Music

Interview: DJ P Smooth Talks Becoming A DJ And Career Takeaways

Fort Smith, Arkansas native, DJ P Smooth never envisioned himself as the center of attention. Yet, his passion for music and drive to push Arkansas’ music forward is undeniable. Inspired by his father and the lack of representation of Arkansas' music scene, DJ P Smooth shifted gears and was set on becoming a professional DJ. When speaking on Arkansas’ music scene he says, "I was always taught that if I wanted something to change, I had the power to change it, and pushing Arkansas music is one thing I stand on." DJ P Smooth also shares insight on how he got started and gives advice for up-and-coming DJs.

DJ P Smooth never envisioned himself as the center of attention. In fact, he knew that he’d become a computer engineer. His career trajectory changed when he realized that for him to be successful, he needed versatility, “I have to sit down for eight to twelve hours to do all this coding and stuff like that. It really just wasn’t for me. I have to stay moving!”

His passion for music and drive to push Arkansas’ music forward is undeniable. Inspired by his father and the lack of representation of Arkansas’ music scene, DJ P Smooth shifted gears and was set on becoming a professional DJ. When speaking on Arkansas’ music scene he says, “I was always taught that if I wanted something to change, I had the power to change it, and pushing Arkansas music is one thing I stand on.”

DJ P Smooth’s time at the University of Central Arkansas and the guidance from DJ One Eye, a well-known DJ in Central Arkansas, has much to credit for his development. These experiences helped him hone his skillset and forced him to step outside of his comfort zone.

Share a little bit about who you are!

My parents moved around a little so I’ve spent some time in Fayetteville, North Carolina and Los Angeles, California, but I was born and raised in Fort Smith, Arkansas. I am a professional DJ.

Prior to college, were you already set on becoming a DJ and working in entertainment?

Honestly, no. I was set on becoming a computer engineer. I’ve always had a love for music though, just didn’t think I would become a DJ.

I’m interested in knowing more about you wanting to become a computer engineer. Why did you initially want to go that route?

The computer engineering really just came from both my dad and my step dad being computer geeks. My real dad went to an Ivy League school and his whole life was centered around computers, so I was building computers when I was in junior high and that was kind of like a passion. I always saw myself working with computers and when I got to UCA and realized I have to sit down for eight to twelve hours to do all this coding and stuff like that. It really just wasn’t for me. I have to stay moving!

Was there something or someone that inspired your career path?

There were a few things that I can say inspired my career path. My dad indirectly inspired me to become a DJ. He was a DJ back in the day, and I remember going to the school dances he would get booked to do. Another thing that inspired me to want to become a DJ was the lack of Arkansas’ music representation in the industry. I was always taught that if I wanted something to change, I had the power to change it, and pushing Arkansas music is one thing I stand on.

What is it about Arkansas music and its lack of representation that is really important to you?

You know, basically if you look at larger markets—or even markets like Memphis, they really support their local rappers, but they also have platforms to show their support and figure out who they want to support. There’s a lot of people that make amazing music in Arkansas, but people don’t know about them because the artists don’t have too many opportunities to perform or to share their music.

Walk me through your time at the University of Central Arkansas from the radio show to DJing the college parties. 

I got to UCA in 2009. The campus back then was lit! The main DJ at the time was DJ One Eye, and yes, he literally had one eye. That should tell you what kind of guy he was to be able to call himself that. He was full of life. One Eye would DJ these events on campus called Music On The Yard where everybody would just be on the yard kicking it and watching the greeks stroll.

I was really shy back then so I had to build up enough courage to walk up to the DJ booth and ask him how much he charged for lessons. He just shook my hand and told me that he wouldn’t charge me and to let him know when I was ready to get started. At this point it’s my sophomore year at UCA, and I had changed my major three times.

I came across the UCA radio station which gave me the opportunity to practice my DJing over the airwaves. I fell in love with radio and ended up changing my major to Broadcast Journalism. The show became a huge success at UCA. I would go on air Friday nights right before the parties and get people lit as they were getting ready for the night.

Eventually, I booked my first college party thrown by Rich and Artez. I was nervous as hell but knowing DJ One Eye was booked too made me feel a little bit more comfortable. Right before the party started, I asked him how we would split the DJ time, and he told me he was going to let me start the party and DJ until I fucked up. I ended up DJing until there was about 30 minutes left in the party. 

When you initially approached DJ One Eye you said that you were shy, but then you DJ’d a party up to the last thirty minutes. How did you go from being this shy guy to a DJ who‘s super hands on? You’re around people all the time and they’re looking to you to get the vibe right, how do you navigate that?

