Embracing All Forms of Artistry: A Conversation with Local DJ Jerome Baker III
April 10, 2020 @ 10:00am
Despite the slowdown most people and systems all over the world are facing because of Covid-19, Jerome Baker III hasn’t stopped creating, DJing and learning. Many of us are leaning into this newfound time at home to take up a new project or skill, and Baker is no exception. The D.C.-based artist is always on the climb toward something new, and even though he’s no longer able to DJ in the traditional sense, his shift toward an adapted version of his craft came quickly and naturally.
“It’s really [about] opening up to being an artist more so than just a DJ,” he says. “You have to embrace all forms of artistry. For example, I’m teaching myself Adobe Illustrator right now. A lot of times when my daughter goes to sleep at night, I stay up and learn how to craft this and vector that. You have to add value to everything that you do.”
Perhaps this innovative attitude comes from the multimedia spaces within music that Baker fell in love with as a kid in the ‘90s. The Phoenix, Arizona native fondly recalls driving with his family and listening to DJs on the radio spin hits, or days in the summer watching Yo! MTV Raps with his brother and being “infatuated” with the DJs onscreen and the music they introduced him to.
“It piqued my interest, being able to play different kinds of music to a crowd. I’m 39 now and it’s just been a lifelong fascination. There’s some power involved, some control. You control the crowd, the radio, the event. I just fell head over heels for it.”
As far as the actual genres or artists played during his sets, Baker has an immaculate sense of what his crowds want, or maybe even need, to hear before they know themselves. He says it all comes down to a love for music as an all-encompassing concept – not one genre, artist, style or era – and an understanding of what the power of sound can do for people.
“It all just goes back to being a fan of music and exploring music of all different genres. Depending on the event I’m playing, I know what the expectations are musically. I do get a lot of free reign because I do take a lot of time to prepare. There’s very rarely a time where I’m going to walk into a gig and not be ready. But a lot of it is just about having an appreciation for music, and letting it lead the crowd.”
Unsurprisingly, Baker’s gigs are as diverse as the genres represented at each. He’s played everything in D.C. from private events to well-loved, DJ-centric venues, made appearances at SXSW, and was a DJ for online outlet BuzzFeed for six years. Basically, Baker says, he’s open to “anything and everything.”
“When you are in my field, you can’t just hope and throw caution to the wind. I’ve been DJing in D.C. actively for 15 years, so I’ve been able to make a lot of relationships. Bartenders [and] managers move around from place to place. And if you do good business and you’re able to keep your reputation solid, people will hire you. So that, mixed with a pointed and very strategic social media plan, helps me keep business of all sorts coming in.”
That strategic social media plan has helped Baker adapt to being unable to perform in the same room with audiences during coronavirus. On Instagram, he goes live to DJ for virtual audiences. On Twitter, you’ll find him sharing specialized mixtapes or retweeting resources for fellow creatives who might also be affected by the pandemic. And wherever you get your podcasts, you’ll find him hosting “Whats’a Podcast,” where he notes he’s been able to hone in on his communication skills. Something he doesn’t get a chance to use much at the DJ booth has become a new tool behind the mic for his podcast.
“Again, you’ve got to really embrace all forms of artistry that you’re comfortable with, and some that you’re uncomfortable with, because being uncomfortable will help you learn and not be complacent. For me, it’s a lot of long nights. But obviously, when everything’s returned to being open, the benefit is hopefully that I’ll be doing four times more than what I was prior to the shutdown.”
Keep up with Baker on Instagram and Twitter by following him
You can listen to “Whats’a Podcast” on Apple Podcasts, and other major podcast platforms.
To check out his mixtapes, remixes and more, visit www.jeromebakeriii.com.