DJ Louie Styles is not your typical disc jockey. You won’t just find him spinning at parties or touring alongside some of your favorite artists playing their records. Don’t get it confused though, he does travel–just in a different capacity.
The Founder of Loyalty Above Everything Records, A&R, and New Jersey native gave me some time last month to learn about his definition of what a DJ is. He shared some realities about labels and their purpose for artists, how his love for music formed, and the origins of his name. Hint: it’s not WWE U.S. Champion AJ Styles. You probably weren’t thinking it anyways. I’ll calm it with the nerdiness now.
Overall, Louie’s a cool guy who had a lot to say. Often times people in his position would be blinded by the success, especially having been part of Fetty Wap‘s rise to stardom. Louie acknowledges that even with the wins, there are goals he sets for himself that don’t get accomplished. It’s all about continuing to work hard at what you love, ultimately building your empire brick by brick. Learn all this and more below with some of his special gems bolded in typical Armon fashion.
Armon: So I got a chance to check out your social media, I saw you’re a founder of LAE Records in NJ. Do you currently reside in Jersey?
Louie: I was actually born in the Bronx, NY. Later on, when I was eleven I moved to New Jersey and that’s where I found my passion for music.
People see a name like DJ Louie Styles, DJ Clue, whoever and they just automatically assume someone is DJing at parties or working solely on the radio. Tell us a bit about what you’re doing in music right now.
The way I look at it, the word DJ stands for someone who puts out the music. Someone that gets the music together and puts it out, that’s the main goal of a DJ. I really have taken that and used that in the other roles that I have in the music industry today. Developing artists, which first started by accident. Putting tapes together, coming across Fetty Wap. Making playlists. Now it’s come to working as an A&R with different labels and developing artists alongside them.
Can you go into the process of discovering Fetty Wap a bit more and what the relationship was?
I was putting on a tape series called This Week’s Bangers which consisted of the top music of every week. Through making those tapes, someone actually reached out in the comments and told me about someone named Fetty Wap. When I looked him up he was at just a few thousand streams. I found out he was from my area so I reached out to him and ended up putting his first-ever mixtape together. The tape that had “Trap Queen” and “679,” his two biggest hits. Things kind of catapulted from there.
Do you still have a working relationship with him?
Fetty signed with 300 Entertainment and he’s more focused on other things. In the future, I definitely will work with him again. Right now I’m focused on putting out singles in the lane of a DJ Khaled or DJ Drama. So if we do link back up, it’ll be to put out a single.
Who are you currently working with now?
Currently, I have a single I’m going to release with Rich The Kid. I’m going to be on Calboy’s album, he’s signed to Sony.
With working with these artists and putting out your own singles, how involved do you get? Do you do any writing or production?
It’s really everything you mentioned. Finding the proper producer because as an executive you have to find what beat sounds the best. Trying to match it with the right artist. That’s my process. As far as writing, sometimes I will give an idea but a lot of times when I give artists these beats it works out well for them. From me being a DJ, I’m able to know what they would like. Analyzing crowd reaction especially.
It’s funny you mention Khaled, he just dropped the album and it’s got some mixed reviews. The critique he’s gotten throughout his career is that he’s not making the music, he’s not producing, etc. Have you caught that same heat?
Very early people asked that same question to me. With Khaled, they just hear a name at the beginning of a song but if you really do research then you see he worked his way up as a DJ, worked through radio, and to make these records you really have to put a lot of time in. He sometimes has records that are worked on for over a year. There’s a whole process behind it, including legal work. And he’s really in the studio with them critiquing, fixing things, tweaking things. I think even the engineer behind the scenes doesn’t get enough credit, but they’re almost in the same type of role like DJ Khaled. They’re there to coach the artist and help them along the way.
Quick backtrack to LAE Records, when did you start that?
LAE Records started in 2012. That was just the seed stage of it. Trying to do promotional work for artists. It didn’t get serious until now as this year we have a partnership working with Create Music Group. They’re a big company, they have Trippie Redd and Marshmello under them, just to name a few.
Do you find it difficult to balance running a label and also working one on one with artists? In the trenches, the entire song-making and promotion process.
I’ll be honest, it can be difficult. The best way to describe it is it gets to its overwhelming points but when you love something so much, you don’t feel like you’re working. I’m exhausted but because I love it I get an adrenaline rush. Seeing them get to the next level is the biggest thing. I try to find artists in areas where their hometown loves them, and try to get them to that next level.
As someone whose built from the ground up, you know it’s never an overnight success. What was the process like making money and sustaining yourself while also investing in yourself throughout the long grind?
A lot of people are afraid to do different things to gather their money and invest in what they love. With me, what I really push is it’s okay to work and do a side hustle that you use to fund your business. I had my difficult moments where I was saving up the best I could before things got going but it’s just a process. Don’t be ashamed of that. Artists shouldn’t be ashamed of having to go out and work on the low somewhere to save their money that goes toward studio time or marketing. There’s nothing wrong with that.
What was the moment for you where it felt like “Aight, I’m doing this. I’m legit now. People have to take me seriously”?
