DJ Irie on Irie Weekend, Teaching Shaq to Spin, and LeBron James' Future
Photo by Gary James
Saying you're a "DJ" is a lot like saying, "I am in PR." It's an overused phrase, and usually not taken that seriously. Unless, of course, "DJ" is followed by "Irie." When you say you're DJ Irie, it's a lot like saying, "I am the President." It's immediately recognized and respected. When it comes to Irie, there is just one.
The music man, whose real name is Ian Grocher, is the NBA's first DJ, being hired by the Miami Heat for the 1999-2000 season. Ever since, his life has essentially been 365 days of nonstop madness. From residencies at LIV to being flown by Robert Downey Jr. to spin soirees at his home, Irie's Miami casa sees very little of him. And yeah, that is how he likes it.
So before he hopped on a plane to go to NYC for just six hours to play an event, he gave us 30 minutes of his time. (Hey, we felt honored. Time is not something he has much of.) We talked about his famous Irie Weekend that starts today, the Shaq rumor, and whether he thinks LeBron will be back for the 2014-2015 season. (Good news Heat fans -- he does.)
New Times: I hear that you are going to be in New York for just six hours tonight.
Sarge: The Chanukah Chutzpah Tour... "Kiss My Mezuzah"
TicketsFri., Jan. 27, 8:00pm
Fundarte Presents: Chiflón By Chile's Silencio Blanco Theatre Company
TicketsFri., Jan. 27, 8:30pm
JTF's Friday Night Live
TicketsFri., Jan. 27, 9:00pm
TicketsFri., Jan. 27, 10:00pm
TicketsFri., Jan. 27, 11:00pm
DJ Irie: Yep. Just hop on a plane to rock out a little bit.
How long ago did you give up on the idea of sleeping?
(Laughs) I gave that up probably about six or seven years ago. I really did change my thought process. I would think, "Well I have to do X, Y and Z. But maybe I can't do Z because I have to sleep." After a while, I just cut out the idea of having a normal sleeping pattern. That went out of the door. I have stuff to do.
Math time: If you had a dollar for every time someone asked you for Heat tickets, how many dollars would you have?
(Laughs) Just in the last four years, I would say probably about $2 million dollars.
Not Oprah rich?
It's not even the ask. I don't mind at all during regular season. I mean, I have access to them, why not? But it's the bold ask. The one that makes me say "wow." I have had people ask like its not a big deal, "I'll be in town for the Knicks game. Two tickets. Floor, please. Parking pass while you're at it. That would be great." Or, "I am getting off work early. Can I get two finals tickets?" It's amazing.
You just finished up your 14th season with the Miami Heat as their resident DJ. Still love your job?
Absolutely. Where else can anyone bring in the three things they're passionate about night in and night out? And get paid for it. I love the game of basketball, music, and Heat games. I am really lucky.
Thursday kicks off the 10th Anniversary of Irie Weekend. How did this all get started?
Going back to '05, I was doing a lot of work with Alonzo Mourning, Jason Taylor, you name it. I was getting exposed to some of the issues that were happening to our inner city, at-risk youth. There were some areas that had no resources and I thought to myself, "maybe I am in a position to help." I can call in all the favors I have and get these guys to help me. From there, Dave Grutman got involved.
Everything is bigger and better with Mr. Grutman involved.
This is a funny story. I go to the Miami Marketing Group and tell them, "I have an idea. Let's do an annual event where we can raise money for charity." Dave looks at me and says, "What do you mean? I don't understand. " I go, " We work so great work together and here is something we can do to raise money for our foundation." Dave looks at me [and says], "So they make the money and we don't? Get out of my office." I wasn't leaving till they said OK, and eventually they did. It wasn't long before Dave grabbed me after the first year and said, "I am really glad you made me do this. I am glad to be a part of it." And here we are.
Is this going to be the biggest year yet?
It is going to be the biggest year yet. We have never had a more capable team then we have right now. I didn't want to just have a host hotel; I wanted to have a whole hotel. It's going to be a Irie Weekend Hotel Experience at The National. We are rebranding the whole hotel. We partnered with some big brands and we wanted to create activation you couldn't have anywhere else. We have Beats Music, Keurig, American Airlines, Hublot, Chambord, big stuff.
You know what I want to know: what famous faces can we plan on seeing?
We have some great people coming this year. We have some surprises, but some names that are out there are Jamie Foxx, Nick Cannon, Terrence J, Kevin Dillon, Jermaine Dupree, superstar Rickie Fowler.
What about your BFF Shaq? I saw TMZ broke the story that you are teaching him your musical ways.
I guess the secret is out. I have been training him the last six or seven years accidentally. When he started in Miami with the Heat, we were acquaintances. Meaning, we would see each other at events and such. Then he said, "come by the house!" and showed me the studio he was building in his house. He had all of these great ideas and I said, "Let's do it!" I was there about two to three times a week. He was right there with me making mix tapes. He tells, "I am coming for you man!" More power to him. He will be great.
I have to know: what the hell happened to the Heat in the finals this year?
Well, they lost and the Spurs are champions. (Laughs) Outside of my professional relationship with these people, they are my close friends. You always want to see your friends win. I am also a fan. I shop at the Heat store. The Spurs were a better team and deserved the honor. But we would be remiss to look at just the outcome of this series. The Heat accomplished so much.
Do you think you will be DJing for the big three next year?
I do. I definitely want that.
Send your story tips to Cultist at email@example.com.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about arts and culture events in Miami and offers you won't hear about anywhere else.