There are too many records in the world to stick to one style and DJ Stylus embraces that in his party-rocking philosophy. Dubbed The Vibe Conductor by his fans, Stylus takes a tight hip-hop approach to mixing and applies it to a palette of tunes from overlooked classics to the newest progressive electronic sounds, connecting the soulful elements of his selections to inspire dance floors. With extensive multi-genre fluency, DJ Stylus creates musical journeys that are nuanced, compelling, ambitious and far-ranging. Catch him with Deep Sang and Meistro at the Sol Power party. Also check for his Axel F Party, serving up R&B, funk and pop from the ’80s.
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How often do you get on the mic?
No more than the client requests. I’m very comfortable speaking to audiences and have many years of radio experience but every event is different. Sometimes if the room is hot I might chat it up a bit to match the energy but that’s more of a club/party thing that is sometimes suitable for mobile work. Again, it’s up to the client and the vibe that is happening in the moment.
How long have you been DJing?
How long have you been DJing weddings?
I think my first wedding was in 2002. I was always primarily a club DJ and only took wedding gigs for close friends who wanted the opposite of the standard wedding experience. Now with DJ D-Mac & Associates, we’ve built a business around that so my wedding work is less of a contrast to my club work.
What are some of your all time favorite wedding songs?
I don’t like to classify wedding songs as separate from any other songs that convey honesty and genuine emotion. Sharing that feeling is core to my dj’ing philosophy and is not something confined to just weddings. With that explained, a few tunes are:
Most anything by Stevie Wonder, particularly “Overjoyed” and “I Was Made To Love Her.”
Most anything by Al Green, particularly “Love and Happiness” and “You’ve Got The Love I Need.”
Most anything by Earth, Wind & Fire, particularly “September” and “Devotion.”
Mel Tormé – “More Than You Know”
Amel Larrieux – “Make Me Whole”
Elza Soares – “Mas Que Nada”
Brothers Johnson – “Stomp”
The J.B.’s – “Funky Good Time”
The Brand New Heavies – “Have A Good Time”
Musiq Soulchild – “Just Friends”
Chuck Brown – “Family Affair”
Frankie Beverly and Maze “Happy Feelings”
Mary J. Blige – “You Bring Me Joy”
What kind of music do you DJ when you’re not at a wedding?
As many different styles as possible, from classic hip-hop to ’90s R&B to music of the african and latin diasporas, to go-go to disco to deep house.
What is your philosophy on weddings?
They’re a party like any other. The only difference is that it’s also a life milestone. I rock weddings just as hard as I used to rock basement parties in college. And people remember some of those as vividly as a client will remember me playing their wedding. Then my job is done.
What size wedding do you prefer to DJ?
100 – 200 guests, although I can play for any room or any size event. I just like feeling close to my audience. I like making direct connections with people.
What makes you different from your competition?
My sense of musical narrative is sophisticated. I take risks and constantly try to play what isn’t expected but what makes perfect sense. I like to surprise and delight. I have a very broad base of experience, from world tours and concert halls to small niche venues. I have a keen ability to catch the emotional frequency of a room and then control it.
What do you do to motivate the crowd if no one is dancing?
Key in on whomever on the floor has the highest energy and play to them. Their enthusiasm then spreads contagiously to everyone else. I’ll also reset if I have to, completely changing directions. The last thing I’ll do is speak to the crowd, but sometimes that’s the right move.
What training have you received?
Many years of every type of dj’ing conceivable and thousands of hours in the lab practicing. I’ve played at the Smithsonian and the Corcoran. I’ve played in grimy dive bars full of belligerent patrons. I’ve opened for some of the biggest DJs in the business and had to earn the respect of audiences who thought I was just a nobody delaying them from experiencing the headliner. I’ve toured internationally and played major concert halls. The best training as a DJ is paying dues. You can learn technical skills but reading a room can’t be taught.
What problems have you encountered at a wedding and how have you solved them?
I’ve had planners change setup details at the last minute. Having the support of an assistant got me out of a few jams like that. I also do a site visit before every event to evaluate load-in and setup parameters, then I communicate any necessary changes or accomodations to venue staff, planner and client. I’ve also had gear fail on me, or ended up missing a component of my setup. I use a checklist before every event, checking off each part of my system as I pack it up. I also have backup cables, batteries, mixers, turntables and speakers. And of course every one of us has an on-call DJ on standby in case of emergency. Sometimes you encounter emotionally distraught organizers, clients or family members. Dealing with those situations is a matter of grace, maturity, patience and creativity under pressure.
What are your favorite record labels?
Classic: CTI, Blue Note, Fania, Def Jam, T.T.E.D., Nervous/Wreck, Loud, Cold Chillin’, Tommy Boy, Black Jazz.
Modern: Ubiquity, Raw Fusion/G.A.M.M., Strictly Rhythm, BBE, Tru Thoughts, Restless Soul and Defected.
What are some of your preferred clothing labels?
My style is Adidas meets Hugh & Crye and Levi’s.
Where are your favorite DC nightspots?
Den of Thieves, Tropicalia.
What is the best DJ moment of your career (so far)?
I thought about my first paid gig abroad as a DJ or sharing shows with some of my musical heroes, but my best moment was soothing the wounded hearts of DC’s Michael Jackson fans right after he passed away.
What is your favorite live show(s) (strictly as a member of the audience)?
De La Soul, Fishbone and Soulive
What are your five desert island discs?
Louie Vega “Elements of Life,” Stevie Wonder “Songs In The Key Of Life,” Earth, Wind & Fire “Gratitude,” Jungle Brothers “Done By The Forces Of Nature” and John Coltrane “Giant Steps.”
What’s your dream DJ gig?
The equivalent of what Timmy Regisford had when “Shelter” was at its peak, but not strictly focused on house. A deep, open format, soulful party full of trusting, dancing devotees open to being led in novel directions.
If not that, then Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Festival.