Hella Decent: the DJ Sega story

by Chris Burrell // @Chri5B_

DJ Sega on the decks
DJ Sega ROCKING the decks for the EMM. Zero headphones used, folks.

DJ Sega is one of the most unique and groundbreaking artists to come out of Philly. He was one of the original artists signed to Mad Decent and has remixed the craziest variety of songs with the Philly club sound that he helped pioneer (e.g. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Theme – DJ Sega remix). His set at the EMM was absolutely INSANE. My jaw was on the floor as he pulled out track after track of unexpected / WTF goodness. Sit back and listen to his set and read our chat about the start of his career, current projects and the original Mad Decent HQ. Yeah, we talked about the Diplo beef too…

*BIG UP George Lawrence for bringing Sega through*

CB: How are you and where are you at right now?

DJ Sega: I’m alive…that’s what counts. Right now, I’m in my hometown Philly. I’ve been staying in South Philly lately.

CB: How did you first start getting into music?

Sega: I was born into music. My parents were choir directors and my father was a DJ in the Nicetown area for almost 40 years, playing classic soul, funk, hip hop and other feel good music. My little sister and I grew up being a little competitive when it came to the music we collected. We competed on who would get an album first. My first tape was James Brown 20 All-Time Greatest Hits and the first album I had was Bad by Michael Jackson.

CB: Were you DJing before you started producing?

Sega: My production came before I took DJing seriously as a career. I received an email survey asking for feedback on this music production software called Acoustica Beatcraft. I gave my ideas and then received an email saying that not only did they use my ideas, but that they were giving me the software for free also. I cut and edited samples in a wave editor and made music for my own entertainment. I was going through a lot in that year and needed an escape. That’s where my imagination and the producing came in. This is my 10 year anniversary of producing!

CB: What was some of the first club music you listened to?

Sega: Baltimore club of course. I first heard it in my Dad’s car. He ran into the bar and left me with the radio on for a few minutes, and that’s when I first heard “Doo Doo Brown” by 2 Hyped Brothers & A Dog. I must’ve been about eight! Later, I was in disbelief when I went to a teen night at an arcade up by Erie Ave and they were playing club music. They had the events in the laser tag area – so it was neon paint and black light all over the place.

I knew the sound, but to experience it in a club for the first time with a sound system was incredible! The bass under my feet, the breaks in my face, the girls on my lap – but we won’t talk about that. I still remember the songs that were played that night but I had no idea I’d be making it myself.

DJ Sega poses for us in our vinyl library.
DJ Sega poses for us in our vinyl library.

CB: Then you started spinning gigs? How did you learn to DJ?

Sega: I’ve always played in front of a live audience and never really “practiced” before. Not because I’m on some Allen Iverson stuff – I’ve just never owned equipment to practice on. You have DJs out there that have all the equipment and only want to look good having it – they don’t really love this stuff.

CB: How did you take your career to the next level?

Sega: I always heard my mixtapes being blasted out of cars and houses, but they were only being sold at one location, one day a week. I started getting my mixtapes into some stores downtown like Armand’s. That’s where I met Dirty South Joe. He introduced me to Diplo and we talked about this new label he was starting at the time (Mad Decent). I became one of first artists signed to Mad Decent and invited their crew to come check out my regular party. Diplo, Switch, Joe and his girl all came to check it out. Switch bought all of my mixtapes that night.

CB: What were those initial vibes like at Mad Decent?

Sega: It was a big creative family – Diplo, Derek (DJA), Paul Devro, Blaqstarr, Rye Rye and me. It was fun and productive and we all shared ideas and helped each other out. Those initial block parties were crazy – 2010 in particular. It was the first year the block party was on tour and also the last time it was at the mausoleum at 12th and Spring Garden. I guess my set ran a little over my allotted 20/25 minutes and I was told to cut the music off. The crowd was in a frenzy, chanting my name and wanting an encore. After that show, I was put on the lineup for NYC.

CB: What do you think it is that drives people wild for SEGA?

Sega: I think that I’m reaching into a part of people that they forget all about. For example, I flipped the Power Rangers theme and when I’d play it out, I’d just see the smiles come on people’s faces. That theme song was how I got into rock and metal. In 7th grade, I caught Headbanger’s Ball one morning and saw the video for Mudvayne’s “Dig”. I ended up remixing that track and when I met Dirty South Joe, that was the song that motivated him to partner up so fast. People couldn’t believe my rock and metal remixes because of the way that the sound was manipulated and even more so that it was coming from a black kid from Philly. That’s what my latest HellaSonix project is about. I decided that since I’m in my 10th year producing, I would go back to my roots and remix everything from Yes to Aphex Twin.

CB: Let’s talk about ‘the tweet’ from Diplo – give me the context around that whole thing.

Sega: I take care of my disabled family members and have been doing so for years. My mother was in two car accidents and my uncle is deaf and mute. I used to come to the mausoleum late and Diplo would ask me why wasn’t I there earlier or more often. I would tell him there’s some shit going on at home. Recently, the city condemned the house my family was living in and I had to move everything out, literally overnight. I was raising money to help – didn’t ask Diplo for any money – and then he tweeted at me what he did. I didn’t even know he had a problem with me. I was just trying to take care of my family with a crazy situation.

CB: And you’ve heard nothing from him since the tweet, correct?

Sega: There was a little bit of back and forth and talks from people telling me he’s contacted them for my number. I got contacted by everybody except from him. People asked what happened so much that I got sick of it and posted everything on a blog in chronological order. I wanted to get past it, but at the same time I refuse to be in that long list of people that bow down or fold to someone, no matter how much power they have. However, I don’t want people to think that everybody at Mad Decent is evil because they aren’t. In fact, some of the crew that works for Mad Decent donated to my GoFundMe page to help my family.

CB: I’m sorry to hear about the whole situation.

Sega: I feel like I had to show that people that no matter how low you think you may be, you still can fight. I’m just glad for the experience. I’ve always been on the DIY tip as far as my career and I can only imagine what will come next. Me going from being Diplo’s first “protege” to a “bum” is an achievement in itself. But why would somebody that high up on the power ladder come at me in front of millions? All while I’m going through shit? There must be something he knows that I don’t…

CB: So what do you currently have in the works?

Sega: I’m always working on music. I have three projects I’m working on right now: the next volume to my Sixer series, a special edition of HellaSonix and my second EP of all original material called, “Is That Your EP Too?” I also play big events and last minute gigs. You have to stay tuned to catch me out because anything can happen at the drop of a hat. One minute I could be here in Philly and the next I could get a call to come out to Tokyo. I love Japan. STAY TUNED!

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DJ Sega spun the EMM to help us raise money for our station, Musicopia, and The Village of Arts & Humanities

Please support WKDU and these great nonprofits organizations by heading over to wkdu.org/emm and buying station merch or making a donation.

Much more aural pleasure from the EMM to come. Follow WKDU on Soundcloud &  Twitter @WKDU for the latest.

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Author: chrisburrell55

Wassup.