Inside Contraband – an interview with DJ ThruDaRoof

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In November, I was blessed with the opportunity to interview Mr. Philip Thomas, also known as DJ Thrudaroof. Thomas is a native of Louisville, Kentucky. With his entertainment group, Dreamteam Entertainment, he has been able to establish a brand that offers patrons top-shelf nightlife. These events showcase how adept he and his partners have become at entertaining.

Sherman Smith, Columnist: How did the name DJ Thrudaroof come about?

Philip Thomas – Well, it’s a crazy story. It started as DJ Teezy. I went on tour with Hurricane (now known as Hurraseason. Hurraseason is a rap artist from Louisville, Kentucky) when he had the “Birthday Song”. At the time he had several deals on the table. We went out and he said that he wanted to switch my name up. He was like, “What’s the name of y’alls company?” and I told him “Thru Da Roof Entertainment”. I wasn’t feeling it at first, I thought that shit was corny. He told me that it would grow on me and people would really take to it. Fast forward a few months and I did a mixtape, “DJ Teezy VS DJ Thrudaroof”, and from there it really took off.

Hurraseason and DJ Thrudaroof

Hurraseason and DJ Thrudaroof

SS: When did you start Thru Da Roof Entertainment?

PT: Shit, in ‘04. Actually, it was May ‘04. At Zenith Cafe, shit it was actually right next to Prime (Lounge). That was when we started and it was free for everybody. We had little paper flyers, the little colored joints man *laughter*.

SS: Was that when you started DJ’ing or was it a little while later?

PT: Nah, that was a little while later man. I started up DJ’ing when we was at Yuri’s. It really started picking up when we were doing little college parties but it basically came from paying DJ’s to do our parties. We figured out that there wasn’t a reason to be paying anyone to do it when they didn’t have any energy, no hop about themselves. I’ll never forget the situation at one of our parties. I won’t put his name out there but he basically had two DVD players and the remote controls with them…

SS: *Laughter*

PT: I knew that I could do better than that man, you know. I hollered at (DJ) Kaos and went from there.

SS: Was it easy to pick up and learn or did it take you a while?

PT: I picked up on it pretty quickly. I’ve played piano since I was 6 and then I got into percussion instruments. DJ’ing (parties) is about catching that beat and rhythm & knowing a little about music…I can read music notes…and being able to be around Kaos and always looking over his shoulder, carrying his crates.

SS: Kaos has really been a big influence on you…

PT: Hell yeah man, you know. When it comes to DJ’ing in the city of Louisville, you’re not going to find many DJ’s bigger than Kaos.

SS: How big of an influence do you think he has on Louisville?

PT: Without him…well I mean, someone would have come along….but he definitely raised the bar and set the standard for DJ’s here. To me, he impacted it to the point where he raised the bar so high that nobody can even touch him. You know, I was able to make my mark because I had him as a mentor. I basically mimicked him. It’s fortunate and unfortunate at the same time because there really ain’t too many DJ’s that can sit back and do it like us. Not being cocky or arrogant but, it’s like the total package. But yeah man, he definitely had a major impact and raised the bar and provided Louisville the ability to see what a total package looks like when it comes to DJ’ing.

SS: When did you realize that you were becoming one of the top DJ’s in the city and region and then nationwide?

PT: Well I dropped my first mixtape. And I realized I carried a lot of weight when a DJ came at me saying that I couldn’t be a promoter and a DJ and I can’t do this, you can’t DJ if you do that. When somebody says I can’t do something, I’m going to do it. So, I dropped a mixtape and I made it a point…everyone was making tapes and putting them out, you know, dropping them on tables at the club and shit…and I made it a point to really see what my worth was. I got 2000 mixtapes and gave away 500. Sold 1500. I mean, it was crazy and that’s when I figured out that I was onto something locally. The region, it kind of got big…shit, when I started messing with Hurricane and he had two big songs. I got a chance to listen to other DJ’s and I was like, ‘Nah, they don’t do it like me’…we had went to Lexington and Nashville and Cincinnati, some little pockets in Ohio…and I’d be on the bill of a show with someone and mess around and keep going and that’s when I really figured out that I could really hold my own in the region. When I figured that it was pretty big was when I started getting booked outside of Louisville and it wasn’t that I was calling them, they were reaching out to Hurricane and T. Camp. Those cities and little pockets in them states…

