Somewhere in West Texas, one humble man with a set of turntables is on a mission. He’s DJ Promote, Syntax Records’ own secret weapon. Injected into any record or event, he’s ready to make the party come alive. With every beat and every mix, he is making more than a song… he’s creating an atmosphere.
In spite of his small town upbringing, DJ Promote always knew he had a love and a gift for music. His biggest exposure came through the radio that played mostly pop hits. However, as a child of the ‘80s, he grew up with hip-hop, and breakdancing amongst friends was common. Still, the bass-heavy jams of his youth hadn’t caught on in his neighborhood just yet.
“I danced for a long time, because I didn’t have a way to express my love for music. I didn’t have an opportunity to be around DJs or rappers. I was in the school band for a little while. I took up drawing and did graphic arts,” DJ Promote says. “If there was a hip-hop culture in my town at that time, it was hidden. There were a few guys breakdancing and doing graffiti art, but you wouldn’t have known about it. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I heard about people doing it.”
The art of being a DJ was almost as young as he was, but even before he knew what a DJ was, he was developing a raw talent for the profession. He says, “As a kid, I was deejaying in my head. I would always be thinking about what the next song should be. I didn’t know that you could do that for real.”
DJ Promote made friends with similar interests, and after high school, he finally got the opportunity to jump head first into the scene. “I started hanging out in big cities like Dallas, Austin and San Antonio,” he recalls. “We would hit the clubs mostly for the music. We just wanted to hear the DJs.”
By his early 20s, DJ Promote was entrenched in the hip-hop scene. He was deejaying parties, youth events and any place that he could. It was just as he’d always dreamed of. However, something was still missing.
It started when he returned back to his small town one year later to find that his family had started going to church. “I could tell they were different. There wasn’t as much arguing. It was calmer. I didn’t understand everything at the time, but I remember thinking, ‘Whatever they have, I want.’”
It would still be a couple of years before he would make a commitment to Christ. He still went to the club, but the lifestyle was starting to wear on him. One Sunday morning, he found himself wanting to go up to the altar, but he was hesitant. An older man in his church asked him what he was waiting for, adding, “If you think it’s right, then you just do it.”
Later that night, DJ Promote went to see Stigmata, a controversial film that dealt strongly with spiritual issues. “It was a strange movie to make me think about being a Christian, but that’s how it happened,” DJ Promote says. “It was the first time that I had the revelation that there is something bigger than me and there’s more than just what is going on in my life. It hit me. I turned to one of my friends and said, ‘I’m ready.’”
After accepting Christ, DJ Promote turned his passion into a vehicle of soul expression. He started mixing notable Christian hip-hop artists of the time by raiding the Family Christian Bookstore music rack. He created websites, did breakdancing events and eventually became a fixture in the scene. Traveling across the globe, he deejayed for many artists, including scratching on a remix for Shirley Caesar. However, his biggest accomplishment was mixing for a youth culture video produced by the Billy Graham Association called Bridge to Life. “I did both graffiti and deejaying,” he says. “Here I am, and the only reason I’m here is that this one man went and put in all this work for all these years. I knew that I was part of something that was beyond me. It’s amazing, and it relays the gospel. Anything like that is cool.”
Today, he has more projects under his belt including Syntax Records’ Wages of Syntax Volume 2 and the label’s compilation series, Night Owls, on which DJ Promote mixed for volumes three, four and five. “They’ve given me so much freedom,” he says. “With everything I do, we try to keep that Syntax sound, yet they have my back and still allow me to be me.”
In spite of his success, he considers himself a latecomer to the game with room for improvement. “It’s all about learning and never thinking that you’ve got it down,” he says.
In a town of just 100,000, one man with a set of turntables is making a difference. To him, it’s more than just a profession. “I play all kinds of stuff, but I want to put a message in it. I want to create an environment and give joy where there is no joy.”
And how does this talented DJ keep himself grounded? He is in constant remembrance that it’s not about him.
“I keep looking back at all the things that God has done,” he says. “God has taken me through all those steps to make music and have fun. For me it’s about getting people excited and then how can I turn this excitement into something that will impact forever. I want it to show that God is real. My job is just to be creative so God can work.”