My Top 5 Club Quarantine DJs of 2020 Pt. 2

While the country quarantined, disc jocks used social media to provide melody and history and, most important, connection to community. These four were my most essential.

Music was my MVP of 2020. The men and women who provided us with a therapeutic soundtrack to an abnormal year while revolutionizing the way we consumed our favorite tunes — past and present––are true heroes. The exclaim “Last night, the DJ saved my life” rang apropos on too many nights. While the world spiraled in COVID-19 and financial despair, brilliant music minds like Olivia Dope, Natasha Diggs and Jermaine Dupri educated on music history, helped us fall back in love with our favorite songs, and, most importantly, quenched our craving for connection. Reborn were those who’ve never experienced sweating to a Teddy Riley single at 2am or being transported to NYC’s Lower East Side during the eighties. Since 2020 has raised the value of delivering flowers in real time, I’ve taken the pleasurable liberty of reaching out to my Top DJs of 2020. It’s universal knowledge that D-Nice gets the crown for Club Quarantine. Now allow me to acquaint you with the other four champs:

Clark Kent is the reason D-Nice began deejaying on Instagram Live. In fact, the buddy to Jay-Z and Biggie is big bro to most of the best DJs (DJ Scratch initially practiced scratching in Clark’s apartment). Kent was underaged while inside Paradise Garage, the legendary NYC party during the eighties, and his sets are the result. He will pour “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac or Madonna’s “Holiday” into a set with perfection or stand firm between the play of Stretch Armstrong and Rich Medina and whisk you on a pop voyage lead by Blondie and Hall & Oats. While I sorely missed his play at NYC’s best pre-pandemic party, The Originals, he and D-Nice’s “Sunday School” sets have provided true food for the soul.

Then there’s DJ M.O.S. For DJ lovers, he and his wife DJ Kiss (Top 10, for the record) are like the Obama’s. His versatility is singular. While he’s a Stevie Wonder lover — like most of us — he will effortlessly take you back to old New York City (he’s got those Black Rob joints!) or teach a jazz lesson on hip-hop samples (your favorite rapper paid Ahmad Jamal) or serve an hour straight of pure blue-eyed soul. Confession: At one point, I got so addicted that I began making personal requests for M.O.S. to give me a heads up whenever he planned to go Yacht Rock . It’s fitting that he titled his IG Lives “Club Insomnia.” I suffer often and since he’s three hours behind on the West Coast, there were many mornings when I was cooking or smoking to a 6am Wu-Tang set.

If M.O.S. doesn’t hold my record for uninterrupted hours on one live in 2020, it’s certainly Bryan Michael-Cox. No one does late night R&B like B Cox. There were several summer nights where the Grammy-winning producer and songwriter had me crooning and humming past sunrise. Fuck the cliche — his “Love Zone” is a whole vibe and his tagline is perfect: Don’t text your ex. text your next. 90’s R&B is Bryan’s go-to (obviously, the greatest period of R&B), but he is superior in any era where great soul singers soar. Doesn’t hurt to have fire renditions like D’Angelo covering the SOS Band’s “Tell Me If You Still Care.”

If no one can outdo Bryan Michael-Cox when it comes to R&B then few if any can out hip-hop 9th Wonder. He’s a walking rap juke box. If you want a reminder that the Brand Nubians’ “All For One” is one of the greatest rap songs ever or that Black Sheep album cuts are unfortunate buried treasure, just rock out with 9th. Characteristically reclined, the quarter of supergroup Dinner Party is all high octane when behind the booth. The real gems are his home cooked remixes and blends. The head of Jamla Music may as well be sponsored by Jamba Juice. Instead brands like D’USSE make sure they position their name next to the finest of beats and rhymes.

Enough of my gushing, let’s hear directly from the champs:

The reason you began deejaying during the pandemic

Clark Kent: When D-Nice started, he was playing songs from his computer. I called him and said, “What you’re doing is cool, but it would be on another level if you’d DJ instead of just playing records.” He did it and it turned into what it turned into. Now if I do it it undermines what he’s doing. So I didn’t jump on until I got a call from [Nike] asking, “Can you spin for Air Max Day?”

