Behind emcees, club and bar dancing, and (the best) house parties in town stand individuals of a very different breed. These individuals have the ability to seamlessly tie together an entire evening of entertainment for you, and they are more than justified in bearing a title that many with a burnt CD of pop-songs-turned-techno offensively try to claim: the DJs of CU.
Equipped with turntables, vinyl, CDs, TV monitors, huge but ever-so-stylish headphones and a difficult and venue-specific musical strategy, these DJs raid the town almost every night of the week at various locations for your own head-bobbing/booty-shaking pleasure. As the bands begin to hibernate for the winter, these DJs will make certain to fill the voids of silence and assert their hobby as a dynamic and adaptable art.
Kevin Miller aka DJ Belly got his name from his little brother and friends around two years ago at the beginning of his DJ career. They started calling Miller by the name of DJ Belly and putting the name on fliers for parties and shows without telling him. Needless to say, the name is quite catchy and stuck with him since. Miller has opened for big name acts such as Lupe Fiasco and the Ying Yang Twins, and he also backs local emcees Krukid, Cornbread, Agent Mos and Jonah from time to time.
You can currently catch DJ Belly spinning on Thursday nights at Boltini Lounge, but look out for him in November because he’s working on putting together a dubstep show (one of his favorite types of music to spin) — an extremely textured genre of music that’s chill enough to sit back and enjoy but upbeat enough to get up and dance to if that’s what you’re into.
Douglas Layne aka DJ Delayney has been a big part of the local spinning scene for around seven years now. With as much ambitious commercial endeavor and talent that he has, the story of how DJ Delayney learned the ropes of his turntables is probably the most interesting thing about his career: He learned it all over the phone. DJ Delayney’s cousin DJ Rasta Root spun in Atlanta and gave him pointers from more than 700 miles away, equipping him with the tools to become one of the biggest driving forces in the club scene here in Champaign through simple telephone wires.
DJ Delayney also started a music entertainment company (that is very involved with the U of I campus) called Power n Soul Pro. with co-CEO Reginald Jones. The two formed Power n Soul by merging their respective companies Collective Soul Promotions and Powerhouse Promotions in 2002 after working together on various graduation parties.
Currently, you can catch DJ Delayney at Radio Maria on Friday nights to dance to telephone-induced talents.
Brian Mertz aka DJ Mertz has been interested in spinning since New Year’s Eve 1998/1999. Spending the holiday in London, he attended a party with thousands of other people present, welcoming 1999 with electronic music that raised the energy like Mertz had never seen. Inspired by that event, he started playing electronic and hip-hop, inviting DJs to come and spin on a university radio station during his undergraduate studies at Illinois Wesleyan. Upon arriving to the U of I for law school a little later, he invested in turntables and made a name for himself in the CU community of spinners alike. He’s been at it now for about six years.
Hailed by other local DJs (DJ Belly made a point to mention Mertz often when buzz had the opportunity to talk to him), Mertz mixes a lot of different genres in ways you cannot deny the impressiveness of. Catch this local marvel on Saturday nights at Boltini Lounge in downtown Champaign.
Larry Gates, 35, also known as DJ LEGTWO, an acronym for Larry E. Gates II, approaches DJing as an art form. Gates refers to himself as a “purist,” preferring his imagination and ears over beat machines. “Nowadays, people can show up with their laptop and rock the whole set, which is convenient … but for me, for now, it’s all about exploring the art of turntablism,” Gates said.
Gates DJs at Boltini Lounge in Downtown Champaign every Wednesday beginning at 9 p.m. He begins the night with old funk and soul such as James Brown and Curtis Mayfield, and by 11 p.m., he has traveled to the underground world of hip-hop.
“Every now and then, I’ll break out some classics if it’s Dre or Biggie or something like that, but what I try to focus on is stuff that I’m passionate about in the underground like Blackalicious or Sage Francis,” Gates said. Boltini allows Gates the freedom to play what he wants instead of what he refers to as “God-awful ringtone hits,” which allows him to educate people on new music, a job aspect Gates believes is important for DJs.
Mike Ingram takes people back to a time when they moonwalked with Michael instead of cranking it with Soulja Boy and shook their backsides to Sir Mix-a-Lot instead of Fergie.
Mike Ingram, 26, began DJing in high school and played what he thought of as “terrible ’90s dance music.” It was a short-lived hobby until three years ago when he resumed DJing. Now, every Wednesday starting at 10 p.m., he returns to his roots and DJs “I love the ’90s” night at Soma. Fortunately, he has a new outlook on ’90s music, calling it “terribly good stuff to play.”
Ingram also DJs ’80s night every Monday at Highdive, where ’80s music videos are played in sync with the music, and people are encouraged to come dressed in the decade’s finest. “It’s pretty funny, especially when you do the older stuff because if the song is really popular, in the first five seconds, you hear the crowd go, ‘Ooohhhhh,’ and that’s kind of fun because you get that recognition thing with old stuff that people haven’t heard in a long time,” Ingram said. When not playing themed nights, Ingram still prefers older hip-hop and R&B to the current music that, he thinks, is overplayed elsewhere.