UB Interview: Opening Act & Tour DJ of Janet’s ‘State of The World’ Tour DJ Aktive

With today’s DJs achieving fame and celebrity status like the artists whose albums they spin, no one is at a higher level than Philly’s own DJ Aktive. Spinning professionally for the past 18 years, DJ Aktive has made serious moves in his career that have taken him literally around the world with some of hip-hop and R&B’s biggest names, including Janet Jackson, Kanye West, Miley Cyrus, Nas, Common, Jennifer Hudson, Estelle, John Legend, Marsha Ambrosius, The Roots, LL Cool J, Tyga and Queen Latifah, to name a few.

A master turntablist and “must-haveDJ of choice when it comes to big-name tours, VIP celebrity events, radio shows and TV appearances, DJ Aktive knows instinctively the power music has to make or break any event. Whether spinning at a backyard BBQ for family or a stadium packed with thousands of fans, DJ Aktive uses his uncanny ability to immediately tune into what people want to hear and create a party atmosphere. By honing his skills, blending, beat juggling and mixing songs, DJ Aktive has captured the attention of fans worldwide with his unique brand of popular, highly entertaining shows. It’s also what has earned him a reputation as the hardest working DJ in the biz with an impressive track record to back it up!

Aktive has been the tour DJ for the Bad Boy Reunion, Common, and more! In addition to being on the 1’s and 2’s, Aktive is the opening act for the Janet‘s current State of The World tour. 30 minutes of pure magic: dancing in your seats and standing on your feet dancing to prepare for Janet‘s arrival to the stage.

This week CJ from UrbanBridgez.com spoke with Aktive about his current run, as Janet Jackson’s opening act and celebrity DJ on her State of The World tour. Aktive speaks about the preparation for the tour, how they decided to add Cardi B. to the mix, learning from Jazzy Jeff, how he got started and more.


UrbanBridgez.com: Thank you so much for speaking with UrbanBridgez.com

DJ Aktive: Thank you for having me.

UrbanBridgez.com: I wanted to start off and say thank you for putting on a good set for us here in
Louisville last Friday (December 1st).

DJ Aktive: Amazing — thank you.

UrbanBridgez.com: I really enjoyed myself and I made it a point to get to the arena early because
they told me you were going to be DJ’ing the set — I have to people watch before the
show begins and to capture the atmosphere. How do you prepare to keep the crowd
pumped up before a Janet Jackson concert?

DJ Aktive: Usually I try to check out the state that I’m in and see what’s the hot
record there or to see who’s from there and try to add that artist into my set. I
always go over with her — you know every set — every state, I go over my set with
her [Janet] and songs she likes and we go back and forth with the songs. [She says]
‘You know okay, I like these — you can play these in the set” [and] then I mix it up
with my own little vibe and you know, then basically, just reading the crowd as
well. I see the type of crowd we have , I look at the ages —“alright, cool, so I
think we can play these type of records and I mix it in and it goes like that.

What I’ve learned from Janet is hard work — she’s very consistent. She doesn’t play like when it’s time for rehearsals or soundchecks, she’s at every soundcheck.”

UrbanBridgez.com: Well, you certainly have crowds going because everybody — you know everything
you played, people were going bananas. I have Facebook video of people just dancing.
It was an amazing sight.

DJ Aktive: Thank you (laughs).

UrbanBridgez.com: So how did you become involved with the State of the World Tour?
DJ Aktive: A friend of mine. Basically, I was on the tour previously — the Unbreakable
Tour and a friend of mine, who was a music director at the time and works for
several different artists was like “yo, I seen Common,” the artist, he’s a rapper
and movie star, I was working with him at the time. He posted me [on social media]
doing a Billie Jean routine and I think Jermaine Dupri — I’m not for sure — I think
they seen it on Common’s page and then the music director called me and was like
“hey, yo — would you like to come out to L.A. and audition? You know Janet checked
you out and she likes your vibe.” I was like, “naahh….this can’t be real!” He was
like, “yeah, would you like to come out to an audition?” They flew me out to L.A. —
this was in 2015 of June and I went there to do an audition to see how I could play
with the band and she kept me on by the grace of God and every since then, I’ve been
working for her now for three years.

UrbanBridgez.com: Oh wow! That’s amazing! So what’s the best thing you’ve experience on this tour
so far?

DJ Aktive: I will say that I love doing the rehearsal part — like the preparation for
the tour and that was in the beginning before we started the tour. The preparation
part, rehearsals, was amazing. I really enjoyed that part of the tour — getting the
songs together, coming up with different ideas and remixes for the show. So that was
a real highlight for me — starting the tour.

