How D-Nice's Club Quarantine turned into the star-studded virtual dance party we all needed

DJ D-Nice and director Anthony Mandler discuss the uplifting power of music.
September 13, 2020 12:24 p.m. EST
September 13, 2020 12:29 p.m. EST
In the last week of March 2020, just as the realities of our new, locked-down world were setting in, DJ D-Nice opened the virtual doors to Club Quarantine, spinning uplifting music that made us all feel a little less socially distanced from one another via the mood-altering power of a killer party track (even if said track was emanating from a tiny laptop speaker). On that Saturday in March, his nine-hour Instagram Live DJ set drew in viewers like  Rihanna, Lenny Kravitz, Bernie Sanders, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Michelle Obama along with about 100,000 other fans in need of a serious pandemic pick-me-up.In keeping with the physically distant style, D-Nice joined filmmaker and music video director Anthony Mandler for a virtual In Conversation With... event as part of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival programming. The wide-ranging talk revealed the inspiration behind Club Quarantine and touched on the power that music has to affect everything from a scene in a film to our individual moods. Asked when and how he knew that Club Quarantine had become the big deal that it is, D-Nice explained that he began to really get it when supplies started showing up unordered at his front door.“Anthony [Mandler] would send me a bottle of tequila,” he said. “I would play, and then all of the sudden at my door was tequila from Anthony. Or like Will Smith would send water. It was just mad random. But what I got from that was my friends saying ‘Let me give you this to help you keep pushing because what you’re doing is a good thing.’ That’s what I felt. I would receive orders of food. One of my friends is comedian Chris Spencer and his wife, she would send groceries. So I did not leave my house for three weeks at least to go shopping for anything.”
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Nice (real name: Derrick Jones) has been a fixture on the rapper, producer and DJ scene since the 1980s. He manned the turntables at President Obama’s inaugural ball. He discovered Kid Rock (nobody’s perfect). The long and short of it is: this man has had a pretty epic career, and yet he's still managing to have incredible career-firsts.“That night, March 21st, that was the [first] big night,” he said, explaining that mostly he’s hired to show up somewhere and do his thing, whether that’s rapping or playing music, but this time, the listeners were the people showing up. “When I was rapping or DJ-ing that night it was so incredible to me because that was the first time that I felt that people, after all these years of doing that work, are coming to me. They’re coming to hear me play because they want to support D-Nice. So whether is was Michelle Obama or Rihanna, people were coming because [they wanted] to be there with D. There were over a million people in there and we changed the world with music.”[video_embed id='2032816']RELATED: Director X dishes on DJ Khaled's 'Popstar' video featuring fellow Canadians Drake and Justin Bieber [/video_embed]Without intending to, D-Nice had launched the biggest club in the world by doing something that resonated universally at a time when so many of us needed it. He now says that it’s been one of the most important lessons of his decades-long career.“I spent a lot of years trying to emulate other DJs because I wanted that same type of success. I wanted that opportunity. I ended up playing major events but they were major private events like after the Superbowl or the Oscars or President Obama’s Inaugural Ball. But I didn’t learn to truly be myself until the experience of having no audience in front of you and just playing from my heart and being who I am and playing what I love. The fact that that resonated with people all over the world was the greatest lesson,” says D-Nice. “Be authentically who you are.”The 2020 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 10 to September 19. [video_embed id='2032039']BEFORE YOU GO: 11-year-old Toronto girl makes it to 'America's Got Talent' finals [/video_embed]

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