DJ Pain 1 gives an insider’s guide to Madison’s hip-hop scene

The 38-year-old producer and DJ has worked with high-profile artists, and he uses his platform to educate and mentor artists and producers about the music industry.
Dj Pain
Photo by Paulius Musteikis

No one embodies Madison hip-hop quite like Pacal “DJ Pain 1” Bayley. The 38-year-old producer and DJ has worked with such high-profile artists as Young Jeezy, Ludacris, Public Enemy, Rick Ross, 50 Cent and 2 Chainz, and he uses his platform to educate and mentor artists and producers about the music industry. But he’s also seen how venue closings, media bias and anti-hip-hop policies have pushed the genre to the city’s margins. “The music economy in Madison isn’t sustainable and hip-hop has been marginalized, so we face extra challenges,” Bayley says. “Then the pandemic hit and the opportunities became even scarcer.” Despite this, Bayley insists, gems can be found throughout the city. Here are his picks for the best artists, venues, producers and more that Madison has to offer.

Record Label
“I met [Madison native] Travis Dobson, the founder of the production and management company Compound, a few years ago and have seen him morph into a brand. He started as a rapper, moved into artist management, released a clothing line and now runs Lab Studios on Madison’s east side. He’s a perfectionist, so the quality of his clothing and studio space are both sights to behold. He also invests in local artists such as DJ Victory and Off Da Ave.”

Elder Statesman
“When I was in high school my friend was able to record in an ‘official’ music studio with a rapper named Rob Dz. We were both really excited. Madison hip-hop would not feel right or complete without Rob. These days, in addition to rapping and producing, Rob works at the Madison Public Library, mentoring youth. He was also the brain behind last summer’s amazing and unprecedented Mad Lit event series in downtown Madison. It was a privilege to be a part of that project with him.”

“I met rapper Taye Sharkiee through former students. He was actually in a production class I ran during the summer at Goodman Community Center. He recently went viral online for his song and music video ‘FNG.’ Almighty from the 8 is an artist I’ve known of for a while, but he’s recently started performing and releasing music (as well as clothing) at a consistent cadence. He and his brother AG, who produces for him, have incredible musicality. They make a hybrid of rap and pop and are entertaining performers in addition to being adept studio musicians.”

“I had a pre-COVID residency at Tavernakaya, as did several other DJs. Those events were some of my favorites. I’ve also been performing at High Noon Saloon a lot more these days, which is a Madison staple.”

Graffiti artists
“TCI is one of the oldest collectives of graffiti writers from Madison, encompassing Task, Hybrid, Maple, Heat and many others. Obviously, graffiti isn’t something that is publicly showcased the way music is, so giving these artists credit is a challenge. But I started as a graffiti writer and a music maker because both are important to hip-hop culture — in fact, graffiti predates every other element of hip-hop. TCI crew continues to be an inspiration, both locally and globally.”

“If I had to guess who the most prolific producer in the state is, I’d put my money on Victory. I don’t think he’s taken a break from the studio in 15 years, producing for artists ranging from Gutta Foundation (local) to Shawty Lo (a national rap star who died tragically in a car crash in 2016). He even stepped into the roles of recording artist, videographer, audio engineer and graphic designer. Memory, a close friend, recently earned a No. 1 spot on Billboard for his work on Summer Walker’s album. He’s a multi-instrumentalist and producer and has assisted me with guitar on some of my biggest productions, including my work with Jeezy, Ludacris and Kevin Gates. He creates full compositions in the form of sample libraries and releases them monthly, which I know from experience is challenging.”

Radio shows
“No station in the city has supported local musicians more consistently than WORT. I’ve been listening to their late-night hip-hop shows since I was too young to be staying up that late. Universal Soul Explosion with Rebecca ‘608Bosslady’ Barber is a pillar of our hip-hop community. Beyond that, Barber’s show brings so much value to her listenership of incarcerated people in the Wisconsin area, and that should be noted. DJ Fusion has been using his platform as probably the most active hip-hop DJ in the city to support local artists for as long as I can remember. We both had mixshows on 93.1 Jamz for a few years, and he now has expanded to morning shows and other prominent roles at the station.”

Jeff Oloizia is a contributing writer to Madison Magazine.