Bronx Native Dj Kway On His Love Of Djing And His Growth On The Virtual Platform
Bronx-bred DJ Kway has bopped to his own spins for 25 years. The 38-year-old music lover first felt the pull of the 1s and 2s while in junior high school. But DJ perfection was slow going. His stepfather, though a music afficionado and DJ himself, pushed DJ Kway to focus instead on academics. That push led DJ Kway to become a successful computer engineer—by day. At night, he DJed for private events and even established Afrobeatz First Friday, attracting hundreds each month. While the Covid pandemic has squashed opportunities for his usual in-person parties, DJ Kway has not stopped pursuing his first love. He now holds a residency with Paint and Sip LIVE, the premier virtual paint and sip company. With 2021 insights and a new social norm taking root, DJ Kway prepares for DJ life in both the virtual and in-person worlds.
The Scope Weekly: How long have you been a DJ?
DJ Kway: I started DJing in 6th/7th grade, and then I started really getting into it in the 8th grade, in ’97. When I really started getting into it in ’97 my stepdad saw that I was buying equipment little by little and he said, “No, you need to focus on school.” So I didn’t really get into it as much as I wanted to but in college, I really started getting into it. While I was in college, I think I was a sophomore, a friend said, “You DJ, why don’t you DJ this house party?” Everyone loved it and everyone recommended me. Doing that in college made me think once I graduate and once I secure a job and am financially secure, I’ll invest more into DJing. So that’s what I did.
Q: What is your go-to music when you really need to liven up a party?
DJ Kway: My first go-to is probably reggae and then my backup is old school hip hop and R&B. Most of the time when I play reggae everyone flocks to the floor so that seems to always work.
Q: What attracted you to the profession?
DJ Kway: I was always into music. Thinking about the 90s, and that being probably the golden era of music. My sisters were into it, too. My stepdad was a DJ as well. He collected a lot of vinyl records, so that kind of reinforced my interest and passion in music.
Q: How has your DJ business changed since the pandemic?
DJ Kway: When I moved to New Jersey I started networking with other DJs and did a lot of events locally in my area and became familiar with the DJs and promoters in my area. I got to a point where I started doing my own events. I started this event called Afrobeatz First Friday. The first time I started was maybe three years ago. I had like 50 people and every time I did the event I would get more and more people to the point where I got close to 300 people at the venue. This became a regular thing, where I started attracting people from Philadelphia, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York. It started becoming very lucrative. When Covid hit that stopped. While I still have my full-time job, I still have a passion for DJing, so I was trying to think of a creative way of still being able to DJ and it being lucrative. Since I’m in the technology field I’d use that to my advantage. I’d leverage Facebook, Zoom, and other platforms to DJ on. Then my brother told me about what Michael Wills, Jr. [CEO of Paint and Sip LIVE] was doing and patched me in with him and I saw what Michael was doing and his vision and it started becoming a consistent thing.
Q: Has your DJ style changed to adjust to the shift to virtual events?
DJ Kway: The type of DJing style I had, I wasn’t on the mic as often. I was more interested in playing and typically if I did a function there was always an MC. But with Covid happening and forcing me to do more events that are virtual, you have a different type of setting and audience. Now you’re doing this behind the computer. You don’t have the luxury of seeing their body language. Now you’re just looking at the screen and hoping they’re enjoying themselves, so you have to be more engaged, you have to do extra work. I’m kind of grateful for that because it took me out of my comfort zone of just DJing. Now with Paint and Sip LIVE, at times while I’m playing I’m engaging with the audience. I’m asking where everybody is from. Tell me a little about x, y and z. That’s a great and fun aspect that I like.
Q: You appear every first Saturday with Paint and Sip LIVE for their Hip Hop Saturday painting classes. What are your other online bookings?
DJ Kway: I had a couple of other events, birthday parties. I had some weddings that I was requested to do. Initially they were going to do them virtually, then they wanted me to do it outside. But I really didn’t feel too comfortable. I find myself having to turn down a lot of events.
Q: Isn’t there a concern about turning down in-person events now and that affecting your potential bookings in the future, post-Covid?
DJ Kway: A lot of the events I did pre-Covid were for clients I have a rapport with. For example, some they would always celebrate their birthday or have a Labor Day cookout or Memorial Day cookout. Those types of clients I’ve been doing events for on a consistent basis. Even though I don’t want to turn it down I explain I’m not comfortable, so unfortunately I won’t be able to do it. Most of the people I’ve communicated that concern with they’ve been very receptive, very respectful about it and they understand. With some of the clients that I did say that to most of them ended up postponing their event or canceling it altogether.
Q: What do you anticipate your bookings will look like as we move into an eventual post-pandemic life?
DJ Kway: I think it’s going to be better. When people finally get to a place where they’re starting to feel a sense of normalcy, they’re just going to want to get back to that. That in itself is an opportunity. From the events that I did before there are people that reach out to me on a consistent basis saying, “Oh, I miss this; I wish we could do this.” I know when I go back to doing my own events or functions it’s going to be ten times more because you’re dealing with people who haven’t been out. I think the virtual aspect will still be there, it’s kinda hard to tell, but I think it’ll still be there. As long as the opportunity still avails itself, I’ll still do Dj.