There are few live events that compare to attending an NBA game. For one, seeing a pro basketball player up close makes you realize you didn’t know they made humans that big. Two, seeing players of that size do the things they do on the court shouldn’t be possible.
The game is the headliner, but throughout the night there are multiple supporting acts to keep the experience entertaining. We’re talking about the mascot, the jumbotron trivia, a fan heaving a half-court shot for cash, dancers, trampoline dunkers, the whole shebang.
Of course, there’s the music, too.
Music is played intermittently during the game to keep the energy buzzing. Chants of “defense” or instrumental breakdowns while someone like Steph Curry breaks down a defender add some spice to the pasta. Then, there are the times when the team DJ takes center stage.
The job of an NBA DJ is to take the energy to the next level. DJ D Sharp, the official DJ of the Golden State Warriors, does this as well as anyone in the league.
I sat down with him to talk about how he got into DJing, his preparation process, meeting one of his musical idols, playing to empty arenas during the COVID-19 pandemic and whether or not NBA DJs get a championship ring.
Q&A With Golden State Warriors’ DJ D Sharp
Q: How did you first get involved with DJing?
DJ D Sharp: “I’ve been DJing for more than half my life now. I always equate it to a basketball player picking up a basketball. A baseball player playing baseball. A kid starting at 11 going to basketball practice. I was just into DJing. It was the culture.
“Hip-hop was kind of new then and I would see the guys like DJ Jazzy Jeff, (DJ) Premier, those guys. I just liked it. It looked dope to me. Early on I thought of it as an instrument, and it’s been my instrument ever since.”
Q: How did you become the official DJ for the Warriors?
DJ D Sharp: “There was a guy by the name of DJ Solomon who was [the Warriors’] official DJ. He saw saw me DJ for this group…rest in peace my brother Gift of Gab. I used to DJ for this group called Blackalicious. Solomon…rest in peace because he passed away in 2012…came to a show and saw me DJ. He then asked me to do a two-by-four set with him at a Warriors game. I was a Warriors fan, so I was like ‘sure.’
“He used to have a bunch of DJs on a list. If he couldn’t DJ a game, he would throw the games to a bunch of different DJs. I was on the list, it was kind of like a who’s who of Bay Area DJs. For some reason, I think I was the only one who responded to the requests because this is when the Warriors were trash. It’s funny because they gave me like three passes, a meal ticket, I think they gave you a little money, too. I can’t remember.
“I was the only one who would respond to [DJ Solomon’s] emails. That in turn made me the second guy under Solomon. When Solomon passed away in 2012, that’s how I became the official DJ.”
Q: You got in right as the franchise was turning the corner, like right when Steph [Curry] was on the rise…
DJ D Sharp: “It’s bittersweet, man. Solomon was an amazing DJ. He helped me a lot in my DJ career. He introduced me to DJing on the computer. He got me on Serato. He was my tech support. Anytime I needed something I called him and he was there. So yeah, it was bittersweet.
“It was when Mark Jackson had got there. The tide started changing, the culture started changing. We got Draymond [Green]. We got Klay [Thompson]. It was dope because the team was coming together.”
Q: I read that you’re from the Bay Area as well. It must be pretty special to be able to play for your hometown team.
DJ D Sharp: “It’s insane to me, especially when we were at Oracle [Arena], because I would walk to Oracle to go to games from my old neighborhood. I used to go to Brookfield Elementary and they gave us tickets to [Oakland] A’s games, tickets to Warriors games. We’d just walk over to the arena with an older adult. It wasn’t an everyday thing, but every summer for sure for the A’s games. Here and there for the Warriors games. Oracle was basically in the neighborhood I grew up in, so it’s crazy.”
Q: Speaking of Oracle, what’s been the biggest difference between playing at Oracle and playing at the Chase Center so far?
DJ D Sharp: “I will say this. Chase has been crazy. It’s starting to live up to Oracle right now, and I think it’s because we’re winning. The past two years no one has been really excited about the Warriors. Even this year, I don’t think people expected us to be where we are right now. I’m definitely getting Oracle vibes in Chase right now. I can’t lie, it’s beautiful to see.
“I love Chase, but I don’t think Chase will ever be what Oracle was. Oracle was just a special place, man.”
Q: I’ve never caught a game out there, but I’ve only heard great things about the soul of Oracle. That brings me to my next question. Last year, the NBA started the season not allowing any fans in the arena. DJing is all about reading the crowd and playing for an audience. So how did you adjust to playing in an empty arena?
DJ D Sharp: “I kept doing what I was doing. I kept playing as if it was a full arena. I never slowed down. It’s funny though, because when they announced they were talking about bringing DJs in with no crowd, I saw it as an opportunity to play to the players.
“That’s what I do with my warmup set. When I first get there, I’m on the floor and I kind of play to the players. I thought I could extend that into the game but I was told I had to play as if it’s a game. So, I was like ‘All right, cool.’ And I didn’t change anything I do, I just kept it going.”
Q: Do players come up to you and make requests?
DJ D Sharp: “During the summer I got a text from JP, Jordan Poole. He was like, ‘Yo! We’re gonna change some stuff up going into this season.’ He sent me like two playlists of like a bunch of stuff. I don’t know if it’s stuff he listens to or stuff the guys in general listen to. I got him in touch with Shawn Bennett, who runs entertainment for the Chase Center and the Warriors, and they’ve been working some things out. I listen to the playlist that he sent me from time to time. It’s a dope playlist. It’s like all the newer music from the trap guys.
