It's a Saturday night at the B-side Liquor Lounge, and DJ K-Nyce, a member of the Varsity Squad, has the party going full force. This isn't your typical club night but more like an amazing house party. The Varsity Squad creates a musical journey that mixes '90s neo-soul, R&B and rap over house beats to pump the crowd. Group ringleader K-Nyce admits to having a fascination for DJing since he was 10.
Born and raised in Cleveland, he discovered his passion for music by watching and learning from an uncle who was a professional DJ in the area during the early '80s and '90s. "I would always go over to his house and dabble," says K-Nyce. "He would show me his stuff here and there."
K-Nyce watched his uncle create intricate mix tapes using only a four-track recorder and, from that, he learned how to properly pair sounds.
Although K-Nyce has only DJ'd professionally in clubs since 2005, he got his first taste of performing at the age of 13 when he performed at a family party. He continued to practice with equipment borrowed from his uncle or a cousin. He got his first professional DJ equipment as a high-school graduation gift from his parents.
It was not long after that when he DJ'd at his cousin's graduation party and realized he could throw a good house party, even with minimal gear. "It was a good party," he says, adding that he had to make do with vinyl records and a traditional turntable. "I don't know how I [managed to] rock."
K-Nyce officially started to DJ at weddings and graduation parties in 2001, practicing in his attic to hone his skills. The practice paid off in 2005 when he joined Street Smart Productions.
"I was always scared to do big rooms and clubs until 2005," he says. "I heard a certain DJ in 2005 in a club, and it was all bad. I remember saying to myself, 'If he can do it, I can definitely do it.'"
With Street Smart Productions, he DJ'd at college parties and began to get his name out on the club circuit. In 2006, he sent a demo tape to the clothing store Metropark in Beachwood Place. He landed a gig as its in-house DJ after almost two years of working exclusively with Street Smart Productions. K-Nyce says the Metropark job really expanded his musical tastes. He describes it as "Vegas style DJ'ing" because he mixed a lot of '80s techno and rock with new music and remixes. As a result, K-Nyce was able to lock down even more gigs. That same year, the manager of Metropark approached him with the idea that the two should throw parties. Thus Potluck was born.
Since 2008, K-Nyce has worked for local promotions company Word of Mouth. He says that's a big career boost because the DJs associated with Word of Mouth (guys like Mick Boogie and Terry Urban) go on to bigger gigs and sponsorship deals. In addition to Potluck, K-Nyce spins every Friday at Sunset Lounge and every Sunday at Bodega.
K-Nyce admits the main advantage of being a DJ is that he can go everywhere and people know his name. He doesn't have to pay to get into most clubs, and clothing labels want him to be seen in their threads. Those are all nice fringe benefits for a guy who still holds down a day job and can't even afford dental insurance. Well, nobody said the life of a DJ was all glitz and glamour. It's hard work too.