Article by Shiloh Sanchez
The first time I met this cat was in a bar I was waitressing, the old Coast, back when it was poppin.' He tipped me for his drink with two mixtapes of old skool hip hop from the eighties and early nineties. Over breakfast at a truck stop, he chatted about his dreams of DJing and spinning for crowds. I guess you could say, the beginning of this interview began around three years ago, when DJ DC was only Darryl Calhoun, a young man working a regular 9-5 job, spinnin records in his basement with only white walls and his dog for an audience.
Raised on Saginaw's East side, Calhoun started his DJing career back in 2005, but he had already been dreaming about it from age six. His uncle listened to old hip hop legends such as Eric B. & Rakim, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E. In his room, young Calhoun would spin a Batman airplane, pretending it was a record, and did this for years. In his adolescence, MTV's Yo Rap schooled him on the power and control of a DJ. He reminisces how "these guys [the DJs] don't rap, ain't got no albums, but are always scratching and mixing, yet everyone gravitates towards the them." Calhoun then began following such greats as Jam Master J, DJ Screw, and local DJ Longjohn on an early nineties rap show on local radio station Power 107, The Blazin' Nine at Nine. At this memory, sitting across from me with his laptop, Calhoun sings the intro song and then laughs, saying "I used to put headphones to the radio, turn it down real low, to hear my Mama shout 'Boy you got to go to school in the mornin'!'"
Calhoun wasn't aware of his mother's support until he began buying equipment in 2005, for she saw it kept him out of trouble. When he was low on rent, about to sell his equipment, his mother helped him out, and he saw she had faith. Even past girlfriends became jealous of his turntables, which he calls "his girls," as he reveals that sometimes, "he just wants to touch them." Those girls are Newmark T-200 Direct Drive Turntables and a Newmark M-3 Mixer. Even Calhoun had almost once lost faith in spinnin and began to produce for local artists, including OJ The King, Keyz, YungDre Tha H.o.p.E., Tay Ray, and Meagan Seard. He's realized since then that for him producing and DJing go hand in hand.
Calhoun's first gig as DJ DC was at a wedding. He adds that "the only reason why I got the gig at the reception was because I said I would do it for free." The audience was very receptive, having not seen a "dude set up with turntables." Jeston De'vonne, DJ DC's current manager, found him his second gig at the Players' Club in March of 2009. From there, DJ DC has spun for dancer Banana Split at Cheetah's Gentlman's Club in Lansing, Young Buck at Bay City's Prime Event Center, Brandon Hines at Lansing's X-cel, and Gucci Mane at Saginaw's own Dow Event Center.
Remembering when their first meeting became a surprise jam session over an Andre 3000 track, turntables, and a piano, manager De'vonne both waxes poetic about and remains protective of his DJ. De'vonne has taught Calhoun how to imagine his basement walls and dog when on stage and to rock it like he always does in the basement. DJ DC learned to blank out the commotion and step up his game. Now, when DJ DC sees a record, he thinks, "You know what? I'm gonna tear you up. You might not like the way I touch you, but afterwards, you gonna' love me."
De'vonne organizes DJ DC's passion into two rules that fuel their business. The first rule is communication with the audience. He encourages Darryl's "genuine love of what he's doin', because the audience feeds off of that, takes it home with them, and anticipates." The second rule is business. He insists that DJ DC "don't hafta have someone tell him what to do, he already knows what to do." De'vonne sums up their love for underground hip hop with an analogy: "Violets are violets everywhere you go, not just Saginaw, but everywhere." He insists that "people are waiting for the real artist and DJ to bring the party back, during hard [economic] times, to enjoy the music, to bring back respect for the underground, the love for what you do."
DJ DC will be spinning May 21st at Birch Run's Expo with Yo Gotti at 7 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.birchrunexpos.com/.
© Shiloh Sanchez, 2010