Occasionally, things slow down in moneymaking Manhattan, New York. Off the beaten path, a mouthwatering six-figure whip is conspicuously parked on Harlem’s west side, where the traffic is clear and life slows down…for a minute.
It’s a Maybach, a luxurious wonder mobile fit for a king of New York. Ernesto Shaw emerges from the backseat as the chauffeur carefully parks the German work of finery. Shaw is the car’s owner. He’s best known as DJ Clue, arguably one of the most key figures in radio. Clue holds down a crucial timeslot in the shot-calling New York market; and for artists looking to pump up their new records, Clue is a man to know.
However, that momentary pause comes and goes quickly. As Clue moves about for a photo shoot in the afternoon light, adjusting his cap, his cell phone’s constant buzzing breaking the dull quiet. Clue is a busy man—he’s on New York airwaves every single night, blowing up with his brand of music on “Desert Storm,” airing weeknights from 6-10 p.m. on Power 105.1 FM. “The number one hip-hop and R&B show,” he proudly exclaims. He’s recently released The Professional, Pt. 3 (Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella, 2006)—the follow up to two popular volumes of mixtapes. The album features unreleased music from The Game, Mobb Deep, Mario Winans, Jagged Edge, MOP, Jadakiss, Nas, Mariah Carey, Snoop, Mike Jones, Paul Wall and his artist Fabolous.
In addition, he will soon drop Fabolous’s new album through the same channel on his Desert Storm/Def Jam imprint. With a variety of artists from across the country making his mixtape cut, he takes it from the streets of New York, with Juelz Santana and Cam’ron, to the South, with Bun B, Mike Jones and Paul Wall.
It all began in 1994, when Clue worked for RCA Records. He followed that up as an A&R at Interscope Records for Steve Stoute and Jimmy Iovine. Eventually, the Queens native transformed a hustling mix jock career into a major label record deal that started in 1997 and skyrocketed with The Professional in 1998, a mixtape that sold over one million copies via the Roc-A-Fella record channel.
In 90-minute mixes he uses fast and furious beats to take listeners on a hip-hop journey through entire songs, educating with his vocal dubs dropped in the mix. And the rewards of his brand hustle—creating a distinct identity—reflect in his sparkly assortment of cars.
“I’ve been doing cars since 1988,” he says. “I had a Nissan Sentra; I had a Honda Accord; a BMW 3-Series…528 BMW when it first came; the [Lexus] GS 400, and the GS 300.”
That’s part of what Clue does is beat the rest of the players to the game. When asked to name the hottest record on the streets, he differs. He knows what’s hot today won’t be hot tomorrow—but his picks are solid, and later go on to be the biggest selling artists. His job is to have an ear for the next big thing.