SS: They want to see who you are and what you’re about…

PT: Yeah, yeah, exactly…and as far as nationally, you know I’m still working on that national level…that’s still something that I’m working on. And it’s hard to do that because there are so many states and so many cities and so many DJ’s. But, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of people and they know my name in the industry. I’ve been able to build relationships with people as far as promotion wise and dealing with them that way or even spinning with them…like out in LA during all-star weekend when we had a party out there. You know, not only kicking it with people but building relationships with DJ Drama and DJ Holiday…

DJ Thrudaroof & DJ Drama and Donegans Pub in Louisville, KY ca 2010

DJ Thrudaroof & DJ Drama and Donegans Pub in Louisville, KY ca 2011

SS: What do you think has been the greatest ally as a DJ? Has it been your background in promotion and being able to run the business side? Or has it been your personality and charisma as a person? A lot of times it’s not what you know or who you know, but who knows you and if you make a name for yourself then people are more willing to do business with you because of who you are.

PT: Thats a good question…shit, cause it can go both ways. But I know business wise, when you spend money with people then that’s going to help any relationship and I’m DJ Thrudaroof and co-CEO of my company…but when we do that, that opens up a lot of avenues for me as far as DJ’ing so of course spending money and the promotional side does but I have found that my charisma and personality have helped me to build on and maintain these relationships. I don’t want to buy any ones friendships or buy anyones help or be cool with them because I am able to spend some money with you and bring you here or there…I want you to mess with me for me so it’s not about us booking you or spending money with you all of the time, you know. I really think my personality and charisma plays the largest role because it’s real. I know people that are millionaires and don’t have any personality. It’s something that you either have or you don’t and money can’t buy that.

Meek Mill and DJ Thrudaroof, Gillespie 2012

Meek Mill and DJ Thrudaroof, Gillespie 2012

SS: How do you react or how do you remain non-reactive to people that don’t enjoy your personality? A lot of people are douchbags and look at someone that is on the rise and they dislike it…What do you do to look past the people who hate?

PT: I’m just now learning this & it shows from a current situation that we just had…When you’re a person like me…I love the people that are in my life. I wear my heart on my sleeve and when people do things that affect myself or my family, it spills over to my craft. I love whatever I do…If I had a hog farm and someone said “His pigs aren’t like any other pigs on any other farm”..I take pride in everything that me and my team and family do. So when people take shots…I used to be one to fire back but now I just let people talk, let them form their own opinions and just sit back. The more you feed into it, the more turmoil it brings. Even people who say things about you on social networks or in the barbershop, nine out of ten of those people…those are people that must not truly know you if that’s not who you truly are. Most times people are upset and playing off of emotions, and they have the right to their own opinion even if it doesn’t amount to anything. Either they are going to get tired of hating or buy into what I’m doing…I’m close to 5000 followers on Instagram and Twitter because of that shit *Laughter*

SS: *Laughter* All publicity is good publicity

PT: Yeah, man *Laughter* all publicity is good publicity. Bring that shit, keep doing it. I need more followers so I can keep getting these checks.

SS: I understand that. Keeping a cool head and remaining calm, it kind of prevails…

PT: Yeah definitely man, DJ’ing and being in the promotion game. If you don’t keep ypur cool in this game there’s a lot of bad and ugly shit that can happen. Business wise, street wise, industry wise; you can be blackballed. You definitely want to keep a cool head and not make any permanet decisions on temporary feelings.

SS: I assume that your promotional knowledge enables you to take full control of your DJ’ing…how does it help you run your business DJ’ing?

