When the legendary DJ Kid Capri originally became interested in music four decades ago, he patterned his grind after the hustlers in his neighborhood. They provided the man responsible for the 1998 ensemble compilation LP, Soundtrack to the Streets, with the template he needed to figure out how to customize a solid marketing plan for himself.
A keen observer, the self-sufficient Bronx, N.Y. native born David Anthony Love quickly noticed how they consistently made genuine connections and created demand for their services. “I sat there in front of Rucker [on 145th and 8th]. Drug dealers were selling $20 crack; I was selling $20 tapes,” the veteran, trendsetting party rocker recalls prior to judging McDonald’s sixth annual Flavor Battle, featuring three contestants competing for $10,000, in Atlanta. “I was gonna get the same things they got, just a little slower. I was still gonna arrive.”
Kid Capri continues his reign as one of the most sought-after curators of music, guaranteed to elevate any crowd to its feet. His groundbreaking techniques, extended drop mentioning his stage name, and diverse musical integrity catapulted him to command over $10,000 per gig.
The Grammy Award winner is among the first DJs to broker another lucrative stream of revenue for performers that often take a backseat to rappers. “I try my best to perform and give the people their money’s worth,” the founder of NO KID’N Records and the management firm Kid Capri Enterprises says. “I want to keep it as authentic as possible and give people more.”
Those unprecedented negotiations are the direct result of Kid Capri, who toured with or produced for performers like P. Diddy, LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, Nas, Jay Z, Madonna, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Usher, R. Kelly and Mary J. Blige, effortlessly moving over 100 cassette tapes on the streets in an hour. “That right there set the trend for DJs to do what they do,” Kid Capri declares.
“Me sitting on that corner started a DJ business. I’m proud to know that I was able to have a part in that.” Kid Capri not only knows a thing or two about conducting solid business, but maintaining an undeniable reputation. The purveyor of creating feel-good experiences through seamless transitions of songs cut his teeth in an era predating Serrato, smartphone playlists and streaming platforms. The icon wastes no time commenting on up-and-coming DJs not necessarily relating to the importance of vinyl records.
“A lot of younger dudes didn’t come up in that era of digging for records, carrying crates or DJing near the light post,” Kid Capri reflects. “What they know is the CDJ, the computer and MP3s, so they get what they can get.”
He continues, “They get stuck in that one box, and they take that to the party. The party sounds like the radio station. There’s so much music out there. A lot of them may not study the music they’re supposed to because nobody is telling them what they’re supposed to do.”
It’s not uncommon for some audience members scattered throughout Kid Capri’s sets to question if he can relate to everyone despite the range of ages spanning the crowd. Having those ongoing conversations prompts the former Def Comedy Jam house DJ to bring that same attention to his weekend Sirius XM program, Block Party. “When people call me a ‘legend,’” Kid Capri claims, “they think I don’t listen to what they’re doing. You have to know everything that’s going on. I gotta make sure all the young’ns are taken care of just like the older.”
Performing well over 200 shows annually, Kid Capri further explains Block Party’s concept. “Everybody parties together,” he confirms. “Nobody really has a problem with the music being played. I know 45-year-olds that dance to trap music. You have to be able to play everything and make the crowd rock to everything. Don’t matter what it is young, old or new.”
Co-hosting and judging the BET/VH-1 competition series Master of the Mix for three seasons provided Kid Capri more space to mentor and teach aspiring talent in the moment. Too often, local DJs with a following in their hometowns would audition before Kid Capri and get nervous. Others wouldn’t even get onstage.
“When you get up there,” Kid Capri warns, “just do what you do. Don’t think about what anybody else does. Don’t think about how hard you gotta impress the judges. That’s what’s gonna shine for you.”
Generations of DJs and hip-hop contributors echo the groundwork laid by Kid Capri. DJ Infamous, seated four stools to Kid Capri’s left, was completely mesmerized as a teenager seeing BET’s Rap City and Kid Capri performing weekly on the landmark HBO stand-up series. The Lansing, Michigan-born radio personality, producer and touring DJ for Ludacris earned his reputation entertaining on the airwaves and at house parties.
Once nicknamed “Youngest in Charge,” Infamous agrees with Kid Capri that any good DJ should be an ongoing student of music. “You gotta know your history,” the sharp Alabama A&M University alumnus born Calvin Donald says. “Every great DJ has to know not just current hits but old hits as well. When an opportunity presents itself, go ahead and take it.”
The Breakfast Club co-host Angela Yee revisited her DJ past in Kid Capri’s company. Obtaining turntables from Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs and records from Pete Rock, Special K and Teddy Ted when she was younger, experiencing Kid Capri set the tone at parties on numerous occasions allowed the Brooklyn, N.Y.-born former MTV2 Sucker Free correspondent to develop an appreciation for the crowd control DJs have.
“I know how difficult it is,” Yee, co-host of McDonald’s Flavor Battle, remembers. “I know what a great feeling it is when you’re DJing, and the audience is really into it. You make the party. You can be in the worst spot ever, but if the music is good, you’ll stay.”
It excites Kid Capri to witness his influence and the lessons he’s learned about free enterprise manifest. He appreciates his DJ predecessors such as Brucie B. and DJ Hollywood. When he comments about the current state of DJ culture, Kid Capri makes a small joke about Paris Hilton netting $300,000 per gig.
He credits social media and technology for eliminating middlemen. “Now you can stand alone and be the one-man-band,” Kid Capri says. “Everybody gotta deal with you.”
Nothing beats molding and developing good DJs, Kid Capri believes, like strong support. “The only way to get around that is to have the OGs to teach them to let them know,” Kid Capri says. “If they don’t, music will only be one thing.”