In the words of a late great funky Beatle, “a working-class hero is something to be.” And DJ Prestige of Flea Market Funk out of New Jersey sure is. A new short documentary called The Hustle Is Real features his work as a self-described “working-class DJ” and the beautiful struggle that comes with it.
You also music directed the soundtrack of the short documentary. A great one, by the way! Was there any underlying thought behind the selection, or just music you love and which represent you and Flea Market Funk best?
Originally, the thought was to try and get different tracks from random artists. But to me, that made no sense to get artists that weren’t a part of Flea Market Funk and this vinyl and DJ culture I promote. I’ve worked closely with and played every artist that is on this track in one capacity or another. Their hustle is real, too. It just made sense to connect the dots and have the music that reflects what I do by artists I actually care about. Not just some random beat because it’s ok.
What makes being a ‘working-class DJ’ such a beautiful struggle?
It’s the love of the labor, no? It’s just DJing and how that makes me feel when I get behind the decks and put a record on. Make no mistake: this job is not easy. One night you can be playing for 1500 people and another night like 20 people could be at a gig. It’s feast or famine with money, gigs, and the like sometimes.
But like digging up a rare record or finding a record you have been looking for, it’s the thrill of the chase. Getting booked in different places, new venues, unique spots… It’s a struggle—but part of the game. I feel lucky to be doing this. I’ve worked hard for a lot of years. It’s still a struggle on a lot of levels. It can do a job on you (and your family) emotionally too, but that is really for a whole different interview.
Bottom line is that being a creative type/artist will always be a struggle until it isn’t. You feel me?
“I always have a soft spot for old LP covers. Whether it’s Blue Note Records, various Jamaican records, signs, book jackets, old logos, or packaging. I’m definitely addicted to that as much as records.”
You also design your own flyers and such. Are you a self-taught designer?
I’m self-taught all the way, with help from people like Pat James Longo and my man Bones who always offer honest critiques of my designs. I started on Corel Draw way back when. I then graduated to Photoshop and Illustrator. Still learning every day. I have a good eye for design and love typography so that helps me when I’m doing these flyers.
I always have a soft spot for old LP covers. Whether it’s Blue Note Records, various Jamaican records, signs, book jackets, old logos, or packaging. I take inspiration from all kinds of things. I’m definitely addicted to that as much as records.
“I’ll DJ until the day I die and like to have a lot of irons in the fire. I currently opened up a coffee shop and cafe in Hoboken, New Jersey, called Hoboken & Sons.”
The anecdote in The Hustle Is Real of someone asking to plug in her phone while you’re DJing, speaks for itself… I’m sure you must have a lot of other experiences dealing with “a tribe called request.”
Dealing with A Tribe Called Request. That’s a whole different skill a DJ has to have. I’ve adopted the “No Requests, No Hard Feelings” attitude. I usually say go to [fill in the blank], they will definitely play that song. I had someone ask me to play Bruce Springsteen while I was playing dancehall. I said: “Are you even paying attention?” She said “No, I just want to hear Bruce.” Just clueless. And people wonder why DJs get so frustrated… Pay attention to what’s playing. Be courteous to the DJ. Don’t demand things. Just because I’m a DJ I don’t have to play your song you heard 50 times today.
Working-class DJs are treated like they are a bartender or someone who does laundry. It’s because we are playing venues where people can access you easier than, say, Danny Krivit or Questlove, for example. Patrons and customers don’t have a clue about what kind of etiquette or how to even talk to a DJ. Frustrating but part of the job.
My fave though, and it happens ALL the time:
Person: “Can you play something funky?” [while a James Brown record is on]
Me: “You mean funkier than James Brown?”
Person: [crickets chirp]
Me: “If you find something funkier than James Brown, let me know.”
On the flip side: when you get a request from someone who gets it, it makes your whole night. We need more of those people!
You come from a background in marketing and e-commerce. What led you to the decision to make the jump to fully focus on music, DJ’ing & design?
It was easy. I could combine all of that marketing to promote DJing, gigs, my site, etc. The same approach to that is what I use when promoting myself. Plus it’s creative and that is something that really lights my fire.
Do you think you can ever “work for a boss” again?
It depends. I’m not fond of it, but not above doing what I have to do to makes ends meet. I’ll DJ until the day I die and like to have a lot of irons in the fire. I do prefer to be my own boss. I currently opened up a coffee shop and cafe with Craig from Rabble & Lion Coffee and Joe + Paul from Antique Bar & Bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey, called Hoboken & Sons. We sell our own specialty coffee, limited edition merchandise, pastries records (curated by me) and other items we think are cool. So I’m pulling coffee and doing whatever has to be done to get it to where we need it. It’s challenging and rewarding. Just like DJing is. I’ll always have my hands in a lot of things, it’s just in my nature. But for sure they will be ventures in things I love.