Legendary DJ Funk Flex has more than the vinyl under his fingertips and Hot 97’s annual Hip-Hop festival Summer Jam is about more than the number of seats it fills.
For more than 20 years, both Funk Flex (formerly Funkmaster Flex) and Summer Jam have given rise to artists such as Jay Z, 50 Cent, and A$AP Rocky. In anticipation of the 23rd annual Summer Jam, Funk Flex and Hot in Tech host/InFlexWeTrust producer Tat WZA spoke with Digital Trends about how the festival has changed through the years, why software DJs are not as good as Flex, and more.
“It was a 10,000-seater; it definitely wasn’t what it is now,” Funk Flex explained about Hot 97’s first ever Summer Jam back in 1994 at Meadowlands Arena — now IZOD Center — in East Rutherford, New Jersey. “Now, it’s evolved to 50,000 people.”
The biggest change Flex mentions is the addition of the Festival stage at Hot 97 — first added to Summer Jam in 2009 — where a number of artists perform outside of MetLife stadium. Now Flex and Tat estimate the number of people tailgating outside of the arena these days may match the 10,000 person attendance of Hot 97’s first ever Summer Jam.
With his latest mixtape Coloring Book, Chance the Rapper became the first artist to chart on Billboard with a streaming-only project. The mixtape was an Apple Music exclusive for a short period of time and according to Tat, streaming exclusivity is a complicated issue. “We talked with Audiomack, and they were surprised it’s going on,” Tat WZA said. “They feel like it’s time for education of the streaming services so you can really understand everything and know who you are going to pick for your outlet instead of relying on that easy crutch of ‘only this music is here.'”
Funk Flex has a storied history of radio rants against Jay Z, Interscope Records, and recently, Drake having people help him write his lyrics. Those rants are as indelible in people’s minds as his 20-plus years of DJ’ing. While Flex is on Snapchat, his Twitter account is exclusively reserved for posting links to his InFlexWeTrust website, and none of his personality. Flex says his radio rants are impulsive, and while some may think Twitter is the land of knee jerk reactions, Flex explains how he thinks public figures are actually tweeting: “They go to social media first, then hit the hash tag and they see what everyone else is saying,” Flex begins. “Then they agree with it.”
Check out the above video to find out why Funk Flex was not impressed with Michael Jackson’s surprise appearance during Jay Z’s set at the 2001 Summer Jam, why DJ’s who use software are not as good as him using vinyl, and more.