DJ M2 Talks Power 98.3, Groove Candy, Disney Cartoons, James Brown, KRS-One, and More
Opportunities abound for y'all to catch DJ M2 in action, whether it's during his weekday shift on hip-hop station Power 98.3, or every Thursdays over at Dirty Pretty during Groove Candy.
Either way, it's well worth going out of your way to do so, as M2 weaves some mixing magic on the turntables, often showing off his substantial scratching skills to boot.
Get the lowdown on his history, listening habits, and favorite songs (as well as his opinions about the state of local hip-hop) in this week's edition of DJ Dossier.
Name: Michael McDowell
Genres spun: Neo-soul, reggae, funk, classics, old school, and Top 40.
When can we hear you on Power 98.3? Right now, I do 7 to 9 in the morning every Monday through Friday (it's typical Top 40 radio stuff) and then from Noon to 1:00 Monday through Friday I do an Old School Mix. That's 90s and below Hip Hop.
How did you get into the DJ game? I was always into hip-hop and in high school I went to a concert and saw [Z-Trip] DJing for the first time I ever saw Z-Trip. It was the Alkaholiks and Souls of Mischief concert in 1994 or something. I'd never seen a DJ live, and the sound system was a monster system and he was cutting up with records. I was always fascinated with DJing, but never really knew what it was about. When I saw him, I was like, "That's really inspirational, it's cool." So I just started moving toward that direction.
What do you dig about DJing?There isn't any one thing. I like that I can cut a sound, cut a record, and can go in and rock the crowd and make people have a good time. I like taking them on journeys and trips that they weren't even thinking about going on. There are so many roads to go down, I have always loved that about being a DJ.
How did you get started with Power 98.3? They had a DJ battle in like 2000 on their underground hip-hop show on Fridays and I ended up making it to the finals. Then they had me come back once in awhile just to do guest spots on the radio, eventually asking me to be a regular because they were mixing all weekend long. But I never wanted to play commercial music or commercial Hip Hop, so I said "no." After the whole "I love DJing more than working a regular 9 to 5" kicked in, I caved in. And I wound up liking it, and have been there ever since.
What are the benefits and drawbacks of being a DJ at a big radio station? Getting pigeonholed sometimes is definitely a drawback. People think that that's all you do and that's all you spin. One of the benefits is that you get to meet artists, you get their drops a lot easier, and many record labels will hook you up with music (sometimes before it drops anywhere else).
Has the Internet made radio stations completely obsolete? There are just so many different outlets people can use for music: MP3 players, stellite radio, it's all getting thrown into the wash now. Radio is still another option and that's why I like it. It definitely isn't as prevalent -- and you don't have as much power as maybe 10-15 years ago if you are in radio -- but it's just another element out there that people have the option to listen to or to be a part of.
Does it mean that you have to step up your game as a radio DJ? Definitely. There are so many people trying to be DJs now, because it's easier and cheaper now. Back in the day, all you needed to have was money to buy vinyl and everything. Now you drop $500 on Serato and download unlimited tracks online.
As far as stepping my game up, you really have to do that sort of thing right now. There's so much music coming out now. There's so many mixtapes coming out every day, you've got to constantly be on a grind now, non-stop. All day, every day. Back in the day, you didn't have to do that as much. Nowadays, you've got to be on Twitter, you've got to be on Facebook, you've got to hit every outlet possible to keep your name out there. If not, there's 50 people waiting to pass you up. That's how crazy how it is.
How long have you been scratching? I've been doing that since I started in late 1995/early 1996. I was taught by this guy named DJ Focus. He used to own a hip-hop store off 7th Street and Indian School. It was called the Arena and I used to go in there everyday and he taught me the ropes and was all about scratching. That was around the time Q-Bert was really big and scratching really blew up. There was a lot of battling and in the mid 90's and I was in that era. I remember it was me, Tricky T and Pickster. A lot of us around then used to scratch all the time and battle.
How often do you practice? I always like to try and make it a point to practice my skills as a DJ and try to get in at least a half hour a day. I always try to stay on point, be on top of everything, and never stop improving my skills on the turntable. That's been one of my big things because of the way it is now, it seems like scratching and practicing are taking a back seat now. Those are the things being lost now, little by little.
What's your mantra? I try sticking to the actual roots of DJing more than anything else, especially now with Serato and all the technology. It's easy to do all the new stuff now, it's easier than sitting in your room and practicing scratching and trying to get tight with your techniques and patterns. I think they are a new technique, but the actual broad DJing element is getting lost. Too many people are getting turned on by the new techniques and technology. I try to build my skills with the old and incorporate the new.
What's the greatest DJ battle that you've won? It was when I battled this kid named Megadef out here. At the time there was a lot talk in the streets about us battling. We were never shit-talking each other or anything, but for some reason it came about and we battled. It got set up at the [bygone] Green Room one night and Total Eclipse from The Executioners was flown out here. I think Daryl D. threw the event. They didn't announce a winner and said everybody was going to talk about who they thought won. We went back and forth with three rounds each. And it was close. There was so much talk about it afterwards in the scene.
