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DJ Steph Floss: Inside the DJ Booth

TK

For DJ Steph Floss, interest in turntables started early — with his first viewing of the classic 1990s film ‘Juice.’ But he didn’t get his first pair until his college years. Even then, it was only because he didn’t want to have to pay a DJ to spin at the parties he’d begun throwing on campus at Ohio State University. The Cleveland native tells The BoomBox it was strictly a pragmatic decision, although he’d been in love with the idea since childhood.

“I always wanted to do it,” Steph says, “But my mother would never buy me the equipment, because she didn’t want me to be loud in her house. So once I got my own money and I wasn’t living there anymore, I was just like, ‘I’ma buy this stuff and teach myself.’”

The marketing and operations major was into throwing parties since he was in high school, but the lessons he’d learn in college directly affected his brand growth in the coming years.

“At first, my mom was like, ‘Why don’t you get yourself a real job? You got a degree and all that,’” Steph says. “Then I bought a house off of DJing, and she’s cool now.”

His mother had a reason to be a bit worried at first, as Cleveland isn’t particularly known for its DJ scene, but Steph says he grew up listening to quite a few DJs from within the city limits. “There are a lot of great DJs in Cleveland,” he reveals, “And the thing about most of our DJs is that they’re crazy turntablists. I was mad young but I remember Rad & Quick, DJ Blend, Scratchmaster L, DJ Ice and all these other guys. They have so many skills on the turntables, and I always thought that was cool.”

As with anything, the best way to stand out is to do something different, so Steph Floss found himself in the company of DJs from the East Coast who filled in what he hadn’t learned from the spinners back home. He studied people like Funkmaster Flex, DJ Envy, DJ Absolut, DJ Clue and DJ Self, comparing styles. “I just noticed that during parties and on the radio they were very vocal,” Steph says. “I was like, ‘Wow. If I brought that same kind of flavor to my area, I could win because I’m a very vocal person.’ I don’t mind speaking in front of people, large crowds and being the center of attention.”

So that was the route Steph took in building a name for himself — he maintained the turntablist skills that he grew up seeing at home in the Midwest and developed an N.Y.-inspired rapport on the mic while spinning. Nowadays, he’s a long way from promoting high school parties. DJ Steph Floss has a full schedule — all the time. His Eighty81 crew has representatives residing nationwide, throwing weekly and monthly parties in various cities, including Columbus, Atlanta, Vegas and Cleveland. Steph is always ready to work, but sometimes, he proves to be more reliable than his equipment. He recalls a particularly embarrassing malfunction just before his set at a Diddy party.

“I was DJing alongside DJ SNS, and as I was getting ready to DJ, I turn my laptop on to cue my Serato up, and on the Mac I using, there was a folder with an ‘X’ through it that showed up,” he said. “I was like, ‘What the heck is this?’ It just kept flashing and never came on, and I’m about to DJ this huge event for Diddy, and my computer won’t load up or nothing. I didn’t want people to see me panic, so I took the battery out and put it back in. Nothing. I Googled it, and it told me that my hard drive was dead and damaged. That’s when I finally started sweating. Me and SNS had done events together before, though, so I showed him what was going on, and I asked if I could rock off his equipment for my set. He let me do it and I’ll never forget him for that.”

Beyond being one of the biggest names in today’s DJ scene in the Midwest, Steph Floss says his main objective is to put Cleveland hip-hop on the map. He recalls one of Kanye West‘s bars from 2004′s “Jesus Walks”: “You know what the Midwest is? Young and Restless…” Steph says he’s planning on releasing a mixtape called Young & Restless and another titled State of Emergency — he’s already on his 12th tape this year. His aim is to back every promising artist out of his city, thus doing his part as hometown hero.

“It’s not about me, though,” he insists. “I want people to hear these artists, and I tell them when I reach out to them, ‘I want to host your mixtape, because I know my voice is bigger than yours, but you’re a great artist with great music, and people are going to listen to it if I cosign it. You deserve this and I know you can win. Then ultimately all of us will win.’”

In the meantime, Steph is doing what he can from the winners circle — spinning all over the country with some of the biggest names in music as well as sports. Steph has an official job as the DJ for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s also been LeBron James’ go-to DJ for years — even after the star baller’s controversial move to the Miami Heat.

“It’s crazy, because I still work for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but that’s like my brother,” he reveals, “It’s just a natural situation. It just so happens that he’s the biggest figure in the world right now and it’s like, you can’t help who your friends are.”

“Somebody like Bron can’t associate himself with anybody wack, because he’s huge,” he adds. “So if I was a wack DJ, although that’s my guy, I couldn’t be his official DJ, because I’m wack, and it would ruin parties.”

Top Five Songs of the Moment
1. “Cashin’ Out,” Cash Out
2. “Same Damn Time,” Future
3. “Sloppy,” Ray Jr., ft. Ducky Smallz
4. “I Got That Sack,” Yo Gotti
5. “I Don’t Like,” Chief Keef

Top Five Songs to Rock a Party
1. “Poison,” Bell Biv Devoe
2. “Rock With You,” Michael Jackson
3. “P.S.A.,” Jay-Z
4. “Get Money,” Junior Mafia
5. “Came Down,” Al Fatz

See Photos of a Mixtape Timeline

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