We all know there is no Carnival without Caribbean Music [especially Soca] and there is no music being played without our DJs. In an effort to highlight some of the best talents from the Caribbean region, I wanted to profile some notable DJs.
I prepare myself to speak with DJ Puffy, a disc jockey from Barbados that shocked the world in 2016 when he won Red Bull’s 3Style competition and the ladies love him.
Deejay Puffy is a household name in the Caribbean space and even beyond. I am so happy I got the chance to pick his brain about the craft he loves so much. We get on the phone, and he is fresh off a flight from Indonesia and making a smoothie, so I already know I am stealing time, and as busy [and probably tired] as he might be.. he is delightful.
We get into the interview.
So how did Puffy become a DJ?
Well, I have always loved and been around music. My mom is a singer, originally from Grenada and moved to Barbados as a toddler. My dad played two instruments.
GC: Did you also play any instruments?
Yes, I played the drums, and I tried to play the piano [my grandmother had one] but that didn’t really work out. I did play the trumpet in high-school, I was in the Cadet band.
But tell me more about DJing?
I was the Marketing Manager for a youth Band and I would also DJ for my friends in high-school, but always for fun. The Youth Band was putting on an event and had hired DJs but due to limited budget and time, I started playing around and DJed that event. My [now] manager had never seen me play but said that I was actually good; I ended up getting my first gig the following Saturday. That one set on Saturday, turned into every Saturday, until I was eventually playing three times per week.
I was still in school during this time, so while I had set days to play, I was still playing for fun. One day I played at Taboo, and played early. King Bubba (Barbados soca artist) was there with his friend Simply Smooth (from Grenada) and asked who I was. Playing at Taboo got me a call from DJ Scratch Master, who had just brought Slam 101 to Barbados. He wanted to give me a slot on the radio so I then submitted a demo and interned for a while.
Now in 2016, after playing at numerous locations and playing at Slam 101, I was already traveling and building my career. DJ. Trayze, while on vacation in Barbados watched my shift at Slam and suggested I compete for Red Bull’s 3Style Competition [the world’s largest DJ competition]. I never liked the idea of competition but decided to go ahead and do it. The rules of the competition changed, that allowed people from different regions to play so I figured why not. If I can represent where I come from and be a part of this, this opportunity would be amazing.
I created a 5-minute video and submitted it. I had not heard back from them for a while so I assumed I didn’t get in. I ended up putting the video on YouTube which then went viral and I later received a call from Kenny McIntyre saying I got in. 3Style is like every DJ’s dream, like DJ camp; you get to eat, sleep and breathe music while being around some of the greatest talents. Jazzy Jeff, DJ Craze, DJ Nu-Mark, Nina Las Vegas and Mix Master Mike were some of the talents there.
So how did you react when you won?
To be honest, I was shocked. After hearing them call my name, I was like wait, I won? [laughs]
Your career is like even bigger than you, how do you stay grounded?
I have a really close connection with my mom, she instilled a lot of good qualities in me. My friends and family also keep me grounded. And lots of love keeps me grounded.
What do you love most about your career?
GC interjecting: even though you get tired?
Yes, you get tired, but there is always something to learn and look forward to. I like being in new environments where I can learn something.
So I know you have been to Indonesia and Thailand just to name a few, what has been your most memorable destination?
Taiwan. I enjoyed the crowd and the architecture. They have a really, interesting culture with super creative and dope people. Another memorable destination is Toronto, I loved the people there.
Will you think about mentoring upcoming DJs?
Absolutely, although my career is hectic now, I will eventually do that. I am already putting things in place so that when I slow down, I can mentor and develop DJs and other creatives in the region. I can’t tell you too much now though, I don’t want my idea to get stolen [we both laugh]
Now, this may take you back but what is the first soca song you remember hearing as a child?
Oh wow! Umm.. Krosfyah — Wet Me. They had a music video on around that time. So I would definitely say something from that era. ..
What inspires the way you play on the road during carnival vs. a fete?
Playing on the road is a challenge for me because I cannot really connect with my audience, but I will say DJing on the road is easier because masqueraders are in their element. You mostly just have to keep the vibe going and ensure people continue to have the best time.
Where would you like to take Caribbean music?
As far as I can go.
GC: What about large festivals like Tomorrowland?
I played at Mysteryland ( a series of electronic dance music festivals) in 2017 in Amsterdam, which is similar to Tomorrowland. I would love to play Tomorrowland as well. Festivals are dope because you get to play a lot of different types of music, [i love all types of music] EDM, or music with no lyrics that I can mix with Caribbean elements. This allows me to stand out.
What is your creative process like?
[Laughs] I can’t say there is a real process but I am inspired by everything. I take in things like a sponge, so I could hear car horns outside and that inspires me to make something from that sound.
How do you learn new music? Do you practice?
Actually, after we get off this call, I am going to do some crate digging.
GC: okay but there is no actual crate so?!
Crate digging is an old school term to describe going to look for records.
GC: so what is digital crate digging like?
I am subscribed to a lot of record pools so I am going to listen to songs that came out today, what came out two weeks ago and check out some I’d like to download. Some of my DJ buddies and I share music with each other as well.
So lastly, tell me more about you producing music.
I think it’s really fun to play other people’s music and even more, fun to play your own music. If you have an ear for it, I think creating and producing is dope. I enjoy creating and sharing my ear.
Check out Puffy’s latest mixes