A good disc jockey remains one with their core––both audience and gut instincts. The same cohesion is demanded of a photographer and their endless search for beauty in all that eyesight offers. Being Derrick “D-Nice” Jones produces challenges far greater than those of your average DJ and cameraman. Not only must the NYC native navigate through the pressure afforded an internationally respected maestro who’s opened for Billy Joel and Vice President Joe Biden alike, but do so while simultaneously documenting American lifestyle and culture as an entrusted celebrity photographer. The brand that is D-Nice is a deluxe one. A luxe deluxe brand, if you will: It overproduces art and experience in premium fashion.
Consistent grade-A creative has awarded D-Nice the trust of the biggest and best––mammoth networks (ESPN), spirit leaders (Hennessy signed him as a brand DJ in 2009), and even the leader of the free world (Barack Obama). It was after being anointed an official “DJ For Obama” and surrogate during the President’s second term campaign when the BrandNice head was bestowed the honor of spinning the 2012 Inaugural Ball.
To indulge in a D-Nice set is to be consumed by rhythm and the highest education of music history. His signature brew––‘80’s treasure, Top 40 must-haves and golden era Hip-Hop––has spelled dance floors from Times Square to Paris to Singapore. He’s been spotted in Harlem (his birthplace), at the Apollo Theater’s annual Spring Gala, sharing a set with Stevie Wonder; seen spinning above Miami’s Ultra Music Fest attached to an airborne helicopter. A tireless work ethic and guarantee of excellence has culminated into a minimum four-gig week, including a residency at Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel Casino.
That D-Nice is multi-impassioned prevents him from being defined as solely brand darling party rocker. His dedication to the 1’s and 2’s fuel his second love: photography. All-star access and a natural eye for candid stills built Derrick a stellar collection rich with coveted countries and A-list variety––Halle Berry to Kid Rock. It’s why in 2009, CW leapt at the opportunity to feature him as photographer on Tyra Banks’ America’s Next Top Model. Whether spinning in South Africa on Mary J Blige’s tour or capturing the endless texture of Brooklyn Heights, D is rarely without his Leica camera. His passions are so organically interdependent that he’s often dual booked. “Puff [Sean Combs] will get on the phone with me like, ‘Yo, I need you to DJ for me in Paris, but you got to bring your camera, playboy!, ” tells D. “It’s cool to have that type of access because they know I’m not trying to exploit; just show the world my friends through my eyes.”
Before Derrick Jones was a modern day renaissance man, he was the youngest member of pioneering Hip-hop crew Boogie Down Productions, lead by the legendary KRS-One. Though it was 1987 when a teenage D-Nice put his first record atop a turntable (EPMD’s “It’s My Thing”), he would mainly serve as BDP’s prodigy producer before embarking on his very own solo rap career. In 1990, he would finally birth a classic of his own––the pulse and gospel of the debut single “Call Me D-Nice” is unforgettable. As the sun set on Hip-hop’s golden era to intro the darker nights of hardcore rap, D, although barely above age 21, found himself perceived as old-school. His career as a rapper would die as an infant. “I had to figure out how to live without people clapping.”
In 1998, he began ascending towards his destiny. After attending XXL magazine’s famous “Great Day In Hip-Hop” shoot, the Bronx-raised artist discovered an idol: Gordon Parks, the shoot’s photographer. Learning how often and varied Parks dipped into the arts pool, D realized a creative inside himself that he needed to live for instead of just with. He and his camera became inseparable; initially he mainly shot rap friends like De La Soul and Slick Rick. By 2003, Derrick began showcasing his sharp eye via his blog D-Nice.com, accompanying pictures with deliciously personal stories that starred Hip-Hop royalty. He would include his blog posts in email invitations sent to promote his early DJ gigs. Under the influence of disc jockey greats Mark Ronson and Hip-hop legend Q-Tip, it would be in famed former NYC staples like Table 50 where D-Nice would unearth his own identity behind the wheels of steel.
Though he’s blossomed into the Gordon Parks of today, the man who once took out suckers without anyone knowing how craves more colors on his wings. Anticipate his first photography exhibit in mid 2014, followed by an international DJ Tour shortly thereafter. His foray into Dance Music will evolve the father of two as a producer and DJ (he’ll begin incorporating drum machines into his sets). DM will allow Derrick to better articulate his boundless taste and share it on the most optimal stage: “I love music festivals. It‘s amazing that people will come watch a DJ explore with music. They look to the DJ to take them on a musical journey.”
So D-Nice’s dilemmas remain, and, in fact, are maturating at an exponential pace. Not only has he still not figured out how to live without people clapping, the applause has risen louder and traveled further.