OUTSIDE INFLUENCE: DJ Myth

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DJ Myth has a resume that kinda defies belief. He is a full-spectrum DJ, equally capable of rocking a dance party for hours or delivering polished scratch hooks for your next LP. He’s a seasoned performer who has been involved with every aspect of the business, from booking shows to organizing battles to co-founding Dover’s legendary & ambitious Flyrock Records.

So while there’s no shortage of material to talk about, our conversation here is focused on the work he’s done building and maintaining a scene. It’s demanding, often thankless work, and DJ Myth has decades of experience doing it right. Along the way, we’re looking back at New Hampshire hip hop history and laying out some great advice for young artists. Dig it.

VTHH: First off, huge props on the longevity of Rap Night and Ruckus Cup. One of the most common questions I get through this site are people who are trying to "build a scene" and start anchor events like those -- what do you think that people who haven't done yet that under-estimate the most? 

DJ Myth: What I think they under-estimate the most may be the work you need to put into it to be consistent.  Especially in northern New England. I mean, let's be honest here, New Hampshire and the other northern New England states aren't the mecca of hip-hop music, unfortunately, so if you want that quality for your night to be every week, especially if you book showcases, you gotta dig a bit deeper to find those acts that have the same mind frame as what you want your night to represent.   

I don't want that to be taken the wrong way, there is talent around here for sure, but to keep things fresh, you gotta do a little more digging and research because it's not as readily available as, let's say, a Boston or New York. That's when touring acts come into play, and are very helpful.  You get those showcases from people outside the area, that may come around only once or twice a year. Especially with a weekly like we have with Rap-Night, you don't want things to get too stale and these guys definitely help and give you more of an option for showcases. Just have to make it worth the trip for the touring/out of state performers.  If you book the same acts multiple times a year, people get bored and will get the "well I've seen them 'x' amount of times within the past year already." mindset. Gotta avoid that and keep your core group of regulars.

VTHH: When you were first starting Rap Night, was it difficult to find hospitable venues?  

DJ Myth: Not at all, because actually, the venue approached IBI, eyenine and Shupe about doing it after the success of Rap Night up in Portland.  So we kind of lucked out with that. No searching at all. Josh at the Shaskeen has done a great job with getting quality hip-hop in that place. You maybe wouldn't know it by looking at it when you walked in, but the Shaskeen has the best live hip-hop in the area.  Weekly, with Rap-Night, and then, pretty much, monthly with a big headlining act on a Friday or Saturday. They've had KRS, Rakim, Beatnuts, Das EFX, Slick Rick, just to name a few. It's great having that right in downtown Manchester.

VTHH: What is your personal origin story? What inspired you to take such a lead role and put in so much time for your local scene?  

DJ Myth: Well, without going too far back, I started DJing pretty much right after I graduated high-school in '94.  I was huge into Public Enemy, so Terminator X was a huge influence (even though I found out years later it wasn't even him doing most of the cuts, it was Johnny Juice), along with Kool DJ Red Alert and this guy out of Boston named Damien Paul who used to do Friday and Saturday nights on 94.5.  Super clean mixes. I would record his sets and study them.  

At first I had had no idea what I was doing.  My equipment was trash, and being a hip-hop DJ wasn't the cool thing to do in NH in the early 90's, so I had no one to ask what I actually needed.  Wasn't until I got a job, saved up, started getting better equipment, and stumbled upon the Invisibl Skratch Piklz Turntable TV VHS tapes at like Newbury Comics that I was like "oh shit, alright, that's what I need to be doing."  I mean, I was clueless. Wasn't even using the fader at the time. Whoops.  

So I watched those tapes constantly and just practiced and practiced.  Didn't leave the house much. Would stay up till 1-2am just mixing records and doing cuts.  I went through so many DJ names, some more embarrassing than others. Handed out mixtapes to the few people I hung out with. A couple I still have now, and cringe when I listen to them, but that was like 20 years ago.  One of these tapes got into the hands of my now good friend Seth thanks to my buddy Ian, who he was friends with at the time. No one really knew who I was, unless you had come over to my house because of my social anxiety issues.  I would never leave (accept to play hockey and go to work), I just locked myself in my room and DJed. So Seth is like "Who is this kid? Who is this myth?". So that's how I got the name, in a nutshell.  

I didn't start doing shows till a couple years later, maybe 2007-ish, when I could keep my nerves in check.  After a couple years of just getting on any show I could, I kind of got sick of seeing the same acts all the time, and so many MCs just being blah and, to be blunt, not good.  Things were just not going right with the heavy local act billed shows. I am a perfectionist and thought they should be going a certain way. Maybe I was asking too much, but whatever, it was frustrating.   

