Music is magic, and DJs are like the magicians who mix these magical spells to create something exquisite. For Harry L Taylor III, better known as DJ Rockstar, this is precisely the secret of his trade. The Philadelphia-born DJ is a veteran of the game with a long career behind him.
After a short hiatus, he is marking his return with a new album and many concerts. We got a chance to get candid with the DJ about his career, life and passion.
Q: What it is about being a DJ that you love the most?
DJ: I guess, it is the sensation of fusing, mixing and creating music that drew me towards the profession. I am passionate about music, and being a DJ allowed me to do a lot with music than my law career would have. But there is another thing about the DJ life that I absolutely love. I love to see people smile on the dance floor and having a good time when I am in the booth. To watch people creating a memory they could look back and remember fondly, and knowing that I contributed a little in that. I think this feeling makes the job worth it to me.
Q: How would you describe your childhood?
DJ: Well, to be honest, I would describe it as quite happy. Growing up in the Hills Creek Project, which was a housing project in Philly, I can’t say that we didn’t know poverty. Despite that, I had a loving family and never felt the lack of anything. By the time I was a teen, we had moved to our own home at Howland Street. I think that was the most peaceful time of my childhood. Unfortunately, my parents died some years later, and I have also lost my two younger brothers since then. But whenever I look back, my childhood always makes me smile.
Q: You were looking for a career in law. How did you manage to take a complete turn and become a DJ?
DJ: (laughs) Guess I gotta blame my friends for that. When I was young, barely an adult, I used to do karaoke session with my friend Jack Keenan – sometimes in private, sometimes at parties. For me, it was just a jobby. But it was my friends who first realized that I have a real knack for music and encouraged me to do something about it. Finally, I decided to act upon their advice and take the moniker of DJ Rockstar.
Q: You have mentioned how DJ Jason E helped you early in your career. Tell us more about that.
DJ: I mean, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that I owe my career to Jason. When I first started out, I knew little to nothing about being a DJ. It was at such a time that DJ Jason E took me under his wing, trained me, taught me the trade – the whole package. If it weren’t for him, it would have taken me a lot more years to learn to be a professional DJ; who knows, I might have failed too. When people ask me “who’s your musical inspiration?”, I don’t reply with some big singing icon or some hotshot DJ. I say “DJ Jason E”, plain and simple. We are great friends now, but I still look up to him.
DJ: Well, what can you say – Atlantic City is my workplace for a job I am passionate about. I love Philadelphia, but Atlantic City was where I tasted my first success. Even today I am a resident DJ there and the city keeps showering me with love. Some of the fondest memories of my career were made there. It is truly my second home, and I don’t mind the constant to-and-fro I have to make between Philly and Atlantic City.
Q: When you are not being an amazing DJ, what do you like to do?
DJ: I think I have spoken about how fitness is the one thing, apart from music, that I am absolutely passionate about. Whenever I am not working and get some free time, I hit the gym. When I am on tours, the first thing I look out for at the venue (or where I am staying) is a gym. No matter how busy I get, I try to work out 6 days a week without skipping. Working out also clears my mind and helps me remain creative at the booth. I also enjoy playing basketball.
Q: Like any established DJ, you have had a lot of collaborations over the years. Which ones were your favorite?
A: (chuckles) You know, I get that asked a lot. And people keep expecting me to say “DJ Snake” because he is one of the biggest DJs in the world right now. But, to be honest, every collaboration was unique and taught me something special. Sharing a booth with Justine Valentine, of MTV’s West N Wild, was pure fun. The night I shared the booth with Tiesto when he used to be a headliner at Revel Casino during a New Year’s party will perhaps remain my fondest memory. But I have also worked with the likes of DJ Skribble and Zack Martino, and each of that collab was special in its own way.
But if I am forced to choose one collaboration, it would be the one I have had with Joe Zangie and Rockell of Fever Records. The three of us have worked together for years and produced some amazing music like “Mad About You”, “In a dream” and “Can’t we try”. When I am working with them, I feel motivated to be my creative best.
I am also greatful for DJ Slice (Christopher Rodriguez) for taking me on the Royalty Radio station which is owned freestyle king Stevie B. I have worked with other Radio stations but this one is special and we are a family. DJ Slice is making moves and is always looking out for me. We are a great team. Life is good right now and I’m looking forward to new beginning’s after the pandemic. New songs with Joe Zangie and Rockell and new projects with DJ Slice and Royalty Radio.
Q: Speaking of Joe Zangie and Rockell, tell us something about your upcoming collab with them.
DJ: Well, I am not allowed to reveal much about it before the release. It is just something I have been working on during the pandemic when the country was under lockdown and I had a lot of free time. Joe and Rockell came along, and we worked on creating some music that our fans would love. I think that after this pandemic, people need music more than ever. Our upcoming release will try to fill that void. I am also planning some concerts in the coming weeks to mark my return – so watch out for them!