NEW YORK — Mixtape master DJ Kay Slay released his first official album this week, The Streetsweeper Vol. 1, and as the robust record spinner will quickly tell you, making an LP for a label is a lot different than putting out a project for the streets.
Kay Slay said the hardest part is just getting official permission to work with people. "It could be a situation where it could be your brother, your real blood brother, twin born the same day, and if he's on another record label and them CEOs got a situation, your brother could possibly not be on your album or single. It's crazy."
Slay has a solution for cutting through the red tape.
"You gotta slightly threaten them," he said. "Not physical harm, but [just saying,] 'Look, if you don't do this for me, when you got this new wack cat coming out, I'm not playing nothing. I'mma shut him down.' It's bad, but you gotta play them games with the labels to get what you need. You could be tight with the artist, and the artist could be on the other end of the phone telling his lawyer, 'I'm clearing this, do this.' And the lawyer is like, 'I need to know the mechanical royalty he's going to receive' and 'Is it equivalent to Eminem's?' I got a compilation album that has 66 artists on it, so you can imagine the headaches."
One of the headaches surrounded the shooting of a video for the first single, "Too Much for Me." The original version of the song that hit radio featured Nas, Baby, Amerie and Foxy Brown. With the single buzzing on the air, Slay was hoping its clip would push him over the top. Unfortunately, at one point or another, almost everyone involved with the record was not going to be in the video. Foxy and Amerie made the clip, and Slay wound up shooting a remix video with a Loon verse replacing Nas and Baby's parts.
"We already knew Nas wasn't going to do the video for some situation he had with Columbia Records," Slay lamented about his labelmate, whom he has supported on radio and on mixtapes since last summer. "I don't care what the situation was, he should have been there to support me the way I was there to support him in his videos."
He added that Loon had laid down vocals long before the video fiasco. "Loon was on the first cut of the song, but for whatever reason Nas didn't want to be on the song with him. Being that Loon is the remix king, I said, 'Let's go and use my man for the remix,' so it's not like the vocals was going to waste."
Despite his trials and tribulations, Slay is pleased with his latest lesson in the music business.
"It didn't sour me to the whole game; what it did was school me," Slay said. "This is a whole other side of the game I didn't know about. I know how to play my cards. I would never do a single with four different artists unless them four different artists was a part of one entity. If I used that many, I would probably use two at the most. Then you have to deal with four different personalities, four different schedules. You gotta chase this one. This one is arguing with his girl. ... This guy is on the other end of the world."
No wonder Slay hasn't given up his day job as mixtape maker. He's just released Month of the Bad Guy Part 2 with tracks from ODB, Joe Budden and 50 Cent. His night job — hosting the weekly "Drama Hour" on New York's Hot 97 — is working out nicely as well.
Besides Nas, Foxy, Amerie, Loon and the Birdman, The Streetsweeper Vol. 1 also features guest spots from Eminem, Cam'ron, Mobb Deep, the LOX, Aaron Hall, members of the Wu-Tang Clan and the Flipmode Squad.
Want to know more about mixtapes? Check out our feature "Mixtapes: The Other Music Industry."