Interview: DJ Mustard

LA’s club king makes friends in New York.

Photographer Nathanael Turner
November 20, 2013


On Monday, 23-year-old hit factory Dijon "DJ Mustard" McFarlane announced a new deal with Roc Nation, the New York-based company that will back his ambition to play big arenas and ratchet music to non-LA radio. He stopped by FADER offices and talked about why rap DJs shouldn't have to switch to EDM, his role in Jay Z's controversial Barneys collaboration and taking his time in 2014.

Your songs, singles and tape cuts dominate LA hip-hop radio. Why do you think they haven't they impacted in the same way in New York? It's just dumb, how you can have the number 1 record in Los Angeles and not have the number 1 record in New York? It's crazy. I can't put that on the radio DJs though. I feel like that's because of the labels. But shit, now my record is gonna get played because Roc Nation, they fuck with me. They let me do what I want. It's not like I'm signed to somebody and I don't know anybody at the office. I got everybody’s number, I got everybody's e-mail, and when I want something to get done I can call.

Jay Z recruited you to make music for his new Barneys collection installation. Did he bring you into Roc Nation? I haven't met Jay Z yet. Every time me and Jay are supposed to meet, he's doing something or I'm doing something. I'll probably meet him out here. I know he approved that I can get signed to Roc Nation. But I'm real close with [Roc Nation co-founder and president] Jay Brown. Jay Brown brought me in.

After news broke that Barneys had improperly detained two black shoppers, and some called for Jay Z to pull out of his collaboration with them, he renegotiated the terms so 100 percent of profits would benefit his charity. With all that attention, how did you feel about being involved in the project? I feel like sometimes people just want stuff to say. Jay Z’s not making money from the collection, that's going to a charity. Racial profiling is wrong; they need to fire the employees that were there [during the incidents in question]. But people don’t need to take that out on Jay Z, or the whole of Barneys.

What did you make for the Barneys installation? I tried to create a sound that would paint a picture and match the images that would be on the walls. When you're in the actual store, you're gonna see trains, the subway, some New York shit like that. It's crazy, you gotta go see it. When you listen, you’re not gonna think I did the beat.

Why'd Jay ask a West Coast guy to make music about New York? I don't want people to think that just because I do club records, I can't do an album record or an R&B single. I can do R&B, I do pop, I do whatever—but it’s still Mustard. I'm supposed to work with Rihanna in December, so that'll be dope. I'm just real in-tune with music—I really listen to R&B more than I listen to rap. All this club shit I be doing, I don't listen to that in my car. You gotta sometimes mix shit up and be prepared to do whatever. On tapes, you have to talk to the girls too. Most of the time that's what wins, when you do stuff for girls.

"Our hip-hop DJs are trying to do EDM. But I’m gonna keep doing what I regularly do."

When you announced your Roc Nation deal, you said you wanted to perform like David Guetta does. Has the popularity of EDM negatively impacted rap DJs? It's almost like people don't respect hip-hop. Well, I don't know if it's that; I don't know what it is. I just know that even our hip-hop DJs are trying to do EDM. But I’m gonna keep doing what I regularly do. I’m gonna sell out the Staples center and sell out the Nokia center by DJing hip-hop music. Nobody has ever done that. And nobody focuses on trying to do that, because they see David Guetta, deadmau5, Baauer,  Diplo— they’re seeing all that and they're just like, Oh shit, money, I'm going that way! Instead of just trying to do that with regular music.

Have you played at EDM festivals? I went to the Hard Fest, that shit was hard; 2 Chainz performed. Diplo is one of my homies. I was supposed to go on Baauer's tour with him but I had just got off tour with YG and I just kind of wanted to be in the studio so I didn't end up going. But I’ll play at EDM festivals.

Both times I saw you play this year, you were pretty unflappable. Are you mature for 23? Kinda. My Uncle DJT, he's a big DJ in LA. He taught me how to keep my composure and how to do shows. He was like my father figure, because my dad got deported when I was young. My dad lives in Jamaica now. I talk to him sometimes.

Sometimes you gotta keep beating people upside the head with music until they get the picture. I want to take my time with Ketchup 2 and release it in like, May or June. I did Ketchup in one month. I didn't put my whole force in it—I was just trying to give people a tape because I had kept putting out dates and not fulfilling the dates. So I just was like, Fuck it, I'm gonna put all the songs together and if it ain't right, I'm still putting it out. I needed to do that, just to get my own thing out there. I was always saying “I’m gonna do a tape,” but I was just so scared, like, Damn, what if I do a tape and it's whack? In the end, I love the tape I made. A lot of songs came off of it and a lot of people loved it, so that was cool.

Do you have plans for an LP with Roc Nation I'm not planning yet. When you plan stuff, it's so easy to fuck it up. Hopefully I just catch a major single off of Ketchup 2 and we can turn that into an album around like, September or something. But you never know, so I'ma just be working. There's not gonna be a time that I'm not putting out music. I'm gonna drop a single any day now.

You and YG's current single is your second-best charting yet. I did YG's whole album. Or 90 percent— I did every single beat except for one or  two. You gotta hear it. In the past, we were just having fun, rapping wild, talking about LA shit. This time we really sat down and came to an agreement, and he really sat down and focused. The result is crazy. I’m so glad “My Nigga” hit like it has. I’d always tell YG, “When it’s your time bro, you’re gonna have it.” He’d be like, “Nigga, I don’t care, I need a record.” He finally got it.

Interview: DJ Mustard