I had the pleasure of hanging out with Sonny Shotz, DJ Mendoza, and Mik Beats of The Dean’s List a few days before the release of their highly anticipated mixtape The Drive-In. We managed to squeeze in an interview somewhere between all the partying and shenanigans. The guys talk about viral videos, recoding in Europe, creating their latest mixtape, and going on a nation-wide tour in the spring. Check out the exclusive interview after the jump.
Julian Patterson: Mik, you’re from Edison, New Jersey. Mendoza and Sonny, you guys are from Boston, Massachusetts. How did you guys link up to form The Dean’s List?
Alex Mendoza: Sonny and I went to high school together. I met Mik at Berklee. I don’t really know, one day we just started chillin’, partying, and making music together.
Julian Patterson: So at first it was just Mendoza and Mik making beats in a dingy Berklee dorm room?
Mendoza: Yeah. I said, ‘I have a good friend who raps. Maybe he could go in on a couple tracks.’
Sonny Shotz: [Laughs] Even before that, the songs we used to make in high school…
Mendoza: Oh my God, they were horrible. When we first linked up some of the stuff we were creating—at the time we thought it sounded good, but that was a long time ago. Let’s just keep it at that.
Julian Patterson: You guys were just developing your sound. In fact, Sonny and Mendoza, you guys went to Paris, France to record a couple tracks. What was it like to travel to Europe and make music?
Sonny: It was funny because we were making gangster music.
Mendoza: We were making some really hardcore beats. There was this one song called “Hater Talk.” [Laughs]
Julian Patterson: Sonny, you were rapping in French?
Sonny: Nah, I was rapping in English, but my cousin was a rapper out there so he brought us to a bunch of studios out there.
Julian Patterson: Fast forward a couple months. The three of you got together—you didn’t know at the time—and you made Undeclared, which was your first mixtape. Did you have any clue what you were getting into?
Mendoza: All we were doing was putting out singles.
Mik Beats: Yeah, we were basically just vibing out. It was pretty much like, ‘Let’s make music, call ourselves The Dean’s List, and see what happens.’
Sonny: We wanted to make some money. What better way than iTunes? So we put all the songs together and packaged them into one mixtape. That’s why we called it Undeclared, because we really didn’t know what we were doing.
Julian Patterson: Well it certainly was an impressive debut. You even released a viral video for the song “I’ll Be Okay,” which has over 30,000 hits on YouTube. What was it like to shoot your first large-scale music video?
Mik: It was exhausting. It was nothing we were used to. 9:00 am to 11:00 pm…
Mendoza: We had other smaller videos out, but when we did the “I’ll Be Okay” video with Matt Pitkoff, who was the director, he came in and made it a huge production. But even the difference between “I’ll Be Okay” and our next video is crazy. Everything is on a much larger and more improved scale.
Julian Patterson: You guys have been working your second mixtape called The Drive-In, which is set to drop on February 26th. What is it about and what is the concept behind it?
Sonny: You can expect a lot of different sounds, a lot of different concepts throughout each song, but the main concept is that it starts off in the morning and ends at night. It’s just a full day—a period of 24 hours in our lives that we decided to share through our music. Not only do the songs get darker melodically, but also concept-wise they seem to transcend. [Laughs]
Julian Patterson: Individually, what are your favorite tracks on the mixtape?
Sonny: I say a different answer everyday, but today it’s “Troy.” Oh, and “Dear Professor,” I like that one too.
Mik: Production-wise I like “La Vie.”
Mendoza: I like “Mainstream” a lot. I also really like “All Systems Go.”
Sonny: I know it sounds corny, but I like every track. I can vibe with every song on the tape.
Mik: Yeah, I’ll listen to the whole mixtape and I honestly can’t decide which one I like most. It’s hard to choose just one or two because each track stands out on its own. Otherwise we wouldn’t have included it on the mixtape.
Julian Patterson: You guys have released a few promotional viral videos for The Drive-In already, specifically “K2YL” and “Breakfast Talk.” Can we expect more viral videos for the mixtape to give your fans more of a glimpse into your life?
Mendoza: We have the video for “La Vie” coming out soon. We also will be shooting a video for “Kardashian,” which was on Undeclared. That will be a crazy video. We also have short documentary coming out in the next couple of weeks. There’s a Karmaloop TV feature that will be out soon… We just want to give people a little bit of everything.
Julian Patterson: You guys are in a period where you are just recording music and preparing for the release of the mixtape. What are your plans for the spring? Do you have any tours, showcases or festivals coming up?
Mendoza: We have Bamboozle in May. We will also be on the Animal House tour with XV and DJ Benzi. That’ll happen in late March and spill over into April. Other than that, we’ll be doing a couple of headlining shows in some of the larger markets. We’ll be posting official tour dates hopefully in the next few weeks.
Julian Patterson: What’s the craziest show you guys have done so far?
Mik: [Laughs] That’s easy. Colby College.
Mendoza: We also did a show at Boston University with Chiddy Bang. It was sold out—I think almost 2,000 students were there.
Sonny: It didn’t really feel like there were that many people because you can only see so far, you know?
Mendoza: I definitely noticed. I go on before Sonny to DJ for a little bit. At first I could only see the people in the front. But as soon as I told everybody to put their cell phones in the air I was like, ‘oh shit.’ It was crazy. I didn’t even know the room went back that far. It was unforgettable.
Check out The Dean’s List on Facebook, Twitter, DatPiff.com, and their official website. You can also follow the guys on their personal Twitter accounts: DJ Mendoza (@DJMendoza), Sonny Shotz (@sonnyshotz), and Mik Beats (@MikBeats). Be sure to download their latest mixtape The Drive-In if you haven’t already. For management and concert booking inquiries, contact DJMendoza123@Gmail.com and Matt@NUEAgency.com respectively.