Why I Started DJing

March 27, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Music and I have had a long love affair. It’s eased my worries, taught me to listen, and kept me company at night. The first album I remember receiving from my parents was GoGo Live At The Capital Centre featuring Chuck Brown and The Soul Searchers. GoGo Live helped lay a foundation for an appreciation of music that continues to this day. While attending college in Philadelphia, PA I occasionally took the train on Friday nights to Tower Records to listen to jazz CDs by Cassandra Wilson, Art Blakey, and Thelonious Monk (before Spotify, YouTube, and iTunes was invented). My best friend introduced me to reggae our freshman year. My college apartment mate for two years was the DJ for many campus parties. Jay-Z and Nas dominated the East Coast music scene at the time. Philadelphia was producing a barrage of new talent including Musiq Soulchild, Jill Scott, Bilal, Jaguar Wright, Jasmine Sullivan, Kindred, Beenie Sigel, and Freeway spearheaded by The Roots. After college, I moved to “BedStuy” Brooklyn, the childhood neighborhood of Jay-Z, Biggie Smalls, Busta Rhymes, and Big Daddy Kane. Music oozed out of cars, windows, and into the streets. It was only a matter of time before I started becoming musical in some form or fashion.

Below are a few DJs that influenced my decision to start DJing. Unfortunately, none of the DJs below are women. I’m currently finding women DJs on social media and listening to their mixes.

DJ Underdog
I began to get interested in the power of DJing after attending and shooting a video at an Afrobeat: For Ya Soul party hosted by the Lunchbox Theory in Washington, D.C. DJ Underdog was the resident selector and had a catalogue of African and Caribbean music I had never heard before. I was thoroughly impressed by his skills. The majority of the attendees were dancing and working up a sweat on a weeknight, something I hadn’t seen in a long time. DJ Underdog’s knowledge of Afrobeat challenged me to dig deeper into Fela’s discography and I haven’t regretted doing so since.

DJ Spyda
Witnessing DJ Spyda on the “ones and twos” at Patty Boom Boom for the first time in Washington, D.C. was an amazing experience. My wife and I got there early knowing the place would be packed later in the evening. From the moment we stepped inside, DJ Spyda had control over the crowd. He started playing some roots reggae and slowly made his way to soca and dancehall. It was an educational experience and DJ Spyda was the teacher. DJ Spyda seemed to enjoy seeing the reaction of the crowd and we gladly soaked up the positive vibrations.

DJ Questlove

The Roots have been a part of my life since they released Do You Want More?!!??! in 1994. Questlove, one of the founding members of The Roots has intrigued me since he “co-piloted” D’Angelo’s Voodoo album. When I learned Questlove was DJing at The Howard Theatre years ago, I had to go. DJ Questlove rocked it that night and subsequent occasions I have seen him perform. I was thoroughly impressed by his wide portfolio of sounds.

Illvibe Collective
I was in Philadelphia for a video shoot and the DJ at the location, Mr. Sonny James informed me he was DJing at Kung Fu Necktie afterwards. I went to the club, parked outside and watched if anyone would come to a place with such a weird name. After spying on the club for a few minutes, I went in since I had no other plans that evening. Once I entered the bar, music infused every nook and cranny. Multiple DJs were taking turns spinning at the same time (something I don’t recall ever seeing). It was hypnotic. I was completely engrossed with what was taking place. The DJs were mixing music completely new to me. The camaraderie among the people in the crowd and the DJs was refreshing. I felt like I was falling in love with music, sound, and partying again. It was a night to remember!

A few books I love about music and musicians:
Miles: The Autobiography
Blues People: Negro Music in White America by Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka)
Hip Hop America by Nelson George
Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove


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