I was very shy walking up to One Eye, just nervous because I’m not really the-walk-up-and-introduce-myself type of person. It’s usually somebody speaks to me first, I’m all for that. Now, while I was DJing I really didn’t have to get too far away from my shyness because I never really spoke on a microphone when I started DJing, I always had an emcee whether it be my homie YK or Christian The Comedian—they love the spotlight. At the time when I first started DJing I really didn’t like the spotlight I just really loved DJing so I kind of had a way out of speaking on a microphone.

Do you feel that these experiences benefitted you in the long run?

Of course! I’ve learned how to network and how to keep my shyness from hindering my success.

Before we go any further… how’d you get the name “P Smooth”?

So… [laughing] I actually got the name from this dude on YouTube named J Smooth that was doing those little freak dance videos. It was the summer going into my freshman year where me and my friends would try to do those dance moves at the parties with girls. Some of my home girls had come up from Fort Smith when I started my radio show and at the time I was going by P Smith, just my name. They were like, you need to be P Smooth and it just kind of stuck from there.

That’s hilarious! It’s funny because freak dancing on YouTube was an era.

You got the exclusive drop on that!

Growing up in Fort Smith, how would you describe the creative climate? Was there one when you were coming up and is there one now?

I grew up in an era when there weren’t too many creatives or even creative platforms. Of course we had our local musical artist, but a lot of them were doing it for the wrong reasons and not taking it seriously. I really couldn’t utilize creative spaces until I moved to Central Arkansas. Fort Smith in my opinion still isn’t quite there, but there is more of a creative presence. A lot of my classmates from back home that were able to get experiences outside of Fort Smith are beginning to bring them vibes back. The city is definitely going in the right direction.

Is it pretty common for people in Fort Smith to leave what’s familiar to them, gain some experiences, and then come back and contribute to the city. Or, do you see a lot more people just leaving in general?

Well, it’s a little of both. You see a lot of people just leave and never come back, but you also see some people that leave, get the tools that they feel they can bring back to the city that’s going to better the city and the people in it. It’s a little of both, but you know… you were in Arkansas! You know how it’s kind of a goal for everybody that grew up in Arkansas to get out of Arkansas, which isn’t a bad thing but you know, but we do need more people, in my opinion, to come back and actually do stuff for their prospective cities and really for the whole state.

You’ve had an interesting journey. Not only are you a DJ, but I consider you to be a creative. What other outlets do you use to express yourself?

Outside of DJing, I dabble in graphic design. I also help people with creative marketing and event planning.

How did you get into those areas?

Man… I kind of got into everything because I don’t like waiting on people. When I want to do something or if I need something done and I’m willing to pay you for it, I feel like it should be done! But that’s how I got into graphic design. I needed a flyer made and the person that was supposed to make the flyer was kind of bs’ing me and I just said forget it I’m about to teach myself how to make flyers. And as far as the event planning and things like that… I got tired of being underpaid as a DJ and the only way to make more money with these events is actually throwing them yourself.

Tell me more about your role at 96.5 The Box. How did this opportunity come about and what do you enjoy most about it?

First off shoutout to Hollywood Jaid Taylor, Christian the Comedian, and DJ Bruce Bruce! I started off at 96.5 as the digital content director. I was pretty much in charge of the station’s social media presence. One day, Jaid and Bruce explained that Bruce would be going on tour with Bankroll Freddy and needed me to fill in on The Hollywood Hangout. Of course I said hell yeah! As time went on with me DJing on Jaid’s show, Christian and I were presented with the opportunity of having our own show, and we have been rocking ever since.

I’ve witnessed you and Christian’s chemistry in person. Why do you think you two make such a dynamic duo?

You know I never really sat down and thought about it, but now that it’s being brought up… I really feel like it’s the age difference. He’s 24. I’m 29 about to turn 30 and I see a lot of myself in him at that age and the difference is though, he has people around him that are actually teaching him about this business that we’re in and how to move and groove in it. I really didn’t have that. I had somebody teach me the actual skill, but not really the business side so much. So, it makes feel good knowing that I can feed that into him and he’s smart enough to take the advice and use it to his advantage. He’s crazy! He’s crazy! He’s the outgoing one. I’m outgoing too, but like I said I’m a little shy so he pulls the goofy side out of me even more that only my close people get to see but I’m actually excited for people to see that side of me when I’m around him because that nigga crazy!

As a small state and an overlooked one at that, where do you think Arkansas stands in the music industry?

