Turntable Talk with Summer Altice: Interview with Q-Tip

By Summer Altice

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Playmate Summer Altice puts her DJ knowledge to the test in an exclusive interview with Q-Tip.


I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was 12 years old when I heard my first A Tribe Called Quest song. “Award Tour” came on the radio and I froze…just sat and listened. I immediately went out to buy that tape at the record store down the street from me (back then we had tapes and records, not CDs). I still rock that album like it was a gift from Santa on Christmas.

I really didn’t know what hip-hop was at the age of 12, but when I heard that song, I knew I had to hear more of where it came from. Listening to hip-hop was like listening to a bedtime story; I ALWAYS had to hear one…and I couldn’t go to sleep without one.  And if hip-hop was the story, the storyteller I loved most was Q-Tip. His melodic voice and fresh rhymes kept me coming back for more. So you can understand that when I was presented with the opportunity to interview him for my first column, I jumped at it. After clearly having to compose myself and calm the screaming 12-year-old inside me, I sat down and thought, well, what am I going to ask him? And then like water through a faucet it just started to flow.

Altice: You started out as a DJ alongside Red Alert and now several years later, after much success with ATCQ and solo, you have ventured back to DJing.  Any particular reason?

Q-Tip: I just love it, and I felt like there is a void in the club scene.  You can go to any club anywhere and hear all Top 40, or dance

and electronic, and some cats are cool, there are some levels of creativity that go into it, but it really goes into their own personal mixes.

They stamp the party with their own mixes of current hits, different mixes, or their own creations, but so much of the stuff that it comes from, the OG stuff, is what’s been missing.  A lot of open-format stuff is also hard to find. 

So for many years I have been playing spots like LIFE, which I did with Mark Ronson.  Then we each did our own thing at this spot Table 50 and then The Ace.

I have always tried to keep the good party going, playing spots where it’s open format, ’cause I just felt something was missing.  In the long run, the reason why I still do it is because I’m filling a void.  I love it.  I love doing it and watching people move and what they react to.  And I use it as a way to discover new records and meld them with old and all that, and I just felt it’s a void ’cause there are a lot of guys that do the same thing.

Altice: What are your favorite recent gigs?

Q-Tip: My favorite gig is probably the gig I used to do at The Ace Hotel. Those are really fun ’cause I got to spin a whole bunch of stuff like Lil Wayne, “A Milli” rocking with “‘Whatcha See is Whatcha Get” by the Dramatics.  I did a blend of those things, it was really working. And Stephanie Mills, “Something In The Way You Make Me Feel” acapella with “Be Happy” – Mary J. Blige. I would do different mixes down here that was really killing and the system was dope, so those parties are really fun.

Altice: What was your most memorable night as a DJ?

Q-Tip: When I was DJin’ at this spot called Mars in the city, ’89 maybe, it was amazing. Me and Ali, we DJed there, it was great.

Altice: What is your go-to equipment or DJ program, or do you still prefer vinyl?

Q-Tip: I really do prefer vinyl but I DJ on Serato and Traktor with vinyl.  I like the feel.

Altice: Do you find the advances in technology a positive or a negative for the DJ world? Some would say there are too many people out there who “think they a DJ.” Do you agree?

Q-Tip: Yes, everybody can’t do it all.  Just because you have a playlist and an iPod, you put it on when friends are over, it doesn’t make you a DJ.

But on the other hand, I love the encouragement and inquisitiveness of folks into the whole world [of DJing], but you really have to submerge yourself with all different types of music. Sometimes not just your taste.

I have seen DJs, very well known DJs that people really check out, and I’ll watch them play sometimes and they will just play and don’t even read the room. They will just play their taste, and they will kind of lose them. But we are in  a society where people are so taken by celebrities and personalities that “celebrity DJs” are playing this uneducated music, people will still stand and groove with them.  So they will keep going, playing the shit that only they like.

And that’s not good.  You gotta read crowds and understand the temperature, you gotta know what records move where, if something doesn’t work how to get out of it, you set records up, sometimes you will start out with one song just to get to that fifth song. You will set it up four or five songs prior to the one you know is really gonna hit. 

Some cats don’t even know how to do that.  So it’s really a study, you can’t just up and say, “Oh I am a DJ, look,” you gotta really understand music and understand emotion and how to read rooms.

