DJ Mista Smoke
A Rising Star Feature
by Melissa Minners
Graduate of the “School of Hard Knocks” as well as South Carolina State University, Bronx native DJ Mista Smoke has used his Masters Degree in Public Administration to his advantage, using what he has learned on the streets and in school to get his music circulated. Frustrated by the workings of the music industry, DJ Mista Smoke decided to take matters into his own hands, selling over 300,000 CDs independently via hand-to-hand distribution on the subways of New York City. Since then, he has completed a number of albums and movie projects and is still going strong. I had a chance to speak with Eshawn Hall, creator of the DJ Mista Smoke persona and franchise. Here’s what he had to say:
Tell us a little about your background before music. Did you always know you wanted a career in the music industry, or did you have something else in mind?
Always wanted to be a lawyer or a rapper. I even wrote it in a autobiography for fifth grade that I still have. Still intend to complete law school - entertainment of course.
In my opinion, hip-hop and rap are the perfect medium for getting a story across in a no nonsense style. Is this why you chose this music medium?
My intentions with music was to just be able to contribute to the culture. Add on to the growth of HipHop. Realizing that works have the power to inspire I began to tailor my message and direct my songs and topics, steering the soundtrack to my life and my "Smokers." Also in HipHop its honest, say what chu think in that moment.. That’s the dopest part, making something out of nothing...it’s actually history! And as close to God as possible. Creation!
How did DJ Mista Smoke come about?
I began as a DJ, making mixtapes and doing parties. Once I went to college and stepped up the grind. I began to make tapes with artists on my label rapping. (R-O) on Aye Yi Yie was my first artist, I would steer, coach, assist, whatever.. then one day I picked up the mic…and it grew from there into DJ Mista Smoke of today five albums deep!
Tell us about the unique way you pushed your product - I know that you distributed your CDs on the subways, but what was it like? Having ridden the subways of NYC myself, I know that often times, artists attempting to peddle their wares, be it music, dance or artwork don't always receive a great reception.
I swear to GOD after prepping this form of guerilla marketing to operate more as a company verses hobby. Having lived with my group for over four years in our formative young adult years 21-25, we learned how to become men and the things you have to do to get to where you want to be, we set out to sell music to people who normally DON'T buy HipHop.. That’s when you "REALLY Hustling!" So on the trains we rehearsed beforehand, videoing ourselves and providing critique to one another, until it was flawless. Once you see us, you remember us if you buy the product or not.
A. If you're skeptical, we have free merchandise and a website and iTunes, and a T-shirt with my face (branding to the extreme), a tattoo on my arm of my band, and stickers on the trains.
B. Once you see someone buy - the domino effect...people tend to buy in groups. So we set out to find the largest, and most crowded trains.
C. Networking, six degrees of separation.. "you never know who your sitting next to.“ With our belief in Synchronicity we just expanded our own networking ability and those of others. We put of thoughts and belief into words and actions and "Magnetically PULL" what we need toward us, with GOD’s divine intervention. But we still Criminals because we go against the grain and fight for the freedom our incarcerated physically and mentally peoples.
We also read marketing books, Music Industry books, study trends and economics (pay day schedules of City workers and non for profits) and have meetings to discuss the findings and interpretations of the data.. Music - OUR Music! - has been able to pay for a wedding, honeymoon, house mortgage, rent, a car, car payments, gifts, and equipment, clothes, and jewelry. That shit’s incredible. My thoughts and ideas generate income…I’m an orator, in the view of Henry David Thoreau, Edgar Allen Poe (Bx Stand Up), Dr. King, Robert Moses, Lincoln, Thurgood Marshall...it's awesome! My dreams being lived out daily!
You're a terrific role model for kids who want to have a career in music - staying in school, getting a degree, working hard and overcoming adversity to reach your ultimate goal in life. Was it music that helped you get your degree in business or was it the other way around? How is that degree helping you presently?
Role Model…that’s ill because ALL I every wanted was to make it out the HOOD…and see my family do the same. I'm all about growth and change and seeking the increase…doing more. That’s what I want my fans to get: “NEVER SETTLE." I saw education as my "crack". I could hustle in school and use it to generate + cash…sorta Horatio Alger from the hood...take any job, study learn, save, and be smart. Hard work equals results.
My degree...It’s helped me by using critical thinking on a daily basis. Its more than music, to be able to touch someone through song. Also by knowing I needed to create a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) of the forcible changes to the music industry and being prepared to not only embrace but develop optimum products within these conditions: collecting, and interpreting data, developing an effective elevator pitch and accountability.
Where do you see yourself, your music and your company going in the upcoming years?
Expanding into media and film synchronization, continuing to guerilla market to the public and aid Fortune 500 corporations in doing the same. Of course the albums, videos and solo projects. We are also working on a book for college students, Kill Bill Nation Album and a movie - Cousins.. Sick Puppy.
Eshawn Hall is the epitome of the Hustler - pushing hard to sell a product he believes in and getting others to believe in that product as well. It’s been hard work, but Eshawn is motivated, hoping to make the moniker of DJ Mista Smoke a household name, not just in the Bronx Hip-Hop scene, but across the nation. It’s that determination and belief in himself that makes DJ Mista Smoke a Rising Star.
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