For Jersey DJ, Expo Win Provides a Sign
New Brunswick, N.J.—It was a typical humid August day in Atlantic City, and Robert Velasco was in town to say a farewell of sorts to DJing.
He hadn’t lost the passion. In the ’90s, when he was in high school and the latest and greatest DJs were pushing out mix tapes, he tried it, too. He found a wide audience by spinning not just house and hip hop, but the music that his uncle had been spinning—rock and disco. Essentially, he was playing an early form of the mash-up, pulling out an a cappella from an old disco song and putting it to a hip-hop track instrumental or squeezing it into a break. People were like, “What is that?” It was like Funkmaster Flex, back in the day, busting out old funk records, where the beats sounded dope, but nobody could figure out where they were sampled.
He started DJing gigs—for family members first, then friends, and built up customer base. “And they were surprised when I hit them with some old tracks,” he says. “They saw I could keep them moving all night.”
He kept them moving for years, while holding down a steady 9-to-5 gig, and then he got married to Melissa, and then, 18 months ago, they had a baby boy. Booking gigs every weekend became increasingly difficult, which brought him to AC, to the DJ Expo.
“When we had the baby,” says Velasco, “I put the DJing on the backburner, and I began asking myself, ‘Am I going to pursue gigs as hard as I used to? Or am I going to pick up some gigs every now and then when I get calls?’ If you have a young baby, it’s hard to pick up gigs on the weekends.
“I was jumping on to other DJ crews, when I got a call, but I couldn’t operate my own business when I’m not really applying myself fulltime to gigs—even weekends. With the 9-to-5 during the week, and my wife working full time as well, it’s really hard to juggle. My wife and I always discussed it. ‘What would be the future of my DJ career?’”
On the final day of the Expo, held this past Aug. 8-11 at the Trump Taj Mahal, Velasco’s son had been crying almost non-stop for eight hours. He was tired; his wife was tired. She wanted to get in the car and go back home.