When the pandemic shut down music venues around the globe in 2020, concert- and club-goers were disappointed, needless to say. Performers and fans rushed to social media to help fill the void, but, despite the efforts, most of the time it made us miss being part of a crowd even more. Until D-Nice came along. The veteran DJ and producer became the plug for entertainment during the lockdown with his wildly popular Club Quarantine, a virtual dance party that has changed the course of the music industry and social media platforms. His nightly Instagram Live DJ sets ranged from classic hip-hop, soul, and R&B, featuring his smooth DJ moves and slick headwear. At his peak, he brought more 100,000 people together at the virtual dance parties.
“I felt like my job was important to be a source of inspiration to so many people,” D-Nice tells PEOPLE in a recent interview. “Last year was difficult. We've lost a lot of people. I've lost a lot of friends in the music industry due to COVID. But then we were also fighting when protesting was going on in our communities and police brutality, it was hard. That's what made Club Quarantine so important, because it was always a safe space for people.”
Born Derrick Jones in the Bronx, the professional DJ, beat-boxer, rapper, producer and photographer started his career in the mid-1980s with Boogie Down Productions, one of the most influential groups in hip-hop history (which also featured KRS One, and the late Scott La Rock). The group’s songs have become classics and their impact on the culture is still felt today. Over the years, D-Nice has become the go-to person to spin at high-profile events, including the Inaugural Ball for President Barack Obama’s second term, the Oscars and the Super Bowl. His photography skills have landed him clients from Reebok to America’s Next Top Model.
His veteran entertainment status prompted scores of A-list stars to do virtual walkthrough on his sets, sparking excitement across the internet. Here are 10 times the NAACP nominee for Entertainer of the Year lifted us out of quarantine with his virtual dance parties.
Forever First Lady Michelle Obama and D-Nice broke records in March 2020 when they hosted the "couch party" in collaboration with her voter registration organization, When We All Vote. Through the organization’s texting program, the group received text messages from 407,824 eligible voters and helped nearly 13,000 people start or complete the voter registration process, according to a spokesperson for When We All Vote. Not only did they get voters moving to the beat at the virtual dance party, the dynamic duo got them to register to vote. What a way to lift people out of quarantine.
D-Nice told Variety he was speechless when he watched Bad Girl Riri enter the virtual party in March 2020. “I watched Rihanna come in and I was happy to play even more music,” he tells the entertainment news outlet. “Even though I’ve DJ’d for her in the past, the feeling that I had was… imagine this: most of the parties I DJ, I’m going into someone else’s world. I have to cater my set to what they want. In this case, they’re coming into my world. They’re coming to D-Nice’s Instagram Live. I played what I wanted to hear and wanted to expose them to, and they had a great time.” His music game gave scores of people, including celebrities, much needed relief from the stress of the lockdown.
D-Nice says he was just as surprised and excited as followers when Drizzy did a virtual walkthrough on the set. “I didn’t call,” he said in an interview with Volume on SiriusXM. He says he was stunned because, “I’m not even friends with Drake. And no one was really using IG Live, and I thought this is actually amazing. Someone said, ‘D-Nice has everyone in here.’” Indeed, celebrities of all stripes started to show up at his virtual events, which lifted the mood of the internet. Well, OK, of his fans and followers. Check out the interview below:
Ayeee, after shoulder dancing to his Bad Boy hit by G-Dep, “Special Delivery,” the mogul announced during an April 2020 visit to a virtual dance party that his brand CÎROC and partner Diageo were making a $1,000,000 donation to help health care workers in cities with high Covid-19 fatality rates among African Americans, including Detroit, New Orleans and New York City. “I just got off the phone with Oprah,” Diddy said in the impromptu IG Live message about donations. “You know Oprah brought it like it was hot. Let’s keep the celebration going on.” Watch the uplifting video of the IG Live chat below:
The media mogul came with jokes, which lifted everyone’s mood after her March 2020 visit to the virtual party. “Best party of 1 and 100k I ever been to! Thanks @djdnice #ClubQuarantine,” she tweeted.
In the midst of his campaign for President of the U.S., Biden could not resist the urge to slide into D-Nice’s Club Quarantine party in March 2020. “When asked if everything was going to turn out OK in the end, Biden responded with a thumbs up,” according to the Daily Beast, meaning he knew way back then that he was going to win the election against Donald Trump. His hopeful message helped turn up the mood of the virtual party.
After a virtual dance party, D-Nice partnered with Will Smith’s sports-inspired streetwear brand, Bel-Air Athletic, to produce, customize and design a limited edition, Club Quarantine hoodie, according to Essence. The effort would donate 50 percent of net proceeds from the sale of each hoodie to the CDC Foundation’s Combat Coronavirus Fund. “It’s truly special to collaborate with Will and Bel-Air Athletics on this initiative,” D-Nice told the entertainment news outlet. “This is a unique opportunity for us to take our passion for entertainment, fashion and connecting people, and use it to support our health care professionals in a meaningful way. They are the true heroes on the front lines of this battle against COVID-19.”
Whose spirits aren’t lifted by a budding romance? The actress was a frequent guest of Club Quarantine, often staying late into the night. Berry and D-Nice were "flirting" in the comments, to the point that fans even got #BerryNice trending, BET writes. When asked about it, D-Nice said: “No Zoom dates. I’m not that fortunate yet. Hopefully, one day but not now. We’re just having fun. Halle’s my friend and we are just having fun with it," he began, before admitting, "It could be light flirting but nothing serious. We are just having fun with it." Checkout the tweets below:
The veteran rapper made us laugh with her jokes about a hangover and every1 being in the house during the virtual party. Things got popping when he played her 2001 hit single, “Get Ur Freak On.” What a way to lift spirits during quarantine. Check out her tweet below:
The director chimed in to thank DJ D-Nice for creating the viral virtual dance sets in March 2020. The positive energy lifted folks up at a time when it was much needed. For his part, D-Nice was touched by the support, writing in an IG post: “I never would’ve imagined that the best party I would create and DJ would be from the comfort of my own home. Homeschool is a thing!” he wrote in one post. “I’m feeling nothing but gratitude. 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽 Thanks to all of you that supported. This has been a great way to keep our spirits high. Blessings!”
Watch the 52nd Annual NAACP awards on BET on Saturday, March 27, 2021 at 8/7C
(Photo by John Parra/Getty Images)