UrbanBridgez.com: What have you learned from Janet by being on the road with her?
DJ Aktive: What I’ve learned from Janet is hard work — she’s very consistent. She
doesn’t play like when it’s time for rehearsals or soundchecks, she’s at every
soundcheck. I’ve learned in every single city to be on time and persistent and
consistent at every soundcheck and rehearsal. She’s a very nice, genuine person.
She’s amazing to work with. But I have learned is just to do hard work and hard work
will definitely prevail and help! That’s what I learned from Janet.

UrbanBridgez.com: You all use a variety of different remixes during a lot of her songs — one in
particular, “What Have You Done For Me Lately.” The crowd favorite has been the mash
up using Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow.” How did you all come up with the concept to give
“Lately” a modern take?

DJ Aktive: How we came up with the Cardi B feel? That was actually in rehearsals. Me
and my partner, his name is Daniel Jones, and he is the musical director and he was
like, “yo, let’s go through some instrumentals to see what’s the hot record and what
would match with ‘What Have You Done For Me Lately’. So I sent him a couple of
hip-hop records that was hot and he let the two little, young dancers Kyndall
[Harris] and Taylor [Hatala] — they’re the kid dancers on the tour — I was like
I’mma play this and let the kids and the dancers hear it and they were like “yo…we
like that, you should put that in the show!” So then after that we just formatted it
and put it in the show. Janet liked it — she came into rehearsals and said “I like
this” and we used it and from there it got a lot of great reviews so that was a
blessing right there.

UrbanBridgez.com: You’ve got a lot of people on YouTube, everywhere — they go crazy when they hear
it. That was a nice element to that song and it made it current again.

DJ Aktive: Thank you. That’s what I was really trying to do — just trying to make it
relevant for all ages to relate to her show — by bringing that hip-hop vibe to it or
you know maybe some remixes of ‘90s feel to ‘80s feel — you know that was basically
my job. She was like ‘I wanna add some new flavor to it.’ So that’s what I try to do
to the best of my ability.

UrbanBridgez.com: Do you all ever change it up? I’ve noticed she’s done different things in
different cities.

DJ Aktive: When we were in L.A., we added Snoop. In the Bay Area, we added Too Short’s
“Blow The Whistle” and now we currently have the N.E.R.D. song by Pharrell and
Rihanna which is called “Lemon”. We added that in the show for “Nasty” and it’s
getting a great response. We’re coming up in Norfolk next week, so it’s going to be
kind of good to do it there — it’s been good.

UrbanBridgez.com: So you’ve been in the business for 18 plus years and you’ve worked with a number
of people including Miley Cyrus, Kanye, Common, Jennifer Hudson — how does Janet
compare to the people you’ve worked with previously?

DJ Aktive: Wow. I mean I really don’t like to compare but they’re all great artists.
Working with Janet is definitely one of the tops, I will say. She’s a legend, she’s
an icon. Working with her has been the best — Kanye is amazing and so is Diddy.

UrbanBridgez.com: You’ve been DJ’ing for a long time, how did you get started in your journey?
DJ Aktive: My father was a DJ on the side. As a kid, I used to see him play music in
the house — my mother and father used to have a lot of house parties. I was
fascinated by the records, record players and turntables and stuff like that. My dad
bought me a little turntable when I was a kid and I was kinda fascinated — it kind
of sparked me to want to be a DJ. On top of that, I have a lot of family members and
cousins [that also DJ]. By watching them, that kind of made me want to take it
serious as well. One of my cousins, she kinda went far with it. So that helped me,
well inspired me to want to be a DJ.

UrbanBridgez.com: Do you ever incorporate your Philly style into your sets?
DJ Aktive: Absolutely. I definitely try to incorporate my Philly style — stuff I
learned from Jazzy Jeff in my past. I came from under him when I was younger and DJ
Cash Money. I try to incorporate the Philly sound to transform scratch, the style of
Philly mixing when working with artists.

UrbanBridgez.com: I understand you worked with Marsha Ambrosius on a track called “90’s Love” you

DJ Aktive: Yes, absolutely. That’s the single I had. It’s on iTunes, Spotify and other
platforms. That’s one of my favorites, she’s like a family member to me. I’ve been
working with her for years. That was a blessing to have her on the single.

UrbanBridgez.com: Are you planing to do something in the future together?
DJ Aktive: Yeah — actually next year we have some shows we’re gonna do. We’re gonna
start premiering the song [and] doing the song together, definitely look out for
that. That should be a good time.

While the State of the World Tour ends its run on Dec. 15, DJ Aktive could not confirm or deny any surprises for the Atlanta show but says Janet will finish strong. There could possibly be an overseas leg of the tour.

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