The look of pride on Jacksonville’s DJ Shotgun’s face was unmistakable as he, alongside an impressive crowd, watched his 9 year old son, DJ Stiles, rock a turntable routine for May’s, ‘Mother May I’ Edition of The Lyricist Hour at Art Walk. Young and talented, Stiles is a natural who can cut, scratch and play joints so funky, that not even the most discerning Hip-Hop head can deny giving him his props. And why wouldn’t he be? With a father who is an institution, not only on Duval’s Hip-Hop scene, but also in Atlanta and Detroit, where he was raised, there’s no surprise that young Stiles would take to the turntables and needles like a duck to water. Shotgun did not pressure Stiles into following in his remarkable footsteps; but once interest was shown, he was sure to point him in the right direction, while allowing him to work at his own pace. “I grew up listening and learning and teaching myself,” said Shotgun. “And I wanted him to do the same thing, so that he can become his own person.” And as a hard worker and straight-A student, Stiles appears to be doing just that. After close to 30 years in the DJ’ng game, moments like these seem to bring the most joy to DJ Shotgun, who has enjoyed an amazing career from being a renowned Battle DJ, to touring the world with the Goodie Mob, to being one of the architects of Detroit’s Hip-Hop scene, who knew the late, great J. Dilla when he used to make beats with two cassette decks. Like any good story, in order to understand where Shotgun is going, we must first go back to the origins, where it all started in Motor Town USA, Detroit, Michigan.
Born in the Philippines, DJ Shotgun’s family moved to Detroit when he was 3 years old and afterwards, settled in the Oak Park area, which is located right on the border of the (later) famed 8 Mile. At the age of 12, Shotgun had already begun to dabble with DJ’ng, using parts from his father’s home stereo system, but he absolutely fell in love with Hip-Hop and the art of DJ’ng when his father took him and his best friend to a double feature of Beat Street and Breakin’. “Beat Street took me in awe when I saw Double K do his solo part for Rae Dawn Chong. I couldn’t believe what I saw. Made me really want to be a DJ,” he recounts. He remembers leaving the movie theatre thinking, “’How am I going to get my parents to buy me all of this expensive shit?’ I was plotting in my head and thinking of all the things I could say. ‘I’ll get a job, I’ll cut the backyard, anything you want, mom and dad’.” The next day, his father took him to Highland Appliance store where they purchased a Sony turntable and a needle and then to Radio Shack, where they got a mixer. From that point forward, Shotgun, spent hours in the basement of his parent’s home, practicing by mimicking the scratches of his favorite radio DJ’s, Bad Boy Bill and Jeff Mills the Wizard on WJLB. Jeff Mills the Wizard in particular was a major influence to Shotgun, who he felt was ‘God’s gift to DJ’ng’. That same year, Shotgun had the opportunity to meet The Wizard at a Battle of the DJ’s for Detroit’s metropolitan high schools and when he expressed interest in DJ’ng, Mills told him “Man, you can do it.” “Words like that, carried me over,” Shotgun recalls.
Shotgun’s first DJ’ng gig came when he was in the 8th grade at a middle school’s dance and by the age of 16, he was known throughout the city as one of the coldest Battle DJ’s in Detroit, due in part to a bold and audacious ‘hit list’, he had put together of DJ’s he intended to battle to prove that he was the best in the city. Around the same time, Prince Vince & The Force, became the first rap group from Detroit to sign to a major label (Mercury), inspiring Shotgun to pursue a career as a recording artist with his partner, Sniper, who was the emcee with Shotgun on the turntables. Sniper and Shotgun released a vinyl album under a local label, that turned out to be shady, but this unfortunate event did little to deter Shotgun from pursuing a career as a DJ. Although, at the time, Detroit was known more for it’s Techno and Dance music scenes, there was a burgeoning Hip-Hop scene resting beneath it all that would set the standard for dopeness that would reach far beyond the Motor City. And DJ Shotgun was a part of it all. He recalls collaborating and kicking it with DJ Dez, who went on to be the DJ for Slum Village and J. Dilla when they were two cats that used to use two cassette decks to make beats. Some of his fondest memories of Dilla is of him being a good dude who was hungry and always on his grind. He was also present when urban clothier, Maurice Malone, started a weekly Hip-Hop Open Mic called The Rhythm Kitchen at a Chinese restaurant, Stanley’s Mannia Café, before going on to open Detroit’s famed Hip Hop Shop, a place where history and legends were made. At the time, Shotgun’s ultimate goal was to follow in the footsteps of Jeff Mills the Wizard and become a radio DJ, so when a DJ battle in which the prize included a title, belt and radio job was announced, there was no doubt that he would enter and kill the competition. Shotgun did succeed at ‘killing the competition’, but a violent fight broke out at the show and although he was not directly involved, his name was connected to it and this effectively killed his chance of playing on Detroit radio. Shotgun continued to DJ around town, throwing parties and playing cabarets with his crew, the 12 Tek Mob (with DJ Dez, DJ Lynn Swann and Daddy Riff), but the changing climate in Detroit, violence wise, made it clear that an outlet may be needed and soon.