I asked the guy that was doing the promoting at the time, where I was mainly playing at if I could maybe help with booking and promoting.  So my first larger show, I got Esoteric up here, who came with 7L and Trademarc (East Coast Avengers), Nabo Rawk, M-Dot, and a few solid local openers.  It was right after that "Kill Bill O'Reilly" song came out and there was all that buzz going around about it. That was a solid show, not sold out, but fun and met a lot of new people and connections.  

After that, I started helping organize more rap shows around here, mainly local acts, at that venue (was called Rocko's) and a year or two later, did the Flyrock Records thing and expanded into Dover.  There was a bit of a lull in hip-hop shows around NH after Flyrock ended, maybe one or two once a in a while, but they were spread out during the year more. I did not book much after that. 

Soon after though, Josh at the Shaskeen comes around and starts booking all those great shows, and I got my foot in the door there. Him and I seem to have the same taste in rap music, which helps. Now that's where I am, along with Dover again sometimes and even Portland.  Still try to help as much as I can, without being too over-bearing. Mainly DJing the shows, helping with openers and promoting. Rap-Night though is my baby now, with help from eyenine, now that IBI and Shupe have taken a step back. I do pretty much everything for that, and have been really for the last couple years in Manchester.  Booking, promoting on Facebook and Instagram, organizing the night, DJing it. I'm a god damn super-hero (excuse my Kanye moment).

VTHH: This one is a rap nerd history question from a friend: who do you think were the first breakout artists from Manchester? Our mutual best guess was LB the Lyrical Bastard, one of the early NH artists on my radar back when it was Soundclick, not Soundcloud.  

DJ Myth: I honestly did not know much about the Manchester rap scene, because I was such a shut-in for so long, until I actually started doing shows.  Had no idea who was doing what, or where to go (if there actually was somewhere to go). Only knew about the crew that came over and did tracks with me.  So I am sure I'm not going to mention someone that may deserve it. I guess, ya, you're probably right, and LB would be the one of the first breakout artists for Manchester, but I did not meet him till maybe 2014 when we started Rap-Night, even though he was doing stuff way before then with Trapjaw.  There were a few others around the city that recorded, but the most notable would be LB in my opinion.

VTHH: Do you feel like you've gotten better at balancing your business projects and artistic projects? Or is there just almost no boundary for you at this point? 

DJ Myth: At the moment, the business side has like 86.49% (that being an estimated guess) of my time.  Constantly booking and promoting Rap-Night and my other weekly DJ night I hold down. Plus add the bigger shows I am a part of, and it takes up a lot of time.  Working from home full-time for my day job really helps, because I can just promote when I have down time or book for Rap-Night during the day, which frees up my nights to go through new music and work on projects.  I am hoping to finally find a better balance of business/artistic projects soon though. So many things I want to work on and put out. Tons of ideas. I have this Halloween themed mix-tape I have been gathering music for, for literally 4-5 years.  Last summer I finally had some time to start recording, thinking I had enough material gathered. Recorded for 3 months and had 12 minutes of mix I was happy with. I am very picky and a perfectionist. Sooooo, ya, it's going to take a bit for me to have the hour or so of mix-tape recorded that I want in the end with everything else going on.  It will come out at some point (probably like 2029 at this rate), and it will be fuckin' epic!

VTHH:  After the Flyrock Records experience, would you be interested in doing the curation & production work of running a label again?  

DJ Myth: Man, I don't know about all of that.  I wouldn't mind releasing a project on my own here and there, but there just isn't enough time, at least by myself, to be able to give sufficient attention to something like that.  Everything would have to be perfect. It was a great being a part of Flyrock though, and I appreciate all the opportunities that gave me, but I couldn't do it again, at least on my own, at the moment.

VTHH: As a veteran host, what advice do you have for rookie performers?  

DJ Myth: Where do I start? Haha. First, if you are doing a showcase, please, for the love of God, be organized and prepared.  I'm sure I speak for 99% of the hip-hop DJs out there, when I say we absolutely hate when you don't know what beats are on your flash drive and you need to go through them while we are actually spinning our own set.  Either show up early before doors open to go over your set with the DJ, or know what's on there and number your set. It's not that taxing, and it actually makes you look better as a performer, having things go smoothly, song after song, as opposed to you having to come over to us, after every damn song, to see what you put on your flash drive leaving that dead air.  Rookie mistakes mainly, but I have seen, unfortunately, some veteran MCs pull that every...damn...time.

Last on the performance aspect, don't think you're already LL Cool J after 2 shows and wander into the venue right before your set. I find it disrespectful, unless you got a valid excuse. Show up early and support the other acts and DJ, or stick around after your set, if you go on early, and support the others.  It goes a long way and people notice that. As far as the open-mics, biggest thing is to show up regularly and fine tune your skills. Some of the best freestylers we got right now have been there since day one, almost every single week.

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Justin Boland