Apr 7, 2023
With so many aspects of music production being prefabricated these days, I’ve managed to find a man who is still mixing it up the old skool way. (Yes, we spelled it like that on purpose.) As a lover of hip-hop and rap my entire life, what initially drew me to DJ Skillspinz was his insane scratching techniques. Using nothing but his talent, turntables, and an ear for combining beats, he showcases his mad skills with each new mix he releases. His choices for his combinations are diverse and fascinating, and they showcase his knack for individuality in a world oversaturated with conformity. Based in Georgia with over 78.4k followers on Instagram alone, people are definitely loving what he's doing.
Antonio “Tony” Biggs, aka DJ Skillspinz, is an Army veteran, a disc jockey, a producer, and a composer, who is widely known for music on the Peacock series One of Us is Lying, on S1E1 of the Netflix series Gentefied, and on the Starz programs Step Up: High Water and First Date. He was an extra in the BET movie Redeemed as well and has produced/deejayed for GhostFace Killah’s Theodore Unit, Play (of Kid ‘n Play), and Def Jef, Grits, the Ambassador, and Grammy artist Lecrae. Other credits include Xbox 360’s “Project Gotham Racing 4”, and he is an Akai MPC Beat Battle Round 10 champ.
What has this man not done, seriously?
With an impressive history of production and music, further samples of his work can be heard on the Ghostface Killah Theodore Unit album “718”, where he produced track number 14, and on the Rapland Records “House Party Conversions” album with Play of the famous rap duo, Kid ‘n Play. Additionally, Antonio was also nominated for a Dove Award for his debut album “Reintroduction of the DJ” and is the first Christian DJ to release a turntablist record on Rescue Records.
His current album, “Table Manners: The Mixtape”, is available via all streaming platforms, and there’s even more new music on the way. He shared with me some mixes he plans on doing, but I was sworn to secrecy, so you’ll have to follow him and see what he releases in the future.
We recently had the opportunity to chat more in depth with this turntable master to learn about his fascinating career and life, so, after you finish reading this, you’ll want to go check out his Instagram page. It is full of things sure to make your head spin, like a record, right ‘round, baby, right ‘round.
MaM: Man, I am so impressed with all of your song combinations, because I am a huge, HUGE fan of old-school hip-hop. Some of the stuff you’ve done with A Tribe Called Quest, I’ve been like, “Damn … this is awesome!” So, how did you get into making music for TV shows and movies?
TB: That’s something I always wanted to do [ever since] I was a kid. I am a big horror movie fan, and when I was 13—maybe 15—I used to record on cassettes different sound bites from my favorite horror movies and use that to make music myself. I guess you could say it came from my love of horror movies. I always wanted to do something in film and television, and so it just fits. Eventually, I started making beats, which got me into hip-hop. Being involved in the industry has led to great opportunities to submit my music to people for consideration. The rest is history.
MaM: You’ve had your music licensed to Netflix and Peacock. I mean, dude, that’s awesome. Were you surprised to see your song on TV?
TB: Well, the [Netflix] supervisor didn’t let me know it had been placed in the show, and sometimes that’ll happen, but it was crazy! I kept watching Gentefied and they played another one of my songs. I ended up with two songs in that one show.
MaM: Wow, that is incredible! I read you were nominated for a Dove Award. Tell us a little more about that.
TB: That was really cool. I think back then I wasn’t really focused and aware of what was really in front of me. I was younger and wasn’t really paying attention. I wish I could go back, honestly, to do it all over again and be more aware of what was going on around me at that time. I was just so focused on making more music and doing other things.
MaM: How old were you when you got that nomination? What year was that?
TB: My record came out in 2000, so it had to be later that year. I think I was 23 or 24.
MaM: I also see that you were the first Christian DJ to release a turntablist record on Rescue Records. Are you still signed to a label, or are you just doing things independently?
TB: I’m independent right now, but I was the first Christian DJ to do that. Of course, there were other DJs before me, you know, doing Christian hip-hop and other stuff, but no one had put out an actual turntablist record. It was a blessing to be able to do something like that, and there hasn’t been anyone else since me to put out another record like that.
