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DJ Envy: Inside the DJ Booth

Shareif Ziyadat, FilmMagic

DJ Envy thought he’d be in the NBA by now. It was a chance meeting at a Queens bus stop that prompted him to reconsider his lifetime goals as a teen. “I was on the way to school, and I saw this friend of mine, Ernesto. He used to always drive around in these expensive cars: Beamers, Lexuses, Mercedes…,” Envy tells The BoomBox. “So I ran over to his car and asked what he did. He told me he was a DJ but I didn’t believe him. I thought he was selling drugs.”

After school that day, Ernesto invited Envy to his family’s house just across the street, where he was spinning records in the basement. Envy’s longtime friend and neighbor ended up being DJ Clue. “He’s showing me all his records and his turntables, and from that point on that was what I decided I wanted to do,” says Envy, “Clue told me what equipment to buy, which turntables and which mixer.”

The fledgling DJ set out battling on the turntables. He remembers the first record he bought: The Gap Band’s ‘We Can Make It Alright.’ He also remembers winning his first showcase and being awarded a paltry $100. “I was like, ‘Well, this ain’t gonna pay the bills…’ So I started doing mixtapes but it was hard because at that time Clue was the only one people wanted to buy,” he recalls. Shortly after, he left New York City to attend Hampton University in Virginia. His fellow schoolmates unveiled an abundance of new artists from all over the south, including the Cash Money and No Limit rosters. “It opened me up to a whole different group of people, so I started throwing that on my mixtapes.”

Envy realized that he’d have to alter his career plans once he graduated college. For the young DJ, the mixtape route seemed to be more limited than limitless. He brainstormed alternate options and landed at New York’s leading hip-hop station, Hot 97. He deejayed once a month for an overnight show called Takin’ It To The Streets. Once he’d adjusted to radio, Envy insisted on doing more than just spinning on a monthly basis. That was when things fell into place. The station offered him a Sunday morning spot where he grew even more comfortable on air. “Then Angie Martinez became pregnant and they needed someone to do her afternoon show at the time, so I filled in for her and the rest was history,” says Envy.

Ten years at Hot 97 lead to Envy receiving two extraordinary offers. MTV wanted him to host their weekly Sucka Free Countdown — this would be his first foray into television and a phenomenal way to expand his growing brand. The second offer came from Hot’s newest competitor, Power 105. He happily accepted both proposals. More than anything he was excited to help DJs like Clue, Prostyle and Self build Power from the ground up. “I made a lot of money doing a lot of different things,” Envy enthuses. “And I was successful doing a lot of things, but this was the only time where I really jumped out the window and said I was gonna do something totally left and totally different.”

Envy was brought on as one-third of the Power 105 morning crew, The Breakfast Club. Since its inception, Power’s Breakfast Club has been the station’s crown jewel. The outlandish remarks from Charlemagne tha God are tempered by Angela Yee’s persistent wit and Envy’s ever-relatable cool. Beyond the jokes and jaw-dropping interviews, Envy’s morning mixes are what keep New Yorkers from flicking the dial. It’s evident that mixing is his passion. “I love deejaying because I like being able to take somebody out of a zone where they might’ve had a fucked up or a bad day and they come to the club and you can kinda give them that light or that energy,” he continues. “Same thing with the radio, I have so many people that call in the morning and say, ‘Yo, I had a bad morning, but listening to you made my day and I appreciate you.’”

In addition to MTV, Power 105, a partnership with rapper Red Cafe and his show on Sirius XM’s Hip Hop Nation, Envy busies himself with multiple club dates every week. Even with a packed schedule he still has a moment to chuckle at himself, describing one night in particular, where he insisted on working although his vision was impaired. “I had laser eye surgery and that day I had to take my contacts out. If I’m not working, I feel like I’m useless, so I’m trying to DJ with no glasses or contacts. Before I got my eye surgery, I couldn’t see s—,” he says with a laugh. “So I had to deejay a party without seeing but I had my friend with me. It was kinda like having a seeing-eye dog. I had to ask my friend, ‘Yo, are they dancing right now?’ He’s like, ‘No.’ ‘Are they dancing now?’ He’s like, ‘Yes.’ I just remember taking a step to the left and there was no more stage. Yo, I tumbled so crazy. I just started laughing. Everything’s funny to me.”

DJ Envy is still that teenager at the bus stop in a sense. More than a decade later he’s still open to moving beyond his current accomplishments. According to Envy, there’s no limit to how much more he can achieve. His next goal is ownership. “I love Nick Cannon because not only is he a personality, a DJ, a producer, and a rapper but he owns his own,” Envy states. “He has something that he can pass on to his kids. It’s no longer a matter of ‘You’re a celebrity and keep it moving,’ it’s a matter of owning your own. So his kids and his family will eat forever. That’s what’s next for me.”

Top Five Songs of the Moment
1. ‘Super Freak,’ Young Jeezy
2. ‘Stay Schemin’,’ Rick Ross
3. ‘I’ma Boss,’ Meek Mill
4. ‘House Party,’ Meek Mill
5. ‘Spend It,’ 2 Chainz

Top Five Songs to Rock a Party
1. ‘Poison,’ Bell Biv DeVoe
2. ‘This Is How We Do It,’ Montell Jordan
3. ‘P.S.A.,’ Jay-Z
4. ‘Before I Let Go,’ Maze feat. Frankie Beverly
5. ‘Say Aah,’ Trey Songz

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