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Even after over two decades as one of Hip-Hop’s supreme influencers, DJ Enuff’s sets are far from dated. The Heavy Hitter’s Chairman sponsors the most official vinyl across the globe. Real recognizes real, and his turntables were spinning behind legendary acts, like The Notorious B.I.G.and Kanye West, before they received Billboard recognition.

DJ Enuff continues to defy society’s ordained placement of Latinos in mainstream music. As Hot97’s longtime Puerto Rican powerhouse, he remains a pillar at the station “where Hip-Hop lives”. The ingenious visionary even collaborated with Sean “Puffy” Combs to create the #CirocBoyz. He’s music’s nice guy who went from overlooked to overbooked. But please don’t mistake his rare charisma as anything sweet; this tastemaker is more of a vodka straight.

What inspired you to become a DJ?

I’ve always loved DJing; my uncle was a DJ. Seeing the vinyl, everyone dancing and partying, made me want to be a part of that. You know as a kid they always tell you, “Go to your room, go to sleep.” When I actually touched the equipment and played with it, it was fun. When it came to Hip-Hop and me saying I was going to go for it, there was an old school DJ by the name of Charlie Chase. He was a Puerto Rican DJ for a Black group, the Cold Crush Brothers. I felt like if he could do it; I could do it.

How did touring as The Notorious B.I.G.’s road DJ change your life?

First and foremost, I got to see the country. I really saw the nooks and crannies of the U.S. Before then, I traveled, but Biggie took me to cornfields and weird places I would have never gone. Biggie went to little cities first. I was there to see him perform, and people’s eyes brightened when they watched him. The fans would sing every single lyric. This gangster rapper on the road wasn’t very gangster at all. He was a charming and funny individual. I got to see all that, not even knowing we were making history. It’s amazing to me. Wow, I appreciate it now more than when we were actually doing it. History. I didn’t know at the time; I had no idea.

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You’ve been at Hot97 for almost 20 years. What would you like fans to know about your daily grind?

I want them to know that I was honest. I did the best I could, for my people and for the listeners. I never lied; if someone asked me a question, I always gave them a genuine answer. When it comes to the music, I always play the best music for my people — period. It doesn’t matter if it’s Brooklyn, Manhattan, Blacks, Hispanics, whatever; I’ll always be the best I can be. My legacy for me is being the glue inside Hot97 and outside the building. I’ve always tried to make sure things were smooth. Maybe I’m an iron. [Laughs] I always try to iron things out for people.

How do you feel the Hispanic community affected Hip-Hop and R&B?

We’ve been here since day one, so there is no mistake about that. Whether we are noted for it is a whole different ballgame. I think sometimes, because we are not noted for being present, the [mainstream] challenges are a little more difficult. You’d be surprised how many people fight to get into positions. It could be at a magazine, on the radio or when artist begin making records. I feel the country gives us these token positions, and I want to break down these walls. I hope everyone who’s reading this — that’s their goal, to break down their walls. We need to continue moving forward, so Latinos can be looked at as mainstream as possible. And not just in New York or Miami! It’s typical in California or Texas, because there are a bunch of Latinos there — we get it. I’m talking about Latinos in places where there aren’t too many of us. We need to be looked at as just as important.

What do the Heavy Hitters mean to you?

That’s my family. The Heavy Hitters are one of the best things I’ve created, besides my son. This started because I was not wanted. I wanted to be down with Funkmaster Flex’s crew. He’s a really good DJ on Hot97, and he has a DJ crew called the Big Dawg Pitbulls. I wanted to be a part of it when they first launched, and Flex told me “No.” It broke my heart.

Rest in peace to DJ Threat, a Dominican kid from Long Island. Threat told me “Why don’t we start your own team?” I told him “I don’t know” but took his advice. I said, “Let’s do this. Who are we going to put on?” DJ Threat and I were sitting on Park Avenue and out of nowhere DJ Camilo came around the corner. I said, “How about this guy? You want to be down with our crew? It’s called the Heavy Hitter DJ’s.” It was just us three. It was that simple, because there were no rules or regulations.

We had a Puerto Rican, a Columbian and a Dominican DJ in New York City. The crazy part is I got them all jobs at the radio station. At a “quote unquote” Black radio station, it was a big deal! That’s it. The Heavy Hitters started. It was born. I now have 65 DJ’s across the world. They mean everything to me. We put down an empire, and I think we’re hands-down the best DJ crew in the game.

DJ-Enuff-El-Presidente-NY-KnickerBloggers1What about Kanye?

Kanye West is the only artist we have down. When he got down, he was young producer Kanye, with the backpack, always traveling. This guy used to come to my little office, where I used to make mixtapes. He repeatedly told me, “I want to be a Heavy Hitter.” I told him, “This is only for DJ’s.” He would come with Common and Talib Kweli all the time. Kanye told me, “No! I want to be a Heavy Hitter.” I thought, “Yo, you don’t get it.”[laughs]  As we all know now, this guy doesn’t take no for an answer. I put out his mixtape, and nobody cared or wanted to pay me for it.

