After moving to Pittsburgh about six years ago -- after living in Bed-Stuy, his birthplace, and then Atlanta -- DJ Cue the Chef never realized his name would draw so much controversy. He picked the name Cue, he says, to symbolize being the guy who'd be "running the table," like the cue ball in pool. He later adopted "Chef" to play off his Kitchen Marketing promotions company. But he soon discovered that other deejays in Pittsburgh went by versions of the same name -- DJ GQ; DJ Q -- as well as other deejays using the name "Chef." No sweat. Cue's decided he could take the heat, so he's remained in the kitchen, and on the table. He's one of the hardest-working deejays and hustlers in the city, working the nightclub, hip-hop and radio scenes. As a "free agent," he's worked for both 106.7 WAMO and 93.7 WBZZ. He'll be a featured deejay at the Classic 1824 Block Party at the Shadow Lounge this Saturday, which is also the CD-release party for the Rebel Music Mixdisk Vol.2, put together by RXC, who are known locally as, simply, "The Gods."
How has radio deejaying changed in the past 10 years?
I've been deejaying for a li'l over 10 years, and been doing radio for the past seven or eight years, and it has changed. There is a lot of payola now. A lot of radio deejays, as far as mix-show cats, don't really ... actually, I don't know if I can talk about that. But payola is definitely there, but that's even in nightclubs. I haven't exactly had any experiences with it but the game is what it is. It's all about who you know and getting your product out to the masses.
Not to demonize radio deejays, because isn't part of the game having the newest music first?
Absolutely, but that does not always exactly have to do with payola. It's more being on top of your game, staying in contact with reps, creating relationships with artists so you can get freestyles from them and getting exclusive material early. Payola is usually just someone trying to get you to help them promote or push a record, which is illegal -- very illegal.
So if RXC wanted you to play their record on the radio, could you?
Yeah, if I got a mix show. I've done it before. When I was at WAMO and I had a mix show I played local music. I explain to them all the time how important it is to have a local show that is devoted strictly to in-town music. These are same people you're asking to listen, this is the same community that you ask for support, but yet they can't get their music played on the radio. In D.C. it's called "Home Jams" and we should have the same concept here. It's the community.
So how do you stay relevant?
Basically it's staying in touch with artists and different label reps, staying online and also keeping my ear to the ground, for the most part. I started a mix-tape series a few years ago and have another one coming soon. Back then I had the Escalade series and then The Usual Suspects series, which was hosted by 50 Cent. When I interviewed 50 Cent at WAMO I got some skits from him, then I did two shows with him out in D.C. where I got some more material. I've been shying away from the musical side because the business side consumes so much of my time. To be a successful deejay nowadays you have to be able to throw a business hat on; you have to be able to recognize opportunities that might not always be you playing records. Being able to select music and know music, there's all kinds of checks you can get from just being able to look at a market, look at a city, and fill a void. Good deejays have that ability.