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DJ Yonny: Inside the DJ Booth

DPI Creative

DJ Yonny was raised in Delaware, but his childhood dream was to have a job mixing on Philadelphia radio, just down the freeway. At 11 years old, he’d gotten his first set of turntables, and a few years later, he relocated to New York. But the Big Apple was only supposed to be a stepping stone for Yonny.

“Basically, I just wanted to get some type of education, so I could move back to Philly and get on the radio,” he tells The BoomBox. “But what ended up happening was that I received the opportunity to be on the radio at Power 105 [New York City].”

His aspirations of mixing on air would happen in the biggest market in the country sooner than he thought possible.

Back in 2005, Power 105.1 was just starting out as a competitor to the longstanding New York hip-hop station Hot 97. Yonny started off as an intern and quickly moved into the promotions department once his superiors saw that he had incomparable drive and ambition. After answering phones and clocking hours of work in promotions, Yonny finally had the chance to showcase what he’d learned in his audio engineering classes. Legendary New York radio duo Star and Buc Wild had an assistant producer position open on their syndicated morning show, and Yonny wasted no time in preparing and submitting a portfolio which scored him the job.

From there, he continued to build his resume in New York radio, spearheading Power’s mixshow weekends and even getting offered his own Saturday night mix — “On the List.” When Star and Buc left Power, Yonny found himself freelance producing for other stations in the city. It would be his portal to other genres of music, including EDM, which would become something of Yonny’s calling card.

“At the time, I thought ‘dance’ was just straight Crystal Waters and commercial house music,” he admits, “I didn’t know too much you know? I was a hip-hop head.”

He learned quickly and was confident enough to put his own spin on EDM. His next move was to Pulse 87 — a dance station in New York. Pulse offered Yonny an executive producer position on the morning show and a full hour of mixing. But it wasn’t until he arrived at 92.3 NOW in 2009 that he truly began to realize how many people appreciated his innovative ear for mixing music.

“92.3 allows me to use my own flavor in my mixshows,” he says. “So you’ll hear the top EDM hits with a ‘No Lie’ from 2 Chainz or the mainstream hip-hop songs that are breaking through.”

“It’s cool being known for playing house and EDM with a hip-hop twist,” he adds. “Cutting and scratching. Tricks and using my turntablism that I learned in my hip-hop background and incorporating that with the house music.”

Yonny gets out of the studio every once in a while to DJ for live audiences everywhere from Chicago to Nikki Beach in Miami. His live experiences haven’t always been smooth, though.

“I was DJing this raunchy hip-hop party in this rundown school gym with one security guard at the door,” he recalls with a laugh. “This fight breaks out, and I got my equipment on the table, and there’s a mob of people going around like they were about to hit my table. Out of nowhere, the guard comes pepper-spraying everyone in the face. Everyone runs out, but I wasn’t leaving my DJ equipment. So I’m rushing to unplug my stuff so I can get outta there with everybody else.”

It’s been a while since Yonny had to deal with anything as intense as that incident. Overall, life has been pretty inspiring for the 29-year-old. People often say one should never meet their heroes, les they risk facing utter disappointment, but Yonny says coming face-to-face with a certain DJ was the proudest moment of his career.

“One of my number one idols was Jazzy Jeff, and now it’s cool because I got to meet him,” Yonny says. “I actually spend time with him. He’s invited me to his house for barbeques, and it’s all because he’s seen the show, ‘Master of the Mix.’ We have a mutual friend who told him like, ‘Yo, Jeff wants to talk to you.’ I’m like, ‘Jeff?’ So Jeff was like, ‘Yonny, I’m a fan of you!’ I’m like, ‘What? You’re a fan of me? I’m a fan of you! You’re freaking Jazzy Jeff!’”

BET’s “Master of the Mix” was Yonny’s big break on television. “I wasn’t handed no secret slip to get in. I was auditioning beside people who were fans of me!” he says incredulously. “It was like ‘American Idol.’ I waited five hours just to be seen, but it was dope. I made it on the show and through most of the challenges — all the way to runner up.”

Today, Yonny is doing everything from spinning in Amsterdam, Germany and the Netherlands to reworking songs for record labels.

“It’s cool, because I actually used to just do remixes for myself,” he says, “But now I’m getting paid a couple grand to do a new remix. That’s my next goal: to advance my production career and make a hit record one day.”

He also has a company — PimpMyTurntables.com — which customizes DJ equipment and tools.

“Everything I wanted to do as a kid, I’ve done,” he says. “I always wanted to be on the radio. I’ve done that years ago. From there, I made the goal of being on TV and I’ve done that. So now it’s like, ‘What’s next?’ I just gotta keep on pushing.”

Top Five Songs of the Moment
1. “No Lie,” 2 Chainz
2. “Mercy,” Kanye West ft. Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz
3. “Where Have You Been,” Rihanna
4. “Titanium,” David Guetta ft. Sia
5. “Scream,” Usher

Top Five Songs to Rock a Party
1. “Poison,” Bell Biv Devoe
2. “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” Guns N’ Roses
3. “Show Me Love,” Robin S.
4. “P.S.A. (Public Service Announcement),” Jay-Z
5. “Billie Jean,” Michael Jackson

See Photos of a Mixtape Timeline

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