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Artist Spotlight: Raj Smoove, the man behind the music

Written by  IntheNOLA.com
Roger Donald Dickerson, II is your typical New Orleanian…growing up between the East and Gentilly, graduating from McDonogh 35 and Dillard University, and still living and working in this wonderful city we call home. But somewhere in the midst of all that New Orleans living, Mr. Dickerson came to be known by another name…a name that when spoken aloud, brings a smile to people's face. A name that when you hear it, you simply shake your head with the knowledge that everything’s gonna be all good.
 
Raj Smoove gives us that feeling…that feeling of (pardon the cliché) tonight’s gonna be a good night. When you know that Mr. Raj Smoove is going to be at a party or event, you’re prepared to enjoy yourself the WHOLE night.
Artist Spotlight: DJ Raj Smoove | IntheNOLA.com
For those of you don’t know who Raj Smoove is (and we can’t imagine there are more than two of you who don’t), through music, he is the “voice” of a generation of New Orleanians. From Jubilee and Partners ‘N’ Crime to Notorious BIG and Dr. Dre to Sean Paul and Mr. Vegas to Beyonce and Kourtney Heart, Raj Smoove is like a walking history book on the music and art of DJing.  
 
Unlike many of us, Raj Smoove has had the opportunity to have one job for his whole life. No working at the neighborhood snowball stand or grocery store. No waiting tables or answering phones. Raj has always been a DJ, perfecting and honing his craft as the years have passed.
 
Artist Spotlight: DJ Raj Smoove | IntheNOLA.com“I was a big fan of DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince and I always gravitated towards the DJ when I was younger,” Raj said. “I remember listening to Jazzy Jeff live at Union Square and he was hyping the crowd. Jeff was scratching and performing and I was like, ‘Man, that’s shive! I can do that!’ After that is when I think I really got bit by the DJ bug. I needed a mixer, crossfader, and a turntable, so I started getting my parents to buy me equipment for Christmas and birthdays and stuff.”

As an eighth grader and huge fan of hip-hop and DJing (one of his favorite movies is the 1984 hip hop drama Beat Street), Raj, or Roger as he was still known to many, needed a name. “Back in the day, everybody was like Jazzy Jeff or Mannie Fresh, so you had a first and last name as a DJ,” he said. “I went through a couple of different names, but Smoove just kinda stuck. Everybody in my family always called me Raj so that one was natural. So I put the Raj with the Smoove around my freshman year in high school and got Raj Smoove.”

And Raj has never looked back. From performing at the Jazz Fest with his crew, Psychoward (a collective of DJs, rappers, and producers in the early 90s), as a sophomore in high school, to making it to the finals in the Guitar Center DJ Battles in New York, to working with Lil Wayne on his first mixtape Lil Weezy Ana, Raj has obviously had some major accomplishments. “I kind of feel like I’ve done it all. I’ve been on radio and tours and I’ve done the mixtape thing as well as DJed consistent club nights for years. I think my biggest accomplishment is that I’ve been able to make a living off of DJing. You know, a lot of people moonlight with DJing on the weekends and they have regular jobs. I’ve never had a regular job; it’s always been playing music and rocking the clubs.”
Artist Spotlight: DJ Raj Smoove | IntheNOLA.com
He added, “A good DJ knows what to play at the right time. It’s a lot easier said than done because you really have to play to your crowd. You have to know who you’re DJing for because DJing for a bunch of high school students is very different than DJing for a 25 and up crowd which is different from 50 year old birthday parties or wedding receptions. You really have to be aware of who your audience is and then tailor what you play to your audience.”

And if you have ever been to an event where Raj Smoove was DJing, you know that is exactly what he does!  

Being a student at Dillard University played a huge role in Raj’s ability to cater to different to kinds of audiences. “Dillard is a school that’s made up of a lot of out of town people. The composition of the audience was so diverse that by me doing events on campus, I had to cater to a wide range of musical tastes of what people were familiar with. I had never heard of some of the music before, but they were bringing it to me.”

 

He continued, “I really learned how to cater to a wide range of people and be able to go different places with my musical selections, and make it so that everybody has a good time. I can play some Stevie Wonder and Pete Rock, and still play Rick Ross or Lil Wayne, Drake, or DeBarge and Maze. I can do it in a way that everybody enjoys it and it’s like, ‘Man, we went on a musical journey tonight.’”

In addition to DJing, Raj is now working in the production and management sides of the music industry. “I want to find and develop artists, and get them deals. That’s my goal as of right now. I think there is kind of a vacuum in New Orleans right now. No Limit is non-existent, Cash Money transplanted to Miami, and there’s no real outlet or channel for artists from here to get into the corporate structure of the recording industry. I think once I’m able to break out a couple artists from down here, we can get the corporate budgets and attention and I can create a channel to funnel the talent that’s down here out.” Currently, Raj has been working with local artists, such as Kourtney Heart, Kris Batiste, and Dizzy, among others.
Artist Spotlight: DJ Raj Smoove | IntheNOLA.com 
Raj concluded, “From the DJing side, I’ve done it all. I’ve done what a lot of people have wanted to do and I’ve done it at a very high level. It’s not like starting from square one because I’ve done the production and management thing concurrently with my DJing. It’s just that now it’s more serious and there’s a lot of other obstacles and hurdles that you have to get over. I feel like I’m challenged again and I have a renewed vigor. I’m excited about being successful on this side.”
 
For more information about Raj Smoove, please visit his website and Twitter.

Last modified on Thursday, 14 August 2014
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