What are some of the other clubs you've spun at over the years? I've done Freedom, Pompeii, CBNC, Stoudemire's, Majerle's, Sky Lounge, PHX Nightclub, Axis/Radius, Suede, Myst, and others. I've played just about every one out here.
Which bygone club do you miss the most? I definitely miss The Door because I'ts where we started Groove Candy. I really loved that spot, it was kind of tough when that closed down. I miss the concerts at the [original] Nile. Those were pretty dope back in the '90s. Wicka Wednesdays with Morse Code, that was really dope too.
Craziest thing you've see at a gig? I've had a chick throw up on my record before requesting a song. The record started skipping and I had to get another song on the other side real quick. Luckily, she didn't get me.
What's been your best and worst experience as a DJ? That's really tough because there wasn't just one thing. Probably battling in my early career just because I think it really molded me and developed my style and helped get me where I am today. Another standout point in my career, however, was the Power 98.3 battle I told you about. I made it to the finals at [Desert Sky] Pavilion and it was this huge show that Power 98.3 was doing back then.
They had a lot of people there and I battled onstage in the finals against this guy named DJ Able. We still talk to this day and he won the battle because he was doing stuff that the crowd was more into and I ended up getting booed by like 10,000 or whatever. That was like a pretty humbling experience and I think that really lit a fire under me to make up for what happened to me. It was like a huge defining point that caused me to push myself even harder.
What's your opinion on local DJs? My personal opinion, I've always believed that Phoenix is a breeding ground for good DJs. Everybody from Z-Trip and Radar to D-JR and Tricky T has their own style. When I see a lot of people from out of town play, I can totally say we're as good as that or can hold our own. There's something about out here that pushes all the DJs to be really dope.
What would you change if you could? I wish there was a little more depth and a little more people involved who go out a little bit more and support DJs.
Groove Candy went away for around a year but eventually came back. Why was that? When Karlie [Hustle] wanted to step away and go into other ventures, it went into limbo for a long time. Then opportunity presented itself for Groove Candy's return, so I said, "Okay, I'll bring it back again, give it another shot, and try to keep it going and see how it's accepted." I really love Groove Candy and I didn't really think there was that kind of outlet for hip-hop out here. What we were doing was still not being done and it made sense to me to bring it back.
Is it still as pimp as it was back during its original days back at The Door? I think The Door was its heyday. That's a period that's never going to be duplicated for what it was. At that time, nobody was doing what we were doing with it. The timing was good. The day of the week was good. The layout of the venue was perfect for it. All of the elements fit perfectly for what it was that night.
Which local hip-hop artists are you a fan of? I really like Ocean a lot and think he's a good MC. There are lot of great MCs, so it's hard to pick and choose between all of them. I'm trying to be a nice guy and trying to be honest at the same time. I loved Carnegie [from Silver Medallion] a lot. It's really sad what happened. Him and Oren J. were such a dope group and were going on to huge things. I'm sure Oren's really going blow up on his own too.
Worst request you've ever gotten? Probably for Vanilla Ice.
What sites do you use for music? I go to 2 Dope Boyz, Break the Crates, DJ City, and HQ Hip-hop,
Do you shop anywhere locally? Yeah. I still hit Tracks and Wax and Revolver. I love digging for 45s, it's like my thing now. I still have all my wax, I never got rid of it.
What's your greatest vinyl score? There's no one specific record. I've had a few different times where I've gone into Zia's a few years ago and somebody dropped off a huge collection of like 60 crates. And a ton of it was golden and rare hip-hop. I dug through it and dropped a whole bunch of money. It was like hitting a gold mine, a whole bunch of records at once.
Last album purchased: I just bought the 9th Wonder/David Banner album Death of a Pop Star.
Track that's been stuck in your head lately: James Brown, "Give It Up or Turnit a Loose."
You're a huge James Brown fan, correct? He's my favorite artist of all time, hands down. I did a tribute mix the year he passed away on the radio one night and I put it up on my website.
What else have you been listening to lately? I'm really stuck on a lot of old funk and soul. I'm really spinning heavy into that now: '70s soul, a lot of Dennis Coffey, James Brown, rare 45s, and the kinda stuff I listen to in my room to help to keep me sane from playing all that Top 40 stuff.
Best concert you've ever attended? Probably KRS-One at the Old Brickhouse in 2007. That night was dope.
When you're not DJing, where can you be found? At home watching TV, or out digging for records.
What's something about yourself that might surprise others? I'm really into cartoons, like Disney cartoons. I like the Toy Story films a lot. And of the classics, I prefer Jungle Book or Alice in Wonderland.
Preferred poison while DJing It depends on my mood. Some nights it's water, some nights it's Red Bull. Every once in awhile I'll have a cranberry vodka.
Any side projects in the works? I'm working on a few mixtapes right now. I have a neo-soul one that's going to drop pretty soon. Then a couple creative hip-hop mix tapes I'm working on currently that are in their early stages.
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