“I was scared as hell,” says DJ Al Pete about his first DJ gig at a wedding. Prior to the wedding, he’d won $1,000 on the Doug Banks morning show and used the money to purchase basic Disc Jockey equipment. He then used that same equipment to DJ the wedding gig. Looking back, Al describes his first gig as very basic. “I don’t even know how I got the call,” he says. “All I know is I played some music and in a few hours I’d made 250 bucks.” And just like that, it seemed the doors began to open for Pete, as more people began to offer him DJ gigs. That was 10 years ago. On July 12th, at 1904 Music Hall, DJ Al Pete will host a party in celebration of his 35th birthday and 10 years as a DJ.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Al Pete a few weeks ago while enjoying the I Love Music Festival Tour at The Jacksonville Landing and speak to him about his experience in the business, the ups, the downs and his growth in the last 10 years. Although Pete began his journey as a DJ 10 years ago when Grown Folks Entertainment was established, his true musical origin really began with the inspiration of his uncle and mentor Tru.Ski around the age of nine. During that time Tru.Ski was a DJ who rapped and produced music. “He made it seem cool,” says Pete. “Everything he did, from lacing up his shoes to music, he just had a certain swag or aura about himself.” Through the example of Tru.Ski, Al took his own journey into the music life. He started off rapping in neighborhood freestyle battles. He was the kid at the house party switching CD’s out to keep the vibe going.
“I would act as radio personalities to keep the pace of the party going,” said Al. Even at an early age he seemed to be a natural at capturing the crowd through music and his personality. He seemed to have a knack for knowing how to cater to the crowd. Although Al Pete seemed like a natural with the crowds, part of his musical journey involved a lot of research. “One day I called a studio to find out what all I needed to do to record a track,” he says. “At that time I didn’t realize there was so much more than simply having a beat and some lyrics.” It was from that day on he also realized that his process would require a lot of dedication and a lot more homework to prepare. “I was looking at the outside things that made it all look easy,” he says. “But in truth, a lot of work goes into it.”
Over the years, one thing he says that has helped him grow was the fact that he was willing to learn and study the art of music and entertainment. Understanding what to take away from failures and mistakes is something else that has kept Al Pete grounded the last decade. “I’m big on studying shortcomings and learning from them,” he says. It also helps that he’s had fans that have been with him from the beginning. These fans have seen him grow, and have had the opportunity to grow with him. Being in the industry has also taught many valuable lessons that he applies to both his work and personal life.
“Communication is very important. It’s important to rock with people that have the same vision as you.” “Don’t waste anyone’s time if you’re not going to be dedicated,” he says. “There are some things you’re just going to have to believe in first before anyone else will.” Al explained there are some things no one else can do for you. The dedication must begin within. Pete also stays away from people who don’t share his vision. These are the people he refers to as “leeches,”who suck the life out of you. As Grown Folk
Entertainment enters into another year of business, Al Pete is looking for more ways to give back to his community. Eventually Al Pete hopes “to see [my music] grow into other areas of the world,” taking it beyond Jacksonville. Through his music he hopes to bring people back to the essence of hip-hop. “I just want to put back into the hip-hop culture, what hip-hop gave me,” he says. Al Pete has several projects he’s currently working on. One of them is the album G3.5 in collaboration with local artist Notsucal. He considers G3.5 to be a part two to G3.0 released in December of 2009. As of now there isn’t a specified release date.