EvrybdyHateMelo: From the Booth, With Love.
Summertime Chi is here. I can feel it as I walk through Beverly. Summers in Chicago have always been hot but the casual oppressiveness of the sun is a new wrinkle. And the humidity feels like we’re south of the Mason Dixon line. I welcome the A/C as I enter this Beverly home. Today I’m pulling up on the homie, Melvin Mitchell aka EvrybdyhateMelo. He’s wearing blue hooping shorts and a white tee, the perfect practice gear. Complexcon has made Chicago it’s crib and tonight is the kickoff for a great weekend in the city with big events. There are events everyday, all day. “I got the Jordan Store with Kris Kites, Fake Decent at Promontory after that, The Drill Saturday…”, Melo trails off describing other gigs. He has 5 in total, all over the city. It’s an important weekend for the city, even more important for Melo.
Before we go any further, I have to own my biases. First, Melo is one of my best friends and I’ve known him since we were kids. Secondly, I think Melo is the best DJ in the city. He would never agree. Melo calls himself “festival ready” and he is, but he also believes his technical skill needs improvement. “I know I can be better. I can definitely be better…I actually like listening to turntablism. Studying Miles Medina and Atrak and fuckin’ Boi Jeanius and Skratch Bastid and ma’ fuckers like that.” Melo plays whatever he feels like. Sometimes he plays some unreleased Playboi Carti or he throws in a Brandy A cappella during the middle of the set. The vibe always comes first. Melo still plays drill music, trap music, and any other tough guy genre but women are the focus.“Play music to keep the women involved. Keep them engaged without having to subject them. Not just playing hella twerk music. Just play music for women…If the women are enjoying themselves, I guarantee you the whole party enjoying themselves.” That’s a fact.
I won’t be attending many gigs with Melo this weekend but I’ll be tagging along to one: the Jordan Store. A couple of years ago, the homies went to a Jordan event hosted by Don C. The night is a blur but I remember Melo saying that he wanted to DJ events for Jordan. It was still fairly early in his short DJ career, but he’s ambitious. Melo’s first gig was at Very Rare III on December 31, 2014. After Very Rare, it was a fight just to find gigs. “Chasing niggas down, hitting niggas in they DMs asking for spots, sending niggas my Soundcloud, pulling up on niggas’ parties and introducing myself to mogs. I mean that’s what its about. That’s what you gotta do but I remember for a while ma’ fuckers wasn’t fucking with me. A lot of niggas was curving me. Ma fuckers would meet me and act like they don’t know me.”
We don’t have the clubs like New York or LA. Our strip clubs don’t meet the standards of Miami, Atlanta, Houston to name a few. Breaking into the entertainment industry without proper backing is still impossible despite the benefits of social media. If you go to any of these ”urban events”, you’ll hear the same DJ you heard last week playing the same set. Obviously, it isn’t all about talent.“ You still need to know the right people and even if you know the right people, are they willing to help? Melo reached out to other DJ’s, friends he’d hope would manage him, and promoters he hoped would book him. He rarely received the response he wanted. He had to throw his own events with friends or gigs for complete strangers but were willing to pay.
Melo, our homie Murrell, and I hop into Murrell’s whip and head to the Jordan Store on State Street. Riding on the E-way through the southside, Melo has his laptop open looking through his library of music. Even though he practiced for at least an hour before we left, he had to look things over one more time. There’s no setlist, just a projection of what he hopes will happen. We finally make it downtown as commuters flood the sidewalks. As they leave their place of work, Melo arrives at his.
If you’ve never been to the Jordan store, it has two levels. The first floor is the store. Upstairs is a basketball court, about 2/3 the size of a full court. But there won’t be any basketball played tonight, only music. This isn’t a typical venue for a party. The security staff and hospitality staff find their places. There’s always tension when people enter unfamiliar places. Melo’s setup in on the balcony above the basketball court. Today he left his controller at home and opted to use the in-house CDJs. He reaches for plugs and wires mindlessly. At 6:45pm, after checking the sound levels and getting a feel for the tables, he plays a mix to break the ice.
It takes a long time to get comfortable behind the booth. Practicing at home comes with it’s own challenges like trying to get your timing right and finding blends that make sense. Home is safe. There aren’t boos or requests. The environment is controlled. A DJ never really knows what kind of environment he or she is walking into. I asked him about his most random gigs. “Top 3 most random gigs I had…The Dripathon with Roy French and it was really the drip a thon. That’s when I met Gxxd Stress, he was cool as hell. We did the back-to-back. We saw Big body Fiji [and Nike Boy], a Sweet 16 with Queen Key, and a hood party on 101st and Emerald.” Every DJ has stories of packing his/her equipment and going wherever the party is. Melo never had a home base until this year when Drinkhaus opened. He was their resident DJ until it closed. (RIP Drinkhaus).
At 6:58pm, Melo ends the prerecorded mix and goes live. The party’s first patrons begin to enter. After stopping at the bar, they find somewhere to post up for the night and stare at their phones. The open bar is the lifeline to parties like this. For Melo, Hennessy will be his fuel for four straight hours of DJ’ing. The floor begins to fill. Melo types frantically, searching for the perfect song. He glances at the people, eyes wide. The night is just beginning. As the floor fills, so does the DJ booth. Familiar faces begin to crowd the DJ booth as if it’s own party. Melo bounces behind the booth, intermittently wiping sweat from his bald head. He raps and points as if this he sold out the United Center. The energy is contagious. “A lot DJs are DJs and not entertainers.” Melo continues, ”I think I’m more. I like entertaining too. I come from them stages. I grew up on those stages so it’s different. When I’m DJing, I’m dancing and I’m whilin’ out because its T’d…And if you see me T’d, you gone be T’d. You gone be like ‘damn he really feelin’ his shit.’ Because I know what I’m doing and you know how I’m coming.”
Melo’s shirt is filled with sweat after 3 non-stop hours of mixing. The party looks a lot different from when he first started. Basketball players like Denzel Valentine and Alphonso Mckinnie, rappers like Vic Mensa and Rockie Fresh, so called influencers and gatekeepers are also in attendance. I can barely see the court amongst all of the people and inflated egos. A lot of these people have never seen or heard Melo DJ, but most of us around the booth have. Most places Melo DJ’s, he has a friend or family member come out in support. Without the help of gatekeepers or influencers, management, or booking agency, he’s only had his support system. There’s big things ahead for Melo, its already been written. As i said my goodbyes for the night, I saw the love surrounding the DJ booth. Whats a better way to celebrate than to be surrounded by the people that love you most? Tonight was his night.