DJ Outta Space Talks "Thug City," The Coalition DJs, and Why Strippers Are the Best A&Rs
Born in Los Angeles, and raised in Columbus, GA, DJ Outta Space has established himself as one of the go-to DJs for breaking records in ATL. The winner of the coveted Strip Club DJ of the Year at the 2015 Diamond Awards, Outta Space holds down residencies at Magic City, Blue Flame, Strokers, Pin Ups and Cream Ultra. Attending three colleges—Georgia State, Morehouse and Kennesaw State—in three years, his music grind soon outweighed his studies. While he did not graduate, he did link up with DJ Iceberg to begin throwing parties and established a promotion team that set a mighty brand in motion.
The late William “Nando” Barnes, co-founder of The Coalition DJs, took him under his wing, bringing Outta Space into the powerful music syndicate. Building on his successful Space James mixtape series, Outta Space's affiliation with the 808 Mafia has brought him into production, most notably with the recent release "Thug City" featuring a six-pack of street-certified artists: Young Sizzle, TM88, Nephew Texas Boy, Ethan Sacii & Spiker 808. Outta Space spoke with us about his come-up, the inner workings on ATL's strip club scene, and how he's carrying on since the untimely passing of his mentor.
Mass Appeal: What's good Outta Space? I understand you recently branched out from breaking records to making them. Tell me about your new track.
DJ Outta Space: Aw man, the track called "Thug City" that is produced by TM, TM made it in advance and basically on the record he decided [0:46-0:51]. But basically about the record it's just a fun record bro, it's something that I felt that no matter what city that you're in it was something that you could gravitate towards man just 'cause you could make it your own, you feel me? 'Cause you could feel like this is where Thug City for real, for real like it just started, I feel like it's a trend I could start.
So what is the real Thug City? Is it ATL?
What is the real Thug City? [Laughs] Nah, honestly man I never wanted to put an exact location on it. But of course the ATL would be the home base of Thug City 'cause that's where we at and that's where we get the motivation from.
No question. So what exactly are you doing on the track? You made the beat?
Actually I co-produced it with TM88 man and then I… The song was actually a dead song bro. It wasn't planned to be on a mixtape. It wasn't planned to be on anything. It was something we were just working on but when we got done with the record I was like, “This is a smash!” I had been working on my EP for a minute anyway and I was like, I think this would be the record for me that will kind of put me in the forefront when I finally drop the EP.
Are you a member of the 808 Mafia now?
Yes. I am actually the official DJ for the 808 Mafia but as far as the actual record it's under Big Purp Ent. That’s who I signed with as far as my indie distribution deal or whatnot. I’m repping Big Purp Ent but I am also a part of 808 Mafia.
808 Mafia is definitely one of the hottest production cliques in the game right now. How did you get down with them in the first place?
Probably around this time last year they just started coming out to the clubs more, and getting a vibe for the clubs. You know they always out here working. They started running to the clubs and every time they came in the clubs I was usually the DJ. And they started rocking with me and we just started building a relationship outside of that and you know I actually did the BET Awards last summer. So after I came back from Cali last summer we linked up and decided to make it official.
Was that the BET Hip Hop Awards?
Nah it was the actual BET Awards out there in Los Angeles last summer man. I was part of the BET experience, I got to DJ a few things out there.
So is that where it really all began for you—DJing parties?
I’d definitely have to say it was the parties, man. I started with my own promotion team which is… Every city has promotion teams but in particularly Atlanta has a lot of promo teams. About 5 or 6 years ago I started up a promo team just to give me the opportunity to DJ because once you first start DJing ain't nobody trying to rock with you like that. You gotta prove yourself so I kinda back-doored my way in. I made a promotion team to where I had gathered up enough of a crowd so that if you put me on the party it made sense 'cause I was bringing a different crowd.
You say it like it’s simple to do. How did you make a promotion team?
[Laughs] Nah, nah it wasn’t simple bro. Basically me and a group of my friends, we call ourselves Member Only, we basically got together and just branched out and reached out to people around us that we were cool with and that had the same interests. We just networked our way out of Kennesaw, Georgia into Atlanta. I was going to Kennesaw State at the time so I worked my way up. It definitely wasn't an easy process for sure but that’s the route I tried to go.
And then you got down with The Coalition DJs.
So what’s that all about?
I've been with The Coalition I think since 2011. I’ve been with The Coalition man, and it’s been crazy. I'm very humbled by the opportunity to work with these guys. These guys are OGs, the legends of the strip clubs in ATL and music period. You feel me? So they are responsible for a lot of people. I am basically the young guy so I call myself "the youngest in charge," I'm the youngin' out the group. So basically I got brought on by DJ Nando—long live DJ Nando, RIP. He was a big mentor for me. Once I first got into DJing man and I was intrigued by the strip clubs. I used to go to Onyx and go to Kamal's 21 and I used to just kick it with him, chill in the DJ booth and he basically put me up under his wing and showed me the ropes.