PT: It took it from 0 to 100 real quick. Our promotional game is really strong and something that we’re really good with and it pretty much got me where I’m at, especially through the connects that I’ve made throwing parties and events. A lot of these DJ’s, and this is a lesson, they are comfortable with waiting on a check at the end of the night opposed to cutting their own check. Packing up and waiting on someone to pay you, that’s wack. When you do your own event, you don’t have to worry about getting paid, you can enjoy yourself and worry about counting your money tomorrow. That’s where the promotion tip has helped me to look at it on both sides, so I can figure out what kind of product that I have to present in order to continue to get booked and be able to charge the prices that I do. As a promoter I’m looking outside of the house but as a DJ I can understand how the promoter feels on a bad night, so instead of putting pressure on them i can find a way to make it work for them.

DJ Thrudaroof and Co-CEO of Dreamteam Ent Richard Ballard

DJ Thrudaroof and Co-CEO of Dreamteam Ent Richard Ballard

SS: You are one of the more expensive DJ’s in the state. A lot of DJ’s have been in it much longer and there are even people that would be considered a better DJ than you…How have you been able to put your worth and your value above all of these DJ’s? Why are you able to charge what you charge in comparison to nationally known DJ’s and those that have been out?

PT: It’s simple man. I respect the DJ craft as a hustle and an art, but just like everything else, things change. Equipment changes. Ford doesn’t make the same Fusions from 2002. I try to stay relavent with the times as a DJ and made it a point to rock the crowd, and that’s the most important thing and that has what has held me over as far as DJ’s in this market. My prices are what they are for a reason…I bring a great product.

SS: …and you know your worth.

PT: Exactly

SS: When did you realize that you were worth what you are worth?

PT: It’s real simple man. When someone books me and I’m setting up and it’s not my party but people are contacting me because I’m DJ’ing the party…I knew I was worth something when that happened. I’m in a city that I’m not from and have 20 people texting me “I have 3, 4 people with me. Can you get me in?”. To me that adds up the numbers and from my name alone, I can bring out an extra 100 people or whatever the case may be. That’s when I knew that, “Damn I’m worth something.”

SS: What other things do you do besides DJ?

PT: Shit, you know I got to keep direct deposit and a 401K. I loved Monopoly as a kid and always dreamed of being a banker. Being a banker, it touches so many different things. There’s so much that I’ve learned from banking as far as running a business. Hell, Me and Rich (Co-CEO of Dreamteam Entertainment) we have to have been the youngest in the city to own two clubs and a restaurant, all before the age of 24. There’s not many people that can say that they did all of that before 24 years old and thats without any dope money involved, not anything illegal, just hard earned grind. Not knocking anyone that hustles because you have to eat and I definitely respect them, but Rich and I really take pride in the fact that we’ve never robbed, stolen, sold drugs or did anything like that to fulfill our dreams. It means a lot to me. We have land that we own, houses and things…

SS: How difficult is it to balance your home and family life with your business dealings?

PT: It used to be easy because I did exactly what I wanted to do and you know just from being around me. I was young and wild. Now, people see the way that it is on a boring wednesday night like this…they don’t understand Chase (Philip’s youngest son) or Caleb (Philip’s eldest son) picking out school clothes. You’ve got to really get a hold to it and understand that if you’re going to be in difficult situations an you have to put a limit to it. It can really ruin your life…promoting and DJ’ing, it can really hurt peoples families if you don’t have the strong pieces like I’ve got that hold them together. I’ve been through so much in this. I lost my mama in this promotion business. Me being in the clubs, having jewelry and cars and money, I ended up losing my mother off the back of shit. Even my Wifey took a bullet over this. When my mother died you know, it tore up my whole family and you just have to be very careful when you’re trying to balance this stuff and make sure that you’re doing it for all of the right reasons. Nothing should ever take precedent over the home.