Some cats lean on the Top 40 crutch and only play that stuff, and it works but it’s not really any advancement of your personality as a DJ, you are just a Push n Play.

Altice: Watch the Throne was one of my favorite albums of the year, so I have to ask, what was it like working with Kanye? 

Q-Tip: It was cool. He is a very talented guy, he likes to push the envelope, meld and mix and match. He is really an orchestrator, I would say.  And a friend, so it was cool.

[The day I interviewed him, Q-Tip signed with G.O.O.D. Music, Kanye West’s record label. Fat Joe, a well-known rapper and collaborator of Kanye’s, said to MTV recently he believes his recent deal with Yeezy's G.O.O.D. Music will further cement he is a musical genius. "Smartest thing Kanye West ever did," Joe said of the signing.]

Altice: I personally believe hip-hop needs to get back to its roots.  Do you agree?

Q-Tip: Yes, it’s always good to come back home, but there is a way you have to do it.  You can’t necessarily just hop in a time machine and go back. You have to take things from then and be able to apply it with today’s finesse and vernacular, so that it could be fresh.

    Altice: I am thinking along the lines of the rampant materialism that has become so much a part of hip-hop, like “Beamer, Benz, or Bentley,” “Rack City,” etc. It’s not storytelling anymore, it’s about who has the most shit.

    Q-Tip: I think it’s also a reflection of the time. I just feel society breeds those things, people are more invested in the individual than the unit.  Your status in society more than your moral achievement.  These things have become commonplace so when guys are saying “rack city, bitch, rack, rack city, bitch,” or talking about the Benz or Maybach or how many birds they moved and shit (reference to drugs), is just the extension of the psychology of America.  When we turn on the TV we see reality TV shows, predominantly women fighting each other, having nonsense arguments, then ones with winning prizes, competitions, one out to be the best, it’s all of this attention put on the individual in high society.

    The irony is that as a society we are in the worst economic place we have been for some time and people are out of work, and America’s position in the rest of the world is questionable at times, so we here in America are living this utopia via media outlets, or TV or what have you.  These things and these ideas have been perpetrated mostly by hip-hop music and hip-hop artists, and that usually happens because the predominant number of hip-hop artists are black, and they come up in poor neighborhoods where the education system is broken, so they are forced to watch TV and listen to all these things, so it affects their voice.

    I think that when they say these things, we need to examine who we are as people. I don’t think there should be a silence to that voice, but there should be the alternative voice as well – a good balance.

    Altice: Where do you think the hottest women are?

    Q-Tip: Oh, wow…I have been all over – I can’t say there is one place, but Sweden, Brazil, New York, Houston…

    Altice: What was the New York club scene like when you came up, as opposed to now?

    Q-Tip: It was plentiful, more places to go, laws were not as restricted. The World,  Roxy, Funhouse, The Garage, Cuando, Palladium, Club 54, The Ritz, you had so many dope clubs back then that it was endless.  I used to just love going out, hanging out, every night there was something to do.  People really danced back then, they went out dancing, it was fun.

    Altice: The first time you saw “Bonita Applebum,” was she dancing?

    Q-Tip: [Laughs] Yeah, she was certainly dancing.

    Altice: Last question:  will we see a show with all the original ATCQ members in the future?

    Q-Tip: Performing, you never know, but another album, no.

    You just never know, it’s always a possibility.

    There it is, folks…I could have listened to him talk all day…about just about anything. But he gave me such a new perspective on the art of DJing: he made me want to stop and check myself and go back to what I love about DJin’. And to remember that it’s not just about where you play and for how many people. It’s about the quality first…and to always keep working…keep pushing and to keep listening.

    Q-Tip’s new album, The Last Zulu, will be out on G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam next year.

    Catch  Playboy's Spotify Q-Tip music tribute by insideplaya.

    About the Author

    Playmate Summer Altice first graced Playboy magazine pages in 2000. Since then there has been no stopping the multi-talented Altice: actress, model, business owner and for over six years, popular DJ. Much in demand for her Dj skills, Altice currently travels the world playing shows. To book her for your next event please visit summeraltice.com. Make sure to follow her on Twitter @SummerAltice.

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