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Thursday, March 24, 2016

DJ Amen on Growing Up Listening to Bay Area Radio and Feeling Like Everyday is His Birthday

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2016 at 9:57 AM

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A typical day for Bay Area DJ Amen looks like this: wake up in San Francisco, hear his mix on L.A. radio station 92.3, go DJ a Sacramento Kings game, and use the time between to scour social media for new and emerging talent. Besides being heard on the radio or in clubs up and down the West Coast, DJ Amen is also the creator of the Young California collective, a lifestyle brand that caters to a 16-to-34-year-old demographic. Armed with these keys to success, it’s only right that his current social media photo is with none other than influential tastemaker DJ Khaled.

DJ Amen takes some time out to answer some of our questions about his musical origins, his holy moniker, and his top travel essentials. You can catch him this Saturday [3/26] for a day party with headliner Just Blaze at The Endup

Give us a brief history of how you got into DJing.
My older brother was really into hip-hop in the early ‘90s. He was an amazing graffiti writer and that's how I learned everything about the culture. I was hooked from the start. When I got into high school I asked for turntables for Christmas and my dad said yes so I ordered my first pair from an ad in the back of The Source magazine.

How did you come up with the moniker DJ Amen?
My real name is Adam so my first DJ name I was given was DJ Dam-it. When I got my first opportunity to DJ on the radio in the North Bay that wasn't gonna fly so I had to change my name. At the time, I was fresh out of a group home and made some conscious life decisions to stay out of trouble moving forward. My brother gave me the name and honestly it's one of the best things that ever happened for my career still to this day.

What were some of the Bay Area stations/DJs that influenced you when you were growing up?
When I was a little kid my parents used to listen to KFRC. They played all the rock classics. As I got older and grew into my own tastes and I was glued to KMEL 24/7. Back in the day, FM radio was where everybody got their music. Rick Chase, Chuy Gomez, Renel, Trace and Franzen, Rosary, Sway and Tech…the list goes on. Growing up, KMEL was the most influential station in my life. I wish I had a time machine to go back to those Summer Jams in the ‘90s.

Tell us a little about your collective Young California and what you guys are trying to do.
I started Young California as a platform for like-minded influencers to help expose local brands in California. I ultimately wanted to help stimulate our economy by promoting DJs, artists, producers, and brands. We strengthened the relationship between different areas of the state and cut down the translation time between the north and south. We encouraged a new generation of artists to work together. In a time where there is less time and money being spent on development we wanted to be there to help those who are on the verge in an organic and meaningful way.  You recently acquired a deal to be one of the official DJs for the 49ers and for the Sacramento Kings as well. How has that been?
I grew up with all of the Northern California teams so obviously and it was a dream come true to be able to rock with organizations like the San Francisco 49ers and the Sacramento Kings. Their histories are self-explanatory. They were both opportunities I couldn't pass up. So many people go their whole life hoping to get drafted by an NFL/NBA team and I somehow managed to lock in both in one season. Both have been by far some of the best experiences in my 15-year plus career. There is no feeling better than rocking a packed out stadium or arena week after week.

You're also known for breaking Bay Area artists, and are recognized for doing so when shouted out on tracks like Sage the Gemini's "Gas Pedal."  What are a few things that signal to you that an artist is about to blow up?
I'm always looking for new music that evokes emotion. I constantly search the Internet to see what's buzzing and working locally in different cities. Nowadays we have immediate research with hits, views, spins…so you can see what's really getting the listener or viewer's attention. It's very important to talk to DJs and people who really have their ear to the streets everyday as well. Once you hear the same name keep coming up from multiple sources you know that artist could potentially be up to something big.

Who is an artist you haven't collaborated with but would like to?
I love working with labels and brands so I'm constantly brainstorming and building on creative ideas. I've always wanted to do something cool with DJs I respect like Jazzy Jeff, A-Trak, Khaled, Flex, Premier, and Dre. Might have to put together the first ever Blessed fest soon too.

Being on the road a lot, what are your top three travel essentials?
Passport, credit card and my phone charged all the way up. I feel like as long as you got those, the world is yours for the taking.

Having come out of a busy 2015 and starting out 2016 with a bang, what does it mean to you to be "blessed," which is also the name of your clothing brand?
Honestly I wake up everyday and give thanks because I know that the universe has allowed me to pursue my dreams to the fullest. I am probably overly passionate at all times and work nonstop but I know that none of this is possible without the love and support of everybody that walks in and out of my life. I feel like everyday is my birthday and I genuinely appreciate it. It's only right to express my gratitude in any way possible. I'm way up.

Finally, what does your ideal day-off look like?
I really don't do well with taking time away from work but a typical good day off for me is waking up in my bed in San Francisco, having lunch at the Ferry Building, taking a stroll with my girl and my dog along the Embarcadero/AT&T park, maybe a quick ride to Sonoma County to see my family, dinner at Sol Food in San Rafael and finish it off with a IMAX movie at The Metreon. No planes, no hotel rooms, no hassles.
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Christina Li

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