In 1993, Atlanta’s infamous spring break event, known as Freaknik was at its apex and for Shotgun, it seemed that everyone in the city was headed south to party. Shotgun opted to join in on the revelry for fear of being bored in Detroit, but little did he know that this trip to Atlanta would change his life. After having slept the majority of the ride, he recalls waking up in the car as they approached Atlanta, “I opened my eyes and I saw a whole new world. I saw the south; (the) trees and skies and just the climate and I was like, ‘Wow, I could do this’.” Needless to say, Shotgun and his crew had an amazing time and by the end of that year, he and a few of his homeboys, including Sniper and DJ Lynn Swann from 12 Tek Mob had relocated to Atlanta. New to Atlanta, DJ Shotgun secured a job at a local Office Max, but continued practicing at his first love: DJ’ng. By chance, DJ Lynn Swann met Atlanta’s DJ Jelly and MC Assault, of the Big Oomp Camp at Turtle’s Music Store, thus creating an avenue for the newcomers to break into Atlanta’s Hip-Hop and mixtape scene. Big Oomp and his camp showed them the ropes and how things were done in the south from the recording to the taping and distribution of the mixtapes and before long, Shotgun and his crew had released the For that Ass mixtape on Big Oomp Records, which was an instant street classic and the follow-up, 9 Millie mixtape, which solidified the crew as a force on the streets.
As a Battle DJ at heart, Shotgun continued to enter and wreck shop at battles in Atlanta, but there was one (unexpected) battle in particular that would once again change the course of his life. When DJ Jelly asked that the fellas accompany him to a party/battle, Shotgun and his crew rode out with no great expectations. But when they pulled up into a church parking lot in DeKalb county to park and board a shuttle bus that would take them to the party destination, they began to have a feeling that this was no ordinary party. And it wasn’t. It was the gold party for Outkast’s Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik album. The party was being held at Atlanta Falcon’s Andre Rison’s home (not the one that Left Eye later infamously burned down) and the place was literally crawling with the who’s who of Atlanta’s music scene and more. From T-Boz, Chilli and Left Eye of TLC to Jermaine Dupri to BET Host Big Lez, everyone who was anyone was there. Shotgun recalls his reaction to his first time at a true industry event. “I’m not star struck, but this is flipping me the fuck out!” He stated. One of Shotgun’s memorable encounters that evening was with The Notorious B.I.G., who was set to perform that evening and was a relative newcomer himself. He gave B.I.G. props and remembers how B.I.G. stared out at the massive, star-filled crowd and said, “Yeah, we’re going to kill this crowd, son,” as he ate chicken wings and meatballs from the parties, buffet.
The gold party was also doubling as a DJ Battle in which DJ Jelly, who was not really a Battle DJ, was set to compete in. After a lackluster performance against DJ Curve, Jelly turns to Shotgun and tells him, “It’s your turn”. Shotgun was shocked and unprepared. Without records and needles, he had no idea how he was supposed to pull this off. Right on cue, other known DJ’s like Lil Jon (later of Lil Jon and The Eastside Boys), Applejack and Emperor Searcy started scrambling for records, needles and record pads for Shotgun to use. One of the records he was given was a break record that he had recently gotten from DJ Qbert and the familiarity helped him take the stage and wreck it in front of a crowd of 1500. The winner of the battle was based on crowd response, so when the host, radio DJ, Ryan Cameron asked the crowd who had won, their response appeared to be overwhelmingly in favor of DJ Curve. Cameron peeped that the majority of the response came from DJ Curve’s crew who was on stage, cheering into the microphones, so he did Shotgun a solid and asked the crowd to physically divide themselves up on who they thought was the winner of the battle. The majority of the crowd sided with Shotgun and Cameron declared him the winner of the battle and before he knew it, he was standing on a stage with Big Boi and Andre, being congratulated, at which time Andre told him, “Ey folk, you killed that shit,” in his unmistakable ATL drawl.
In 1996, Shotgun and his crew were invited to The Variety Playhouse to check out the Atlanta stop of a tour featuring The Fugees, The Roots and the Goodie Mob by DJ Toomp, who was at the time, Goodie Mob’s tour DJ, but later went on to produce for T.I. Circumstances led Shotgun into participating in a blunt rolling contest on The Fugees tour bus with a member of The Fugees band and Big Boi of Outkast. And upon exiting the bus, he ran into Cee-lo Green, who after being informed that he was DJ Shotgun told him that he needed to talk to him. Shotgun thought something was wrong, but little did he know Cee-lo was actually taking him to meet Goodie Mob’s manager, Bernard Parks, who was about to offer him the opportunity of a lifetime. Parks asked Shotgun whether he wanted to go on the road as a tour DJ for the group and after Shotgun replied with an affirmative, he advised him to submit a videotape submission and bio. And Shotgun did the just that. After the items were submitted, he basically got a call saying, “Pack your shit. You’re going on your first tour run with us.”
