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Exclusive Interview with Music Producer DJ Burn One

Georgia-based record producer DJ Burn One gears up for the public release of his production masterclass Options by bringing it early to the University of Illinois School of Music in the form of the newly created course Music Monetization 499. The music course was necessary because students were itching to find more viable streams of income in the realm of music. The course’s objective is to give students the blueprint to achieve success in the music industry. Students with the ability to play instruments are advised on how to create samples, package and sell them. Additionally, they will learn music industry basics like how to get registered with a performing rights organization (PRO) such as BMI and ASCAP. Another perk is DJ Burn’s One’s keen ear for authentic musicality. Burn One is likely to use something he likes from talented students. 

The masterclass will prepare University of Illinois students to enter into the creative market being informed with DJ Burn One’s 20+ years of lessons, both musically and professionally. The best part is Burn One is poised to drop countless gems that he learned through trial and error in the music business. Upon completion, they will be on a better path as they embark on their future endeavors. 

“With Music Monetization 499, we are creating a comprehensive and contemporary curriculum for the aspiring modern day musician, composer and artist. We want students to be able to leave the class with a solid understanding of sampling, producing, mixing, networking, marketing, how to navigate the music industry on their own terms and how to protect themselves in business.” 

In addition to his partnership with the University of Illinois School of Music, Burn One offers a plethora of services on a full-time basis. The Five Points Bakery is a full service music & video production company. Services include production, mixing, mastering, live instrumentation, video, sound design, folly and consultation. His client list includes Gucci Mane, David Banner, Nicki Minaj, Ubisoft, Trouble, B.o.B, A$AP Rocky, Starlito, Yelawolf and more. Burn One’s production resume has included underground kings like Starlito and Young Dro to platinum superstars like Lil Durk, Nicki Minaj, and Rich the Kid.  DJ Burn One + The Five Points Bakery are also sound designers who have created sound effects for Hollywood movie trailers such as 1917 and Justice League.

DJ Burn One calls his sound “retro-future.” Something old, something new — always knocking.   

Welcome DJ Burn One, for everyone out there how did you get started in the music business, and where did the name DJ Burn One come from?

Hey thanks for having me. I got started out early in life by joining aol chat rooms online in like 1997/98 to find music and then remixing it in sony acid pro. I’d download the cd single with the instrumental (beat only) and acapella (words only) versions and essentially do what people call mash ups now by mixing an instrumental with an acapella from a different song. I did a couple remix mixtapes for myself and then got a job at a mom and pop cd store named Super Sounds. at one point I would sell the top 8 songs on the radio at my school on a mixtape but a guy asked me at my cd store one day “why don’t you drop a real mixtape?” I asked him what he meant and he described DJ Drama’s Gangsta Grillz, how he would get exclusives (unreleased songs) from up and coming artists he liked and basically showcased them on his mixtapes. so I tried one of my own and on my 2nd tape I was able to get T.I. and his crew P$C to host it. This was just before Trap Muzik came out so it was around 2004.  I got my name DJ Burn One from people asking me to burn cds again, instead of selling real cds from my cd store. We actually had real copies of Trap Muzik from an independent wholesaler early and so I’d sell those for $20 per and folks would say “man just burn me one! burn one. burn one for me please.” I thought it sounded good so I changed my DJ name to it.  

Who were some of your early influences and what did you love about their craft?

I grew up on Oomp Camp mixtapes like DJ Jelly & MC Assault. they did more advanced style blends than what I was playing around with on sony acid and I was highly inspired by how effortless they made it sound. As far as beats I always loved Organized Noize, DJ Paul & Juicy J, Pimp C, T-Mixx, Mike Dean and DJ Toomp. I loved how each had their own style of sampling, incorporating live instrumentation and creating this feel of instant nostalgia – timeless. I feel that’s what I bring with my music as well now.

I read somewhere you met rapper T.I when you were in high school?

sure thing. he hosted that first real mixtape for me and from that point on kind of let me just hang around his Grand Hustle studio. that’s where I met the rest of his crew like Big Kuntry King and Young Dro who I would later to go on and do their first mixtapes. Big Kuntry showed me how the blocks on Pro Tools represented different sounds in the beat, which blew my mind. even though I was using sony acid pro for years I never thought that I could actually produce so I mainly stuck to only doing remixes. seeing how the beats were built on a micro level was illuminating and I got the bug from that point on. later on I was able to experience cool things like T.I. playing me some almost finished records from Urban Legend while he was working on them. 

You’ve worked with some of the biggest artists in the world, tell me how you got to work with Gucci Mane and Nicki Minaj and some of the songs you worked on with them?

I met Gucci Mane randomly by calling Never Again Records phone number from the phone book after hearing their response to White Tee which was Black Tee. I heard the radio dj say Never Again Records, I looked up their number and Gucci answered when I called. he told me to come up to the studio and when I got there he immediately took me to Zaytoven’s house and played me So Icy. I tried to convince him to do a mixtape with me but he said he wasn’t interested because he was focused on working on his album. Fast forward a year, So Icy blew up but it came and went like a lot of Atlanta one hit wonders tend to do. that’s how people were starting to view him. He called me and said “hey what’s that thing you were telling me about?” I said “mixtapes?” he said “yeah let’s do that.”  In his autobiography he tells the full story of how I gave him the blueprint on how to create mixtapes and how they could benefit him. I executive produced our project and he named it Chicken Talk. I took the cover, decided to make it a double disc, picked the track order, got the cover done, printed and distributed it all myself and told him how I did it. I took him around to cd stores like the Discount Mall on Old National and showed him how consignment worked. after that it was amazing watching him put the plan in motion and never stop. 

