The only box you can put DJ Austin Millz in is a DJ booth. Outside of that, you’re in for a great debate. “I’m a very versatile open format DJ. You can put me in any environment or setting and I’ll rock a party or rock the event or rock the festival. I mean I don’t like to really be classified or put in a box as a hip-hop DJ, or EDM, or trap or anything like that. I’m just an open format, versatile performer,” says the producer and DJ who hails from Harlem.
Fresh off the release of his mixtape, Searching For Gotham, where he bridges the gap between the skills of artists and sounds of producers, Millz firmly believes DJs are essential to the culture of music, and virtually pioneers. “DJs have been essentially at the forefront of hip-hop, and music. With DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Jazzy Jeff’s name is first. With Afrika Bambaataa and Zulu Nation, the DJ’s name is first. Things obviously changed in the 90s and the artist or the rapper became the forefront. But now I feel like things are going back and the DJs are starting to have more power to dictate the music and the natural direction of music. As a society, I feel like we can brand ourselves in music and beyond: fashion and business, and just having a pivotal role in culture now.”
If you had to categorize DJs, there would be two: underground rap and mainstream hip-hop. Millz believes an over abundance of either isn’t good as well as DJs are important pioneers who have the power to dictate what’s next and determine the sound of tomorrow. “Too much backpack rap and not enough commercial sound, that’s not good. You always need a balance. Mainstream lyrics are often simple, not thought-provoking but there are times when you want to listen to something with a catchy hook that doesn’t make you think. Then sometimes you like deep lyrics, like on a Sunday. The culture needs both,” he shares.
Having traveled globally and playing sets as near as Canada and as far as Germany, Millz has seen his brand grow exponentially. “By traveling, it’s been very helpful to see how I am received and what people like, and to cultivate my brand. A lot of times, DJs don’t play for the crowd, they play for themselves. You have to find that middle ground.”
While he’s traveled the world to spin at different venues, there’s one house he dreams of playing in. No, it’s not the House of Blues.
“To spin at the White House for the President, that’s my dream. I’d definitely start off with some Marvin Gaye, ‘Got To Give Up,’ and transition to Frankie Beverly, ‘Before I let Go.’ Just run the hits. Run the classics. But then switch it up and play a little Jay Z like ‘Hard Knock Life.’ Switch it up to some Kendrick Lamar … a little bit of NAS. I would throw some rock records in there like the Beatles and just really do it up. It would be a dream come true,” he avers.
On what he’d ask the industry as a whole as it relates to music and how they want to impact the community…
“I feel like artists should take a stand more often. There are so many things we can contribute to a community program, joining activations and just helping the community … any type of social awareness project. It can be making songs relative to an issue, being social media activists by heightening awareness and making calls to action. There are so many things we can do. We can do it year round. I feel like artists can make a stand and when we play our part it makes a difference in society today. I participate in ‘DJ For A Cure, raising money for Leukemia research. Do we have to wait until there is a protest going on?”