We are coming! Seriously, it’s so many great artists in Arkansas. Some of my personal favorites are Maxx Heavyy, Rampage Wood, Penn Davis, and 607 just to name a few. The R&B scene is crazy here too, especially with artists like Alexis Ray Parker and BJ Soule killing it here. We even have Billboard producers right here in the state with Pat Washington and MR Music. Arkansas is killing everything area musically and will soon get the spotlight it deserves.

Can you speak on the equipment and software that you use for DJing, especially for those who may want to get into DJing but aren’t too sure where to start?

As far as the software, honestly, I started off DJing with Virtual DJ. Now, that was ten years ago, so Virtual DJ back then wasn’t really looked at as top tier DJ software. But now they’ve updated their software and it’s up there with Serato. Serato is what a lot of DJs use—that’s what I use. A lot of the controllers and DJ hardware is compatible with Serato. Traktor is another software that I see some DJs use. I can’t really get into Traktor, like I said I’m a Serato fan I’m always going to use Serato.

As far as the hardware it really kind of depends on what’s functional for you as a DJ, so once you figure out your style and clientele that can narrow down your choices as far as what to buy. I know me, I was DJing a lot of college parties starting off so it was a lot of moving around—packing, unpacking, then packing back up. So, I went the controller route, which pretty much is your turntables and mixer all-in-one. Got a case and it’s just open the case, plug and play, hook up to your laptop.

But you do have other DJs—most club DJs are going to be using some CDJ’s or some turntables which are a lot heavier and a lot more equipment. It’s three separate pieces instead of one solid piece, so you got more cases to carry. Those usually are in places like clubs or people bring them out for concerts and stuff like that. And if you are a scratch DJ, also known as a turntableist, you will definitely want to get turntables for that. But it really just depends on your style of DJing and what type of gigs you’ll be doing.

What advice do you have for up-and-coming DJs?

Just be you! Let your personality shine through the music. You have to network, reinvest in yourself early on, and don’t be afraid to step outside of our comfort zone.

As a DJ, the power of music is at your fingertips in a sense. Do you recognize that power?

Yes, I do. That’s one of my favorite things about DJing. During my sets I’ll bet whoever is close to me that a song will make the crowd do a certain thing and nine times out of ten I’m right. My ultimate joy is seeing people smiling and enjoying life because of the music that I’m playing.

What challenges have you faced throughout your journey that have helped to shape you into who you are today? 

Losing my dad when I was 15 was tough, but it taught me to stay strong and go after everything I wanted in life.

What are some misconceptions that people have of your profession?

Well, the main one I hear is that I’m a player. Now I do realize women and attention come with the career, but that’s not my cup of tea. I’m not gone lie though, when I was in my early 20’s I had some fun, but it got old quickly. Another misconception is that it’s all lights, camera, action. It’s not. Getting ready for a gig is hard work.

Your industry forces you to put yourself out there and step out of your comfort zone. Is your energy the same on air as it is when you’re not on the radio or working an event? 

Yes and no. I always try to keep my energy up on and off the air. Sometimes I have bad days, but I try not to let that come through while I’m performing.

What is one of your proudest accomplishments?

One of my proudest accomplishments was DJing alongside DJ Esco, Future’s DJ. He’s one of the coolest guys I know. We still chop it up till this day.

What did you take away from the experience DJing alongside DJ Esco?

Man… really the first thing I took away—and this might sound cocky or a little arrogant—but the first thing I took away is the simple fact that I’m just as good as him, if not better. And that’s not taking anything away from DJ Esco, that’s my dog. But it just put things in perspective for me as far as the type of gigs I’m getting versus him.

Me and my circle, we always talk about how people in this entertainment industry in Arkansas are always in competition within Arkansas with each other and it’s like that’s cool, but being the best in Arkansas is still not saying too much, honestly. And that’s not downing Arkansas at all. It’s the simple fact that my competition isn’t Lil BoBo down the street. My competition are people like Esco that are getting multiple thousands of dollar gigs while I’m sitting here in Arkansas doing the same thing and getting paid only hundreds.

You know, I’m blessed that I am getting paid but at the same time that’s how people judge DJ careers specifically—how much you get paid a gig. It’s DJs that are getting paid millions of dollars. That’s what I aspire to do, this is my career. So, for me to see Esco like that—like… okay I’m on the right path because I’m doing the same things he’s doing. But another thing is that DJ Esco is humble as hell. So humble. A cool dude. We actually stayed in contact after. He hired Christian to be his videographer on a couple of his shows. He’s a cool dude, for real. I’m glad I met him.

How can we stay connected with you!

You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter.  You can also listen to me live Monday through Friday at 7pm on 96.5fm if you’re in the Little Rock area, www.965thebox.com if not.

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