The role of the DJ has always been to serve the crowd. Be the bridge between party rockers and the breaks. Hype up the star of a show and create an experience. But one thing that is certain in life is change. So perhaps, the most critical skill that DJs all must have to survive is the ability to adapt. Just ask Bronx native DJ O.Minaya (Orlando Minaya). The Dominican-Puerto Rican DJ who now travels the world had to pivot many a time throughout his longstanding career.
Whether it be from a full-time corporate job as a display manager to becoming a full-time DJ. Adapting from spinning vinyl to going digital. Or surviving the end of NYC nightclub culture. Now DJ O.Minaya pivots once again during this unprecedented global pandemic. So, how does a DJ still thrive when much of our nation is on lockdown?
‘LLERO caught up with DJ O.Minaya to hear how he’s been keeping busy while on quarantine. What the future of the industry looks like post-pandemic and the advice that’s given him career longevity.
On Getting His Start
‘LLERO: How did you get your start in the game?
DJ O.Minaya: I started DJing around 13-years-old. I used to play baseball in a bunch of leagues and a kid I used to play with who lived in my father’s neighborhood, he was already a DJ. So, one thing led to another where he showed me turntables and stuff like that. Then, next thing you know I was just doing house parties with him. So, he would get paid and I would be DJ’ing. Back in the day, house parties you would be locked in the room and the speakers would just be out. Nobody would actually see who’s DJ’ing. And it would be me. [Laughs] White Castle was my pay back then.
‘LL: What is it like to work with A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie?
DJ O.Minaya: To see him grow as an artist and help him develop his show presence and his character and just watch him grow as a person it’s been really crazy. To see the diversity of his fan base is insane. Because we go to countries and cities all over the world and his fanbase can range from like a little kid all the way up to a 60-something-year-old woman. You’ll be like huh? They know the lyrics, then know the words, they know everything. They pretty much dictate how good his music is because it can go any age, race, shape, size, whatever.
On Adapting in the Midst of a Global Pandemic
‘LL: Now that touring is currently not an option what are you doing now to keep busy? How has your business model shifted?
DJ O.Minaya: As far as shows and stuff, we’ve [with A Boogie] definitely lost a lot shows and tour dates because we were supposed to go on tour for the album Artist 2.0. We had a whole bunch of college spring break shows set up as well. We’ve been fortunate to be doing online shows. So we’re performing online through YouTube and other channels. Besides that, it might sound crazy but I get booked every weekend to do Zoom parties or Instagram Live parties.
‘LL: So, you just shifted everything to online?
DJ O.Minaya: Yeah, you pretty much have to adapt to what’s happening right now. Everyone’s stuck home, obviously, and nobody can go out. There’s no clubs open but people still want to celebrate and feel special for graduations, birthdays, anything. With that being said, with me going live, that was the whole purpose. To show people my energy online and keep the same energy as if we were in a club.
A lot of people do Zoom because it’s more private and just their friends. But some people don’t want to be on camera so they’ll do an Instagram party and invite all their friends to my page and they’ll all vibe out. Sometimes people that live close to each other will have a couple of people over and then they’ll vibe out that way. But they want the love from the chat, so if I have 200-300 people in there saying happy birthday to you, you feel a little special. So, it helps out a lot. I’ve been fortunate enough and blessed to be booked every weekend.
‘LL: Congrats on doing 50 IG Live sessions in a row! For the daily IG live sessions, how do you select the themes and prepare for those?
DJ O.Minaya: Thanks! Pretty much what I do is just cater to the listeners. I see what they like. Like the first few times I went live I just randomly went live and I was like let me see who is actually tuning in when I play the music and see what I can cater to. Mondays I’ll do “Mellow Mondays” and just do cool R&B, Wednesdays I do an after-work vibe, Thursdays I do throwbacks. Fridays is just a straight party and Saturdays sometimes I’ll do a brunch into a day party.
