Chicago Spotlight: A Conversation with DJ 50Millz

DJ 50 Millz is one of the most versatile DJs on the scene. Though his first love his Chicago Style House Music, his DJ resume includes many successful Jamaican, hip hop and steppers events.  I recently had an opportunity to talk to him about his career, balancing corporate responsibilities with his DJ career and the future.

Black Widow:  When did you start DJ'ing and Why?

50 Millz:  I grew up on the South Side around 83rd and Stoney Island. I grew up surrounded by music and I even have family that’s been involved in the business in one way or another. I found out my dad used to DJ in Jamaica a while ago. Growing up everyone on the block wanted to DJ.  I started around 1981/1982.  Some of us would get equipment for birthdays or for Christmas and would play on that.  Coming up, blending was key. If you couldn’t blend, you weren’t considered a DJ.   We played different types of music too because that’s what I was listening too at the time; soft rock, Blondie, etc.  I was also into sports so my time was split between the two. 

Black Widow: When did it get serious for you?

50 Millz: I moved away from Chicago for 18 years.  I spent 10 years in Colorado Springs, 5 years in Columbus Ohio and was in the army for 9 years.  When I went to the service I spent 3 years in Germany and managed Demetrious Orr. Once I returned home, I picked it up again.  I had a friend who was a DJ and he had a big party at the Board of Trade. He got injured at the last minute and I filled in for him. I had one speaker, laptop and a controller and had to play for 300+ people! I did it and rocked the crowd. It started again from there.  I started playing underground parties, making CDs and getting my name out there.  I played as much as I could at home and at parties.  Playing music, especially back then, was a release for me. I was going through a divorce and it was a way to heal. Music has always been such a force in my life.

Black Widow: What do you think are the most important elements to being a successful DJ?

50 Millz:  Be Consistent. Know your position, especially when playing with others, be prepared, know your crowd and be willing to adapt. You have to know music. You have to have a good ear and be able to play on anything.   You also have to be a good businessman. You have to have your stuff in order, logo’s, marketing, promotion. You have to know your name is your brand and conduct yourself accordingly. 

Black Widow:   I think that’s something unique you bring. You have a strong business background, especially as an executive in the corporate world.  How does that help when you are building your brand?

50 Millz:   You know this game really is 40% Business and 60% your name and word of mouth.  If your name isn’t respected, you can’t get work and you’ll never establish a loyal following.   It’s a delicate balance.  You have to have the talent and skill as a DJ. You have to know your music and that includes understanding the artist and associating that with a certain vibe. You have to market and present yourself professionally and watch your moves.  You know, I look at some of the DJs from Chicago who achieve a certain amount of success and I watch how they move.  It really takes discipline. 

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Black Widow:   How do you approach DJ’ing a party?

50 Millz:  It really depends.  You know I look at the crowd, check the venue and try to get an idea of the vibe.  I also really think about who I’m playing with. As DJs it’s important to know your fellow DJs. I like to do my thing but I also like to compliment the ones I’m playing with. 

Black Widow: Do you have a set list in mind when you go in or does it change?

50 Millz:   Not really. The one thing I usually have is my idea of what the first song is going to be. That’s what sets the tone for my set and that’s what establishes the vibe I’m going for but again, you have to be able to adapt because the DJ playing before can close out his/her set with the song you were going to use or it may not work when you are trying to transition from one DJ to the next. It really depends. You just have to read the moment.

Black Widow: Who are some of your influences?

50 Millz:  Wow there are so many!!! I have to say Ron Hardy for his innovation, Frankie Knuckles for his power on the tables, Andre Hatchett, because his blends were just impeccable.  Alan King because he is able to balance his corporate life with his DJ life.     Of course, my D’vine One Family, Brett Morrison.   Paul Johnson, Craig Alexander and Tony Evans, who gave me my first crate when I first came back home. I have so many.  Mike Dunn has impeccable timing and you gotta respect Terry Hunter just for where he’s taking his career and really picking up the torch and running with it.   

Black Widow:  What does it mean to you to be a DJ from Chicago?

50 Millz:  I feel lucky. I feel blessed. Chicago is competitive. It’s a lot of talent here and if you can make it out of the city and get to play certain areas, it makes me feel like I’m doing well.  I mean I went to play overseas and I felt ready. The Advantage to being from Chicago is the training ground you are on.   You are put to the test mentally and on those tables.  The competition is intense and if you can come out of it with your integrity intact, your good name, strong relationships, you can be successful. 

Black Widow:  What does the future hold for 50 Millz?

50 Millz:  I’m ready to move towards production. I started my own production company, Millz Productions and we have about 30 tracks we are getting ready to promote and push.  I ready to go to the next level, production, running a label, creating and owning music.  I’d love to own a club too.   You know its so many different things that you can do in this scene. Its DJs, artists, producers but we need more managers and more representation. You know?   We need all of that because it’s all part of that relationship that sustains this culture. We need to own every piece of it.   We all have a stake in this game. 

Black Widow: Sounds like the future is looking quite bright for DJ 50 Millz! Thank you so much for speaking with me today! 

50 Millz:  No problem. It was an honor and pleasure. Thanks for reaching out.

 

Contact: and Booking Info:

Instagram:   www.instagram.com/dj50millz

Email for booking info:  dj50millz@gmail.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/50Millz

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Millz_50

Soundcloud:  https://soundcloud.com/dj-50-millz

Mixcloud:  https://www.mixcloud.com/fiddy-millz

 

Upcoming Dates for DJ 50Millz

07/07/2017:        D’Vine One’s Soulful Thursdays

07/08/2017:        Pier 31 w/Gene Hunt and Dee Jay Alicia

07/29/2017:        The Attic House Picnic

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Black Widow

D.Sanders, a Chicago native, is a devoted mother, blogger and writer who is passionate about her family, friends, women's rights, living authentically and telling her story.   She is also a spoken word recording artist under the name, Black Widow. She has been writing and blogging for over 15 years providing commentary and expressing thought on life, love and relationships. Her artistry can be heard on two house music singles, “Rough”, and “Gruv Me” released by Grammy Nominated Producer and CEO of T’s Box Records & T’s Crates, Terry Hunter under the production of Mike Dunn and Dee Jay Alicia. . Both singles reached #1 on Traxsource’s Afrohouse and charted top ten overall as well reaching the top ten in their year of release.  She splits her time blogging about the Chicago Dance Music Scene on www.blkwidowmusic.com and on her book’s website, www.thesumofmanythings.com.  She is excited about her debut book, The Sum of Many Things, scheduled for release in June 2017.   She wears many hats but refuses to be placed in a box.  She believes that women are "The Sum of Many Things".  Embracing all of her roles as a woman, she firmly believes in breaking free of preconceived notions of womanhood.   She believes it is her mission to define her own life experience, femininity and sexuality and not have it defined by society.  She openly shares her story with hopes that women understand their worth, power and place in this world.