DJ Irie – Living the Surreal Life
DJ Irie’s life can only be summed up by one word: SURREAL! Take for example the night DJ Irie was spinning at Robert Downey Jr.’s private birthday bash held at Downey’s Malibu mansion. As the story goes, party host Jamie Foxx was on the mic while Irie had a crowd of Hollywood elites—Jodi Foster, Tobey Maguire, Samuel L. Jackson, etc, etc—partying to a remix of Sting and Police’s classic hit Roxanne. Sometime during the mix, Sting (Yes, that Sting!!) grabbed the mic and started singing along. “I was thinking, wow is this really happening,” recalls Irie. “I couldn’t believe that the same music-loving boy from Miami was actually spinning while Sting rocked out to his mix.” That same young boy was actually born in St. Croix of the Virgin Islands and raised in Miami. Ironically it was his stay on another Caribbean Island that set in motion what would become his career. While attending a private boarding school in Jamaica, the ever technically inclined Irie rigged up some speakers, borrowed his roommate’s—future multi-platinum reggae artist Sean Paul’s—Casio, wired his own system, then commenced to spending all his free time hunting for records (actual records too, not CDs) to play on his contraption.
MVP You are known as Miami’s number one DJ, Song Master to the stars and official DJ for the Miami Heat. You’re an entrepreneur partnering with business giants such as Carnival Cruise lines to begin Spin’iversity and Bank Atlantic who just named you Brand Ambassador. All this just may indicate to some that you were born with a silver mic in your hand. Is that an accurate picture of you? Or is there more to the story of the boy from Miami by way of St. Croix of the Virgin Islands?
DJI Ha!! A silver mic in my hand huh… well that’s probably the furthest thing from the truth.. Fact is that I came from a very blessed place… a home with a loving and hard working mom and dad, 2 great brothers and an all around supportive family unit. We may not have been financially rich but we were rich in family values. The DJ Irie product everyone sees today came about from having some great mentors in my life. Growing up I didn’t have to look very far to find some great examples of how to have a positive impact on society and how hard work can pay off.
MVP Who is DJ Irie and where did you learn to spin like that?
DJI DJ Irie is someone that has profound passion for music and a true appreciation for the art form of DJing. I cultivated my style of spinning mainly from countless hours of practice at home in my bedroom in my high school years and then fine-tuned it for live audiences in college while attending Florida International University.
MVP Who were some of the people you admired coming up and why is it important to have a role model?
DJI My parents were amazing role models for me growing up not only were they great examples of a strong family unit but they were both very hard workers and community conscious. Outside of my parents influence local Miami hero’s like Alonzo Mourning, Jason Taylor, Dwyane Wade & Dan Marino really showed me how to use influence and resources to better our community. Those guys have not only been amazing friends but a huge positive influence on my life.
MVP You’ve had some surreal moments in the spotlight. Rockin’ out with the likes of Jamie Fox, Sting, Robert Downey Jr. and the A-list goes on. What pre-success moment stands out in your mind with equal surrealism that you can say, yes that most definitely played a big part in who I am as an entertainer/entrepreneur today?
DJI Yes I have had some pretty surreal moments in my life but if I had to single out any one pre-success moment would be back in 1994 when I applied for an academic scholarship to Florida International University and GOT IT!
I studied hard in high school but never regarded myself as being at the top of my class or anything like that and applying for that scholarship was one of the 1st things I REALLY set my mind on… I wanted it for so many reasons but none more than the fact that I was going to be the 1st in my family to attend college and I would be able to do it without putting a financial burden on my family. That achievement proved that I could do anything I set my mind to accomplish.
MVP There’s so much talent out there, and yet an industry where only a few see the success that you have seen. What did you do differently?
DJI Wow you’re right and I really haven’t thought about it that way… I’ve been extremely blessed and fortunate in my career and so many things have played a role in that success but one of the things I made a point to do differently was to be diverse. I never allowed myself to be typecast as a specific “type” of DJ… matter of fact I’ve made every effort to be known as an entertainer even moreso than a DJ… I’m passionate about all kinds of music and all walks of life. Put me in front of almost any crowd anywhere on the planet and I will find a way to entertain them with my music, I always figure it out. This is why I’ve done everything from Robert Downey Jr.’s birthday to Gloria Estefan’s birthday to Jadakiss birthday and everything in between.
MVP What would you like to see changed in the arts and entertainment industry?
DJI I would like to see the arts and entertainment industry play a more active role in our countries education system. With all the budget cuts going on nowadays… it’s the arts that are usually the 1st casualty. The arts are such an important part of our educational system that we need the voices of the professionals to help influence the system to keep the arts a priority in our school system.
