Music is the soul of nightlife and hospitality, and the DJs of New York, past and present, are some of the most talented and hard working people in the business. Long gone are the days of lugging crates of records for $200 a night, DJs are now the Rockstars known by all.
Manhattan has always been filled with star DJs like Larry Levan or Junior Vasquez, but the current movement or the style I am focusing on began with the transformation of Mark Ronson from socialite club DJ to superstar DJ and producer. Before his arrival into the non-house music world, you would have incredible talents, such as Ted the Dillinger, rocking parties for $300 - $500 a night. I remember hearing Ted on “Tuesday Baby Tuesday” at Life right around the time Biggie was breaking with the preppy white kids. This guy did not drop a bad song for three hours straight, and to this day, his set was one of the top five I have ever heard. The set was great not only because of the musical choice but the way it consistently built energy until the room was at a fever pitch.
The arrival of Ronson and the transformation to the current PR-driven nightlife model, championed by such publications as New York Magazine and eventually US Weekly, has made the DJ more important than just the music. Their names and personalities are an integral part of defining a venue, and with that, the prices to book them have skyrocketed. But don’t be fooled, as much as the DJs on this list are trying to become mini-moguls, they are very much about the music.
The list below is compiled of my favorite DJs in New York – not yours, not your girlfriend’s, not the industry’s – mine. Without their music, a beautiful room filled with beautiful people would be as dull as a library. With their music, a not-so-beautiful room filled with not-so-beautiful people could become a Paradise Garage. Music can fully alter one’s mood and perspective. As seen through cinema, saving the world without a soundtrack is just not the same. I always thought that Apple should create an iPod commercial where a person lives his or her life while listening to the music on their iPod. As they flip through the moments of their life, their mood changes based on the song. In the end, it would say iPod, “the soundtrack for your life.” Well the DJs on this list are the soundtrack to mine; they have made so many nights more memorable and fabulous with their creativity. Little do you know, they were all just kids (shy and analytical ones usually) who loved music and practiced for thousands of hours before they got behind the wheels of steel and made the crowd move.
By the way, I haven’t mentioned this, but 2010 is the year of the good guy. All the guys (and the girl) on this list are good not only in the sense of DJing, but as people. What goes around the turntable, comes around the turntable.
The first time I heard Berrie was less than five years ago. He was big in the prep school set and was DJing for Dave Marino, I believe. From there he headed to Tenjune and from there to the moon. Watching his ascendance from a niche-market DJ to one of the best out there was incredible. They say when success happens it happens quickly. Well it definitely did for him. Berrie deserves the success, as technically, he is one of the best DJs around. I am sure the success looked quick to all of us, but Berrie must have spent years honing his craft before bursting onto the scene.
In the words of Jay Z, Brooklyn “goes hard.” All I can say about Brooklyn is that she is the most passionate DJ in the game, not the most passionate female DJ in the game, the most passionate DJ in the game. She is an artist in the truest sense, holding firm to her musical vision, with a constant chip on her shoulder to prove herself as an equal or superior turntablist to her male counterparts. The only problem: her authentic downtown style and waifish good looks sometimes hold on to your attention, distracting you from the music.
Her favorite club song now: "Ease Off The Liquor" by Timbaland
Her favorite non-club song now: "My Secret Lover" (Diplo Remix) by Diplo/Private
Who she would have DJ her birthday party: Questlove or Max Glazer
Her favorite DJ booth in Manhattan: Greenhouse
Where we can hear her weekly: Greenhouse, Above Allen, 1 Oak
He is definitely the reigning king of cool and an incredible DJ to match. Cassidy probably started out more heralded for his persona than his skills, but he cleared that up pretty quickly. No DJ in his genre of music, or out of it, can touch his outreach and respect in the world of music and celebrity. This guy has DJ’d for Oprah, Obama, Jay Z and so many more, but you will see him on special nights still holding it down in your favorite clubs; not to mention that he is supremely humble (I get a personal call every year from him verifying my address for his super fabulous birthday celebration). You think he can’t have someone else do that? It’s called class and he epitomizes it.
Ian got into the game through his brother Josh and his partner Darren, the owners of Gallery Bar, Ella and the soon to be opened "Blind Barber." He spent his time jumping from manager, to bartender, to doorman, but found his true calling in the DJ booth. Ian is a newcomer, still defining his game, but his skills are tight and he draws a crowd. Watch for this kid to continue to grow in the coming years and establish himself as a force within the New York nightlife scene.
His favorite club song now: “Memories” by David Guetta ft. Kid Cudi
His favorite non-club song now: “Walking On A Dream” by Empire Of The Sun
His favorite DJ booth in Manhattan: 1 Oak
Where we can hear him weekly: Thursdays @ Rivington Hotel, Fridays @ Ella, Sat @ Gallerybar
I met Jamie recently when I was staying at the Mondrian in Miami for New Year’s Eve. Jamie is humble, handsome and has a great sense of self. He is a student of music who began by playing piano and spent the past decade exploring the world of rock. His initial band was known as Carte Blanche and more recently he had great success with Bloody Social. Now, rumor has it that he is working on new things outside of the DJ booth, but we are here to talk about DJing. As a DJ, his knowledge of music and taste is up there with any other on this list. Combined with the fact that he is Vice President Joe Biden’s nephew and that he is dating an incredible person, who also happens to be the beautiful model, Amy Bracco, Jamie Biden is a winning combination for the world of nightlife. This coming year will be a great one for him.