This kid put out Through The Wire two weeks later, and everybody started calling me. They started asking me for copies. I told them, “I gave you 20 copies! I gave you 50 copies! I gave you 100 copies; where are they?” They responded, “Oh, we got rid of them. Nobody wanted them.” We ended up on back order, and Kanye was gone. It was literally one record, and he was gone. It is amazing what this guy stands for. You know, throughout his accolades, Kanye let us come back. He let us do his album release parties, and some of us toured with him. The ultimate was him putting the Heavy Hitters logo on the first five albums. I just thought it was a blessing.

You said you love music and dislike the music business. Can you elaborate?

Oh, yes honey. I’ve been screwed a few times. I used to produce records, and did it from my heart. They robbed me of my royalties; they robbed me of my publishing. They took credit where credit wasn’t due. It was all the small things you don’t know when you come into this game. I did not have the proper manager. I did not have the right lawyer.

I don’t want to get specific and hurt anybody’s feelings. Those were the things that hurt me. And it broke me down to the point where I thought, “Why am I doing this?” But, I got smarter. I got a good lawyer now, and manage myself. If I need help, I have people I can consult. I have great brand marketing with the Heavy Hitters. I’ve worked with Apple,Beats By Dre, Monster, Pepsi, HBO and Showtime. All these big brands are coming to me now. I think I did a good job; however, collectively, I hate it. I hate the bochinche. I wondered, “Where the hell does this all come from? I am just trying to do my job the best that I can.” I’m such a nice guy. No magazine, no book or anything prepares you for that. You go in blind-sighted, happy like a puppy, and then it’s cold.

Do you think that’s hurt you?

Sometimes, but I’ve always believed in being who I’m supposed to be. I can’t change for a dollar. Maybe that’s wrong, and I finished last. I don’t want to change who I am as a person. That’s so important to me. I think that’s what keeps me authentic. If it’s not meant to happen, it’s just not meant to happen. There has to be something else I am winning in. I am not a billionaire, but the people that go for it, you can see it.

I still love my job. If I still love what I am doing, I am not really working. Flex and I are the pillars [at Hot97]; once we are gone, it’s a whole different radio station. I love Megan Ryte; she’s sweet, honest and true. Those are the qualities that make up the Heavy Hitters; it’s a brotherhood. I personally know the DJ’s. That’s what makes the crew so special. Once I leave radio, I’m working on the Heavy Hitters full-time. I am going to be the Chairman that takes care of what they have to do. I’ll be their booking agent.

Are you trying to say that’s happening soon?

Um, I think so. I don’t know. A part of me says, “Am I done with this radio thing?” Then my fans are like, “Hell No! You’re nowhere even near done.” It’s a good question. Contractually, I have another year or two.

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How has becoming a Ciroc Boy (DJ Ambassador) contributed to your lifestyle?

To be honest with you, I helped create the Ciroc Boyz. Sean Prez, who works for Power Moves Inc., came to me and said, “I am trying to create a DJ conglomerate.” I have my crew so it helped push Puffy’s new drink, Ciroc. Sean said, “Collectively, how do we do this?” I think we looked at the Pepsi DJ Blueprint. It had DJ Khaled, DJ Drama, DJ Felli Fel, DJ Pharris, DJ Quiksilva and a bunch of DJ’s who were pretty hot in their city. In two or three years the liquor went from top 10 to number two. This was pre-commercial, pre-ads, so we saw all the numbers move before Puffy really put money into it. To see that we could do that meant a lot. So I hope he keeps giving me a check every year, because if not, I am going somewhere else to do what I do. Is that me being tougher? A little bit? Am I still soft? [Laughs]

What’s your best Puerto Rican Day Parade memory?

The first one! This had to be ’97 or ’98. It is one thing to watch [the parade] and one thing to be in the parade. Totally different. I get my turntable, and I am setting up with Hot97, and I was a nervous wreck the whole time. The crazy part is, hey, I was Biggie Smalls DJ. I’ve traveled the world. Paris, London, you name it! Yet, there was nothing more important than for me to be good with my own people. I was trembling; the turntables and the float were bouncing. The whole way, I was just sick. I was excited, and at the end of the float, I threw up. I think I ended up with diarrhea that blew my brains out. I am not playing! That’s how nervous and happy I was at the same time. Every year the cheers got louder and louder.

How is it at Hot 97 without Angie Martinez?

Oh, I miss my big sister. That’s tough question. I feel like my wife left me. Yeah man, Angie Martinez was my work wife. I am not mad at her. I am proud of her, because she had to make a money move. She did it for the big bag. She has kids, and I don’t want to say this is the end, but we have been doing this for a while. We have to get that money.

Who is DJ Enuff?

Aye! You’re hurting me! I would like to think I was the guy that stood for something. I was not always the best DJ in the world, but I had my head on straight. I am sweet and charming. I would like to think I am romantic at times. [Laughs] I like to play and joke around a lot. I feel like I am a big kid still playing, and I don’t want that to ever stop. DJ Red Alert once told me, “If Aretha Franklin and some of the old time R&B acts perform year-in and year-out, why do we ever have to stop?” Age is just a number. If I feel young and do what I want to do, why stop? I want to be that guy. I want to be the guy that keeps making the people dance. DJ Enuff is that guy.

By Bianca Alysse Mercado for Latina

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