When I was little, I had problems sleeping. I wasn’t putting myself to bed ever, really. My parents tried everything in the book to get me out, but nothing worked. One night, my dad was at the bar doing his funny dance to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” and I asked him to pick me up. Less than five minutes later, I was out. Every night thereafter, he slung me over his shoulder just before bedtime and danced me to sleep—to Queen, Styx, Chicago, Meatloaf and lots and lots of Electric Light Orchestra.
ELO was our personal favorite. I ended up memorizing every word to every song off “Out of the Blue.” Anytime we were in his Honda Accord ’87, that 8-track went in. My mom had her input, too. Mostly Billy Joel, Tom Jones, maybe some Diana Ross. She tried singing me to sleep some nights, but “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” doesn’t really set the mood for deep slumber. She gave me my very first piece of vinyl—1966’s “The Best of the Beach Boys.” After the needle gave up trying to stick to that record, she handed me the soundtrack to “Hair.” When the day finally came for me to start learning the value of a dollar and buy my own music, the first tape I went out and purchased was…Run DMC’s “Raising Hell.”
How I got from 70s operatic rock, surf ditties, and Broadway musicals to hip-hop, I’ll never know. But that diversity has stuck with me through this day. Just when I pledge allegiance to some new rap artist, I’m a bloodthirsty digger searching for a new, synthetic electronic sound I heard on satellite radio or on somebody’s blog. And then I’m back frantically Googling a soul or disco sample I recognized from an old tune, or putting the finishing touches on a Dubstep mix I took way too much time obsessing over, or re-organizing my playlists so I know the difference between bounce, trap and an old dirty-South anthem.
The question of how I ended up spending half my waking hours in a nightclub is easy: I practically grew up in one. Again, my father’s to blame. He used to be the Food & Beverage Manager at Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, NJ, my hometown. I clocked in more hours at that place than some of the people on payroll. And this was the 80s, mind you, when the casino strip was as glamorous as ever: fur coats, pearl necklaces, big Cadillacs and Liberace (who I saw live…many times). The lights, the sounds, the electricity in the air, even the smells…these things never left.
Nor has my penchant for making people smile. In grade school I brought class clown to a new level. It cost me my grades, and also led to a few suspensions. But there was nothing I enjoyed more than leaving my classmates in stitches. Sometimes, even the teacher had to take a second to regain composure. I thought maybe I’d make a good Psychologist, helping people smile, so I went Premed at NYU, till I realized the night before classes started that I’d have to sit still and study a lot. (Hence the B.A..) Naturally, I tried my hand at comedy, but I couldn’t afford to be broke, and I was already getting gigs and discovering my knack for making dance floors pop. So, it was settled. I was to be a professional DJ.
Today, my career is in its 14th year with no signs of slowing down. I’ve played just about every lounge, bar and dance club from Wall Street to 125th, continue to work with a growing list of high-profile clients and world-renown artists, have held residences and guest spots across the globe, and claim ownership of the the legendary old-school hip-hop dance party, the Freedom Party® NYC. (And a new brand, "My House," dedicated to the deeper side of dance music.) After years of hard work, dedication and professionalism, my name and reputation as a DJ in the music and entertainment industry precedes itself. And though I don’t get to play nearly as much ELO at the gigs as I’d like to, and 8-track tapes (and Liberace) are long gone, my love for the music, the night, and for making people smile are still here.
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Joseph "KWEST" Cruz
BRONX, United States
chicago. milwaukee., United States