Kenneth Kyrell Shares His Influences + Curates a Playlist for our Inaugural Music Issue
Booked and busy. That sums up Kenneth Kyrell’s DJ career as of late. From gigs with major fashion brands to major media outlets, Kyrell is one of New York City’s go-to DJs.
I caught up with him in-between sets to talk about the ins and outs of curating the vibes at some of New York’s most exciting events and to share a playlist for our inaugural “Music Issue.”
What was the moment that made you realize that you wanted to be a DJ?
I was always around music growing up. I went to a performing arts school which sparked my creative and musical interests. Some people don’t know this, but I worked in the fashion industry for 7 years before I started DJing. I was a Buyer and Fashion Director at Macy’s. I would go to fashion events and parties and I was always disappointed in the music the DJs were playing so I ordered equipment from Amazon and decided to start DJing myself. Trappy Hour was one of my first gigs. To be honest, I didn’t completely know what I was doing, but I was able to move the crowd and I’ve been DJing ever since.
How long have you been DJing?
I’ve been DJing for about 2 years now. I’ve been DJing full-time for a year and a half.
So I got out a lot in the city and I’ve definitely been to parties where you’re DJing. A lot of people would think that DJing is just showing up and playing music, but I’m sure more goes into it than just that. Walk me through what a day as a DJ typically looks like.
My day and how I prepare for a set really depends on the client and the specific gig. I’ll literally sit in front of my computer and think about what the crowd would want to move to. I’m constantly downloading music and looking for music. It’s a DJ’s job to have their pulse on the music industry and upcoming artists and be able to put people on to new music and new artists.
What influences your sound as a DJ?
I would say growing up in the south has helped define my sound. Especially being a DJ on the east coast. People from the south get it and New York gets it. It’s also knowing my strong points. If the gig is straight reggae, I’m not going to take it.
What does it take to be a DJ?
Some DJs play to cater to the crowd, but you can’t cater to everyone.You can’t please everyone and that’s ok. My biggest strength is that I understand my sound. I grew up listening to a lot of R&B and that influences my musical tastes.
What do you love most about being a DJ?
I love being able to connect with people. I’m an extroverted introvert and music has been a way to connect with people. I remember doing a set a Trappy Hour which is always a turnup and I played ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ by Solange. This woman came up to me and started crying and told me how she was having a hard time at work and really enjoyed the song.
What are some gigs and projects you’re most proud of?
It’s funny because I was just talking to my mom about how crazy it is that I’ve been able to do some of the things that I had always dreamed of. I was just on Sway in the Morning doing a DJ set to 32 million listeners. I was able to meet Spike Lee and did a party with Teyana Taylor.
Being a DJ and traveling can be hectic I’m sure. How do you practice self-care with a demanding schedule?
That’s something I’m still trying to master. It’s nice to go to events with so many people having a great time, but even though you’re around so many people you spend a lot of time being by yourself. I’m learning to be around people that are there for me. I like going to the gym. It’s like the bigger I get, the lonelier it gets.
What are some of your goals as a DJ?
I’m beginning to travel more. I would love to go on tour with an artist. I want to get into music curation...curate playlists while you’re shopping. I also have an idea of creating a one-stop shop creative agency.
Who are some of your favorite DJs and musical influences?
Kaytranada for sure. He’s a DJ and producer and has his own unique sound no matter what kind of track or music he touches. Outside of him there’s Sango. Joe Kay is great!
Any advice for upcoming DJs?
Determine what type of music gets the crowd going. Find a sound that you can be proud of. DJ because you’re passionate. Some people see DJs at all these events and wearing the latest fashions, but you have to study the art of DJing if you really love it.