M.O.S.: A friend of mine sent a video of D-Nice deejaying off his laptop that first day. I saw that and thought, “That’s amazing.” So I called him and we spoke about it. Within a few days I set up in my kitchen and streamed for eight hours. Deejaying is meditative for me, especially when playing a long set. It took my mind off of the fact that world was collapsing around us.

9th Wonder: I saw a few DJs online, so I wanted to try it out, but put my own spin on it.

Bryan Michael Cox: I was using IG Live to DJ well before the pandemic, so naturally when we got stuck in the house I gravitated to this out of sheer boredom. [Laughs]

The one party/venue you missed spinning at the most in 2020:

BMC: The Groove ATL

M.O.S.: My weekly party in Los Angeles, “Party & Bullshit.”

9th: My party, “95 Live”

Clark: Sole DXB is a big culture fair. Some people would call it a sneaker fair, but, I wouldn’t call it that because they touch so many cultures. Last year, Wu-Tang headlined and me and Black Star performed together.

Your set just isn’t the same without…

M.O.S.: “Superwoman” — Stevie Wonder

BMC: “Love Come Down” — Jagged Edge

9th Wonder: “Luchini” — Camp Lo

Clark: “Ecstasy” — The Ohio Players (“It’s the best song I’ve ever heard.”)

The song that best exemplifies 2020 is…

BMC: “What’s Going On” — Marvin Gaye (“It’s interesting that it still has so much relevance today. The lyrics feel like today and that makes me sad.”)

M.O.S.: “Say A Prayer For Two” — Crown Heights Affair

9th: “Blowback” — Galimatias

“Benny [The Butcher] has a bomb [album] and then Alchemist drops a bomb. But go back to [Jay Electronica’s] Written Testimony which dropped in March at the beginning of COVID. I challenge anyone to tell me those other albums are better than Written Testimony.”

— Clark Kent

Best song released in 2020

Clark: “Ghost of Soulja Slim” — Jay Electronica (“A bunch of shit came out after, but because the world slowed down so much you might’ve forgot that the song came out this year. Then Benny [The Butcher] has a bomb [album] and then Alchemist drops a bomb. But go back to Written Testimony which dropped in March at the beginning of COVID. I challenge anyone to tell me those other albums are better than Written Testimony.”)

BMC: “Damage” by H.E.R.

M.O.S.: “Laugh Now Cry Later” — Drake feat. Lil Durk

9th: “Babies & Fools” — Freddie Gibbs & Alchemist

Outside of deejaying, what was your 2020 highlight?

M.O.S.: I released my first track “Turk’s & Caicos” on itunes and Spotify.

BMC: I made a move to Los Angeles. Being bi-coastal is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Clark: My family. Watching my son produce a song. Watching my daughter go much harder with her art, and watching my wife, in the middle of COVID, become an iller interior designer.

The one guest you were most proud to have in your live set this year

M.O.S.: Kareem Biggs Burke, co-founder of Roc-A-fella Records. I did a “Best of Roc-A-Fella” stream back in April and he popped in telling stories about some of records I was playing.

Clark: Jimmy Jam

9th: Jimmy Jam

Entering 2021, you are most excited about…

BMC: I am excited about the upcoming projects I am working on with Usher, Jermaine Dupri, Johnta Austin, Derrick Milano, Anthony Hamilton, Robert Glasper, and Exile (Japanese group). Also continuing to build the @ladieslovernbatl (with Keith Thomas) and @lovezoneparty brands.

9th: More resting

Clark: New Years Eve is the first night I start on Apple Music. I’ve got a new show Clark World Radio.

Your next party outside looks, feels and sounds like….

M.O.S.: Looks like the party scene in Zion in the Martix 2, sounds like Uptown Records, feels like House Party 2

BMC: A beautiful night in L.A., at a private location, with the right amount of people to provide the proper vibe and R&B being played all night.

Clark: It looks like Central Park, 40,000 people with me and D-Nice going back to back, record for record.

9th: Fasss Auntie Lounge!!!!!!!

Bonsu Thompson is a writer, producer, Brooklynite and 2019 Sundance Screenwriters Lab fellow.

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