Inside the DJ Booth: DJ Bobby Konders
More than 20 years ago, Bobby Konders was a Brooklyn boy with two loves — basketball and music — until he discovered his DJ skills to be more useful than his hoop dreams.
“My jumpshot wasn’t that good,” he tells The Boombox with a laugh, “I played Division III basketball and I thought I had game, but obviously it wasn’t that good. I was always known to play reggae though.”
Konders soon made his mark in New York City’s music industry, and through the years he became the go-to dancehall DJ alongside his partner Jabba. Since the early 1990s, the two have specialized in playing music from the Caribbean on Hot 97, the biggest hip-hop radio station in the five boroughs and beyond.
The DJ and producer started off spinning wherever he could back in the late 1980s. He attended reggae and dancehall bashments, or parties, religiously, observing what the older DJs did.
“I remember being that young hungry dude on the come up,” he explains. “Just getting in the game, like ‘Can I get through the door?’ and I saw older DJs that were miserable. I felt like they were drinking haterade. I never want to be that person, so hopefully I never come across as that.”
It wasn’t long before Konders learned all he needed, and founded his record label and entertainment firm, Massive B in 1991. The imprint is still going strong, becoming one of the most widely-respected labels in the reggae and dancehall business. Massive B hosts events in the New York City-area, which Konders says is always something special to see, because they mix things up.
“Times have changed from 1992 to 2002 to 2012,” he continues. “Back in the 1990s it was more reggae, dancehall and a little hip-hop but now, within the Caribbean community, hip-hop has gotten so big, especially in Brooklyn, that you play your reggae and dancehall, but you also have to play hip-hop and R&B, as well as some soca.”
Konders and Jabba have also applied this perspective to their show on Hot 97 in an effort to remain current in the ever-changing climate of urban music. At the suggestion of Ebro Darden [Hot 97's Program Director], the pair have included a mix of genres in their slot.
“What makes our team so strong is that we move with the times, we don’t get stuck in an era. I may love a certain era, as a DJ and as a fan but to stay hot with the kids, you have to move with the times and with any DJ you have to address the crowd that you’re deejaying for.
“In 2012, the party crowd is different than it was in 1995,” he continues. “The classics you play for crowds in 1995, you’d go back to the ’70s and ’80s, where in 2012, the classics may be from seven to ten years ago. You just have to move with the times, keeping it young and sexy and entertaining the people who are hiring you.”
The Massive B brand has taken Konders everywhere from Europe to Asia. “I’ve practically deejayed in every country in Europe,” he says. “I’ve played at venues for 10,000 to 20,000 people in Germany, Switzerland, Japan and all these places. Music let me see the world and I’ve made a little bit of money doing it, so I’m blessed, and I definitely have another 20 years in me.”
The veteran DJ is satisfied by simply being a fan of the music and having the ability to experience things like hearing the first record he produced hit the airwaves, or becoming friends with legends like Gregory Isaacs.
Above all, Bobby Konders is all about embracing change and remaining relevant while showing love to the culture that started it all. It’s a winning combination that his fans, both young and older, can appreciate.
“I embrace the changes. I understand that it’s a youth-generated movement or embrace the youth and love them or be phased out. Massive B? We stay booked up because the people love us.”
Top 5 Songs of the Moment
- “Pop That,” French Montana
- “Gyal A Bubble,” Konshens
- “Bruk It Down,” Mr. Vegas
- “Affairs of the Heart,” Junior Gong
- “Get Gully,” Vybez Kartel
Top 5 Songs to Rock a Party
- “Natural Mystic,” Bob Marley
- “Positive Vibration,” Bob Marley
- “One Blood,” Junior Reid
- “Welcome to Jamrock,” Junior Gong
- “Badda Dan Dem,” Burro Banton