MaM: You were a trailblazer then and you still are because no one else has been able to do the same. I find these days that creativity is lacking because of all the prefab apps out there that do everything for you.
TB: I think it takes away from the culture and from the skill used to create when you can press a button and have the computer scratching for you. You don’t really need a DJ. That’s what I hate, but it’s kind of a blessing and a curse with technology. Everyone thinks they can be a DJ now, but, for example, my sister recently bought herself a DJ controller, and now she talks like she’s a DJ. I’m over here thinking, ‘Why do you have this?’
MaM: See, all the technology scratching for you is just not the same to me.
TB: I guess you gotta get in where you fit in, right? It is what it is.
MaM: So, what first got you into DJing and music?
TB: That’s a great question. I was in a group with my brother and a good friend of ours. He lived right across the street from us. We were probably 9 or 10 years old. We had a little rap group and my uncle, who is from up north and used to come down and visit all the time, heard us rapping. He kind of took us under his wing and took us to a friend’s house where we did a little demo. The guy recording us went around the room asking each of us what we did, and my brother was like, ‘I’m the rapper,’ and my friend was like, ‘I’m the rapper, too.’ They get to me, and I go, ‘I’m the DJ’—mind you, I did not have any DJ equipment, but once I said that, it just stuck and we went from there.
I always just wanted to be a DJ. It's crazy to think about. I can’t recall one specific DJ who made me think, ‘That’s what I wanna do.” Now, I used to use my mom’s turntable sometimes. I used to take her stuff apart to see how it worked. She would bring records home, so I guess I can credit her as being the one to introduce me to hip-hop. I remember her bringing a record home by the Fat Boys and telling me to listen to [it]. It was ‘Jailhouse Rap’ and it stuck with me. She had also brought home a record by Roxanne Shanté. After that, though, I remember I was hooked.
MaM: So, she didn’t care you were taking apart her turntable? Wait, did she know?
TB: I don’t think she knew. I used to take her speakers apart, too, just to see how they worked.
MaM: Then you put it back together the same way so she never noticed?
TB: Yeah. Still to this day she doesn’t know.
MaM: Well, she does now!
MaM: So, let me ask you: Who are you inspired by from that period of growing up?
TB: I would say Jam Master Jay was a huge influence, ya know? I mean, Jazzy Jeff was a huge influence, too. DJ Magic Mike from Vicious Base and DJ Scratch from EPMD, too. I love all those DJs. I love a lot of DJs.
MaM: I miss the music from that time period. I would love to bring it back and teach this generation what good rap and good hip-hop is.
TB: That’s one reason I’m doing what I’m doing … [to] keep it alive. I used to think there wasn’t a place for it anymore, and I tried to create new stuff for the newer generation and stuff. I was just sitting down one day, and I was like, ‘I’m gonna put this mix out, this Wu-Tang one,’ and it just took off! I was like, ‘Oh shoot! People are still out there still loving this.’
MaM: Yep, like me. I was creeping around on your Instagram page and was like, “Man, this dude is awesome!”
TB: Thank you.
MaM: Just being honest. I love everything I’ve seen so far. My next question for you would have to be, at what age did you officially start DJing with your own equipment and everything?
TB: Here’s a funny story. My aunt, God bless her soul, she bought [me] my first turntable. I used to watch Yo! MTV Raps and I saw the turntables the DJs were using, and I thought to myself, ‘Man, what kind of turntables are they using?’ A guy from my neighborhood had this magazine called J&R Music World. It was in New York, and that is where my aunt is from. I was looking through the book one day and came across the turntable all the DJs were using [and] I knew I needed that turntable. We had a family gathering and my aunt knew I loved music, [so] I told her about the turntable I had seen. She told me that if I made As and Bs on my report card that she would buy me my first turntable.
MaM: How old were you at that point?
