Insights From DJ Chris Styles
Anyone who grew up in DC, Maryland or Virginia (The DMV) during the early 2000s knows of The Party Boy Chris Styles. His rise to acclaim was in the heyday of live radio mixshow broadcasting. With tuners set to 99.5 FM, DC's premiere Top 40/Pop programming station HOT 99.5 WIHT became a nationally syndicated platform in large part due to what Chris brought to the station. Off-air, he became a fixture in the DC nightlife scene as both a creative promoter and talented DJ able to pack DC's megaclubs iconic of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Then in 2006, his reach grew to weekly features on several terrestrial and satellite radio stations. In this interview with one of DC's foremost entertainers, Chris provides his insights on the industry and shared with me that his roots as a DJ run deep. He stayed true to his humble beginnings as a mobile DJ before becoming The Party Boy Chris Styles. This paid off as he kept his business thriving over the years and built a name for himself. That name specifically is Chris Styles Events, one of the most successful event production and entertainment companies in the Mid-Atlantic.
DJ ARIA: How did it all start for you? How did you get into the DJ profession?
Chris Styles: So my buddy in high school had an older brother who was a DJ. I saw a little bit of his setup and what he was doing when I’d go over to their house. While in high school my buddy and I started selling Go-Go tapes - at this time it was about 1996 and Go-Go music was a really popular movement back then. We would flip that money into buying DJ equipment and get into what his older brother was doing. Even before that, I was always intrigued and interested in going to school dances to see DJs perform. I also made mixtapes off the radio and would take them to parties and man, I’m sounding old too right now. DJing was always something I was interested in.
Go-Go is a genre born in Washington DC.
It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do next, you know for the next maybe five years. It was DJing and it turned into 20+ years and i’m still doing it. So after I graduated from high school I started working for a couple of mobile DJ companies in the area to get my name out there and also did a little bit on the radio while in college. I started to learn the radio industry and how to put together a playlist. Then in 1998, I started my first company which was called Knockout Entertainment. I was working independently and doing tons of parties; birthdays, homecomings, proms and sweet sixteens. The big opportunity for me though was when HOT 99.5 launched in April of 2001. I was at American University at the time and the cafeteria always had Jammin’ Oldies 99.5, the predecessor to HOT 99.5. The staff always had oldies playing until one day all of sudden I remember the format switched. I asked the cafeteria staff if they changed the station and they said, “No, the music just switched.“ So when the format on 99.5 changed from oldies to Top 40, I noticed that the on-air people, those who I call radio personalities, were still the same so I thought there might be an opportunity there for me. So during my last semester in college I interned at HOT 99.5 from January to May 2002. They were still new, less than a year old, trying to piece together the staff and personalities. It really felt like something was there for me. Then I graduated and was able to get a job at HOT 99.5 in promotions for a year before I was promoted to get a job on-air.
DJ ARIA: Where did the name "The Party Boy Chris Styles" come from?
Chris Styles: That definitely came from radio when I was at HOT 99.5. My buddy, Jamar McNeil, known as J-Niice who still does radio, gave me the nickname of "The Party Boy" and together he and I were known as "The Hot Boyz" from HOT 99.5.
DJ ARIA: What was it like transitioning from the nightlife scene to being booked for dozens of weddings per year?
Chris Styles: See I think a lot of people either don’t know or are misinformed about the fact that I started out doing private events and I have been doing it for 20+ years. So it was never a transition. The opportunity for me to get on the radio was done to help what I had already started. It wasn’t about switching over from the radio and club work to weddings. The radio and club work helped solidify my name. Once I got on the radio, I changed Knockout Entertainment into Chris Styles DJs (which has since become Chris Styles Events), connecting my name to the brand. I never stopped doing that work even though I might have taken myself out of those gigs. For example, during that time when I was on the radio people would call and say, “Hey Chris, I want to book you for this and book you for that.” I’d say, “That’s great though I have my live radio broadcast every Saturday night, but I do have this DJ that’s available.” They would then say, “Sure, that sounds great. We just really want to work with you so if this DJ works for you we trust them too.” So when it was time to get out of clubs and out of radio, that was there for me. It wasn’t a transition, but was looking at what gigs made the most sense at the time.
Chris Styles headlines the biggest NYE party on the East Cost.
DJ ARIA: Your resume includes prime time on-air radio personality, in-game host and DJ for multiple professional sports teams and business owner, but what moments stand out the most to you?
Chris Styles: Let’s dig a bit deeper into those if we can because, for example, I had one of the first radio mixshows ever and did one of the first live DJ broadcasts ever on HOT 99.5. These are things I created and there were so many things I did that had never been done before. To get on HOT 99.5, creating the Saturday night party mixshow, then one of the first night shows on SiriusXM’s "20 on 20" and then to DJ on "The Heat" and be one of the first DMV DJs to mix live on SiriusXM. Along with those accomplishments you mentioned, there are a lot of firsts that didn’t exist before. Outside of that, I’m definitely proud of bridging the DJ and Host roles in athletic events. I did the Washington Wizards and Mystics from ‘06 to ‘08 and was their in-game host. I was the in-game DJ for the Redskins home games last year and have been with the University of Maryland since 2011. That is stuff they never had a DJ for before we tried it. These things didn’t really exist before me and I hope that if I move on from them that they continue to have DJs and Hosts at these events.
