Take every relationship seriously. You never know who you will need in your corner in the future. I’ve been pretty good with maintaining healthy relationships over the years, however even I have run in to situations where a past conflict got in the way and negatively affected what I needed to be successful.
As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing DUB J.
Dub J is an accomplished Canadian record producer and songwriter with a career spanning more than 2 decades.
He started out as a hip hop club and mixtape DJ in the 90’s while in high school at Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute in Kitchener-Waterloo. During his high school years he would form the label Q It Up Records and release 17 mixtapes debuting the latest hip hop releases combined with freestyles from the cities up and coming artists. He was able to get his hands on releases early while doing his high school co-op at Dr. Disc in Kitchener.
“12 inch singles would come in on Thursdays, I would make my mixtapes in the back of the record shop on Thursday nights after my shift, stay up all night to make copies of the tapes and start selling Friday mornings… a full week before these records would be available to sell to the public. It was the perfect hustle.”
Dub would dominate the mixtape market in KW while also pioneering the regions first high school hip hop radio show inside the walls of Cameron Heights. This was at a time when American DJ’s like DJ Clue, DJ Drama, DJ Green Lantern, Funkmaster Flex and DJ Whoo Kid were dominating the mixtape market in the U.S. and record labels didn’t know what to do about it. Ultimately Dub J stopped making mixtapes to focus on original production when the RCMP confiscated hundreds of his mixtapes from his high school locker. The case was later dropped as there were no grounds to press charges.
Dub began seriously making beats in the mid 90’s and quickly made a name for himself in the tri-cities by producing hundreds of songs for local artists.
“The hip hop scene in Kitchener-Waterloo was sparse at this time. There were only a handful of people doing this. Everyone started out with that boom bap sound but I quickly realized that staying on that path would lead to nowhere. So I started making commercial music and working with artists in bigger markets. The other local producers and artists hated me for this choice as they felt I “sold out”. It was the smartest decision I could have made a the time. I owned that lane for many years in KW… I still do.”
There are debates on who was the first producer of the Tri-Cities is. However there is no debate on which producer has been the most influential. Dub is the first producer in the region to collaborate with top Canadian talent on a level that was un-heard of… producing on multiple of Classified’s early albums and actively producing for the top Canadian artists in the country at the time such as JD Era, Bishop Brigante, Tara Chase, Eternia, DL Incognito, Dan-e-o, Charisma, D-Sisive, MayOne-9 (Brassmunk), Latoya & Miranda, Masia One and Moka Only (Swollen Members) to name a few.
Dub was also the first producer in the Tri-Cities to collaborate with top international artists such as Fat Joe, The Game, Bobby V, Elephant Man, KRS ONE, Nutt-So (Outlaw Records), Mizz Hyde (Cash Money Records), Above the Law and more!
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this career path?
I started making mixtapes in the 90’s to survive and getting local rappers to rap on popular beats… that evolved to me making my own beats for mixtapes… which ultimately led to producing music.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?
When I was in high school I was selling my mixtapes at such high volume that the RCMP came to my school and confiscated hundreds of mixtapes from my locker. Weeks later they realized they didn’t have any grounds to do anything about it. I never got those tapes back. The lesson I took from that is GO BIG… Go so big that you’re a problem.
What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?
Don’t be afraid to set ambitious goals… and don’t worry about what others are doing… Do you. Keep all your business relationships healthy because you never know who you will need in your corner in the future.
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
I can’t think of a specific person.
How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?
I used my 2 decades of producing music and industry relationships to produce “Wish I Could”… a song uniting an A-List roster of Canadian artists speaking up against and bringing awareness to the rising gun violence in Toronto. I’ve also launched the ENOUGH IS ENOUGH campaign to drive more awareness and bring in donations to get funds to Toronto communities affected by gun violence. All proceeds from “Wish I Could” are also being donated to this cause.
Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
For me … last year I had a friend / music colleague lose his life to gun violence in Toronto. At this point pretty much everyone in the music community has directly or indirectly been affected. I just felt that
Something more needs to be done. I have 2 decades of experience bringing Toronto artists together on records… so this was an easy decision for me to step up and take on this challenge.
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
I think all of the artists on the song have been impacted. They are all inspired to do more. We’ve also received countless messages from the community. The city of Toronto really rallied behind us with this release and brought the song to #1 on iTunes. This speaks volume. The impact has been felt across the city.
Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?
We need everyone to continue to stream and purchase “Wish I Could”. It’s $1.29 on iTunes. These funds are donated back to communities affected by gun violence. We need people to visit https://enoughisenoughto.com and make a donation. No amount is too small. We need government to step up and have a conversation with us. What they’re currently doing isn’t working. We have a great team with experience and amazing ideas to really help with this issue. The government needs to do more.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
- There isn’t only one spot at the top. There is plenty for everyone to win. Work together!
Coming up and still today… artists feel like they can’t support other artists or work with other artists outside of their own circle. I was guilty of this in my early days too.
- Be yourself and don’t worry about what others are doing. Find what you’re good at and stick to it. Find your sound. Build up your fanbase and be consistent.
- Don’t be afraid to take risks and invest in yourself. A lot of artists will buy the fancy gold chain, etc but wont invest in marketing, etc… and then wonder why the music isn’t doing well. You will only succeed if you invest in yourself.
- Take every relationship seriously. You never know who you will need in your corner in the future. I’ve been pretty good with maintaining healthy relationships over the years, however even I have run in to situations where a past conflict got in the way and negatively affected what I needed to be successful.
- It’s never too late. I took a 12 year break from 2006–2018. I came back at 39 years old and decided I’d produce and release an album. I ended up doing over 5 million streams on that album and releasing 20 more singles with numerous singles surpassing 1 million streams. The icing on the cake was doing this “Wish I Could” record that is so important and hit #1 on iTunes. It truly is never too late.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m extremely active in the tech community. I also own 2 tech companies. I’m very aware of the negative impacts of social media on our mental health. There are issues with social media and the hip hop community that are being used to perpetuate violence, which has lead to death. I will never be an advocate for censorship in music. I believe artists should have an open canvas to speak on their life experiences, however I also believe there is some responsibility and accountability that needs to come in to play. Hip Hop artists should not be allowed to be reckless with their music. I believe Spotify, YouTube, etc should have teams that are well versed in what’s going on in cities like Toronto and act when need be. We see this today with Instagram posts, Tweets, etc. If you go against the community standards on those platforms your account will be put on a time-out for X amount of days. I would love to see something similar for music. We are the only genre with this problem. It’s such a problem where there are entire blog accounts that have a business model around pushing the negativity to mass users. So If anyone at Spotify is reading this
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
Set extremely ambitious / unrealistic goals.. if you accomplish them.. amazing. If you slightly fail you still accomplished a lot! This is relevant to me because I live by this theory. I do this every year. A few years ago I set a goal to create 20 revenue generating apps in one year and accomplished that goal. 2018’s goal was to return to the music industry with an album before I turned 40. Accomplished. 2019’s goal was to earn a gold record or plaque for my music… I earned 6. Ambitious goals are so important to staying motivated and ultimately being successful.
Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!