CHICAGO — With dance clubs shuttered, and large events cancelled indefinitely due to coronavirus, several Chicago DJs have turned their homes into the place to be — virtually.
“I used to hate DJing at home,” said Chicago Bears DJ Jay iLLa, but being confined to his house has changed all that.
At the request of friends, Jay iLLa became one of the first Chicago DJs to host a live virtual party on the social media site Instagram. It was just days before Illinois stay-at-home order was put in place.
It was also on the heels of New York City DJ D. Nice taking the world by storm during his Instagram Lives that had celebrities and regular folks, partying together, at one point, drawing more than 100,000 people.
“It was incredible to watch the energy, the emotion he created with the live experience. And then I said, ‘Maybe I can make it a little more local. A little more regional,’” said Chicago DJ Vince Adams.
The D. Nice experience even inspired the most seasoned DJs. Adams is a Chicago legend who kicked- off his DJ career in 1984, and is now the premiere DJ for public and private events.
“My first national TV experience was in 1999 for BET. That just led to traveling to New Orleans for Essencefest. I even had the honor of DJing for President Obama,” Adams said.
In the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, Adams now DJs for thousands every other weekend, from a high-rise boasting the beautiful Chicago skyline. His platform of choice—Facebook.
“I’ve had moms, in their 30, in their 40s, in their 50s say, ‘I’m partying with my kids.’ I’ll have somebody from South Africa, or from Dubai, say, ‘Hey, I’m having a great time,'” Adams said.
WGCI DJ Sean Mac, went from doing nine parties on the weekend to spinning from his living room, into the wee hours of the morning.
“I don’t enjoy it. I love it. I’m silly on my Lives. I like having fun. I like dancing,” Mac said.
He’s named his live sets, “Club Essential,” giving a nod to those still trekking to work every day.
All the DJs tell WGN those essential workers and partygoers, are helping them during these difficult times, in the form of donations.
“DJs haven’t been working. Obviously the service industry is suffering extremely bad. The donations from fans have helped me pay my rent,” Mac said.
Party goers say they’re benefiting the most from these DJs dedicating hours on end to spinning for fans, for free.
“It is something I look forward to every week. Once I like log in, that music hits my ears. I’m like singing. I’m dancing. I’m enjoying the whole atmosphere. I’m participating in the group chat,” said Kim Stanford, who works as a nurse anesthetist.
“They’re a great distraction. You get to hear great music. You’re in the safety of your own home. You can mix your own drink or whatever type of beverage you’d like to have,” said Maurice Johnson, who has recently been furloughed.
“I’ve been known on Saturdays to DJ 6 to 8 hours starting at 5 o’clock. I’ve been doing it consistently and I’ve been having a blast,” Jay iLLa said.
“It’s uplifting people. I got a duty. I got a job,” Mac said. “Why not give relief during this time where people, just for that three or four hours, can escape maybe the bills or the kids homework.”
What these DJs are doing, is also keeping people glued to their devices rather than venturing outside. Keeping people safe during this pandemic is close to their hearts since they’ve all been touched by the tragic side of COVID-19.
“It’s as real as it gets. I’ve lost people close to me. You should stay home. You should stay safe,” said Jay iLLa.
Here’s where you can check out these three DJs, so you can do some partying of your own: