Meet New York City’s most in-demand DJ Michael Simpson
What do Lil Uzi, KENZO, and Anna Delvey all have in common? Hiring Michael Simpson, the Yale graduate and NYC nightlife DJ making waves in the music scene. We found time when he wasn’t spinning tunes at hotspots such as; Little Sister, The Palace, or Highlight Room to discuss how he got his start and what inspires him.
How did you get into djing?
I fell in love with DJing the first time I saw a DJ perform (at a club in London, my hometown). From there I got my first pair of turntables and started teaching myself how to mix. At college, I would DJ and throw parties and those were my first experiences playing to a crowd. It was always a very smooth experience, I didn’t need to force myself to learn, I just liked doing it.
You’ve quickly become one of NYC’s most notable DJs. What was the turning point for you, in your opinion?
There wasn’t a single turning point but there were a few things that moved me forward. The pandemic was one of them. Obviously, the pandemic was terrible for most people. Somehow I got blessed because I got asked to DJ underground events in the city and that helped me to meet a lot of people quickly and build my name.
Who are some DJs that inspire you?
The list is long. I get a lot of inspiration from the DJ community in NYC (past and present), there’s a lot of talent in the city and everyone has their unique approach they bring to the table. The best DJ’s on the planet, in terms of the raw art form of DJing, are probably the best nightclub DJ’s. It’s a very different skill set to playing at festivals like Ultra or EDC. Diplo’s longevity is very impressive. He’s managed to stay relevant since ~2005, adapting through big changes in technology and the rise and falls of genres. I can’t think of few other people that have had such a lengthy run.
The Benji B sets that I’ve seen are also fire. He takes people on a journey through music they may not have heard, that’s what an excellent DJ can do. With DJ sets there’s always a tension between playing crowd pleasers and taking people into new territory, walking that line without losing people or boring them is where the real art is.
Tell us about one of your most memorable moments as a DJ?
DJ’ing in the music video for Lil Uzi Vert’s “Just Wanna Rock ” was pretty memorable. Uzi’s one of the most talented artists out right now, and being a part of such a big record was exciting. What made it even more dope was that the jersey club / “jersey drill” beat was innovative for a mainstream hip-hop song, it’s not a sound that most listeners were comfortable with or used to. The success of Just Wanna Rock has opened up mainstream listeners (in the US) a little to more uptempo genres like Jersey club / garage / drum n bass.
Advice you would give to anyone trying to become a dj?
I feel like I’m still at the beginning of my career but I’d say to focus on doing a great job at every gig, because that will be the big variable as to whether you will get asked back to play again. That and bringing a good crowd. And of course, having a hit record or being famous for something outside of DJing are the biggest trump cards. I spend a lot of time working on my mental health, therapy etc., and staying healthy. I also am sober. These things help a lot.
What do you love about NYC nightlife?
Getting to be around people who like the same things I like, whether that’s music or fashion or “culture” in general. NYC Nightlife, when it’s at its best, is an arena of expression for everything new and dope and interesting in those worlds. It’s not like that all the time, but it can be.
Most popular genre in the nightlife scene right now?
Hip Hop for sure, it’s been that way for a long time. It’s the dominant genre in the US so that’s going to be reflected in clubgoer’s tastes. House music has a real fire scene, Teksupport does great parties for example, but there are just way fewer house music fans overall than hip-hop fans.
My favorite nights are the ones where I can touch on a variety of genres and keep the crowd. Taste in NYC is very eclectic so on a good night a crowd might be receptive to everything from house music to hip hop to afrobeat to disco to amapiano. On other nights I might play straight hip-hop almost all night because it’s the only thing that people are really feeling.
Talent: Michael Simpson
Photographer: Max Durante: Max Dur
Hair Groomer: Jason Monet
Galore Features Editor: Perrin Johnson @editsbyperry
Editor-in-chief: Prince Chenoa @princechenoastudio