“I follow these guys on social media. I see what they listen to and what they like. It’s rare for guys to hit me up like JP did. But, like in the past, when Zaza [Pachulia] was here he was like, ‘I need house music. I don’t care, I need house music.’ I was like, ‘I got you, bro.’ I know that Andre Iguodola is a humongous hip-hop fan and he listens to all the real lyricists like the Kendricks [Lamar], the Jay-Zs, the Drakes, all that stuff. I know Steph is really into Christian rap. He listens to Lecrae, Bizzle, Andy Mineo. He turned me onto those guys and they’re dope. Lyrically they’re dope. Production-wise they’re dope. Their music can be mainstream, but they’re just talking about Jesus. It’s a lot of positivity.”
Q: What’s your preparation process like?
DJ D Sharp: “I download music every day. I’m in a bunch of DJ pools. Part of my day every day is to go download what’s hot, what’s new, listen to stuff that I like, some stuff I don’t like that I may need to download. I have crates and playlists available that I’ll drag music into that I think fits. Then I just go. It’s pretty simple.
“I’ve developed a blueprint of how everything goes. Where the music goes and where to go to get certain music. I can show up and always be prepared for a game.”
Q: Who’s one of your musical inspirations that would surprise people?
DJ D Sharp: “Well if you know me, J-Dilla wouldn’t surprise you or Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest wouldn’t surprise you. For those who don’t, I would say Miles Davis, John Coltrane. I love jazz music. A lot of people don’t know that.”
Q: I love J-Dilla. “Donuts” is a classic.
DJ D Sharp: “If he was here today, there’s no telling where music would be. After he died, even up until now, you know the whole lo-fi hip-hop movement is J-Dilla. That’s J-Dilla. You can’t escape that. He has a whole genre, whether you want to believe it or not, that he created unintentionally. But, it exists because of him. Phenomenal.”
Q: Is there an aspect about DJing that people have a misconception about?
DJ D Sharp: “Yes, and I’m glad you asked this question. DJing is all about making people happy, right? It’s one of the things I love most about my job. You play a certain record and you see a certain response from a fan, client or from a person at a club. Whatever it is, you play for the people.
“I can’t go to Chase and play ‘Donuts.’ I can’t do that. I would love to all the time, but I only have when it’s appropriate. I just did a gig recently where there were a bunch of requests. It was like, ‘Yo, you hired me to play your party. Let me do my job and you will be happy.’
“You have to let a good DJ cook. You have to let a good DJ read your crowd and play to your crowd if that’s what you want. I think that’s a big misconception. People hire DJs and just think that they’re jukeboxes. It’s not our job to be a jukebox. It’s our job to read your crowd and know how to play to that crowd.”
Q: What’s your go-to song to get people hyped?
DJ D Sharp: “There’s no one song to get people hyped. I look back at videos of me and I used to play the hell out of ‘Turn Down For What’ [by DJ Snake and Lil Jon]. Because of that, I’ve retired that song. That’s one song that used to get people hyped. No matter what setting I’m in, I’ve never had a bad reaction to that song. It kept me playing that song.
“Now, it’s just whatever I felt might be hyped. It could be anything, anything from DMX usually works.”
Q: On the flip side of that, basketball is a game of runs and the team will go into timeouts on the wrong side of momentum. What’s your go-to song then?
DJ D Sharp: “‘Blow the Whistle’ [by Too $hort] is a big one in Chase. It was in Oracle as well. I read somewhere where somebody was like ‘The Warriors just played ‘Blow the Whistle’ and it pumped fear into the opponent.’ I think certain teams know when they come into our house and that song comes on, it’s over for you because now we got Dub Nation behind us. Too $hort, Bay Area’s finest, is coming through these loud speakers and the team turns up.”
Q: Naturally, there’s a ton of energy during the playoffs. Is there a specific playoff moment that sticks out to you?
DJ D Sharp: “I’m a huge Kanye West fan. One time, Peter Gruber [The Warriors co-CEO] walked Kanye West over to me during the playoffs. We had a moment. I had a long conversation with him. He was a humble dude. We were smiling and all this stuff. I was like, ‘Hey, can we get a picture?’ That was the moment where you see him in the photos and it’s like he hates to be there.
“Another was Prince walking into Oracle one time. When he hit the floor the whole arena went silent. There are so many, man. There are so many records that were broken during our playoff runs.
“Another one would be playing to our crowd when we won our first championship. We would show games live in the arena. Every aspect of the game was there except for the players. You got me, the cheerleaders, the Hoop Troop, everybody’s out there. We’re playing the game, the team is in Cleveland, we win, and it was a celebration on the floor. That’s one thing I’ll never forget. I could keep going on as you can see.”
Q: Do you get a championship ring when the team wins?
DJ D Sharp: “I do. I have three things. I’m probably the only DJ in sports history with three rings. I think the [San Francisco] Giants DJs might have a couple, too.”
Q: I noticed on your Instagram that you wear a jersey with No. 8. Why do you wear that number?
DJ D Sharp: “A lot of people think I’m paying homage to Monta Ellis. It has nothing to do with Monta Ellis actually. No. 8 is just my favorite number. The reason I like the number eight is because it’s like an infinity circle. Endless possibilities. We just flow and we keep going. It’s infinity.”
Q: That’s all I have. I really appreciate your time.
DJ D Sharp: “No worries. Shout out Lil’ Vic, too man. He runs the sound for the Warriors and he plays mostly all the stuff going up and down the court. The ‘Defense’ chant, all that. He actually plays a majority of the music when I’m not playing, so I wanna give a big shout out to Lil’ Vic. He’s doing his thing.”
I’ll be sure to listen closely for “Blow the Whistle” the next time the Warriors need a pick-me up.