Getting to know Miami's DJ GQ
The Academy sat down with DJ GQ to discuss his career, how the DJing culture has changed over time, and his favorite gear.
How did you start DJing?
I was actually a promoter in Jamaica and my cousin Omar started a DJ crew in Miami, I used to get artists like Sean Paul and Mr. Vegas in Jamaica to re-sing there hits with our names in it (called Dub Plates) and send it to him in Miami. When I moved back to Miami at 17 I started DJing with him.
What’s your DJ set up and how has it evolved over the years?
Haha! Well now its actually a Pioneer controller at the house and I use 2 CDJ's and a Pioneer mixer when I'm at events. But I started with Vinyl in about 94-95. I use to carry 6 to 8 crates nightly, when I started DJing for Kevin Lyttle in 2003-4 a lot of the venues on tour had broken Turntables, bad grounds, or tone arm Issues, and we went to these places so fast it was sometimes hard to trouble shoot, so I decided then to put CDJ's in my rider, they were pretty much new every where I went then! and problem free, so thats when the switch started for me. After that came Scratch Live then Serato which is pretty standard these days for dj's.
What is some of the work you’ve done in producing and writing?
I've worked with a few big names but I've done more remixing and consulting more than anything else. I'm actually finally dropping my own DJ GQ singles this year and I think I'm going to surprise people with them and my features.
What are your musical influences?
Sometimes it can be as simple as a noise or tone in the wind, but some people who have influenced me are Sting, Bob Marley, Phil Collins, Third World, Beres Hammond, Maxi Priest, DMX, and Earth Wind & Fire.
Do you enjoy performing for larger audiences or smaller crowds? Why?
It depends, the bigger the crowd usually is the easier it is to rock them, People don't usually walk out of 10k Plus shows, and big shows you get big response. A lot of clubs in city areas are easy for people to go to the next spot, especially if the people didn't pay to get in, or got "hooked up," but every so often you get a small crowd that just has an uncontrollable amazing vibe! Those are always the best.
What was your working experience like with your past collaborations such as Sean Paul and Akon?
Sean I've known since I lived in Jamaica, we were friends before anything else, he's awesome people, but from back then I went on to doing a lot more with Mr. Vegas who I still work with till today. I've been rolling with Akon over 15 years, I was his first DJ. We were on Andre Rison's retirement tour together in the early 2000's and I moved on to help him with his first album, again an amazing and focused artist.
How have you seen urban music develop in recent years and where do you think it’s headed?
I've seen amazing development with certain artists, especially in R&B and Reggae recently, but I've also seen a decline in creativity and talent in Hip -Hop and Dancehall which worries me (this is generally, there are a few exceptions). We're in a phase right now in urban where its real hard to tell where its going, but it will evolve as music always does and I'm praying for it to creatively evolve again melodically and lyrically.
What have you gained from working with Y100?
A whole lot. Funny when my PD Alex Tear stepped to me about being a mixer 8 years ago, radio wasn't really on my mind, I was a club/tour DJ and working 5 to 7 times a week and radio has a lot of responsibility. In my first few months I wanted to quit because I didn't understand radio and why I couldn't play certain songs at certain times. It all makes sense now, it's very hard to narrate music for the masses. Understanding what's a hit to the relationships its built for me is priceless.
What are some of your favorite venues in Florida?
A lot of my favorites were clubs in Ft. Lauderdale, but they've changed recently. But Revolution, Bodega (South Beach), BB&T, and Wynwood Yard are some of my favorites right now..
What projects are you currently working on?
Working on the release of my first single, look out for it in the last quarter!
What advice do you have for someone just starting out in the music industry?
Wake up on Monday morning and work at your craft daily, live it or its a hobby. Doctors and Lawyers don't practice medicine and law on just the weekends.
DJ GQ is a born and raised South Floridian with a Cuban/Chinese parentage and a Jamaican heritage. His diverse background has led him to work with various artists, from DMX to Sean Paul. GQ started touring with Kevin Lyttle when "Turn Me On" was one of the top 10 songs in the world. Since then, he has maintained a fan base across the globe, with credentials that even Akon could vouch for, and he continues to perform internationally yearly. RadioFacts has DJ GQ as #6, on the "Top 45 DJ's" list. He's won DJ Of The Year, at the Film, Recording, and Entertainment Council Awards, and nominated for several awards, including a Global Spin Award for "International DJ Of The Year" and "Open Format DJ Of The Year" and US award for "Radio Mixshow DJ Of The Year". GQ was the first Top40 Mixer on Y100.