When you say you were intrigued by the strip clubs what was it: The girls or the music?
Nah it was the fact… Once I started DJing, me and DJ Iceberg learned that to be a good DJ, besides actually learning the turntables your song selection was a big key. And we started figuring out that half of these songs that's making it to the radio and even making it to the 18-and-up clubs are first being played in the strip clubs. So we was basically just trying to get up on everybody. Like "OK, we are going to the strip club and we gonna run up in there and see what’s playing." And then we'd run back to the 18-and-up clubs and nobody didn’t have it yet.
You said the 18-and-up club, is that a younger set of people?
Yeah that is basically just a college crowd. You know we have AUC, Georgia State, we have like 5 different big colleges around here. So moreso that crowd.
A lot of people say records in ATL always blow up in the strip clubs. Why is the strip club the place to break new music?
Man, I think the best A&R’s are the strippers, bro. Honestly. Besides the DJ’s I think the best A&R’s are the strippers because even they catch some songs that even we might not. They bring some songs to our attention too. I feel like if you can get a song and get them to vibe to it… One thing about the strip club is that a strip club is where people dance—not everybody, but the girls are dancing so whatever’s playing they gotta move to it. So that is an inclination to you if your record can move a regular club. If a girl can dance to it when she's stripping then she can definitely move to in a regular club or at least vibe to it.
What are some of the records that you’ve broken personally?
Me personally I definitely would say I broke "Gave The Wrong N*gga Money" by Johnny Cinco. That was a record that I brung that week to The Coalition. Bandit Gang Marco "Nasty." I was up on that one. And I was one of the first ones to be really up on the Migos. I was on the train since day one when I met the lil’ bros. I was up on "Bando" and the Migos in general with The Coalition.
Everyone heard them from "Versace," but what are the early Migos joints you were playing?
Oh no man. Before "Versace" you had "Beamer," you had "Going Crazy" you had "Bando." They had a lot of records going crazy. But once you get Drake cosign you know what that does for you.
You’re in outer space after that.
So when you are breaking these big artists you must be seeing some nice money. What's the biggest way for you to get money?
Aw, man. Whooh! There are so many different outlets to that bro. For a DJ the best way to make money is to make yourself available to more than just turntables. So you know I might get money for hosting somebody’s mixtape or more than likely they go to The Coalition and the set down their budget and tell us what they want us to do as far as promo-wise. It’s just different lanes bro. There is a lot of stuff I do.
How does it work when records are submitted to The Coalition? How do you decide which ones you’re going to get behind?
Basically bro, we do this thing, we do it every Monday, it’s called New Music Monday. We sit down for about two and a half hours. Any big name artist you can name, they come in, they play us as many as 3 to 5 records that they feel are strong records that they may be willing to put a check behind. And from those they play we give them honest feedback. We don’t accept records that we don't feel like we can actually make something happen with.
You mentioned some records that you personally have broken. What are some of the biggest hits that came through the Coalition?
Aw man! Not even just the biggest hits—the artists. [Laughs] In particular Future would be one that we really wrapped our hands around in the beginning of his career. Cash Out was another person we wrapped our arms around in the beginning of his career. Anybody that you can name in Atlanta bro honestly. They all come and show love. It’s love all the way around.
So Thug, Rich Homie Quan, and all these guys?
Nah I wouldn’t even say Thug so much. But I would say we definitely wrapped our arms around Rich Homie Quan. Thug kind of was out of our hands.
People think records just come up on the radio and on the video but there's a lot more to it.
Yeah, I mean are a real broad group bro. We're like 15, 20 deep. We're at every club, so if you can get that whole machine working for you it’s a great thing.
So you mentioned Nando was a great mentor to you. What did he teach you exactly?
Aw man, more that anything he just taught me how to conduct myself in this business, man. I think what Nando did as far as strip club DJing in general, he came in and he monopolized and showed a lot of people something that nobody ever thought was possible, you feel me? As far as strip club DJs. He accomplished a lot as far as what he did financially and growing as a legend. You know he genuinely helped a lot of people out. You could point to him and be like, “Yo, this guy did it!” He just taught me how to conduct myself. Basically stay away from the women of the courses at the strip clubs [laughs] and basically keep my head on straight. You know, just keep in mind why I'm doing it.
So did he help put The Coalition together?
Yes, he was a founder of it. Him, DJ X-Rated, DJ Big X, and DJ Funky.
