How did you get started? Tell us your story!
Hi, my name is Dajuan Crooms, known now as DJ CRU, and I have been involved with music for basically my entire life. I'm from a small city outside of Atlanta, Conyers, GA, and growing up I was involved with everything related to music. Whether it's singing in the choir at church, playing in the band starting in middle school throughout college, or participating in the inaugural music technology program in high school, everything in my life revolved around music. Growing up, I learned to appreciate all genres and styles of music, whether it was from Hip-Hop, Top 40, Motown/Soul, Pop, Gospel, or Reggae, all the way to genres like Classical and Jazz.
I started making music because I was always around it. My family has a history of being musicians and active participants in the arts, so it just came to me naturally. I began learning to be a percussionist and drummer in the 6th grade and it just took off from there. I didn't begin my career as a DJ until 2014 at the University of West Georgia. While in college I joined a fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and was heavily involved in planning events and parties on campus. Through hiring DJs like DJ Reese, DJ Makaveli, DJ Showtime, DJ Prez, and others I began to pay attention to how the art and business of deejaying worked. Because of my deep musical background, it only took a few months of practice to be comfortable enough to perform at events and parties, so from the jump, I took it pretty seriously.
My first event is still one of the biggest events I've done to this day. It was the Welcome Back party for the start of the semester at UWG. There are usually around 1000-2000 people at this event at any given time, so for this to have been my first event was a dope experience. I had the opportunity to DJ for the University of Georgia athletics program from 2018-2019. There I had the opportunity to spin at Men's and Women's Basketball games, as well as performing at Women's Volleyball matches. The biggest crowd that I've ever performed for was in Athens at a game where attendance was somewhere between 7000-9000 guests. I've worked with a ton of schools, corporate companies, and stores as well!
What is your experience in the music industry? Do you have any formal training or schooling? If not, are you self-taught and how did you learn your craft? What is your learning style? What are your favorite educational resources (ex. college, YouTube, etc.)?
My family has ties in the music industry, so I've always been around it, even before I thought about being a DJ. My uncle, aka Mr. Collipark, has run his label for years. So, I've had the opportunity to meet artists, sit in on countless studio sessions, meetings, and performances, while learning the ins and outs of the industry. In high school, I was in a music technology program that taught us about producing, engineering, and recording. Most of my "formal" training comes from those experiences, but as far as deejaying is concerned I am self-taught. Deejaying is all about repetition and building muscle memory, so I just practice as much as I can. If there's something that I see or hear that I want to learn, I will refer to YouTube, Google or other DJ sites and blogs to learn.
What makes you decide to play a particular record during one of your sets? Is there a criterion other than pure subjectivity, for selecting what to play at a gig?
I'm really big on reading the room and paying attention to how people are responding to what I'm playing. For an event, I may have some requests or suggestions on the type of vibe that is wanted by the organizer, but I'm always ready to pivot. Since I began deejaying I've always been sure to keep the people that I'm entertaining as my top priority.
Why are your biggest influences growing up and why? Who do you like to listen to now and why? Who’s on your playlist right now?
Musically my biggest influences are kind of all over the place. Of course, my uncle, Collipark, and my pops were really big influences. I watched them grow their labels and artists from the ground up. My list outside of those two is pretty extensive: Pharrell, Kanye, Outkast, Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Ludacris, T.I., Lupe Fiasco, Lauryn Hill, Lil Wayne, Eminem, Dr. Dre, Beyoncé, Rihanna. DJ Inspirations: DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Scratch, DJ Scientis (Ying Yang Twins DJ), DJ Premier, DJ Rob Swift, and many others. I listen to as much music as I can now because no two events that I do are the same. Right now, I'm on a different wave: Tyler the Creator, Deante Hitchcock, Kenny Mason, ODDO, Fusway Jones, Childish Gambino, Anderson Paak, Travis Scott, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and others.
What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve encountered or faced in this industry? What are currently your main challenges as a DJ? What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your music, that makes it interesting for you?
The biggest obstacle for me has probably been just trying to differentiate myself from others in my profession. There are tons of DJs now. Anyone can become a DJ! All you need is a laptop, a controller or turntable setup, headphones, a logo, and boom you're a DJ. In my opinion, there are so many DJs now that it's harder now than ever before to weed out the quality of performance and services provided. Deejaying and producing are different but they're very interconnected. Producing is like the ultimate creative space. You're like a master arranger that is putting together these unique thoughts, patterns, sequences, and ideas onto a recording in your style. As a DJ there's nothing original about the tools you're presented with. For the most part, everyone has the same songs, equipment, and access to resources, but everyone can play music very differently. Not to get too deep into that, but that's what makes deejaying very interesting to me; everyone hears and plays the same things in their own unique way.
How would you describe your sound and style?
My sound is very fun, upbeat, and spontaneous. A lot of times you'll hear blends of songs that you would never have thought to put together. Songs from different eras, genres, and just records that you may have forgotten about or haven't heard in a long time. I think my style is very unique because I'm a very calm and stoic person, but my energy behind the turntables and mic does not match that at all.
What are some of your goals this year?
One of my main goals this year is to secure a few more residencies around Atlanta. I'm a former resident DJ for The Pizza Bar and Tin Lizzy's Cantina across multiple locations. I also want to start hosting and sponsoring my own events and parties every month.
Who are the top 3 artists, producers, engineers, videographers, or others you would want to work with that you haven’t worked with yet?
Top 3 Artists: Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, H.E.R. Top 3 Producers Pharrell, Timbaland, Organized Noize
What is your creative process like?
My creative process is very unorthodox. I can hear one part out of a song, whether it be a sound or word, and just go down a wormhole of trying to create. I do weekly Instagram videos (@DJCRU_) and some of the themes that I choose to focus on are just noises, words, and different odd things that you wouldn't normally pay attention to.
What’s your favorite go-to order?
That's hard to say because I love food! (Lol) You can never go wrong with a 20-pc wing, a nice burger from Grindhouse, a jerk chicken plate, or some Japanese food. (Lol) I don't know, I just like to eat.