MVP Do you practice certain principles that you can say helped you get where you are today? If so, please share your recipe/principles of success with our readers?
DJI I could go on forever with this answer but I’ll just briefly focus on two areas… 1st is self improvement… each and everyday you wake up should be about being better than the previous day… what more can you learn? What new skillset can I acquire? What’s happening in the world around me? Read Read Read is what I say and do. There’s a plethora of information in books, magazines, online… you name it… just waiting to be accessed. I’ve learned so much on my own from reading. The other is exercise. A fit body is just as important as a fit mind in my opinion. I work out and stay active on the regular and it really helps me think clear and just all around feel better and more energetic!
MVP People tend to see the end product; the frenzy of the crowd, the stars and the glamour, but it was not always that way for you. What were some of the pit falls that you had to avoid in getting to where you are now?
DJI This business can be very glamorous but there are also a lot of negative attributes surrounding it as well. Whether it be drugs, alcohol or other illicit entities it’s easy to get caught up in that stuff. You have to know who you are and have clear and defined morals and stick by them. You should only be influenced by the things you WANT to be influenced by. Also this business is extremely political by nature… my career could have been short lived by working with the wrong people. You have to know your client and make sure you and your client have a similar vision for your brands.
MVP Life presents its challenges at every stage. What are your current challenges relating to your craft and how do you plan to overcome them?
DJI One of the challenges I’m facing right now is how quickly music is evolving… a few years ago Hip Hop dominated the nightlife scene. Nowadays the same parties that were predominantly hip hop are now more of an open format with some hip hop, house, electro, dub step etc… As a DJ you have to keep up with so many distinctive types of music that it can be a challenge… you also can’t veer off into one type too much either.. It’s a complicated balancing act of sorts.
MVP You once said that you could sense the vibe of the crowd headed in a certain direction and that’s how you know what to play. That is fascinating. Where did that intuition come from? And, can this connection between Dj and partygoer be duplicated in other Dj’s?
DJI I think it’s one of those things that’s indicative of a true DJ and not just a person that plays songs… just like a race car driver can ‘feel’ the course and anticipate turns etc after one lap well that’s how it is for a real DJ.. A DJ is supposed to be able to ‘feel’ out his or her crowd after a few records and know exactly where they want to go. It is an intuition of sorts that comes from a vast knowledge of music and demographics. I don’t think this connection can be ‘taught’ but it certainly exists in other DJ’s that have that vast knowledge of music and demographics.
MVP Speaking of Djs; because you have mastered the art of bringing a crowd to its feet you have been commissioned by Carnival Cruise lines to develop the first of- its-kind on board school for Carnival DJ’s across the “Fun Ship” fleet. Please tell our readers about Spin’iversity and Carnivals efforts to up their game when it comes to the music their passengers enjoy.
DJI The DJ Irie x Carnival Cruise Lines partnership is one of the most exciting partnerships to date! It’s a match made on the high seas. Carnival Cruise Lines has long been the industry leader in cruise vacations and being the forward thinking company that they are they were pondering on what was next and also in line with their Fun Ship Model.. Fun Ship 2.0 was conceived and it included a huge music entertainment element. Carnival wanted to take the cruise experience to a whole new level and identified music as being a big part of that. Historicaly the DJ’s on board a ship didn’t really have an extensive background in the art and history of professional DJing. My company ArtistRelated developed the Spin’iversity DJ college for new and existing Carnival DJ’s to get professional training and certification. It’s been a HUGE success so far and Carnival has also named me the Cruise Lines official DJ.
MVP What fuels your philanthropic spirit? Why is it so important to give back?
DJI Giving back is EVERYTHING to me.. I would not be the person I am today without the support of my community and role models. I wish that everyone could be exposed to the same opportunities that I’ve had. I feel like I’m in a place in my life where I can make an effort to help those around me, I have the resources and the ability so it’s just something I am compelled to do.. I still remember the very 1st time a youngster pulled me aside and said “DJ Irie when I grow up I want to be just like you” I knew this work was something I was destined to do.
MVP By the way; the word Irie is a Jamaican noun meaning “Powerful, pleasing, all encompassing quality” “Irie,” is the ultimate positive. With that said; What’s next for DJ Irie?
DJI Kodus to you guys! This is the 1st interview where you actually know what “Irie” means.. I love that! Next up we’re working on some original music projects… with Pitbull and Danjahandz, a new clothing and headwear line with New Era and a new shoe with Creative Recreation to name a few.. we’re going to have a busy year ahead of us!