As Goodie Mob’s DJ, Shotgun traveled the world, shared stages and kicked it with Hip-Hop superstars like, Notorious B.I.G., Wu-Tang Clan, Snoop Dogg, The Fugees and many more for 3 years. He made television appearances on MTV and UPN. All of his dreams were coming true, but underneath it all, a personal crisis was brewing that would once again set him on a different path. While on a tour stop in Seattle, he received a call that advised him that his mother, who had been battling breast cancer, had been admitted to the hospital and was not expected to make it. He left the tour and flew to the Philippines, from California, but his mother passed while he was in-flight. After one more tour run as a member of Goodie Mob, Shotgun left the group and went into seclusion in L.A. to get his head together and rededicate himself to his ultimate love, Battle DJ’ng.
Although he had been making the rounds as a club DJ and as a member of Goodie Mob, Shotgun never stopped practicing and battling when the opportunity presented itself. In 1997, he was crowned Atlanta’s top DJ by winning Hot 97’s DJ battle and had been competing in the epic DMC World DJ Championships off and on, throughout the 90’s. Also in 1997, Shotgun was featured on DJ Faust’s Man or Myth LP, which also featured other famed DJ’s like, DJ Craze, DJ Shortee and DJ T-Rock. And in 1999, Shotgun became the first DJ from Detroit to place in the DMC Finals in San Francisco. “That’s what I am, a battle DJ, more than anything,” he stated. As a member of several DJ’ng crews like The Third World Citizens and The Crate Bullies, Shotgun continued to make moves in the battle circuit and had the honor of mentoring and influencing DJ’s like DJ Swamp (1-time DMC Champion) and DJ Klever (2-time DMC Champion), who he collaborated with to release the classic breaks LP, Dirty South Breaks on Ammo Records, in 2001 and the follow-up, Get Crunk Beats.
After a year in L.A., Shotgun was on the verge of reclaiming his life in Atlanta, when he received a call from a relative that advised him that his father (now living in Jacksonville, Florida) was ill and needed to have a coronary bypass. This news caused Shotgun to return to Atlanta, only to retrieve his belongings and then he headed to Jacksonville, Florida. Once in Jacksonville, DJ Shotgun found himself in the precarious position of not knowing anyone or having a reputation that preceded him. He had to start from level one and build up a rep. Through a DJ that he knew from the circuit, DJ Sureshot, he was introduced to members of Duval’s growing true school Hip-Hop community and began to collaborate and spin around town, most notably at the Voodoo, Duval’s legendary Hip-Hop haunt, where many of the artists cut their teeth. He, along with DJ Basic and DJ Therapy (Paten Locke), formed the DJ’ng crew, Little Green Apples and when DJ Therapy, DJ Basic, J-Wonda and Willie Evans Jr. formed Asamov (later changed to The Alias Brother’s (The AB’s)), DJ Shotgun was tapped as their DJ. After The Alias Brother’s (amicably) disbanded, Shotgun teamed up with two of the groups members, Basic and J-Wonda, to create the urban clothing line, Bofresco, which is a combination of the French word, beau and the Spanish word, fresco. It essentially means, ‘Respect My Fresh’ and Shotgun describes it as, “Anything fresh that was a part of Hip-Hop culture”. As the “face” of the band, Shotgun describes Basic as the “soul” and creative energy behind the brand, while Joe (J-Wonda), handles the business and marketing side. And 5 years after it’s inception, Bofresco is finally getting its props and is one of the most recognizable independent brands in the city. The Bofresco crew currently sponsors and represents at various sneaker trade shows and Hip-Hop events throughout the Southeast and in conjunction with ICON Boutique, they put on Rockin’ Heat, the only sneaker trade show and convention in Jacksonville. 2012 will be the third edition of the show which features live DJ’s, B-boying competitions, urban clothing lines and of course, unique sneakers and kicks, and plans are to make it bigger than ever. They have plans to sponsor more Hip-Hop and B-Boy related events in the future, but they’re currently co-sponsoring the Phonte & 9th Wonder Concert that will take place Memorial Day Weekend, at 1904 in Downtown Jacksonville.
Now at the age of 39, DJ Shotgun is a father of two, whose aim is to be the best father that he can. He is still an active member of the DJ’ng and Hip Hop community, working tirelessly at his craft, with plans for more production and expanding the Bofresco brand to the masses. And of course, he still releases mixtapes; most recently, he did a Phonte & 9th Wonder joint for the upcoming show and has a Saturday night DJ’ng residency at Bay Street Saturdays in Downtown Jacksonville. When asked what the future holds for him his answer is not surprising as it encompasses the three things that he loves more than anything: His son, his daughter and Battle DJ’ng, “I want a bigshot title. I’ve won regionals and a lot of notable DJ competitions, but just to show my son and my daughter that their dad is a grinder. I’m still going to compete.” “And I’m going to be Shotgun, always.” Word up.