If you look up the phrase in the dictionary, you’ll come across a sentence such as “a long-lasting or difficult task or operation of a specified kind.” For many, the word “marathon” means 26 miles of running until you reach the end. Others hear it and to them, it represents continuing on in the face of adversity and taking the scenic route, or alternative road, to your dream destination while being all the better for it.
Anthony Orozco, globally known as DJ V.I.P., is a Bay Area native who fell in love with DJ’ing ever since he first heard his voice on his local radio station. The curiosity and fearlessness that put him in that position is the same vessel that aided him in becoming the late Nipsey Hussle’s official tour DJ from November 2013 until Nipsey’s untimely death on March 31st, 2019.
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In two exclusive interviews with RESPECT. Magazine, DJ V.I.P. recounts his story of getting into DJ’ing, going on the radio at 13, and how he and Nipsey began working together. In our second half, he recounts their last conversation, and what to expect from the All Money In Team moving forward.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
RESPECT.: Where did the name DJ V.I.P. came from and what initially got you into DJ’ing? I heard a friend of yours had a PSSL Magazine that interested you.
So, when I was in like 7th grade, one of my friends had, as you mentioned, a PSSL Magazine which is Pro Sound & Stage Lighting and you know I wasn’t really looking at magazines and stuff like that, I was engulfed in sports. Like I wanted a new bat or some new sliding pants or something like that. I wasn’t really pressed on electronics. That kind of stuff wasn’t really booming at that time like that. Everything that was was too expensive for us to really be tapped into you. You know, especially when we’re that age. I was interested by the magazine that had all this different musical stuff and lighting and just a bunch of cool stuff I had never seen before. I came across DJ equipment and was like hey that looks dope. Going to a radio station and asking personalities if she had any equipment I could get and that’s how I started DJ’ing and got my first ever set of equipment.
And how I got my name [was] from a friend and she would just always call me a V.I.P. So she would just call me DJ V.I.P. and it stuck and it sounded good and I liked it and that was what I was rocking with.
RESPECT.: What was that conversation like when you called up the DJ at the radio station? I’m trying to imagine you as a 13-year-old calling.
I was a young over-zealous kid who you know? Kids, children, one thing that I love, I don’t have any kids, but one thing I love in watching them and seeing them, and one thing I love about them is how fearless they are. And I think that my ignorance in life just being young led me to be somewhat fearless and because of that I [thought], ‘what are they going to tell me, no’? I was young, I didn’t know anything. I figured I was a kid, and who knows, I got something great and if I didn’t no harm no foul. You know?
So I just called and literally said, ‘hey, you know I want to start DJ’ing, is there anything or any spare equipment that you guys have or that I could get’? She ended up giving me her contact info and assigned a date a few weeks out to come and meet her and I would call the station and she would put me on air as like a little guest and it was dope. That’s what really motivated me to DJ and start pursuing radio, and I would say that the radio ended up being a more of a vessel to be serious about DJ’ing. And now, I’m not really too pressed to do radio, it really limits where you can go and how often you can go places. Just because you need to be in a set place all the time. That definitely motivated [me] and put the DJ’ing into overdrive.
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RESPECT.: Before you got into your DJ’ing career with Nipsey, what sports were you involved with?
Man, I was running track and field. It kind of was something that happened by accident. I was a baseball player since the age of 5, came to high school and I came to the track coach and was like can you work on my speed? You know, baseball is a spring sport so I had plenty of time in the fall when I came in like I needed to be quicker for baseball. And he’s like, well yeah, you might want to also work on your upper body strength because that’s obviously important for baseball. He tells me you know you should try pole vaulting. He’s like if I can keep you, if I can get you for four years, I can get you a scholarship and I’m thinking alright well then let’s see what’s up.
So you know I put him to his word, tested him and I gave him what I had to do out on the track, and four years later I ended up breaking a 22-year-old record that was held by a former Olympian. I still have the freshman and sophomore record and ended up getting a scholarship to Cal State Northridge. I went there for four and a half years and graduated in 2011. That’s where I was at.
RESPECT.: How did you become Nipsey’s DJ? Did you know much about him prior to the job?
So my situation with Nipsey started as me not knowing who he was. I had a friend who introduced me to his music, wasn’t really too hip to it, [I] kind of brushed it off. I was DJ’ing a lot of clubs in Hollywood and I happened to play this club that was off of Santa Monica Boulevard called the Dragonfly and Nipsey was headlining that show, it was my first time ever hearing who he was or anything. I was just there to be the house DJ for the night. Spin whatever artist records, get my little bag and get on. So I went, did the show, and then I realized alright, this Nipsey dude he sounds familiar. So then I start asking or maybe looking through my phone — I can’t quite remember — but eventually, I figured [it] out.
I was told to check out bro’s music, and after seeing the show I had noticed that the fans were reciting every word like it was like, man I don’t even know what you’d call it. It was like almost like verses, you know from the Bible like they’re just singing eulogies or something. I don’t know, like everyone knew it, the management told me to turn off the music and I was like, how do I not know who this dude is? I live in L.A., how am I not tapped into what’s going on like that? So once I tapped into The Marathon, that’s when I became a fan of Nipsey.
