It’s been a while since DC This Week took you into the DJ booth, so where better to pick up than with DJ Jerome Baker III. I interviewed Jerome back in April and have peeped him spin across the District from Wonderland to Commonwealth, Stussy and Napoleon. He sat down with DC This Week and gave us a look into his packed social calendar and gigs back to his days in junior high and high school where he bought his turntables on his own dime and spent many sleepless nights up practicing and mastering mixes all by his lonesome.
His website and own personal brand, Better Than Yours, is a collective group of tastemakers and influencers involved in the worlds of music, both performing and creative, who write on various subjects related to art, fashion and music. Baker’s sponsorship’s include DC stores Stussy and Commonwealth and you catch his monthly DJ sets during in-store parties, which often leave patrons lined-up and down the street in attempts to gain entry to packed preview nights.
So sit back, skip the lines, and welcome to the DJ booth. Let me introduce you to DJ Jerome Baker THE III. Let's GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. What are you currently listening to in your car/at home/ on your Ipod?
Lots of DJ mixes, Empire On The Sun, and always listening to that good mid 90s hip hop.
What are you currently listening to in your car/at home/ on your Ipod?
Are there any upcoming albums that you can't wait to hear?
Hmmm. The Wale album,
Who would you like to see release another album?
Camp Lo, Black Star
You are always on the go, a real jet-setting DJ, what do you do in your
What is free time? We grind 24/7/365 around here.
Tell me more about your philanthropic endeavors or extracurricular activities.
I have two nephews and a niece I am trying to groom into outstanding, quality young people. That takes up a lot of time.
What is your heritage?
One of the only two black people FROM
How has technology impacted the equipment and the state of music?
It’s leveled the playing field. Everyone has the same songs, same remixes, etc. It’s made skill a thing of the past and now its less about ability per se, and more about who you know.
In order to be a successful DJ you have to be in tune to what the people
are feeling. How do you stay in touch with what's hot and what's not?
I’m in the streets (both real and virtual)!! Definitely stay up on blogs and make sure I nerd out on message boards and what not.
What is the most underrated/overrated aspect of being a DJ?
Underrated: The ability to control a crowd through precise song selection and knowledge, both of your music and crowd. Shit's NOT easy people.
Overrated: People think that because you DJ you’re supposed to be at their beck and call – sorry people I’m not a juke box.
What is a common misconception about DJing?
That its easy and that its not a profession that can be furthered by a specific skill set – in other words NOT everyone can do this, nor should they try.
What are your thoughts concerning DJ's and their role in the music
business? Do you think that your work supports or subverts most artist?
DJs need to break and support music that THEY like – not just because they are being told to play it. I believe my work supports my work because I try to mix artists and play music you may not here @ specific nights at ALL of nights. For example I may play Matthew Wilders “Break My Stride” at a predominantly black venue, and at first the patrons may look at me crazy or stop dancing, but once that hook comes in – GOT EM!!
Who your inspirations for your work?
Family first, then other DJs (the list is long as hell), photography, architecture, etc. (you know the fly renaissance man shit)
Who was the first person or artist who you heard growing up which got
you hooked on music?
Probably Michael Jackson. Moms says I was a big fan. Kenny Loggins too.
What do you think differentiates you from other DJ's?
I feel that I am very fortunate to spin at different venues for different crowds which keeps me on my toes because I’m never spinning the same music on back to back nights. Having the versatility, personally, to be influenced and enjoy different types of music has made my DJing style very encompassing. Plus I’m the best looking.
What is your favorite piece of music? What are your favorite albums?
Lots of mid 90s hip hop albums from Jay Z, Pharcyde, Raekwon etc., but you can still catch me listening to Sublimes first album, Portisheads first album and things of that nature.
What was the first DJ competition you entered? How well did you do and
what did you learn?
I never did the “competition” thing cuz I wasn’t really attracted to that aspect of spinning. I usually see a competition on a nightly basis as me vs the crowd when they are standing still and not dancing…but by the end of the night I’ve won that competition.
What are some of your favorite places to unwind in D.C. and around D.C.?
Napoleon (when I’m not spinning), Marvin, my apartment, and anytime spent with my niece and nephews.
What is your Favorite Global Venue to Spin at?
As long as I’ve been doing it, I think Napoleon right here in DC is a great look. Sexy crowd, awesome management, Courtney and Remzi, and just a good time every week.
What is your advice to up-and-coming DJ's?
Practice, EVERY day for hours. And don’t be afraid to go out in the real world and meet other DJs. Learn how to DJ with vinyl as well (yes they still make it and it can be purchased at DJ Hut or Crooked Beat). STOP STARING @ your computer screen!
What is your favorite genre of music and why?
I don’t have a favorite genre – I like taking all genres and blending them together to make a cohesive experience, whether it’s a night at the club, a workout at the gym, or a road trip.
Are there any national/international artists you have performed with?
Pase Rock, DJ Excel, Dave Nada, Cousin Cole, The Philadelphynz, and my man DJ Stereo Faith
Other than being a DJ what talent would you most like to possess?
I think I’m a pretty good people person, when I’m not being asked to play Lil Wayne @ 10:15pm.
If DJing never existed where would music be today? What would be
Music would STRUGGLE with out the DJ. There would be no “club bangers”, no “in da club”, no “one more time”. Music and the DJ go hand in hand, and will forever ever forever ever.
Which gig/tour will you remember forever?
Playing @ Lit in NYC has been fun because I get to play brit pop and soul music and seeing a room full of people LOSE it to “Tainted Love” brings a smile to my face.
Was it difficult to get into the DJing scene? Were you taken seriously?
I essentially threw myself into it. I used to buy vinyl @
Wax, CD or MP3/CPU?
Wax. All day.
So what's the deal with your music production?
Just getting into it, even though I have a ton of friends who are into it. I’m literally learning ableton, logic, and the MPC at once. I’m interested in making soulful house tunes that I can play out and give to other people who appreciate the genre.
How do you choose the venues you play?
I give mix CDs to club managers/promoters at venues where I feel I can create an exquisite experience for the club patrons. I also give CDs to any club that will let me drink patron for free.
What kind of preparation do you do before playing a set?
Always have the music that I’ve recently acquired categorized and ready. And a double shot of Patron.
Do you have any musical guilty pleasures?
TV theme songs – I’ll play the Fresh Prince theme song anywhere and be dead ass serious. Wait til’ I unleash the 90210 theme.
Describe music in three words.
MUSIC. IS. EVERYTHING