Terry Urban has been making waves in the music circuit for over a decade now. He’s gained recognition and a fanbase from his mashups that keep delivering the fire. You may be acquainted with Viva La Hova, Urban’s Jay-Z and Coldplay love child. Or maybe you heard Urban’s latest creation that’s been buzzing around the World Wide Web as he brought the late David Bowie and Biggie Smalls together for “Biggie Stardust,” a track that celebrates two music greats. DJ Terry Urban and I were able to chat for a moment about his emergence to the scene, how he keeps the creativity flowing and what treasures he’s been working on…
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In the beginning, Terry Urban led a double life. By day, Urban was a landscaper, planting trees and digging ditches to make rent. By night, Urban was a DJ, working the crowd in Cleveland’s top clubs. “I was working two jobs and it got to the point where I was making more money DJing than landscaping. I started working at the radio station 107.9 in Cleveland too and it just took off from there,” reflects Urban.
Urban’s career was reaching a plateau in his Midwest hometown, however. Urban wanted to go further with his music career so he decided to pack up and move to New York City. He befriended DJ Mick Boogie, a mixtape guru, that showed Urban the ropes. “He’s a real smart business guy and he kind of showed me the ways and then I went my own route as far as branding myself. It’s difficult. People will be like, “Oh man, you don’t work.” But no, I do work. I work constantly. I’m managing a small business,” shares Urban.
Urban is a self-taught DJ and he credits his understanding of the craft as what sets him apart in a saturated field. “Pick up a turntable and learn the craft. To be a DJ you have to carry people on the floor and you have to keep the vibe rolling and rolling. DJing is still an art form. I honestly think some people don’t know what a DJ is. It’s not just pushing buttons,” says Urban.
Keeping the creative juices flowing and staying motivated is difficult for a DJ. Urban claims the DJ circuit is not as creative as it used to be because most clubs will only play the Top 40 catalog today. “As far as saturation goes, I’m almost embarrassed to call myself a DJ now. I’ve kind of switch paths a little bit. Last year, was a change for me. I started painting. I don’t think the creativity was there anymore. When I started painting, my mind went blown. Not only did it open my mind about art, and painting, and being positive and being openminded to others, but it also made me creative in music as well because that’s when I dropped that FKA twigs/Biggie album,” shares Urban.
During Urban’s creative slump, he began to paint only listening to FKA twigs' LP1 album and found inspiration from the London siren. “She’s a performer. She captivates you. She makes you think differently and anyone who can make you think differently is an artist. Anyone that can move you into that realm, make you first hate them and then love them afterward, is an artist. I was captivated by her,” says Urban.
The album, FKA Biggie, brings together two very different artists and creates a cohesive sound that doesn’t seem possible. FKA twig’s ambient jazz flow seems incompatible when matched with Biggie’s hard East Coast vibe, but that’s not the case at all. After listening, you wish Biggie and FKA twigs could actually jam out together in the studio and make more magic.
“You would think the album took me forever to do, but I did it all in 2 weeks. It was so easy. I was so surprised. Her stuff was so unique and so simplistic, you know? So, it was so easy to sample. You had to be able to be open minded to those kind of sounds. You know when you hear a hip-hop beat, it’s all the same. It’s 4, 8, 16 bars, intro, rap, hook, intro, rap, hook, but on this one, I was like, “I’m doing what I want to do,”” shares Urban.
For Urban, producing records to make hits is not his priority. Urban produces projects that he likes. For instance, he grew up on hip-hop, punk, rock and country music so combining these genres into a mashup comes natural for the DJ. “It’s weird. People talk crap about mashups all the time. I look at it as a mashup, but I also see it as I’m just sampling. You can look at any hip-hop artist that has sampled something, like Kanye West. They’re sampling something, so every hip-hop song is a mashup, you see what I’m saying? I think it’s because there are so many mashups that aren’t done well that people tend to be like, “Okay this is terrible.” But if you do it correctly people will listen,” says Urban.
And people should listen. Urban has a talent of bringing unsuspecting people together from all across the music world to create a different masterpiece that’s refreshing.
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*Unfortunately, SoundCloud has since terminated Urban's account due to legality issues. Visit terryurban.com directly for the goods.