DJ Vlad insists he “wasn’t trying to put [Keefe D] in prison” for Tupac’s murder

On the latest episode of “Drink Champs,” N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN were joined by DJ Vlad to discuss the blueprint of building one of the most relevant news outlets in the game right now.

Vlad was raised in San Mateo, California at a time when the genre of rap was still fresh to the world. Though he lived across the map, the movement in New York City prompted him to start producing and slicing up mixtapes on his own. Vlad became a success story, in that regard, by creating respected efforts like Rap Phenomenon, which paid homage to artists like The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac in the 2000s. He eventually decided to switch gears before the start of the next decade.

In 2008, he launched VladTV, an online media conglomerate for people of all industries to tell candid tales from their lives. Until this day, the platform continues to generate millions of views and has garnered nearly 6 million subscribers on YouTube. The growing audience stems from the fact that the guest list is a cheat sheet of who’s who in terms of cultural contributions. For example, acts like 21 Savage, Katt Williams, Soulja Boy, Orlando Brown and, of course, the fan favorite Boosie Badazz are among those with the most-viewed videos in the catalog.

Below are nine major takeaways from the conversation. Plus, watch the full episode here.

1. On how he got into Hip Hop

DJ Vlad explained how he first fell in love with Hip Hop while living during the Cold War in the 1980s. “Americans hated Russia and I was the only person from Russia that people knew,” he said when talking about his childhood. “I’m not a minority, but we all related to each other on a certain thing, and I was drawn to Hip Hop along with the other Black kids and Spanish kids in my school.” He continued, “New York City breakers were starting to be shown on TV, and I just started falling in love with breakdancing, and Hip Hop, and graffiti and everything else like that. I would go home and watch ‘Yo! MTV Raps’ and practice breakdance moves in my living room. And that’s kind of the start of my Hip Hop career.”

2. On being the first DJ to upload a mixtape on the internet

The first part of DJ Vlad’s moniker is not to be ignored. When he discussed his early days as a producer and mixtape jockey, the entrepreneur let it be known that he was a pioneer of the genre’s heavy online presence. “I was actually the first DJ to release a mixtape on the internet,” he said about the 2001 Cypress Hill dedication Soul Assassins. “Before I knew it, people in, like, Sweden, and Czech Republic and Australia were hitting me like, ‘Yo, we bump this thing in our youth center all the time.’ And I’m like, ‘I think I’m onto something here. For the first time, my s**t is actually being recognized outside of my bedroom.’” Vlad continued to find success in the mixtape game but noted that he walked away after watching DJ Drama get raided in 2007.

3. On his journalistic cheat code

DJ Vlad explained the most important component to his interview approach. “A lot of times, ‘Vlad is the feds’ is because there’s so much research that goes into what we do,” he voiced. “When I got into Hip Hop media, I just felt that all the interviewers at the time, they all sucked. It was all like promo, like a PR run… But my thing was like, yo, I’m going to research. Like when people talk in the barbershop, I’m asking those types of questions, the questions that people really want to ask, the uncomfortable questions, the hard questions.” He dove deeper into his knack for preparation and explained, “I watch every other interview they’ve done. If they have a book, I’ll read the book. If we know some people in common, I’ll call some people up and I’ll have conversations with them… I have to have a lot of research and that’s what I think makes my interviews a little different than other peoples.”

4. On his long-standing relationship with Boosie Badazz

Vlad broke down his connection to and chemistry with Boosie Badazz. It all began when he started doing Hip Hop DVDs that would feature interviews and freestyles. He interviewed Boosie and Webbie for one before “Wipe Me Down” dropped and that’s where the relationship formed. “After a while, it just became a mutual respect thing. It became a business relationship,” he noted. “For whatever reason, the chemistry between us, people just react to it more so than any of my other guests… Now it’s like we almost try to have Boosie running all the time. And everyone just benefits from it.”

5. On asking questions that are racially insensitive

When N.O.R.E. asked the former DJ if he feels like he ever asks insensitive questions toward the Black race, Vlad responded, “I think being white, you’re not going to relate completely to someone who’s Black. Let’s just be honest.” He expanded, “Of course I’m gonna be racially insensitive to certain things. And I think to a certain degree, people tune in for that because I do have a large white fanbase of Hip Hop kids who are thinking the same things that I’m thinking. And they’re relating to me as a white kid who loves Hip Hop talking to someone who isn’t white about these very serious topics… So yeah, I’m absolutely guilty of it and I try to work on it on a daily basis.”

6. On the idea of people incriminating themselves in his interviews

DJ Vlad responded to the public assumption that doing his interviews is self-incriminating and can/has put people in jail. “I’ve never heard of our stuff being used, an interview being used against someone in a case that they actually talked about,” he said. “I’ve never asked a person [about] anything illegal that they’re doing right now. Or within a certain amount of time [in which] it actually can come back and bite them.” He went on to use currently incarcerated rapper AR-Ab as an example, questioning why people would think such a thing: “You’re not reading the transcripts, you’re not talking to him, you’re [not] talking to his lawyer, you’re not watching the news, you’re not reading articles about the case. You got this Vlad interview with a million views and you’re like, ‘Well, this is the connection, obviously.’”

7. On interviewing Mike Tyson

DJ Vlad got into the time when he sat down with Mike Tyson in the boxing ring. When N.O.R.E. asked if Vlad was scared, he responded, “Well, he got mad at me at some point, so yeah I was scared.” He continued, “I started getting a little bit into the harder questions and one of my questions was, ‘Well, Mike, here you are, you’re worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Why are you attracted to these street guys like Eric Von Zip?’ And he said, ‘What do you mean by attracted?’” Vlad added more illustration to the situation and said, “That pissed off Mike Tyson… So I gotta dance my way out of this question and explain to him that I didn’t really mean it that way. And then at one point, he got it and we went on with the interview. But it was a moment… It was a tense moment.”

8. On having more relevance than XXL and The Source

At one point, DJ Vlad insisted that he has had more cultural impact than famed publications The Source and XXL. DJ EFN gave the interviewee a chance to break that down further, which led to the following explanation: “I meant my reach and my impact right now in 2024, which is undeniable… I’m not just speaking out of my a** and just saying like, ‘Who are those guys? I’ve never heard of ‘em.’ No, no, no. I know exactly who they are. But what I’m saying is that in 2024, if you ask 100,000 people who are Hip Hop fans on any level, ‘Have you seen something recently from VladTV, The Source or XXL?’ I would say that 90 percent of the people would say VladTV in 2024.” He concluded, “I’m not downplaying their contribution, but it’s not their time right now.”

9. On why he decided to interview Keefe D

Keefe D, who was arrested late last year for his alleged involvement in the murder of Tupac Shakur, has done a couple of interviews with DJ Vlad. During the discussions, Keefe — as someone who said he was in the car that fired fatal shots at the diamond-selling rapper — went into details about the night of the killing in what came off as a public confession. When asked about why he decided to interview Keefe D in the first place, DJ Vlad said, “I wasn’t trying to put Keefe in prison. I wasn’t trying to help Las Vegas police solve their case.” He further rationalized, “Tupac is my favorite rapper and I wanted to put the real story out there” before noting that Keefe is allegedly the last living person from the situation who can tell the story from a first-person point of view.

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