DJ ARIA: DJs today are at sporting events, retail stores, fitness studios - allover. Are there other places that you think a DJ could add value?
Chris Styles: Anywhere. It’s great to see all these places that want to hire DJs. I would guarantee that a client, a trainer or a manager comes through a location that had a DJ playing and thought, “This is cool. I want to do this too.” Which then led to other opportunities for DJs. As long as you can find the right person who can bring a good playlist and be good for business, it’s great. I’ve always been one to support everyone doing gigs and I have never been that person to say “Hey, don’t take that gig.” I want all the guys that work for me to take advantage of all the opportunities out there.
DJ ARIA: What do you feel like sets you apart as a DJ?
Chris Styles: It’s something that I tell all the DJs that work for me. What can you do to make you irreplaceable? I’ve had people tell me, “Styles, you are one of one.” People know, whether it’s a club, vendor or couple - whoever is interested in booking me knows no one else does what I do the way that I do it. That goes for your style, your look, how you mix, the whole package. It’s something I had never really thought about until I was told over again.
DJ ARIA: Are there any trends in the industry that bother you?
Chris Styles: Well there isn’t a whole lot that really bothers me, but sometimes I’ll get disappointed if a potential client will end up choosing someone else just based on cost. That’s everyone though that hears, “...well we decided to go with someone else because they were a couple hundred dollars cheaper.” So you know, you’re disappointed about that because you know the quality is not going to be good and that party is going to suck. There are so many DJs out there now and so many people undercutting everybody. It’s always been that you get what you put in. You may think some DJ got lucky getting booked for some big gig, but in the end skill and talent always outweigh luck and who you know.
DJ ARIA: Where do you see the industry going or the profession changing?
Chris Styles: So I want it to grow and would love to see DJs offer more. So for example, I’ve always thought that some DJs don’t do enough to showcase all their talents and turn it into something that could be full time if that’s what they want to do. You’ve got some guys that have a regular 9 to 5 job, but they’re doing things that they like and fun events and maybe some of the smaller stuff. Which is fine because that’s what they enjoy. I’ve always thought though if you’re going to do it, be able to host, be able to play all kinds of music and be able to put mixes out. When I look at some of the other DJs, I’m like: “Dude, you need to be doing more. That’s not enough!” I mean, look man, I mixed on El Zol (a Spanish music radio station in the DMV) for three years and I only know maybe ten words in Spanish. It was no problem though. The morning show guy loved me and wanted a throwback mix on Thursday and a Friday old school mix - no problem. You have to be able to be versatile because you just don’t know where the opportunities are going to come from.
DJ ARIA: Do you have bucket list as a DJ?
Chris Styles: Outside of numbers of gigs to work, specifically for me I would love to DJ one of those weddings that gets featured on one of those goofy wedding shows, my wife watches them all of the time. Getting added as a panelist at one of the DJ expos would be really cool too. I also really want to do more in my community. I’d love to help a non profit or organization that puts on an event for a cause. For example, the church down the road from me was selected to be one of the churches to host the Tim Tebow Foundation's "Night to Shine" DC event and I was asked to be a part of it and we’re going to do it huge - DJ, custom monograms, photobooth, the lighting. I really want to do more events like this that mean more. To be booked for over 50 weddings a year, I love it, but I also want to do some of the community events with organizations putting on something special for someone, some couple or something going through a hard time. I would love to do three or four of these a year where it was special.
DJ ARIA: What advice would you give to today's aspiring DJs?
Chris Styles: Every gig matters. You can’t leave an opportunity and say, “So what.” No. Every gig matters because you can’t half-ass something. Every contact and person you meet matters. You can’t just blow through something and say, “Yeah, i’m going to put one of my boys in there to DJ instead of me and they probably won’t even know.” No, it all matters. Make sure you're prepared, you look professional, you have all of your stuff together, whatever it is. So what if there were only 15 people at this random event. Chances are that one of those people will be someone you need to know down the road or they are going to introduce you to someone you need to know. They may hit you up later saying, “Yeah, there weren’t that many people there, but we thought the DJ was amazing.” You ask me how I got booked for something and I probably have the craziest story about how I got it. It’s usually something random like someone coming up to make a request that I had a small conversation with or even nowadays someone I’ll leave an Instagram comment somewhere just being nice, being normal.
Check out DJ Chris Styles online using the links below.
Facebook: DJ Chris Styles
Mixcloud: DJ Chris Styles