DJ Dirty Harry talks music production, creating his early mixtapes, working with Alicia Keys and winning a Grammy.
First off, I just want to thank you for supporting New York Said podcast. Yesterday, July 15th made 5 years since the first episode was published. In that time I’ve had the honor and privilege to talk to all kinds of New Yorkers from all walks of life. And on this crazy journey of ours, I’ve learned a lot. I hope and pray that you have too, because uhm, that’s the whole point this project.
If you’re an avid listener to the show, it’s rare these days that I give intros to guests or even speak before the episode begins. This is because, I don’t want to ruin the surprise of getting to know the guest in their own words. I also like when shows “get right to it” and so I do my best to provide that same energy to ya’ll.
Today’s guest is a DJ Dirty Harry. Harry is easily one of biggest creative influences and to keep it super extra funky, his work was the first time I was truly impacted by art. No, he doesn’t paint, tag or create sculptures in the traditional sense of art but he does apply some of those same techniques in the process of creating his mixtapes.
Let me go back for second.
In 1994, I was I sixteen, in high school and I was a huge lover of music because my family played it literally 24/7. When I say non-stop, I mean all day and all night. The radio in the kitchen never turned off, ever. We called it the hood ADT.
After school I worked in a barbershop called Untouchables on Merrick BLVD in Queens. Not as a barber but as that kid who swept the floor and cleaned the bathroom, for a whopping $60 per week. Yeah that wasn’t a lot money, even for back then but it wasn’t about the money. Looking back it was about keeping me out of trouble and learning from the barbers that were much older than me, who were essentially my big brothers, my OGs, my real OGs, like Big Mike, Wiz, Big Kev and June to name a few.
Everyday, all day they’d play the radio, watch Video Music Box and listen to ton of mixtapes. Whenever my big brothers weren’t paying attention to a certain tape, I’d run it to my house, make a copy and bring it back before they knew the mixtape was missing. Of course I bought my own mixtapes off The Ave but making dubs or copies was one of the ways I grew my collection. These mixtapes were by the likes of DJ Clue, Doggtime, Envy, Ron G, Grandmaster Vic, Belly, DooWop, Double R & G-Bo the Pro, Lazy K, Sage, Jadel and Mister Rello and so many others.
I’m an old head so I don’t expect many people to understand what a blend tape is. The majority of the DJ names that I just mentioned are all blend masters. The basic definition of a blend is when you take an a-cappella, meaning just the vocal of a song without the music behind it, and you take another instrumental, a song without the vocal or singing, and marrying them together.
A classic example of a blend would be to take the song We Can Make It Alright by the Gap Band, just the vocal now of Charlie Wilson singing and combine it with the beat or instrumental of Raekwon’s Incarcerated Scarfaces. The combination of those two very different songs is called a blend. Record twenty or so blends to a cassette and now you have a Blend Tape. Classic, dope and still listen to their tapes/cds to this very day.
But the first time I heard DJ Dirty Harry’s take on the blend tape, it blew my mind. It blew my mind because Harry added audio layers of sound effects, impactful speeches from civil rights icons, and films clips that were mixed in with hip hop or R&B. This thoughtful curation of orchestration of organized noise is what created beautiful audible soundscapes that elevated the modern mixtape. Harry was painting pictures with sound and taking me out of the hood with loops and song combinations that were not on the radio or on other mixtapes. And whatever hidden messages Harry was putting down in those mixes, I was picking up.
I didn’t follow sports, I didn’t collect or read comics but I did collect and study Dirty Harry tapes and I wasn’t even trying to be DJ. It was deeper than just being a fan of the work, these tapes sparked critical thinking and the inspired me to attempt to have the same ingenuity when diving into my professional and personal projects.
I haven’t done it yet but it has been my goal for years, to create a film or a piece of art that impacts someone the same way I was impacted the first time I heard DJ Dirty Harry’s Make My Day tape.
Yo, seriously, thanks again for listening and supporting New York Said all these years. Rate the show on Apple Podcast, tell a friend or just let someone know that we exist. We have about 200+ interviews on the site, from super famous people, to that guy trying to strong arm people into buying his mixtape in front of Radio City Music Hall. Yeah, we did an episode with him too!
Anyway, I’m out, see ya next week!
USB Boxset | Remastered the Tapes | DAT | Pro Tools | Flow and Feel | No Unnecessary Updates | Designmajorz | Cornerstone Mixtapes | Grandmaster Flash | High Quality MP3’s | GrandMaster Vic | Latin Rascals | Marley Marl | Jam Master Jay | Cold Crush Brothers | Blend from ’86 | First Mixtape Dropped in ’94 | DJ Belly | DJ Sage | Ron G | KissFM | WBLS | The Fat Boys | Make My Day Tape | Queens All Day | Queens Get The Money | The Set-Up | Doggtime | First Party He Ever Booked | That Opening Blend | The Intro | Higher Frequency | Salaam Remi | Put the Battery in Ya Back | My Life | Berlin | The Whole Shebang | Angie Martinez | DMX | MPC | Early Mixtapes was all Vinyl | Learned to Produce by Recreating Instrumentals | Method Man ft. Run DMC, Jam Master Jay – In The Beginning | One Man Show | DJ Green Lantern | DJ VLAD | Krucial Keys | Alicia Keys | A DJ First | Got Some Real Learning To Do | Djing for Slick Rick | Doing Ikea Commercials | Nas Living Legends | A & R | The Making of Alicia Keys No One | Winning A Grammy | Focus on One Thing | Master Your Craft then Move on to the Next Thing | Gangsta CDs | Just Play the Hits | Mash Ups | Playing All Kinds of Music | King Tim III – Fat Back Band | The Influence of his Uncle | Being a Black Man in American isn’t Easy, the Hunt is On and You’re the Prey | Sending Messages in the Mix | Dead Prez | The Art of Noise | Jazmine Sullivan – Fear | Making of the Fear video| Powaqqatsi | Koyaanisqatsi | Did She See the Video | Love All Artistry | Ras-T – Nine Six Million Dollar Man (1996) | The Impact of Dirty Harry | Do You Have Anymore of This | Love Life | Grateful for Everything | You Never Know Who You’re Impacting | Stay Humble | Help Someone
About DJ Dirty Harry
Mike Harry a.k.a. DJ Dirty Harry started out as a mixtape DJ. Dirty Harry’s mix-tapes became so popular that renowned artists and celebrities quickly sought him out to do appearances on them! Artists such as Alicia Keys, 50 Cent, Sean ” P. Diddy” Combs, Nas, LL Cool J , Run DMC, Lauryn Hill, are a few of the people who have participated in mixtape collaborations with Harry so far.
Within a few years Dirty Harry received the Justo’s “MixtapeBrucie Bee/Starchild Award”,
which honors lifetime achievements in the mixtape field. He was also honored with “Mixtape of the Year” awards from Vibe Magazine, and from XXL magazine. Harry then won another “Justo Mixtape Award” for his “2Pac: Rap Phenomenon” mixtape, a collaboration with DJ Green Lantern and DJ Vlad.
Dirty Harry has transformed into an Artist, party/radio dj, producer and songwriter. Harry won the ASCAP Pop Music Award in both 2008 & 2009 and the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Award for 2008. Dirty Harry’s most prestigious award though, is the GRAMMY Award, which he received for his production on the Alicia Key’s hit record, “No-One”.