DJ Tay James on His Diamond Supply Co. Collab & Justin Bieber
A man stands behind tables with his laptop and mixer, in a black T-shirt with glowing white letters that spell “WORLD TOUR” (that’s the Purpose World Tour, cc: Justin Bieber) and a dad cap that spells “We Know the DJ”. You can tell that he’s having a dope AF time, but you may not know his name. That’s all about to change; if you don’t know DJ Tay James yet, get to know him, stat.
While being a DJ is his main gig, James is defining his career in more ways than one. Part designer (thanks to a recent collab with Diamond Supply Co.), part developer (stay tuned for his app, coming soon) part producer (check his online DJ directory We Know the DJ to see for yourself), James is not one to limit himself to one passion or another; instead, he’s pursuing them all with equal gusto.
We sat down with James to talk DJ-ing 101, why he launched a clothing line, and how his app is like no other in the game; peep the full conversation below.
You started DJ’ing when you were 12 years old. Who inspired you to pursue this path?
When I was 12, there was a couple DJs. The whole R&B DJ was presented to me by DJ Scribble. He was working for MTV at the time and I got to meet him later. He was the host on MTV Spring Break, interviewing artists, celebrities…he was doing everything and controlling the music at the same time. It was so exciting and I had no idea what a DJ was. From there, I kinda started learning my own way [by] meeting DJs in the city. I’m from Baltimore and my brother knows a lot of DJs, so I was connected to them. DJs like Jay Claxton that I just tagged along with. I don’t stalk DJs how to learn: I carry the record to get to the club, just be a fly on the wall and learn how to DJ. I guess it’s in my character [from when] I was pretty young, 2015 to about this [year], it’s healthy to keep me to who I am today.
I have to say that he’s definitely influenced you. I can’t believe that it’s been going on for [at least] 10 years, but I remember that you started a blog called We Know the DJ, which you expanded into a YouTube series. What made you want to document the lives of other DJs apart from yourself?
We Know the DJ…is such a big name—it’s just bigger than me by myself. I know what I was doing—that’s the places [where] I was going and I was getting a pitch toward it, but I feel like every DJ is responsible for doing what I’m doing. But this [is] in their own little world, just in their own head. I want to be highlighting these DJs. That’s why we basically try to rebrand and make We Know the DJ [similar to] MTV as DJs are the new rockstars…[by] giving them a platform that they can help promote themselves.
It’s dope that you want to give DJ-ing a bigger platform and a bigger voice. What are the biggest misconceptions of being a DJ?
Some people think that DJs have every song. One of the funny things that’s happened to me was is when I get a song request. Say I’m DJ’ing at a hip hop club or hip-hop night. Like somebody would ask a song that’s not hip hop at all [laughs]. You know what I mean? I try to be prepared and have all this music as DJs do. But, sometimes, people have that misconception. It’s not for this one person [but,] for a general party.
I just DJ’d at party recently and they asked me to play some country song.
And I’m like, “It’s nothing to do with the party with what I’m doing, but [it’s] so random. It’s not going to work.” [Laughs] It happens all the time.
I had no idea. The one thing that a lot of people happen to know about you is your close relationship to Justin Bieber, who previously brought you to the Believe Tour. How did he discover you and what made you want to work with him?
I opened a little bit on the Believe Tour, but I’m not opening on Purpose. I’m supporting him on the stage. Him and I got together when I was graduating college [from Hampton University]. His manager [Scooter Braun] reached out for a DJ that was young and [would] be able to travel on his own—that was me. I linked up with [Bieber] on his first show and we’ve been friends ever since.
What differences were you able to observe when you play by yourself versus when you play for Bieber’s crowd?
DJs love the energy that the crowd gives you. As for Justin, it’s next level stadium status—definitely a crazier energy. But, we see each other on stage. We all kind of bounce off on each other to put on a great show [whereas with] my own gigs, it’s great, too. I’m able to meet up the people that I’m DJ-ing for and play a song that people are reacting to…by making a whole group of people dance.
Definitely. In terms of your music, I know you like to remix songs, like your mashup of Bieber with Ginuwine’s “Pony”. It was great!
Thank you! I love mashing up things together. As a DJ, I like to take different genres and put them together. That’s kinda been my style since I was growing up. You elevate the surprise—you don’t expect to hear these songs together and it sounds great. I like doing different stuff and staying innovative.
Agreed. How does the process of remixing a song work?
For me, a lot of times, I can be listening to a song and an idea would click in my head. I keep on listening to [a song] and I feel that I should probably be remixing it. An idea for a song would appear and I mix it. It sounds good sometimes. I’ve done things that don’t sound right at all. Not everything [should be] a perfect mix. A lot times, it’s weird. I can’t even explain it. I guess it’s part of the talent.
For “Pony” one, it’s a classic record and I think I did it with “As Long As You Love Me” from Justin. “Pony” is a fan favorite—every girl in the world loves that song. So, why not mix the two together? That was my concept.
Recently, you are planning to launch an app and software program where you teach aspiring DJs. What made you launch it and why do you think it’s important to help aspiring DJs learn the craft?
I’m partnering with a company called Algorithm. They have a software program called DJ Pro and I’m planning to become a brand ambassador for the company. We’re just going to be connecting the world to this new software. It’s a beautiful software. Say if you’re a kid and you want to get into the basics, it’s going to make the basics a lot easier for you [as] it has all the tools for you. You can have it on your tablet, cell phone or laptop. We just wanna help the next generation of DJs that come before them. It goes with We Know the DJ, my clothing line, and it was a no-brainer to partner with a company like Algorithm.
Amazing. Aside from being a DJ, you launched a collaboration with Diamond Supply Co. where you designed sweatshirts, caps, and hoodies. Since your clothing line represents your lifestyle as a DJ, how did you come up with the idea to launch a collection with them?
My good friend, Nicky Diamonds, is the owner and we wanted to do something for DJs. It was waiting for the right time to do it. Recently, we did a pop-up shop and it was a success. We put a bunch of different designs and it worked out.
The collection looks pretty dope! With the clothing line, the silhouettes are simple. What’s your idea of a very comfortable outfit on a day off?
Sweatpants and sweatshirt. Just laid back. [Laughs]
It’s real simple, yeah. You don’t wanna overdo it when you’re just chilling.
So you want to be comfortable and not let the clothing wear you. But, you’d rather wear the clothing.
Exactly—that’s why DJs want to wear clothes that are comfortable. That’s why you have the long sleeve shirts, T-shirts, we have tank tops coming out in the summer and we just try to offer everything.
What is the one goal you want to achieve this year?
Just to expand the brand more [by] having more brand awareness to We Know the DJ. I want some more upcoming DJs coming up and see how I can help them in their career. My goal is to help the change the world as much as I can, take a little piece of the whole part and give back.
Featured image courtesy of DJ Tay James
Stay tuned to Milk for more dope AF DJs we love.