And when was The Coalition first set up?
In 2008. But they had been around separately for a miiiiinute. You know that’s why I said, when you look back at Atlanta a few years before the actual Coalition… And Nick Love, the manager of The Coalition, was a part of Jeezy's first campaign. So as far as breaking Jeezy and Gucci... Nando was Jeezy's first official DJ.
Can you speak on how DJ Nando passed? I have heard and read so many different things.
Ah man, there is nothing to really say about it. Our brother was taken away from us, bro. He was murdered. Almost a year and some change after we are still trying to figure out what happened. But yeah our brother was taken away from us.
I don’t know if there is any truth to it, but did it have anything to do with DJ politics?
Nah. Honestly bro, when you live in this lifestyle bro, the nightlife and all that, you run into so many things that could possibly potentially end up being an issue for you. What really happened after he died any and every possibility that people thought it could be was shot out there. You feel me? Without any evidence of anything or nobody with any backbone saying anything, police not really saying anything. So exactly what happened we officially don’t know. We are still trying to figure it out. So everything outside that is just speculation.
How has it been for you losing your mentor? How do you motivate yourself without him there?
I honestly feel like my bro had a whole big plan that he didn’t get a chance to accomplish. He had big ideas and big goals. So I feel like the best way I could do is keep going for him, just let him live through me. Just keep striving and keep going as hard as I can. Cause he had some goals he had in mind so I keep going. And each plateau I reach I always remember him and keep shouting him out and that makes me personally feel like he's still doing what he's supposed to be doing. Man, I'm working!
The Coalition Hit List
Rocko "Umma Do Me" (2009)
The track that put this ATL boss on the world map got its start in strip clubs like Magic City and Onyx.
YC ft. Future "Racks" (2011)
Before the whole world knew Future, he dropped a mixtape called Dirty Sprite, hosted by DJ Esco, DJ Scream, and DJ X-Rated (a co-founder of The Coalition DJs). This banger made YC an overnight celebrity and set the stage for Future's eventual takeover.
Future "Tony Montana" (2011)
Back in 2011 all Future had was his balls and his word, and he didn't break them for nobody. But then the Coalition DJs broke this record and everything changed.
Ca$h Out "Cashin' Out" (2012)
Coming straight outta Columbus, Georgia, Ca$h Out stepped out of the street life and into a successful music career thanks to this record. The first time L.A. Reid heard it, he asked to set up a meeting and the rest is history.
Future "Same Damn Time" (2012)
Future linked with Sonny Digital to hook up this multitasking anthem off his debut album Pluto, and pretty soon all the Coalition DJs were playing it... at the same damn time!
Young Thug "2 Cups Stuffed" (2013)
"Uno, dos..." if your record makes the strippers move you can count on a hit.
Rich Homie Quan "Differences" (2013)
Richie Homie Quan knows the difference between a hit and a flop is getting the strip clubs poppin'.
Juicy J ft. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz "Bandz A Make Her Dance" (2013)
More than any other record, this joint brought strip club sounds to the mainstream. Mike Will Made-It, Miley and Rihanna copied it, and the Coalition broke it.
Migos "Bando" (2013)
Before they copped all that "Versace" Migos were trapping out the house with the boards on the windows. And before their music was known all over the world, the Coalition DJs had them rocking in the strip clubs.
Sean Garrett ft. Migos "Anytime" (2013)
From Usher's "Yeah!" to Ciara's "Goodies," Sean Garrett is an ATL hitmaking machine. Once he made the leap from songwriter and producer to performer, his records went to the Coalition DJs just like everybody else.
Migos "Versace" (2013)
Before Drake caught wind of this tune, the Coalition DJs had it ringing out in the ATL strip clubs.
Johnny Cinco "They Gave The Wrong Young N*gga Money" (2013)
They gave the right DJs a budget.
Rihanna "Pour It Up" (2013)
You already know Rihanna's got love for the strippers. She dug Juicy J's "Bands" joint so much she asked Mike Will to make her one just like it. Rock City wrote the tune and the Coalition DJs took it from there.
Usher ft. Juicy J "I Don't Mind" (2014)
Nothing like a strip club anthem to help Usher get that money, money, money. Just make sure the strip club DJs get their money first.
Bandit Gang Marco "Nasty" (2014)
That's my favorite song, the one they play in the strip clubs all night long.
Troy Ave "All About the Money" (2014)
Noticing a theme here? As a general rule, strippers like songs about money.
Cap 1 "Bird Bath" (2014)
This Chicago native relocated to ATL where he got down with Luda and 2 Chainz. Now that he's been embraced by the Coalition DJs, he's really cooking.
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