Keem Jones: ‘Success is in the effort’ for Raeford’s DJ Yodo
“Success is in the effort,” J. Cole raps on his “Heaven’s EP” freestyle. Often, we look to celebrate the destination rather than enjoy the journey. The journey is an emotional rollercoaster littered with highs and lows. However, like a rollercoaster, once the ride is over, you want to hop back in line for another ride. The entertainment industry is ever-changing and continuously reinventing itself.
Antoine Hill, better known as DJ Yodo, has continued to grow and change with the industry since his start in the early 2000s. Hill is a product of “Bucktown,” or Raeford. One of Hill’s most important attributes is his humility and sense of humor. His affinity for telling jokes helped him to navigate life. His mother, Pia Allen-McNeill, is from Colon, Panama, a seaport near the Atlantic Ocean entrance of the Panama Canal. Family has always been an integral part of Hill’s life.
“Raeford is family,” Hill says.
The journey begins
He describes himself as a class clown but recognizes that his knack for jokes kept him safe. At 14, his father relocated to Atlanta and his mother took a job at the Unilever factory. It was at this time that Hill began to explore his creativity through music.
Initially, he began crafting beats at 15 years old with the music production software Fruity Loops. Some of his early influences include the late J.Dilla; RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan; Virginia native Timbaland; and Snoop Dogg’s producer DJ Battle Cat. DJ Battle Cat is best known for his production on “Banging on Wax,” a collaboration with Los Angeles-based Bloods and Crips.
Like Battle Cat, Hill understood unity through the power of music. He would freestyle in school with his classmate and brother, Shaun Weigh. Before relocating to Georgia for a brief period, he connected with Mario McCall, better known as 3-D Straw or The Mutate God. Hill admits that he did not take rapping seriously until he received some critical advice from McCall. That advice prompted him to spend his time recording music while he was in Atlanta with his father.
Upon returning to Raeford, he gave McCall a CD with his newly recorded material. After listening, McCall approved, and the pair forged a bond that has lasted more than 20 years.
In the beginning of his career, Hill rapped under the name Atlas Trill. However, the name did not resonate with him, so he began searching for a new name. He slept on it (literally). The next morning, he woke up with his new rap name, Yodo Dodo Dang.
“It was random,” Hill says.
As Yodo Dodo Dang, he produced songs like “Cramp My Style” by Fayetteville native King Thesis. In addition to producing music, Hill dropped an album titled “Cartoons and Cereal” in 2013.
While rapping, Yodo stood out because of his appearance. He stands over 6 feet tall with glasses and distinct features. However, it was his signature propeller hat that left people scratching their heads. Hill says the hat confused those who may have thought he was a joke. However, on songs like “Man Up,” “Quote Myself,” and 3-D Straw’s “Hollup,” Hill shows that his skills are no laughing matter.
Cultivating a following
Even as a rapper, Yodo never forgot his comedic gift. He regularly posted memes and videos of himself “roasting” public figures and his peers. Those posts helped him to cultivate a following online. That following caught the attention of WCCG 104.5 FM’s program director Kalim Hasan. Hasan offered Hill the opportunity to become an on-air personality, which he seized, creating “The Yodo Show,” a daily radio program that allowed him to combine his love for music with his comedic talent.
In his free time, Hill created “Chopped and Screwed” mixtapes. The “Chopped and Screwed” style of mixing was popularized by Robert “DJ Screw” Davis, a Houston DJ who brought records to an extremely slow pitch (screwed) and repeated significant parts of the song (chopped).
Hill received a DJ controller for his cousin, Wesley, and began creating mixes that he only listened to with headphones. However, there would be times when he did not have a DJ for the 5 o’clock mix portion of his show. To fill the void, he began playing prerecorded mixes that he made with no identifying DJ tag.
With a vote of confidence from Hasan, Hill decided to bring his equipment from home and hone his skills live on his show. As his show grew, his profile as a DJ grew. Hill’s grand entrance into the DJ realm was ushered in by one of Fayetteville’s top DJs, Tommy Gee Mixx, who offered him a gig at House of Sin, a bar formerly located on Yadkin Road. Hill exceeded Tommy’s expectations and became a regular fixture at the establishment. He would become highly sought after for his ability to connect with crowds.
A family man who gives back
Hill also understands the power of giving back. He can be spotted in Morray’s “Trenches” video DJing a community event at Westover Park. In addition, he works closely with several community organizations to provide services for free.