SS: It’s a pretty hard life to lead…

PT: Yeah man, when you’re out making money and do the things that you do. Being able to go to the clubs and different cities and hop on planes…when you’re able to do all of this stuff man, it’s just hard to kind of say no to it but you’ve got to keep in mind that your family and your household come first. When you finally realize that…and you believe in it, that’s when you get the balance.

SS: Is your life hard on your kids or do they benefit from it?

PT: Aw man the kids love it man. They love hearing their daddy and uncles on the radio and seeing us on tv with different artists and celebrities…and that’s fun. & If I can do that and bring joy to my family…it’s worth it.

SS: Is there anything that you regret over the past years?

PT: I mean, I won’t say regret because I don’t want to ever regret anything. But, there are some situations in my life that came from this club scene that I could have been a little bit more wise and smarter. Especially when dealing with women. This club scene…can put you in some crazy situations. You’ve got to think with the right head. And if you don’t, you can be put in a situation that can really affect lives. & sometimes even affecting lives that aren’t here yet and they have to grow up in a fucked up situation. But yeah man, there are a lot of situations that I have been in where I wish that I had been a lot smarter. I can deal with any mistake as a man, so it’s not a regret, but a better decision could have been made.

SS: Hindsight is always 20/20

PT: Hell yeah, hell yeah.

SS: I wish I would have went this way instead of this way or did this or not did that, but it is what it is…you can’t change anything. Got to keep it moving. What are some of the most memorable moments that you’ve had as a DJ?


SS: I know you’ve had a whole bunch of them! * laughter*

PT: *Laughter*

SS: But what’s one of the most memorable moments that you’ve had?

PT: Man it would have to be when I was able to be on tour with the GS Boyz. They had the number one single on 106 and Park, they had the number one single in the country. We had brought them here once and from there we linked up. They hit me and said that I should meet them in Chicago and then North Carolina and then we ended up getting on tour with them. I’ll never forget it man, we was at Bojangles Arena in front of 20,000 people man. On the show it was Jeezy, TI, Young Buck, GS Boyz and Pastor Troy. & don’t get me wrong, Jay-Z is Jay-Z but at the time he wasn’t who he is now. This was when Jeezy was like JEEZY

SS: Nigga was big..

PT: Yeah, Jeezy and TI we’re both big. At that time, I was like 22. We all had our sound checks and shit and we killed ours so well that the promoter of the show liked ours so much that he told GS Boyz manager that he was gonna move our set, so I got to really rock a show with Jeezy and TI man. I just wish Instagram and Facebook were really popping, I believe that situation would have been much bigger.

SS: How important has social media been to building your brand…

PT: Aw man, social media is crazy. You got energy, water and then social media. You cant live without social media.

SS: *Laughter*

PT: Say what you want to say but you know, and people might hate it but aye…you can’t live without some type of social media today. There’s 90 year old people that I know that are on Facebook. At first I thought it was monkey man, taking pictures of everything that I do and posting videos and shit. But, as a DJ when you’re trying to get booked and move around, that’s a way…people fall in love off of social media and thats a way to get around, people like your personality & what you do. That’s what gets you booked. I think it’s monkey as hell…taking pictures of every damn thing; I don’t even have any memory in my phone. But shit, if you want to move then you’ve got to be on it.

SS: What do you think people should utilize so they can be successful as well?

PT: Man, the main thing…shit, just what I was telling Fresh the other day…and Fresh man, DJ Fresh, dudes killing shit man. For real. & for him to hit me up like “Man, you’re the first person I called, I don’t even know what to do. I just got off the phone with Tony Neal, Core DJ’s…I just wanted to tell you man he put me in Core DJ’s bruh”…I mean right there man, just being humble man. Starting off, just being humble. Never feel like you’re better or bigger than anyone, but at the same time that doesn’t mean that you have to be accessible to everyone. Have that grind, that want. Want to get to the next level…be better than you are, the last party, the last event. Being humble, keeping your grind, being strategic and brand yourself.

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