I wasn’t able to work in the lab with Nicki but she did do a feature on a song we co-produced for Lil Durk called Extravagant. I’d love to work with both of them in the studio someday.

Now you educated Gucci on the necessity of doing mixtapes?

I told him everything from top to bottom. the main sales pitch to him was that 50 Cent was releasing music and connecting directly with fans and getting show money. I said 50 is rapping on other people’s beats mostly but you have original music Gucci, that’s what would make how you come different is that you have original music. it was funny going from the year before where I was saying the exact same thing but he had a bigger opportunity at the time with the Trap House album but then him coming back a year later and following my advice to the T. I’m proud of him and all of the other artists that were able to have a career because of him. Gucci put alot of people on and I’m happy to say I played a small role in that.

Out of all of the artists you’ve worked with has any of them made you star struck?

Working on the Superfly Soundtrack with Sleepy Brown was pretty intimidating just because of the level of respect I had for him. you have to think to an Atlanta kid like me, Organized Noize was everything. him being apart of that production crew and doing a ton of the most classic hooks definitely made me come with my game face on haha. we did a session at Stankonia to finish the bridge and flesh out the production some more. It was like starstuck on starstruck on starstuck. me and my team walk in and there is Preston Crump who played bass on most of the Outkast and Organized Noize classics there ready to jam. along with Chanz Parkman who played on Liberation, Sorry Ms Jackson and many other Outkast and Organized classics. then Big Boi comes in while I’m arranging the 3 female background singers vocals and my brain was about to explode haha. but I held it together and my team Walt Live, Go! Ricky Go! came with it as always and we made a great record. it’s called “If U Want It” by Sleepy Brown ft. Scar and it’s the first song on the Superfly reboot soundtrack that came out a few years ago.

Who’s someone you’d love to work with given the opportunity and why?

Outkast. I think we’d make some amazing music together. 

Tell me about your production team The Five Points Bakery and where the name came from?

The Five Points Bakery is a full service production company that does music production, sound design, live instrumentation, recording, production, mixing, mastering, music videos and more. The name came from in my travels how I noticed most metro cities they all have a place named Five Points. they tend to be places like here in Atlanta we have a place called Little Five Points. everyone is accepted as they are and it’s not a bad thing to be unique. I like that ethos mixed with how we’re always cooking from scratch in the lab. all fresh ingredients, no GMOS. we create most of our sounds from scratch so it’s like how a chef would start with a roux then build it into a gumbo instead of just buying the gumbo from a can at the store.

How often do you make beats together and what’s your creative process like together, and where does inspiration come from?

When we first started I’d make beats with Walt and Ricky 4-6 days a week for 15 hours straight. Now we mostly work from our own houses but we link up a few times each month to whip up in person. the process when we’re together is usually us pluging in at the same time and jamming for anywhere between 5-30 minutes. then we’ll chop a portion of that, flip it like it was a sample and then building an arrangement around that. We’re always inspired. whether it be from random information we come across like a certain voicing or technique or it could be from a song we heard old or new. and the good thing about having a crew is that if one or two of you is feeling uninspired usually 9.99999% of the time one of us is super inspired and can get the others back in quickly or hold it down until the others break out of their slump. but that’s usually few and far between. there’s always new VST’s coming out, new sound packs, new ideas, feeling the competitive spirit and overall the idea that we create music for healing. if you create with a purpose it’s hard to lose your way for long. 

Tell me about your Hip Hop education program and what it means to you, because I think it’s such an incredible thing?

Options is a production master class I announced in fall of last year that I was releasing personally to help folks learn how to make better music, mix, network, how to build a brand and relationships and how to handle business. Professor Holden thought the University of Illinois School of Music might be interested in it. the University was interested and created a new course titled Music Monetization 499 based solely off of my curriculum. It’s important for me to help show folks different ways they can approach creating, marketing and relationships based on my 20 years of experience releasing music. seeing how quickly these kids are using the information to make better music and better marketing moves is what’s amazing me right now. the difference a week makes in some of their beats is astounding. I’m excited to see what the future holds for them.

Do you think hip hop in general is heading in the right direction, because the sound has obviously evolved a lot since the late 90’s early 2000’s when we had Darkchild, The Neptunes, Dre, Scott Storch, Sha Money XL, Irv Gotti etc

Oh yeah Hip Hop is definitely starting to get more musical with how much easier it is to make music now. the original samples loopmakers are coming up with help give that nostalgia feeling and the young kids are coming with the bounce on the drums to lock it in. We’re trying to show kids how they can pick up different instruments or how to utilize their instrument in a unique way. things are looking bright.

Can you tell us about and artists your working with or any up coming projects your working on?

I’m working on my album now. it’s some of what you’d expect from me but also a lot of what you wouldn’t. I make music for my own healing and so you’ll hear some of what gets me through my days. 

What advice can you give to people wanting to get into music production or even into the music industry?

Study your craft, practice practice practice, release music, take notes on how the market is reacting to it then make adjustments and release more music. learning on your feet by dropping music and seeing what people like from you is the best. that and consistency is the most important thing. what you do often matters more than what you do every now and then. learn the business and apply yourself daily.

 Follow DJ Burn One on InstagramTwitter and TikTok.

Socials: @neillfrazer

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Written by Neill Frazer

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