The history of hip-hop is well-documented. It was created in the streets of New York City, lived in the parks, and then blossomed into the biggest genre of music in the world. One of the fortunate hip-hop artists who made a business from the natural talent he possessed is still creating music, living off his craft, and building his entrepreneurial spirit in the process.
Brooklyn’s own DJ Scratch was playing to the audience virtually years before other DJs started showcasing their craft on social media. With the advent of his signature company, Scratchvision, he continues to build the platform that also showcases other prominent DJs across the world.
In an interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE, the three-time Grammy-nominated DJ and multi-platinum record producer, born as George Spivey, opened up about his business acumen.
BE: You were ahead of the game when you launched Scratchvision over 10 years ago. Why did you decide to create a platform like Scratchvision and what makes it unique?
DJ Scratch: I created ScratchVision because urban radio and music television vanished right before our eyes. Urban radio put an end to mix shows. The mix shows that started at 9 p.m. was the time of day that DJs could let loose and play what the people wanted to hear and break new records. But 2009 was the end of radio DJ’s having that freedom. Now, they have to add the same playlist of songs that are in rotation during the day into their nighttime mix shows.
Then music television vanished. MTV and BET music video shows were replaced with reality shows. The music and the history of music was taken away from this generation. So I wanted to fill that void, but in a more advanced way. So I created a social media website like Facebook, added a TV screen, a live chatroom, and a 24-hour radio station. Instead of listening to a DJ on the radio, you can watch the DJ spin and the audience watching can interact live with the DJ.
This was over 10 years ago, unheard of at that time. As the technology grew, so did ScratchVision.com. Now we have a mobile app that streams our live shows as well.
You’re known as the DJ for EPMD and producing many hits for a variety of artists. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to enter the entertainment industry and create something that will sustain their career?
Good relationships are most important.
Talent-wise, just be yourself. You can never be exposed being yourself.
Do not do business without paperwork; handshake deals don’t stand up in court.
What role does social media play in helping artists today?
Most artists haven’t figured out how to use social media to their advantage yet because they’re showing off their riches to their fans and not interacting with their fans. Social media is the greatest thing to happen for artists. Now you don’t have to kiss the radio DJ’s ass to get your song played so the masses can hear it. The artists now have direct access to their fans. (Because their fans are following them.) Social media cuts out the middle man to reach the people that buy and stream your records.
How are you able to sustain your business while still pursuing the creative aspects of your work?
I’m able to sustain my business while being creative because I created a business that serves music to the masses. Music makes the world go round, everyone loves music regardless of the genre.
Being involved in the business of hip-hop since the inception of the genre, how has your mindset changed from doing something you love for fun and now creating and maintaining an entity you own and operate?
My mindset changed because I really had to learn that business is business and you can’t take business personally. Most importantly, I wanted to create something musically for us by us. Everyone is eating off of hip-hop and black culture except black people. It’s time for black ownership in hip-hop where we can thrive. (Salute to Tidal and Revolt.) Respected hip-hop news websites are now gossiping instead of protecting the kings and queens of our culture. Black hop-hop media was originally created to give the positive news of our kings and queens. Now, black hip-hop media is only reporting the scandal of people in our culture just like white media.