TB: I was in high school … 9th grade. … I ended up not making [all] As and Bs on my report card; I actually made a C. I went back to my teacher, though, and I was able to convince her to change my grade to a B. (laughs) I went right [then] and called my aunt to tell her the news, and about a week later, I came home from school one day and there was a turntable sitting in the chair in my living room. From then on, it was uphill.
MaM: That is really cool you had your family’s support. What did you say to the teacher to get your grade changed?
TB: See, I was supposed to be reading this story. The whole class was reading this book, and we had to fill out a form showing where we were in the book. My teacher told me I was supposed to be further ahead than I was. I explained to her that I had made a mistake and filled out the form wrong and that I really was further along than I had written, and so she changed my grade.
MaM: Dude, nice. I wish I would have had those powers of persuasion back in the day when I made a C. (laughs)
TB: I want to throw this in there, too, about the turntable. My aunt only bought me the one turntable and I needed a second one, so, [I worked at a program for teenagers during the summers] and used the money to purchase the second one.
MaM: Nice. So, you live in Georgia now, but is that where you grew up?
TB: I am from Columbus, Ga., born and raised.
MaM: Never lived anywhere else?
TB: I lived in Nashville, Tenn., … then [when I was 18] in California for a while in South Central.
MaM: What made you decide to move out there? Did you always want to?
TB: Nah, I was trying to pursue music and had family [who lived out there]. Then, this guy who claimed to be a manager took me down a little path for a bit. You know, [you’re] learning [and] just trying to trust people because they say they’re gonna do certain things and, well, you live, and you learn.
MaM: Yep, that you do. When did the music stuff start to take off for you? Where were you living when that happened?
TB: I was back in Columbus. [I’d made] a mixtape, and [this guy out in California had a copy and he] ended up leaving the tape at someone’s house, and that someone gave it to somebody else, and that somebody gave it to this A&R with Rescue Records. [This] A&R guy was a former dancer of Vanilla Ice’s. (laughs)
MaM: Oh my gosh, wow.
TB: Yeah, well, let me tell you a funny story about that. He heard my mixtape and was like, ‘We need to find this kid,’ [so] they [contacted] me and wanted to sign me. The crazy thing about that is, I remember Vanilla Ice coming to Columbus [on tour] and my brother and I used to sneak into concerts, but [at that time], I didn’t want to see Vanilla Ice. We had gone in and seen who we wanted to see, but I remember being outside the Civic Center and I could hear Vanilla Ice telling the crowd to say stuff to his DJ. I didn’t want to hear that. The crazy thing is, this guy (A&R rep) was inside dancing with Vanilla Ice, and we didn’t even know each other. Come years later, and this same guy signs me to the label.
MaM: Whoah. That’s insane. That’s something I like to call a universal happening. It all comes back full circle.
TB: For the record, though, I respect Vanilla Ice, and I love what he did for hip-hop, pushing the culture forward.
MaM: Definitely, I agree. If people like Vanilla Ice hadn’t come around, I don’t feel there would be an Eminem. He paved the way, even with as much hate as he got. As far as current projects are concerned, are you working on releasing any additional albums?
TB: I’m about to do another album. ‘Table Manners’ is new, but I have a few mixtapes I want to put out but just haven’t yet. I’m gonna do an actual project because people have been hitting me up about it. … I have some things coming up that are so freakin’ dope, so [there’s more coming soon].
MaM: Last question: Do you feel the platforms musicians have to release their music on these days is sufficient, or do you miss the way things used to be?
TB: Honestly, I miss how things used to be. As I was saying before, it took you having to have talent to get signed and technology is a blessing and a curse, but I think either you have it or you don’t, and you shouldn’t rely on technology to get you a record deal or to get you hundreds of thousands of followers. That’s crazy when you think about it. Things have been watered down so much. I wish more people would take the time with their craft to refine it.
To check out the work of this genius of the turntables, be sure to hit one of the links below!
Nicole Brice is a lifelong lover of hip-hop from the late 80s and early 90s, and will often have A Tribe Called Quest blaring in her car. It annoys her kids. Want to be featured? E-mail her at email@example.com.