometimes if I got the camera and I’m with them we’ll knock something out but for the most part we keep that separate.
How did you get into film/photography?
DJay: I’ve actually had a love for photography for years lowkey, I was just always self-conscious about my photos and publicly expressing my interest because I didn’t want people in the industry to think I was trying to “copy them”. My brother stole a Sony camera many years ago and he loved photo, after he passed though the camera just kinda sat in a box in our basement and eventually I picked it up and started doing photo myself. The video work started because when my former business partner and I parted ways I needed to get video work done for interviews and whatnot so I pretty much taught myself how to do it and took off from there.
Out of all 3 fields you work in what would you say your favorite is?
DJay: Honestly photo/video, there’s so much less politics involved and its so much easier to get your name and work out there. I just love the creative process that comes with it as well.
How long do you plan to stay in these fields?
DJay: Hopefully the rest of my life.
How annoying is it when artists ignore simple directions when submitting their content?
DJay: Hahaha, very irritating. Personally though I’m at a point in my career where I get so many emails a day and I can’t check them all so if the emails not a professional, detailed press release or an artist I know/heard of I immediately trash it because I can’t waste my time on effortless work.
Number one problem us writers have in the music scene right now?
DJay: Bias no doubt, most writers are only in it to put their friends or artists they manage on these mid level blogs and those are the writers that tend to never really get anywhere lol. As well as writers that only embrace a particular genre or sub genre of music. If that’s all you cover you’ll quickly lose a lot of respect for being so closed off.
As a young white male from Chicago was it hard for you to get BTS in the underground scene?
DJay: You know it actually was a lot easier for me than most people. I grew up in the city and some of the artists I worked with I knew since childhood. So I already had established connections and a reputable level of I guess “street cred” for lack of a better term that gave me a boost a white kid from the suburbs probably wouldn’t have.
You seem to get a lot of hate for what you do, why do you think that is?
DJay: Jealousy is a big factor cause I’m 17 doing bigger shit than everyone else was doing at this age lol. But also ppl think I’m “fake” or some shit because I work with the whole Drill scene as a white guy. However they don’t know my back story. Also because I’m brutally honest and don’t sugar coat things, people would rather get fake love than constructive criticism these days.
Is there any advice you could give to someone looking to step in one or all of the many different fields you work in? Is there anything you want to say to the supporters that will read this?
DJay: Do whatever makes you happy, don’t take criticism or hate from anyone unless you asked for it. Don’t be a culture vulture and don’t just do it for the money. The money will come eventually just keep working.
Below contains 3 small sections of all different types of work by DJay, you’ll find his debut various artists project “Mindset Like Djay” hosted DJay himself and DJ Leflare featuring tons of diffrent Chicago artists, 3 videos directed by DJay featuring artists like Rico Reacklezz, JusBlow, I.L & Mikey Dollaz, and a gallery of photos taken by DJay. For more work and news on music and videos from DJay you can follow him on his Twitter page, also be sure to checkout Mindset Music and show DJay some love while you’re over. Hope you enjoyed!
Stream “Mindset Like Djay”
Visuals by DJay
Rico Reacklezz – Yung & Recklezz
I.L & Mikey Dollaz – Brothers
JusBlow – Traffic
Photos by DJay