[intro-text size=”25px”]Cleveland: Sports, beer, Slyman’s, and DJ E-V pumping music into the city’s bars and clubs far into the witching hour.[/intro-text]
When I picture the life of a DJ living in Los Angeles, a few things come to mind—a few super illegal and super fun things. There are massive parties fueled by drugs and booze, painted with nudity and sweaty bodies gyrating to the music. The DJ at the center of it all, a self-important douche who gets off knowing he created the party.
As I sidled into my seat at TownHall across from E-V, my expectations in tote, he is putting out a fire for a show taking place a few hours later. It turns out, E-V is not attracted to the cliché lifestyle most of us imagine or expect of a DJ.
He is about as clean cut as they come. He has never had an interest in substances. He doesn’t drink, doesn’t partake in recreational drugs, and is even trying a plant-based diet. “Overall, it’s better for the planet in general,” E-V says. “I don’t preach it. I don’t have to. I just want to feel better, be better, and do better for where we live for future generations.”
There is something to be said for this man’s presence. His aura fillsthe room in an unobtrusive way. E-V has a personable and poised vibe that makes it impossible not to develop a schoolgirl crush on him. He is kind, charismatic and humble. After speaking with him, you want to be his BFF. He is outgoing, and all he needs to have a great time is being surrounded by positive, fun people. “You will have the most fun when you are with cool people. Good vibes,” explains E-V.
His demeanor is unexpectedly calm and collected, borderline soothing. His appearance is LA casual cool with a distinct flair you don’t often see around Cleveland—even though he buys most of his pieces in CLE, often at Exhibition.
Most of us are familiar with E-V infiltrating our rush-hour commute home on the radio, but few know how he rose up from a typical Lakewood kid to a well-known and respected DJ touring around the world with the likes of Mike Posner and fellow Clevelander, Machine Gun Kelly.
E-V was once just the annoying, bratty brother we all had. He would steal his sister’s Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, TLC, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony CDs, blissfully unaware he was foraying into what would become a lifelong love affair with hip-hop. Growing up in the ‘90s, he was exposed to an eclectic array of musical genres.
“I fell in love with all these different sounds and styles, and it just grew,” E-V says.
In middle school, his bestie’s big brother had a turntable. He could put out some good music and looked cool as hell doing it. That piqued E-V’s curiosity and, for Christmas, he asked for turntables. His adorably misguided parents got him a keyboard that said “TurnStyle” on the side. Once he finally got a real turntable, E-V started teaching himself how to DJ, which unfortunately meant breaking almost all of his dad’s records, even some of his coveted David Bowie vinyl. There was never a big plan for DJing to lead into a career. For E-V, it was always a “fun hobby, just kids messing around.”
“I was always just doing it. I never really said, ‘I am going to do this.’ I just followed the fun and the money,” says E-V.
To date, E-V has played Wembley Stadium in London in front of 80,000 people, the iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand, and Ohio University’s infamous Number Fest to a crowd he likened to zombies mixed with refugees.
Being a DJ means he has to rely solely on himself to create the best music possible. “When you’re a DJ, it’s just you. You don’t have a band. You are on your own,” he explains. This pushes E-V to make his shows diverse and unique. “I am going to splash in all these unexpected things I like, something that is missing,” E-V says.
He defines his style as “the grungy rap sound of Cleveland mixed with dance music.” He doesn’t stick to just one genre, instead he blends the sounds of the music he likes. “Music is music…There should be no genres. There should just be music,” E-V says. “I have such an eclectic vibe. I just like to make what I like: pop, EDM, rap. I’m a hybrid. I’m a melting pot of music, culture, food…”
But E-V’s success did not happen overnight. He hit the pavement to make contacts and secure appearances. To land his gig on KISS FM, he had to compete in a DJ contest. E-V battled against ten other hopefuls, not knowing it was about to catapult his name across the Cleveland club scene.
E-V still keeps his place in Ohio City even though he has been out in LA for years now. There is something unique about people from the Midwest that he really values. “People from the Midwest are the most real people you will meet. People here are genuine, fun and humble. The Midwest has this mentality: roll up your sleeves and work your ass off” he says.
The thing I notice about E-V as we discuss everything from music to Cleveland to social issues is that he practices what he preaches. E-V knows nothing can be accomplished without that Midwest, hardworking mentality that is ingrained in him. He is viscerally aware of how fucking cool his career is and that he gets to be paid to travel the world and make music. The status does not escape him, but it doesn’t give him a big head either.
“I can’t say I’ve made it yet. That’s so pretentious. What does that even mean?” he muses. “Just making someone’s day better, that’s when I’ve made it. I just want to make good music.” When it comes to the music scene overall, he thinks kids are getting smarter, they’re figuring it out, they’re “seeing the real.” That means they see the real talent and notice quality content, E-V says. And he hopes that mentality transcends beyond music.
“With a black president and maybe a woman president, people are more forward thinking. People are starting to realize what is real. Hopefully, people open up more,” E-V says.
E-V has been capturing the hearts of Clevelanders and bringing the party to the CLE and LA for years. He is forging forward with his own sound and his own music. This past year, he’s done nothing but travel and work on new music and has three songs out now. As he prepares to release what are sure to be this summer’s anthems, I get the feeling he is aware he is on the cusp of something big.
All of this is from the kid who used to sell mixtapes with his dad from the trunk of his car. Getting into DJ AM and clowning around with buddies “with one turntable and one David Bowie record” changed everything, putting E-V on track to become the next big thing out of the CLE.