Some Fridays now I started this thing called “Lovers and Friends” and pretty much it’s just all types of R&B. Slow jams, up-tempo stuff- real sexy R&B. So, people get wine, they hang out and just vibe out. Last week I did about six or seven hours straight and they [were on] on the whole day! I was like what the hell? [Laughs]
‘LL: So how do you think the music industry will deal with the challenges it faces post-quarantine?
DJ O.Minaya: From the memos that we’ve been getting from like Live Nation and the people that we tour with. They’re saying that the show thing is not going to be going back to normal for a little while. So, the music industry is going to have to figure something out – well not so much the music industry but really the artists.
Because the labels are going to make money regardless because people are still streaming music. I’m not sure if the numbers are higher or lower right now but people are still streaming music. As far as the shows, that’s where a lot of artists make a lot of their money. So, for them to not be able to go out on the road is going hurt. Also, when you release music you really don’t see your money for like a year. Your show money is what keeps you afloat.
A lot of people are going to have to brand [themselves] and do different things. I think overseas is going back to normal sooner than us. We have a whole Europe tour set up and they haven’t canceled it yet so I’m just wondering what’s happening.
‘LL: How are you changing your approach personally in your career in regards to this pandemic fallout?
DJ O.Minaya: I’ve just been trying to find out the best ways to stay busy and stay in people’s faces pretty much. Cause if you are out of sight you’re out of mind. There’s a lot of DJs who have not gone live [Instagram], they’re not doing parties, they’re not on Instagram. So when this is over people are going to be like where are these guys? Right now, all the DJs that are on IG Live and have talent and are showing their skills are getting a lot of recognition and support from people. I’ve even gained like 3000 followers in the last month and a half, just from going live. And every day it goes up and up.
‘LL: Well you seem to have adapted really well to something just thrown on us. But I guess it’s not the first time you’ve had to adapt or pivot in your career.
DJ O.Minaya: That was the first phase, the second phase was nightclubs being eliminated in New York in terms of all restaurants and lounges now. One thing I’ve never stopped doing is private events because I have my own company. So, outside of all this stuff I also do sweet-sixteens, baby showers, weddings, school parties – I have contracts with like 12 schools. So, I’ve always done private events, I ‘ve never just relied on nightclub money or just doing one thing.
On the New Single & the Best Career Advice He’s Received
‘LL: You’re also busy putting out new music right now. What was the inspiration for the new single?
DJ O.Minaya: That was the other thing I’ve been doing. I put out a single with an artist called BagstheBoss called “Tell Me.” We sampled Bobby Valentino’s record of the same name. We just wanted to put a feel-good record out for the spring that people could just listen to. I’m also working on an EP, which is going to be six songs with different artists. Ideas that I’m helping produce and then put that out. Then I also have a production company called TTAJJ ENTERTAINMENT GROUP imprint. We have an artist, he’s 18, out of Long Beach California named Koshi. We just put out his EP “Fallout” off the imprint. He’s doing pretty well, we just hit 100,000 streams on Spotify. And the other platforms are starting to pick up now as well.
‘LL: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given and by who?
O.Minaya: The best advice I’ve been given, I would say was from Ed Lover which is one of my close friends and mentors in the second half of my career. Just sitting with him and listening to his stories over the years and watching his career. He’s been on television and radio for like 30 years and he’s still going. He still has a morning show in Chicago and he’s still earning great money. He DJs parties now so it’s crazy now I’m mentoring him as a DJ because he is coming back into it. [Having] started out as a DJ as a young guy.
The best advice he gave me was never worry about what the next person is doing and always stay humble. Don’t burn any bridges. I never took that for granted. I never burned any bridges and I’ve always stayed humble. Stayed the same person. I don’t act like I’m a celebrity or superstar. My kid’s friends think I’m like this big time DJ but at home my kids are like, “you’re just an old man.” [Laughs] It helps with staying grounded.