Carlos Melange (aka DJ Los)
Formerly known as Los, Carlos Melange is a DJ who I had the pleasure of working with this summer at the Chelsea Hotel in Atlantic City. A student of the craft, dedicated to learning and constantly evolving his style, Carlos is becoming a better DJ every day. His female-friendly style and boyish good looks make him a constant favorite of the ladies whether spinning in Atlantic City, on the roof of the Gramercy Park Hotel, or on a weeknight at SL. Carlos understands people and that understanding allows him to play for a diverse group of revelers without ever missing a beat.
His favorite club song now: “I Got A Feeling” (David Guetta remix), "Sexy Bitch" (DJ Chuckie remix) and “Memories” by Kid Cudi and David Guetta
His favorite non-club song now: “I'm Yours” (remix) by Jason Mraz ft. Lil Wayne and Jah Cure. It’s been out for a little while, but I just love the vibe and feeling of the song.
Who he would have DJ his birthday party: I’d have to say David Guetta. I love the vibe of his album and the music he's put out in the past year.
His favorite DJ booth in Manhattan: Simyone Lounge – two Technic 1200's and a Pioneer DJM-800 Mixer, really all you need. I like that the booth is ground level. You really feel like you’re a part of the party and get a great feel for the vibe of the place.
Where can we hear him weekly: Weekly residencies at Simyone Lounge and Tenjune. Monthly guest spots at Red Velvet and Butter.
I don’t know if he’s better known for his skills, the women he has been with or the sneakers he created, but either way if DJing were movies, this kid would be the Australian version of a young Johnny Depp. Nick’s skills are great, but his music selection is better. He is not afraid to play any song and has a knack for understanding what makes women dance. Recent coverage in W Magazine and the following of a really interesting crowd makes Nick my choice for next to earn big dollars. Most importantly, whenever he is spinning, the party is fun. Good energy is hard to bottle and Nick has a lifetime’s supply.
His favorite club song now: “Little Secrets” by Passion Pit
His favorite non-club song now: “I (Who Have Nothing)” by Shirley Bassey
Who he would have DJ his birthday party: Sam French
His favorite DJ booth in Manhattan: The one that I am in... I loved the booth at Bungalow 8
Where can we hear him weekly: Strictly private events, no weekly nightclub gigs
I met Price when he was like 17, or looked like it, while he was DJing at my friend’s birthday party at Morgans Bar. He did a great job at the party so I gave him my card. I think I received an email from him thanking me before I left and the next day he was in my office. This business-like approach to his career and an unmatched work ethic has paid off for Price. Recently signed by the late DJ AM’s Deckstarr for management and resident at the Chelsea Hotels C5 in Atlantic City, Price is right by me.
His favorite club song now: “Pon de Floor” by Major Lazer
His favorite non-club song now: “Mercy” by Duffy
Who he would have DJ his birthday party: DJ Jazzy Jeff
His favorite DJ booth in Manhattan: 1 Oak & Griffin
Where can we hear him weekly: Tuesdays @ Griffin, Saturdays @ GoldBar.
If Cassidy is the king this guy is definitely the prince. He’s got the looks (he’s a model), the connects (he’s related to Lenny Kravitz) and the skills (he is probably the most respected guy on this list from what I can gather). Once again, as is a theme on my list, the guy is a sweetheart. I have worked with him many times and I have never seen the guy get upset or lose his cool. He is at the top of his game and it is a pleasure to see him at work, whether he’s doing it for a crowd of 2,000 or 200.
Sam is a descendant of the Nick Cohen school of DJing: play great music and look good doing it. He is young, but this kid’s got the swagger to make his mark. You know when you meet someone – or in this case hear someone – and it just works? Sam French works and he is already at a young age, an up and coming DJ talent and personality. I am looking forward to seeing his evolution. I know from listening to him that he is playing tunes that are so of-the-moment, but not everyone has them in their sets. Being able to find those songs before the other guy will keep Sam French ahead of the curve and in our collective conscious for years to come.
His favorite club song now: “Nobody Lost, Nobody Found” by Cut Copy
His favorite non-club song now: “For Your Love” by The Yardbirds
Who he would have DJ his birthday party: Nick Cohen or DJ StoneRokk
His favorite DJ booth in Manhattan: The energy you get from the booth at Southside: Best. Feeling. Ever.
Skeet Skeet is a real unique dude. He is so much more than a DJ; he is like a modern cultural sampling. I had the honor of spending a three hour car ride with him from Atlantic City, and though his knowledge of music is incredible, it’s his point-of-view as an individual that makes his music so intoxicating and more interesting than the other club DJs. Skeet embodies a moment, epitomizing downtown LA style combined with individualism and dedication to his beliefs. Not only can you see him DJ and hear his musical voice, you can follow his cultural outlook at eatskeet.com.
His favorite club song now: “Mind Reader” by Kingdom
His favorite non-club song now: “Watching You” by Instra:Mental
Who he would have DJ his birthday party: Sammy Bananas
His favorite DJ booth in Manhattan: Wherever Trouble & Bass is throwing an event!
Where you can hear him weekly: No weeklies now, as I'm in the studio working on a few projects and travelling a lot, but http://eatskeet.com has the answers.
The first time I heard Vice spin I was taken aback and enthused by how hard he drove the crowd. A set by DJ Vice is like a musical energy drink that doesn’t stop for hours. His mix CDs are legendary; Breakfast Clubbin, was on my iPod for years. I don’t know how he does it every night, but he has been rocking crowds across the country non-stop for the past five years. He’s also managed by Skam Artist’s Sujit Kundu, who is one of the best in the game with a stable of talent that is sure to be mentioned in upcoming articles. With the unfortunate passing of DJ AM, in my mind DJ Vice will lead the next generation of the West Coast sound. Don’t be surprised if he is the next one to be seen on the MTV awards scratching behind musical royalty and paving the way for the next generation of spin.
See you next week at Cocktail Hour, where more often than not one drink turns into ten and no one knows where and when the night will end.