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Hey, You’re Cool! Austin Millz

Photo by Liz Barclay

Austin Millz’ EP Cyclone drops today on Fools Gold Records, and we’ve got the exclusive stream right here. We caught up with the Harlem-born producer just before he caught a flight to New Orleans to DJ at NBA All-Star Weekend, and got the scoop on his HennyPalooza party.

Today is February 15 and you’re from Harlem. What does this day mean to you?

February 15th, come one! You know what that means. [Laughs] Big L.

What’s your favorite Big L record?

Ah, so many man. “Flamboyant”… His swagger was so dope to me. Let me think what my favorite Big L song it… I like his track “M.V.P.” That’s one of my favorite tracks, “M.V.P.”

That’s not a cliche choice. What do you like about that record?

Just everything that Lord Finesse does. That track is so dope, like the way the drums hit. The way his voice sits on the beat is so dope. Big L, man. He’s one of my favorite rappers. And just being from Harlem, growing up on the west side of Harlem, his influence is so dope to me.

What do you consider the beginning of your music journey?

I would say in high school when a couple A&Rs heard my music. My beat CD was going around the industry. They hit me up and my first session was with Diddy at Daddy’s House. That’s my first entrance in the game, I see Diddy making beats. I knew I would be in this for the long haul.

Paint us a picture of that session with Diddy.

Yeah, my A&R hit me up and told me to come to the studio. I had no idea where I was going, and the session was a session with Diddy. I think it was around Press Play or Last Train to Paris. They were just going through beats, producers were just grindin’ out, going through beats. And I was there and I played my beats. And the rest of that year I was steady at Daddy’s House working, just getting my feet wet. That was my first entrance in the game, really.

I notice you have a degree in journalism. What would you be doing if not making music?

Ha—funny you say that. If I wasn’t a producer, man… I don’t know. Trying to think what I’d be doing, cause you know when I was in college I was like, “I’m gonna do music but let me just get my degree for my mom.” [Laughs]. Honestly I don’t know what I’d be doing.

So mom was not having it, all this music stuff?

Yeah, my parents were like, “You better get your degree.” So I went to Penn State and did four years. I don’t know, maybe I would be an entertainment lawyer, or maybe I’d be working as a journalist for some magazine. I’ve always been a fan of putting words together and just vibing and telling stories. Even me producing that’s me telling a story from the beginning to the end. I’ve always been a fan of history and learning. So writing would be a way for me to put my pen to the paper. All my stuff is communications.

What was your first big placement of a beat?

Hmm… I think my first big placement was with Jim Jones. I had a Jim Jones placement called “Vamp Life.” Ironically it kind of defines my sound. It was a dubstep sample over some hip hop drums. And I was in the studio for that as well, playing the beat. I said to him “Yo I have this one beat I have to play. It’s the only beat I’m going to play for you. And I played it and he rapped over it and it got on a mixtape.

Did that open up some doors?

Absolutely, it opened up a lot doors. I’ve got a lot of placements over the years like Wale, Hit-Boy, Shy Gilzzy. I’ve got a lot of good placements, so right now I’m just working on building myself as a DJ/producer brand.

What producers made you want to be a producer? 

My influences were definitely Just Blaze and The Heatmakerz and Pharrell. Those were my inspiration when I first started out. Just Blaze because the way he was chopping up samples and doing his drums, it was just something like, unheard of. And I love soul, so the soulful aspects of his beats, he makes it feel sound so authentic. And then Pharrell and the Neptunes, just the chords and the unique sounds that he used. The way he played with the notes on the keyboard is just remarkable.

Are you more of a sample-based producer or do you prefer to play a beat using instruments?

I would say 50-50. I really like doing it all. Right now I’m more of an original type of person, but I started out sampling. I’m not against sampling at all. I just feel like whne you catch a vibe you just gotta do what feels right. So I’m 50/50 in the middle.

What’s your favorite vice?

[Laughs] I love drinking Hennessy. That’s a good vice, right?

I understand you’re spinning at Henny-Palooza during All-Star Weekend. What goes on there?

Yeah, it’s unlimited Henny. We’ve been throwing it for about four years now. I’m the headline DJ. And we’ve been selling venues from L.A. to Miami to Toronto. It’s just… unlimited Henny, and it’s a turn-up, good time.

So what sort of set do you play for HennyPalooza?

The crowd and HennyPalooza they wanna turn up. So I  wanna hear the hits, the jam. So I cater to the crowd but I sprinkle a little Austin Millz with it, so you might hear exclusive edits and remixes. I’d say that’s less of a dance music crowd, more of a hip hop crowd. . I’d say it gets ratchet. More of a ratchet type of vibe. Lately I’m drinking more water. I’m trying to get more healthy these days. But you know, sometimes…

How is the Henny distributed? Bottles? Kegs?

A couple guys have got water guns and the squirt Henny shots in girls’ mouths.

Is LeBron expected to come through?

LeBron? We’ll have to see, but there’s gonna be some stars in the building.

There’s a fine line with drinking and DJing—does it actually make you sound better, or do you just think you sound better?

That’s a good question. You know when you drink you tend to not think and you just go off emotional feeling. So honestly I love my Henny but it can go different ways. I’m trying to drink more water now.

So when do you leave for All-Star?

I gotta leave tomorrow night. I got an event with Bud Light. And I gotta DJ this Saturday. So I’m out there for the weekend.

How many pairs of shoes are you gonna pack for All-Star Weekend?

That’s a good question. I’m definitely packing my Jordan 1s, my shattered backboards. I’m probably gonna do it all Jordan, just cause it’s All-Star Weekend. Four pairs.

And which one do you wear to HennyPalooza cause it might get a little splattery?

Ah, that’s a great question! I’m definitely wearing my Jordan 1s cause they’re my favorite sneakers. They’ve gotta be compfortable cause I like to stand on booths. I like to turn up, go crazy. You’ve gotta come to one of my live shows.

Do you think Westbrook should have made the starting five?

I think he deserves to be in the starting five. That boy has been playing very good. But who else is in it? James Hardin and Steph Curry? Aw, that’s tough! That lineup… I don’t know, man! I feel like Westbrook has the underground mentality coming off the bench. How ’bout Carmelo?

Nope, sorry. What are your go-to spots in New Orleans?

Actually I’ve never been to New Orleans before, so I wanna get some catfish and jambalaya and all that.

Catfish or shrimp on the Po Boy?

I take shrimp on the Po Boy, but honestly I’m a big foodie, so I’m gonna try everything.


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