Despite making the move to NYC three years ago, DJ Soko’s Detroit roots stay strong. With the release of Domino Effect on Left of Center/Fat Beats this Friday (8/21), Soko shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.
Every element, from the beat selection to Soko’s skilled scratches, sets each emcee and producer up for success, and that’s what this record is, a success. Domino Effect is chocked full of today’s sought-after talent, including contributions from Detroit’s own Guilty Simpson, Mello Music Group artists Finale and Red Pill, and fellow The Left members, Apollo Brown and Journalist 103.
Brooklyn Radio’s Lara Gamble spoke with DJ Soko earlier this month to learn more about his move from the “Motor City” to the “Big Apple” and the lengthy process of ensuring his first solo record would be a success (and how he’s more than satisfied with the end product).
Earliest memory of hip-hop?
Probably Wu-Tang 36 Chambers. I kind of got into hip-hop later than most of my friends.
So, Detroit has produced some amazing artists over the years. How did growing up in the Motor City affect the formation of your style?
Just not caring about what other people were doing. I feel like maybe in the past decade that people have really started paying attention to Detroit through artists like Dilla, Black Milk, Guilty Simpson, Phat Kat. I feel like all of those artists never really cared what everyone else was doing.
All of the attention was usually on the East Coast, the West Coast, or down South, but we kinda just did our own thing. So, the people that fucked with it, you know, they fucked with it. The markets that tapped into it like L.A., Toronto, Europe, we’ve heavily influenced the sounds of other regions, but we never really get credit for it.
How did you get into music?
I didn’t necessarily come from a very musical family, but growing up, I had a lot of friends that were into music and always putting me on to different music. I initially got into DJing through an older friend of mine when I was around fifteen. I don’t really want to say family influenced me. Mostly like friends and my peers.
Who would you name as early influences on your style?
Probably DJ House Shoes from Detroit. DJ Premier, Babu, Tony Touch, J Rocc. And then further along probably Rich Medina and some of the other New York DJs that are out here.
Rich Medina is the dude. I interviewed him earlier this year. When did you make the move from Detroit to New York, and what sparked the decision to do that?
I moved from Detroit to New York three years ago, and unemployment is what sparked my move. I found a job in New York, and I couldn’t find a job in Detroit for like a year and a half after I graduated from college. You know, I always considered New York like my second home because I’d always be out here a lot because my brother lives out here, and I have a lot of friends that live out here.
Detroit is a very inspiring city, but at times, it kind of beats you down. All the resources are starting to come back to Detroit right now, but at the time, I kind of felt like I needed a change.
Makes sense. How did The Left come together?
Apollo Brown called Journalist when I was gearing up to do a full album basically. We had met DJing a couple years prior, and when they told me about the idea, they basically kind of brought me into the fold and took me under their wing. And then we went on the road to Europe. It kind of formed organically. It started as an idea, but everything else came together. Otherwise, it was just very organic.
I feel like a lot of Mello Music Group projects start like that.
Yeah, very like grassroots and organic. Not forced or anything like that.
When did you start working on your debut solo record Domino Effect that’s due out August 21 with Fat Beats.
I started working on it probably three weeks after Gas Mask came out. It’s been a long process. Part of that’s my fault. Other parts of that are just money and other people having obligations and not being able to just do things.
When you have friends who are doing you favors, you can’t just expect them to drop everything to record a verse or send you something. You have to be patient with other people’s schedules. So, that’s kind of why it took so long.
What was your creative process when crafting the album?
Initially, it was going to be an EP for Mello Music Group, and then it eventually turned into me making it a full LP kind of by myself with Fat Beats on the distribution end. It started out just with me making a list of all the different producers in my network and all the different emcees in my network and kind of starting with a general format of how I wanted to do it.
I didn’t want it to be a disposable project. I wanted it to actually have my stamp and my mark on it. I didn’t want it to be just a bunch of tracks that could have been thrown together from anywhere. So, I was very hands on with the creation process with, you know, setting the beats and recording the scratches and putting the DJ element into it. I feel like I have a pretty decent ear, so I’m able to kind of piece it together easily.
I’m definitely happy with the end product. It turned out to be bigger and better than I had initially set out to do. Initially, I was just going to put together some songs and just put it out, and then it ended up turning into starting an imprint, and this is going to be the first project on it. And now, I’m going to help curate other things for getting other projects out from other artists back home in Detroit.
Are you going to do any promotion for the album?
So far, I’m touring Europe in January for a month with Finale and Noveliss from Clear Soul Forces. I just got an email from somebody in Korea about doing some shows. So, I’m just trying to put together different shows. We packed out the listening party in Detroit.
I have a booking agency I’m working with in Europe right now, and then I just want to space everything out to hit different spots to push promotion. I know some DJs with SiriusXM.
Do you have any plans for the rest of summer?
Not set in stone. I would like to maybe do an impromptu release event in New York before summer’s out. I guess we’ll just have to see.
Do you have anything else that you want to add or promote?
Just the album comes out August 21, and I appreciate everyone that contributed to it, and I appreciate you taking the time for the interview. My Instagram is @djsoko85, my Twitter is @DJSoko, and the website is www.deejaysoko.com, and SoundCloud is soundcloud.com/djsoko1.