Kay Gee Interview: Illtown Sluggaz Project, Leah Jenea, Divine Mill Reflections, Naughty by Nature Success
DJ Kay Gee has always been an innovator. After establishing his legendary foundation as part of Naughty by Nature, he soon founded his own label Divine Mill and created stars like Next, Jaheim, and Zhane. His next generation of stars is shaping up to be just as exciting. The producer has recently announced the Illtown Sluggaz project, which culminated with new artist Leah Jenea reaching the finals on the TV talent show The Four. Her lead single “Pefectly Imperfect” benefited a great cause, and placed herself squarely on our radar as one to watch. Kay Gee’s drive is as intense as ever, and love for the music is unmatched. Oh, and the label even has a mascot. YouKnowIGotSoul had a chance to interview him once again and discussed the roll out for the new label, where he finds his passion, his new artist Leah Jenea, what to expect on the Illtown Sluggaz project, and much more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Talk about the Illtown Sluggaz project and label you’ve been rolling out.
Kay Gee: This is the idea of us just rocking crowds and having fun. Even coming in here, as soon as I step off tour and the road, I get into the studio with my crew. I just felt like we might as well put together a DJ production driven album. We just started working on records and putting stuff together and it started evolving. We said we need a hype man, so we grabbed Vin (of Naughty by Nature) and he became a part of it. That’s what we’re starting off doing. We’re going to hype up some of these shows and parties. Also, when we started putting Slugga into the mix as the Naughty mascot and producer, that made it even easier. That kind of really pushed that idea out front for us.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Tell us about your artist Leah Jenea who was recently on The Four. You released her single and had the benefits of it go to a great cause.
Kay Gee: A lot of our family members in East Orange and beyond are dealing with autism. We got with an organization called Nassan’s Place from our hometown in East Orange and we felt like we wanted to do something to help them out. We got with Leah and put together the song “Perfectly Imperfect”, which was produced by the Illtown Sluggaz crew. We needed to do something caused base for this cause. It hits home because I have a little cousin and bunch of family members. A lot of us have family members dealing with autism. We wanted to do something for that. Most importantly, we wanted to support Nassan’s Place, a local organization. We sat down with the owner, and she told us how she felt like New Jersey in particular wasn’t really helping out as the bigger organizations were getting helped. We thought it would be perfect to give back. We’ve always been looking for a cause like that to get involved with, and it was the perfect one.
YouKnowIGotSoul: How would you compare the new crop of artists you’ve discovered, to when you were coming up with your Divine Mill label with artists like Next, Jaheim, and Zhane?
Kay Gee: The new younger generation doesn’t really compare. It’s a different time. I don’t want to put that pressure on them. I just think they are just as talented, and at the end of the day, it’s all about talent. That’s what I’m looking for, before all of the hype and social media and numbers, if you could walk through this door and sing your behind off and you have talent, that’s what it’s all about. That’s what took me so long to put this project together or even work with new artists. It’s just finding the right talent and people out there not thinking they could do this just because they have one million followers. Me, as far as what I was looking for, was great talent. Right now, we definitely have a new wave of fresh young driven talent coming at you.
YouKnowIGotSoul: We have so much respect for what you do, touring every weekend with Naughty by Nature, and then being in the studio all week working with new artists. What motivates you?
Kay Gee: It’s the young artists. The same thing that when I was driven in the 90’s wanting to get Naughty by Nature out there, wanting to get Zhane out there, wanting to get Jaheim out there, wanting to get Next, all of those artists. Those artists gave me the energy, and that’s the same thing now, along with the production crew that I have in here now. That youthful energy, you can’t match that drive and love for music. There was a time when I just didn’t have that drive anymore. I’d just go home off tour and sit down at home and wait for the weekend and do another show. Now, I come home and I can’t wait to get into the studio after tour and work with these young cats and producers. Doing what I love to do. I feel like it’s like I first started all over again. I’ve got that same drive and love for it again. It feels good.
YouKnowIGotSoul: How have you evolved your sound over the years to match the current sounds in production?
Kay Gee: I think that to be competitive today versus trying to change up your style or do whatever, it’s just not being stubborn. Understand what’s going on now and what sounds the kids like. How do kids like the speed of music nowadays? I’ve always thought of club music as fast records and dance records. Now it’s not that. Just understand music as a whole and that times have changed, not being stubborn. At the same time, good music is going to win at the end of the day. If you’ve got great melodies and great music, it will win. To me, it doesn’t matter.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Looking back on Divine Mill, it was such a special time in r&b, and you did something special introducing us to some amazing artists. How do you reflect back on that accomplishment?
Kay Gee: I think that time in r&b was an opportune time and I feel blessed and grateful enough to be in that space in that time. I feel like it was a great chance to give the world my spin on what I grew up on. I grew up on r&b. I knew a lot of people when I came out as Naughty by Nature, didn’t expect my first project produced to be r&b. That’s what I grew up on. I grew up on club music. Coming up in New Jersey, they play a lot of club music. I understood the music side, but at the same time, I was introduced to music by my parents who played a lot of the classic r&b artists. It was instilled in me from day one to really go that route from the door. If you even listen to the production style that I did even on Naughty by Nature, it was a lot of musical stuff. To be honest, those were r&b grooves.
Watch the video above to hear the rest of the interview