I became a fan first, once I actually gave his music an honest listen. From there he wasn’t overly popular on social media. I was able to connect with him on Twitter, kept in contact with him, supported music and eventually he had a show coming up and he just straight up asked me. He was like you know, are you available to [work with] me…this was before that. So I asked him if he needed help with moving some music and he was like yeah, I’m actually gonna be releasing this Crenshaw project coming up, so I’m gonna need you to…push this these records through. And I’m like alright, I’m going to need an exclusive because I was a writer for AllHipHop and I was doing a lot of blog work. So I leveraged my situation with the blogs to get some exclusive content from him.
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He wasn’t able to get me the interview that I was supposed to get, but he gave me a leak, which was a song with him and Dom Kennedy called “Don’t Forget Us.” So that record I put on my SoundCloud, I sent it out to all the blogs that I worked with, and the ones that I didn’t really work with, but I still knew that they’re going to push out the content because it was a leak coming from Nipsey one day before the Crenshaw mixtape that was pretty highly anticipated. So I went ahead and put it out and it did big numbers, and from there he was like alright I see what you could do, and I’m like yeah I’m available if you ever need a DJ, let me know I’m on deck. You know his tour is coming up, I asked him like, ‘hey, what’s up with these dates’? He said he’s going to talk to the team. [He] came back to me, he’s like, ‘look, we have rehearsal on this day I want you to come here, we’ll chop it up and figure something out. Everything goes well, after the show, I’ll give you all the dates for the tour’.
So by the end of that first meeting for the rehearsal, I pulled up with not only ideas for the show that we still implement to this day, all the way to ideas for additional marketing to help reach a wider audience with his music. And after we had that meeting, I’m assuming he had seen how proactive I was being [along with] his forward-thinking of not just the show stuff but everything else. He went and he was like, ‘here are the dates for the tour’, and from there we didn’t even do the show before, he put me on the tour like he originally had planned.
RESPECT.: What were one of the ideas you gave to Nipsey and the team that day?
“Being that I’m a DJ, something that’s very important as an artist is you need DJs to be able to spin your music. DJs can’t plug in a Spinrilla link or SoundCloud link or Apple Music link into their Serato. They need a certain set of files, they need stuff set up for them, and we typically get music from things called record pools. Now record pools are like digital record stores where kids pay memberships for them, and then they go ahead and they just pop in and get their new music and get on. So if your music isn’t in these record pools, it’s virtually impossible to get any mass amounts of streams.
Like yeah, you can kind of email it out, but that’s only going to get you so far. You really need to get it to where these libraries exist, the DJs go get music from, so that’s how I approached them. Hey, your music isn’t even spinnable for DJs right now, let’s start making service packs. In most cases, most major labels only service priority records. I told him, how about we take a different route and let’s service everything because it’s not for us to determine what’s a priority record. Let the DJs determine what they want to service. Let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot and not get spins just because we don’t think that this record is going to go like we think other records [are] going to go. Let’s let the tastemakers decide, that way they have options.
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RESPECT.: Is there anything that we might not have known about Nipsey that can speak even more to the person that he is and his uniqueness?
I mean there’s a million things, he’s just he’s a good leader. He’s very good at, you know [there would] just be random times, where he’ll just send a few of us, the interior team a group message and it’ll just be like some self-help video and motivational stuff. He’s not just someone who talks about motivating people, or you know he’s talking about things he doesn’t live. I’ve never really seen him do anything like that, or not do anything that he’s talked about, you know, and he doesn’t really prematurely talk about stuff he’s going to do either, he just executes.
So that’s something that’s really dope, to see how motivated he is…he almost understands that he has to [be]. He needs to go, but he’s not going to be at the level that he needs to be on unless this world collectively is there with him. So he does a good job of keeping us all motivated and making sure everyone’s on their job. The group of people he has around, we’re all very professional. Obviously, we’re well versed in what we do so he trusts us and [has] faith in us to do what we need to do to: look after his best interests as well as grow our brands and our value. So it’s kind of strayed from the question but Nip does a whole lot of stuff. He’s always reinventing and doing dope shit. So for me to be around him and see it firsthand is a blessing and super motivating.
RESPECT.: Where were you when everything happened?
Yeah, I was in Charlotte. I was working with some artists out there. What was crazy is I built those connections when I was with Nipsey for All-Star weekend. That was the last trip that the team had taken together. So about three weeks later I had headed back, maybe a month later, I’m not sure exactly how much but it was like within three to five weeks. I did my own little trip, went out there and I was in Charlotte when it had happened. The night or the day before it happened I was DJ’ing a club and I received a message from Nipsey that also had Pacman in the group text, and he was wanting me to assist Pacman in making a service pack for one of his new singles. So Pacman actually, recently, did an interview with Real 92.3 and he references that, because they also asked him, you know, what was your last conversation you had with Nipsey.
And he was like, you know, the night before it happened…it was like at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. Everything happened with bro, like you know 2:00, 3:00 o’clock the next day, he had just reached out to me and at that time I was just getting home from the club, but you know I got it done, sent it over. You know we exchanged words, me, Nip, Pacman and then that was pretty much the last convo I had with them. I was scheduled to come back the following day nonetheless.
