Derrick “DJ D-Sharp” Robinson has been the Golden State Warriors’ in-house DJ for all three of the team’s recent title runs. The Oakland-born D-Sharp came up in the San Francisco club circuit, before catching on as a touring DJ for Bay Area hip-hop acts. He answered a few questions about his career, his creative process, and his musical influences.
Check out his Chase Center live set here.
Chase Center: How did you get into the DJ business?
DJ D-Sharp: I became a DJ because my mom was dating a DJ. I liked going to his house and playing on his turntables and checking out his records. There were a couple of movies and DJing was the thing to do. I had friends who were DJs and I gravitated toward becoming a DJ.
CC: How did you start out when it came to your DJ equipment?
DJD: All my equipment was hand me down equipment. I got a turntable from this person, I got a mixer from that person, I think I went and bought my headphones from Radio Shack. I actually used my mom’s stereo receiver, I took that thing apart and just built my own situation.
CC: Do you remember what your first paid gig was?
DJD: My first paid gig was at a rec center for a birthday party for a friend of mine. They knew I was DJing and they asked me to come DJ the birthday party.
CC: What is your creative process like when you start on a mix? What goes into it?
DJD:What I do is I spend a lot of my time downloading music, researching music, listening to different remixes, getting ideas from different DJs and grabbing inspiration from them. Then I’ll put it all into my computer, put it in a little file, and have fun.
CC: Are you visualizing the crowd while putting a mix together?
DJD: It’s always for the crowd. The crowd is the number one component. Even now, when it’s quarantine, I see a lot of DJs doing live sets and I’m going to do a live set for Chase Center, and it’s all about the crowd. My thing is reading the crowd. That’s one of the things I champion, I know how to read a crowd. So it’s going to be interesting to try to do this through a computer and social networking. It’s still fun, I’ve done a couple already and the reaction’s been great.
CC: Do you have any musical influences?
DJD: I have a lot of influences. A musical influence is probably A Tribe Called Quest. I tell a lot of people all the time, if an alien came down and asked ‘What is hip-hop music?’ I would pull out the Check The Rhyme, 12-inch and play that for them. That would give them the full idea of what hip-hop is because it has all the elements in that song. So [A Tribe Called Quest] are a huge influence on me. Also, DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Premiere. The guys here the Bay like DJ Shortcut, DJ Q-Bert, DJ Apollo, those guys are huge influences. DJ Mind Motion, my guy DJ Malakai. I got a lot, I can go on for days and days.
CC: What role has music played in your life?
DJD: Music is a humungous part of my life. I met my wife through music, I have a job through music, I take care of my family because of music, so music is huge. I don’t know where I would be without music, to be honest with you. Everyday I wake up, I download music. Since we have all this downtime, I’ve just been making a lot of beats. I’m starting to send beats to artists so I guess I’m kind of working on an album, but I don’t know. It’s coming together. I do have one album in the tank that I’m really excited about, I produced the whole thing. So music is my life, pretty much.
CC: It sounds like this time has given you some space to make some career moves with an album and the production side. Are there other ways you’re leaning on music to get you through?
DJD: Music is a huge part of my life so I get up, I get to the computer. Recently, I cleaned up my studio and now I can get to things so now I’m pulling out my records. I have a crazy record collection so I like listening to vinyl and drawing inspiration from vinyl. I’ll listen to something and then I’ll want to sample it. Next thing you know, I got a song. With these times, if you look at music, you got DJ D-Nice, he’s like the holy grail of live streams for DJs right? But you look at that, and just by his numbers and how he makes people feel, it’s amazing and it’s all because music is healing. People will put on music when they’re sad, people will put on music when they’re happy. Music is there for you. There’s a connection in the world with music that’s everlasting. If I really look back on my career and my life, most of my friends I’ve met through music.
CC: If we were at Chase Center right now getting ready for a game, what songs do you think we’d be hearing?
DJD: A lot of feel-good music. A lot of uplifting music, a lot of uptempo music. Music to get people’s minds off what’s going on. A lot of familiar music. I always turn to Michael Jackson. If you want to feel good, you turn to Michael Jackson, you turn to Earth, Wind & Fire, you turn to Stevie Wonder, you know what I mean? You just turn to those classics and I don’t care what type of crowd, it always works.
CC: How much improv are you doing when you are DJing a Warriors game?
DJD: A long time ago, when I first started, I had a friend who was a DJ with me. We kind of started our little mobile DJ business. He was reading all of these books, and he was saying “Hey, I read that we should have our sets together before we go to do parties.” I had already done that party that I mentioned before at the rec center and I killed it so I was like “Why do I need to prepare? I know what I’m going to play.” So to answer your question, I’ve always been an improv guy. I’ve never been a guy to prepare something for a moment. I always go off the energy, the vibe in the building. Granted, I will put a crate together to match that vibe. I’ll put a bunch of songs in a crate, but I won’t be like “Okay this song is first, this song is second.” I’ll just have my crate and I’m ready to go. That’s kind of like what I do with Chase. I actually have a crate and it’s called “Chase.” I just throw stuff in there that I think the fans would love and when I get to the arena, I’m like “Cool, this song let’s go.” There are times too though where I’ll put sets together. A lot of times, fans might see me working on sets at the arena, I do a lot of it there. When I first started as the DJ for the Warriors, I used to go home and put my set together there and have it ready for when I get to the game. I started doing that, and it just didn’t feel the same. I always would just go somewhere else. I’m just an improv DJ, that’s just who I am.
CC: Can you talk about the energy of Dub Nation and what it’s like to DJ at the games?
DJD: It’s the greatest. Oracle was Oracle, and I don’t think it could ever be duplicated right? We got championships there, it was amazing. But a lot of people worried about going into Chase. It was a lot of “Well is it going to be the same fanbase? Are they gonna bring the energy? Are they going to get hyped and pumped?” No one knew. I gotta say, especially leading up to the pandemic, we had some games where the roof was off that place. Especially when [Stephen] Curry came back, that was amazing. There’s been times [at Chase Center] where it’s been super loud, super pumped and the fans are always into it. I always say we got the greatest fans in the world of sports, period. Like across the board. Dub Nation reigns supreme in sports. The energy in Chase [Center] is amazing. I can’t wait to get back in there. Hopefully, when this is all over, we’ll be back and loud as ever.
CC: Do you have one memory that stands out to you working a Warriors game?
DJD: The time Peter Guber introduced me to Kanye West. He walked Kanye West up to the DJ booth. I was in the middle of DJing and it just so happened that I was playing a Kanye West song. He comes up and shakes my hand and I don’t think I’ll ever forget that … That was a great moment. Another one was the last game that Prince went to. I remember standing in the tunnel when he walked by and it felt like everything just stopped in the building and he just floated to his seat. Everything went mute, everybody went quiet. There’s so many. Winning a championship there. There’s too many.