Tha DJ Hi-Speed – “I Don’t Ever Want To Sound Like Anybody Else”
Born and raised on Chicago’s west side, Will Wilson a.k.a. Tha DJ Hi-Speed always had a love for music. From his grandfather who kept collections of vintage jazz to his dad who played countless hours of soul from the 60s and 70s, disco, R&B, Speed had inherited a wide knowledge of music at a very early age. Listening and watching his father make tapes for his grandfathers club, Speed began to embrace a God-given gift… the art of djing. Speed’s gift is displayed by his creativity, his original style of dj’ing, and showcasing of his precise skills and diverse song selection. DJ Hi-Speed has played venues such as S&S Chicago’s Tronic Soul Tour with Steve “Silk” Hurley and DJ Skip to international venues in Negril, Jamaica with artists such as CeCe Peniston, Case and Elephant Man. Chi-City’s premiere top shelf DJ, Smirnoff Mix Master Champion and 7Wonders DJ Battle Champion, DJ Hi-Speed does it like no other. Check out Hi-Speed’s exclusive Q&A with S&S below.
S&S: What’s your style of music? How do you describe it?
HS: My style of music can be described as a labyrinth of drums, abstract melodic combinations and heavy driving grooves, all dipped in the soulful era of the 70s, the groundbreaking house era of the 80’s, enhanced by 90s culture and reinvented by 2K influences.
S&S: Who or what was most instrumental to you when it came to music?
HS: My mom, dad and grandfather were the fundamental factors in my life when it came to my music knowledge and upbringing. My dad was a dj at my grandfather’s club back in the day and he played a lot of Motown, classic 80s R&B and funk music, and my grandfather had an outstanding collection of classic jazz that I was exposed to at an early age. Around junior high is when I was drawn to the party rocking djs and was introduced to the world of turntablists and DMC battles… it took my perception of a dj’s capabilities to an entirely new level and jump-started my creative musical thought process.
S&S: What drives you creatively?
HS: The constant evolution of music is what keeps my musical imagination at its creative peak. I don’t ever want to sound like anybody else so I’m always striving to concoct something so left-field in my music that I stay 2 steps ahead of the culture and my audience.
S&S: How much does your audience influence you and your music selection?
HS: Crowd reaction has always played a pivotal part in all of my dj sets. I’ve never been the one that plays for self… I feel like it’s all about the people who took the time out to get dressed up for the night, make their way to the venue, gain entry and look forward to an entertaining party experience. I enjoy hearing the eruption of the audience whenever I drop a hot joint… it’s a rush that I seek every time I play, and I try to maintain that level of excitement throughout the set with every song choice.
S&S: What artists or genres do you listen to when you’re not working?
HS: Being born and raised in Chicago I stay grounded in house music and traxx, but my personal pleasure is rare soul grooves. I enjoy going through hours of deep soul cuts, original samples, disco, b-side and underground hip hop. I also usually take that down time to check out djs like Jazzy Jeff, Qbert, DJ Craze, Chris Karns… they push me to keep my game elevated.
S&S: Do you have any favorite memories of growing up with your family?
HS: My dad used to go record shopping with every paycheck of his, and he took me with him to all the stores to buy LPs and 45s of classic soul and R&B hits… seeing so many album covers actually taught me how to read. When I was around 5 my grandfather used to wake me up late at night to play records for his guests. His dj setup was in a room in the back of the house and the music played in the front room where his guests were. Somebody said to him, “That’s a nice tape you got playing, can I get a copy?” My grandfather said, “That’s not a tape, that’s my 5 year old grandson playing records in the back.” Everybody laughed thinking he was joking. He instructed them all to follow him to the back where he pulled back a curtain to reveal me in pajamas with these huge headphones on playing records on his turntables. Everybody’s mouths dropped and my grandfather’s laughter startled me to turn around and see all these grown-ups with shocked looks on their faces.
S&S: Is there anything you would like people to know about you?
HS: No one ever taught me how to dj. At 3 years old I used to watch my dad play his records all the time and one day I just caught on. He came home from work and heard music coming from inside (clearly knowing that my mom couldn’t operate a single knob on his equipment). When he peeked thru the door he saw me with his headphones on, sitting on his dj stool, playing records. There were no buttons or short cut tools back then… I was carefully removing and replacing each piece of vinyl from the turntable to its respective sleeve, counting the lines on the vinyl with the needle to play the correct song and transitioning record after record to both turntables with the mixer. The concept of mixing came at the age of 7 when I heard 2 songs temporarily match tempos and thought the songs “rhymed”. My grandfather had a set of Pioneer turntables with adjustable pitch function and I figured out how to match the tempos between 2 records… I have been mixing ever since.
S&S: Are there any charities you are working with or excited to tell us about?
HS: I have not had the pleasure of working with any charities so far, but I am very open to the idea of an opportunity.
S&S: Are there any questions that you wish people would ask you?
HS: I don’t have any questions I wish people would ask me, but one question I get asked a lot is “Why haven’t you been signed or picked up by somebody major in the industry?”
S&S: And on the flip side of that, are there any questions or references you wish people would stop asking or using?
HS: The only question I truly hate is “Can you play my song? I’m about to leave.”
S&S: What artist(s) have you been the most excited to work with?
HS: I have played events with some major artists (CeCe Peniston, Case, Elephant Man, Crucial Conflict), but I have not had the opportunity to work with any so far.
S&S: Are there any artists that you dream of working with on a collaboration?
HS: Kanye West, R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige, Timbaland, Missy Elliot, Jay-Z, J. Cole, Mike Dunn, Steve “Silk” Hurley, DJ Skip, Kendrick Lamar, The Roots, Dr. Dre, DJ Premier, Jazzy Jeff, Mark Ronson, Pharrell, Cece Peniston, Faith Evans, Madonna, Eminem
S&S: What can we look forward to next from you?
HS: Original music and remixes produced by yours truly, more online mixes to be released, internet mix shows and appearances at major venues.
S&S: What legacy would you like to leave?
HS: I want people to know that I take my craft seriously and my passion is a natural reflection of whatever I put my heart, mind and soul into; I want any and everybody who hears my sound to recognize that there is a factor so special and different in me as a dj, producer, and as an artist, that it sets me apart from basic and average; I want the world to know that without God and my family I would not be the man I am today and music is, has, and always will be the definitive key to my life and how I live it… I want my legacy to be historic.
- GRAMMY® Nominated DJ Steve “Silk” Hurley “Remixes Live” on the new NS6ii - November 3, 2017
- Ralph & Louie – “Our Fans Are What Most Drives Us” - September 29, 2017
- The 4th Annual House Music Block Party Recap - August 31, 2017
- Steve “Silk” Hurley & Shannon “DJ Skip” Syas at SAE Cultural Impact Awards - August 28, 2017
- 11th Annual Global Mixx Game Changer Award Recipients Shannon “DJ Skip” Syas & Steve “Silk”Hurley - August 24, 2017
- Steve “Silk” Hurley Live @ CFP Chicago - August 18, 2017
- Ralph Tresvant – Inside The Ride Radio Show - August 2, 2017
- Various Artist – Ain’t That A Beach Vol.2 - July 18, 2017
- City of Chicago :: Millennium Park – Chicago House Music Party - June 3, 2017
- Steve “Silk” Hurley & Cece Peniston Live @ Chosen Few Music Festival 2017 (Chicago) - May 24, 2017