So I ended up coming home that following morning on Monday, and literally landed at LAX and went straight to the Marathon store and just kind of stayed there for a while.
RESPECT.: Can you just kind of describe for me what was going on at that point? I’m sure everything was still taped off.
Oh man, of course it was hectic…I was [there] the night when there was the helicopter above and then you know, I don’t know exactly what happened, I don’t want to misspeak on it, but people thought something happened and everyone just kind of ran and people were getting like trampled and it was just a lot of emotions. You know a lot of people were crying, confused, definitely a ton of outpouring of support for him and in support of the family and the team and stuff, but you know it was just a very…you could feel the tension in the air, but at the same time, all this was really on before early on, before like all the different gangs came to show love. Because the next day you could feel the tension. But nothing really cracked off.
You know, you would see people that were clearly from different sets, different areas of the city, whether it would be, you know, Blacks, Latinos, like Pacific Islanders. You could tell there was a gang of sets there, but there was no issues because everyone was just there showing love for bro. But the energy was, you know, you could cut it with a knife like the tension, like it was here. It was serious. It’s sad to say that in Ground Zero. You know this is not alright. Where bro was, where his legacy and his career took off. Also where his life was taken. So it was just like, you know that was big. You know, it’d be one thing if it happened somewhere else. You know there would still be a lot of stuff going on but, you’re literally in the spot where you know within the last 24 to 36 hours, bro was murdered.
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RESPECT.: What was that first conversation like with you and the team after everything had happened?
Man, it didn’t happen for a while. Didn’t happen for like maybe a week or two. There was a good while when a lot of people were, you know MIA in the group messages and the family threads and stuff like that. It was just hard for everybody. You know we ran into each other at the store. You know some who were there, some people weren’t. But even the people that I spoke to from the team, and the family there, you know it was hard to get a hold of after the fact because I can only imagine when it happened. You know I had like 500 text messages and you know I haven’t been around longer than obviously some of his artists that have been with him since he was very…were just starting in the rap game from 18 all the way to family members that he’s known his whole life, so I can only imagine what their phones were like.
So during that time I really didn’t take anything personal. You know there’s just a lot going on and everybody was trying to figure it out, to this day nobody really has answers. So you barely imagine when it was that fresh, everyone was trying to figure it out and how confused everybody was. But it was just so much going on that you know we didn’t really talk that much until we finally had a family dinner.
RESPECT.: I noticed on Instagram you’ve been able to come across people sharing photos about the times you had spent with Nipsey. Can you tell me a little bit about what that means to you, to have been able to share those memories with people that may not know where some of those pictures come from and how they’re discovered around the internet?
Yeah, I mean I think that it’s almost my duty as somebody who was close to him, without exploiting him or the situation to give an insight to the type of person he was. Besides, he is the artist, because prior to his passing most people just knew Nipsey as an artist. Some people knew him as a philanthropist. People knew he was an entrepreneur, but they don’t really know the extent of that. So I feel like those things are what make him the legend that he is and those things have backstories to them. They have moments in time that are captured, so I feel it’s my duty to share those memories and a little bit of the behind the scenes to [them], because it just helps you understand and appreciate it and just love him more.
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RESPECT.: Are there any particular ways in which everybody should be looking out for things that you may have coming just to kind of keep The Marathon going?
I mean I would just say [to] stay tapped in. There’s a lot of things that are in the pipeline. I mean this is still relatively fresh you know? When we when we’re doing stuff we do things on a three [month], six [month], nine [month], and year rollout. And we have these schedules and these plans. We had stuff that was going to roll out right after he had passed. We had stuff that could have gone up until eleven months after he passed. So we had to rework everything and move stuff around. So I would say just stay tapped in to myself. Obviously, everyone on the team, the Marathon store, and you know, anything that’s coming out that’s official, will come through those channels.
You know I just appreciate the support. You know people who didn’t really know him were obviously affected heavily by his passing, so you know with that you can only imagine how it affected all the people that were around him on a regular basis. So all that support has really been motivation and also helping me motivate people and stay where I need to be so that we can, you know, not forget about this, but use this as the fuel you know just to push forward. We can’t let this slow us down. That’s not what I would want when he lost that. I’m sure you’ve heard “Racks in the Middle.” You know he says, “damn, I wish my n***a Fats was here, how you die at thirty-something after banging all them years.” Thirty-something after banging all them years, and it’s, it’s eerie hearing that because it’s like, bro died at thirty-something after being in the world he was in, after that is like you know to keep going, you know. Just keep going.
That’s all you gotta do, keep pushing the movement. So with Fats, after that…a few days after that we were involved in making Victory Lap. A day after his partner in All Money In, his brother since the age of five or six, was murdered outside of his business, which is crazy how he was murdered. So, that being that heavy on him and being able to still, you know be tall and be strong and do what he had to do is my motivation of like, why I couldn’t let this slow me down. And I hope that that motivates everyone else to keep pushing through on hard times and never forget the end goal. Just use you know, whatever. But some people call losses just as lessons and motivation to push forward and do better for those people.
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