For years, in the pre-COVID era, the 1983 Indeep song “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life” had always felt like a mantra. In March, as the coronavirus crisis began and states started to lockdown, many of us replaced the joy of commuting to work with physical stagnation, a mild sense of disconnect and boredom.  Then on March 17, out of nowhere, DJ D-Nice opened the after-work, at-home dance party known as “Club Quarantine,” on his Instagram Live page.  

In those whopping nine hours, an icon was reborn. 

“I was just sitting here in quarantine, missing my family and friends,” D-Nice told the LA Times. “Obviously, the virus is stressful for everyone, so I was feeling that. I didn’t really know what to do with myself.”

What he did with himself was create a virtual space for anyone to show up as he spun some of the best soul, funk, disco and hip-hop, bringing back some serious classics such as Phyllis Hyman’s “You Know How to Love Me” and MFSB’s “Love Is The Message,” all while standing behind his turntables with a huge-brimmed hat fitted intently on his head like a halo. 

The first session brought about 200 friends together who chatted about the history of music but quickly turned into the biggest internet dance party for tens of thousands. The monotony that D-Nice broke up in households across the country made his spin-sessions feel essential. Hailed a “coronavirus hero” by the Times, D-Nice was one of the first to use the power of technology to virtually bring together the masses during the pandemic. 

Honestly, I’m not sure another DJ could have pioneered this party world better than D-Nice. Back in the day when hip-hop was young, a 15-year-old Derrick Jones debuted as the youngest founding member of the legendary Bronx hip-hop group Boogie Down Productions. Still a teen, he co-produced the iconic 1989 anti-violence anthem “Self Destruction,” which featured a who’s who of rap elites. Even in the ’80s, he was bringing people together for a good cause.

Now, I wasn’t quite around for the beginnings of this dance party—I was using my quarantine time to binge shows such as “Insecure,” “Watchmen,” “Ozark,” and “Tiger King“—but a friend got me hip to the game. CQ was open for business, and folks were shouting out the celebrities who came through—former First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Drake and Rihanna, to name a few—while virtually toasting one another in a way that felt like being at an actual club. 

This is where I needed to be. 

Yes, virtually rubbing elbows with celebs was nice; but this gathering was more about creating community and having fun. During my first club visit, I sang and danced for five hours. I danced so hard that I was drenched in sweat and sang so loudly that my voice went hoarse. By the time I was ready to shut it down, D-Nice was getting ready for the “After Dark” party. Amazed, I typed the message, “It’s been 5 hours and you’ve been spinning nonstop. How???” Someone replied, “How can we send you food, water, a bed?”

That’s the beauty of Club Quarantine. When something so joyful is also free and safe, gratitude rises like a good beat. Here, there is no pressure, no negativity and most importantly, no bad music. “Good vibes only,” as D-Nice says during his sessions and he’s right. Thanks to the club’s open-door policy, there was a camaraderie created amidst the backdrop of the best songs sung by the best Black artists in the industry. 

While woodlands blazed and the coronavirus cut lives short across the country, somehow, in all this uncertainty and anxiety, I found a physical and mental escape in the comfort of my home, thanks to D-Nice. So yes, if there were an election for DJ of the Year (or of the century), I would cast my vote for Derrick Jones, hands down. 

More of Jamiyla’s Favorites:    

TV Show: Watchmen

Hashtag: #SayHerName

Podcast: Throughline

Book: “My Brilliant Friend” by Elena Ferrante

Meme: Election 2020 Avengers Endgame

Artist: Regina King