The moment that I was able to step foot in 300 Entertainment. It changed my perspective. I made it to this point. Now I’m an intern over here working hard. I looked at people like Lyor Cohen and Kevin Lyles. They owned that company and they were once interns. It reflected on me that if I’m able to make it there, I can go way further. That and the breaking point with Fetty. It made me realize there’s a future in what I’m doing but stepping foot in that actual label solidified that this can go somewhere.
Having interacted with a big label and then also running your own, what’s a misconception you had about labels that has been debunked?
A lot of people think once you get signed you get a lump sum of money to spend. It’s just like a thing where you can do whatever you want. A label is there to push you. An artist has to add value, and the label functions more like a support system. They can also be a bank too, providing you with money but you have to recoup it. If you do the right things and put the money in the right places, it won’t be that hard. What I learned is you can’t just go into a label without an internal team to support you along the way and guide you in terms of money. You need proper management.
What do you think sets your label apart from other active labels?
The artist development standpoint. We’re not doing a roster where anyone can sign up. We have distribution and are a publishing label but it’s not something like TuneCore. TuneCore is a great service anyone can sign up and distribute music online. We’re shifting through artists and eventually will have more. When we do, I’ll be developing them and making sure their content stays good. We don’t just put out anything. We help them make the right choices and help them with their look.
What do you think is the best thing you’ve done in networking through the industry?
Building relationships with the media. Different media companies that are putting out a lot of content. Worldstar, Kazi. I developed a strong relationship with Spinrilla early on and it really helped with releasing the music. We were able to work together and move up.
I saw you also founded your own digital media company called DJ Louie Styles TV. Talk to me about what inspired you to start your own and all you’ve accomplished since then.
What really inspired me, to be honest, is seeing successful brands like Stay Cheez TV and DJ Akademiks. I love that he’s from our area as well. I like media, it’s a hobby that’s become a side venture now. In due time it’s going to go up. I just recently interviewed his girlfriend on there.
How do you measure your success as a DJ/executive/label head?
There’s no limit to it. Every year I set goals, and if I’ve accomplished five out of ten then I’ve succeeded. Half of your goals accomplished is big. I don’t want to judge based on revenue, but rather how well I see the company progressing. Is everyone still working together as a team? We’re reaching the end goal. Building an empire pretty much.
I wanna take it back to you mentioning being born in the Bronx then coming to Jersey. What specifically about Jersey instilled that love of music?
It’s because in New Jersey there’s not much going on. There is a music scene but it’s not as big as New York. It’s right next to it though. So as I got older I was here and my sister played the piano. I watched her play and it opened my ear more to music. So being that not much goes on, I would be at home listening to music. Especially when Limewire came around. Seeing different songs being put on that site, like Soulja Boy putting different song titles on his song. It rang a bell in my head that you could promote in different ways. There was just this overwhelming feeling that something is going to happen more with music.
What do you feel about where music is at right now? With social media especially.
As a whole, I see a shift happening. People aren’t paying attention to lyrics with these newer artists. The beats are the same, which is cool. I’ve always liked the beats. Music is an art and everyone makes what they want to make. It’s shifting away from looking solely at the image and one single for artists.
What were some of your favorite albums growing up?
One of the artists I listened to a lot was Baja Men. That was one of my favorites. I bought Eminem’s album, 50 Cent’s. I also bought Daddy Yankee’s. That was when Reggaeton was first getting known.
Is there anything we should be expecting from you the rest of this year?
Just the Calboy single and a lot more artists establishing themselves in the industry. I do have something coming with Fatboy SSE soon. Just putting out good music that people like to listen to.
I saw you had pictures with Paul Wall and Casanova. Clearly, you’re very well connected. What’s the process of deciding who to work with, and avoiding the feeling of needing to work with someone just because you met them and where it could take you?
It comes down to being in the studio with them. Seeing if you vibe out well. A lot of people like to send things over the internet or through email. With music, it’s a lot better when you can sit down with the artist. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and that’s fine. There’s a lot of times where artists end up keeping things in the vault because it didn’t sound right. The best is creating together in the studio.
It’s 100% important for you to be in the studio then. You wouldn’t release anything that you weren’t there for throughout the whole process?
Right, unless it was like they recorded something and the producer was able to switch a beat. It’s a hit or miss doing that. But the best way is always being in the studio together.
I’m always interested in hearing the story of people’s names, so how did you come up with DJ Louie Styles?
At first, it was DJ Louis. I showed it to my cousin when I was 9 and getting ready to move to NJ. I said I wanna do this and he said it was too bland. Everyone was calling me Louie over here already. When I would play music, there wasn’t any specific style of music that I would play. It was everything, so I obtained the nickname Styles from the different music I would play.
Let’s say it’s time to really set the party off. What two songs are you going to play and transition between to really hype up everybody?
I say the two records that never failed on me honestly are A$AP Ferg “Work” and “What Do You Want” with Carnage, Lil Uzi Vert and I think Ferg is even on it. Can’t go wrong with throwbacks. “Knuck If You Buck.” The bass makes people very aggressive.