New Times recently caught up with Irie, who says that out of all last year's accomplishments, he's most proud of the continued success of Irie Weekend, the annual benefit for his foundation that provides cultural experiences, mentorship programs and scholarships for local at-risk youth. The event smashed its fundraising goals last year.
"We hit it out the park on every level," he says.
Most notably, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine surprised Irie by presenting him with a key to the city during the event's benefit gala. "That doesn't happen every year, you know?" he says. As for the key's real-word usefulness, Irie says it's more than symbolic, but wouldn't tell New Times what it unlocks.
"I won't get into the secrecy of how it works, but it's very functional — let's put it that way," he says, and laughs infectiously. "But don't worry, I won't be getting into your house or car or anything."
And he may have another major accolade coming his way: Irie's peers have nominated him for Open Format DJ of the Year at the Global Spin Awards, set for February 15 in Los Angeles. Past honorees include electronic music heavyweights such as DJ Khaled and Steve Aoki.
"You're being recognized by your peers, fellow creatives and talented folks in the industry you also look up to," Irie says. "That makes it extra special, because you try to work hard and do your thing, but you don't know who's watching and appreciating what you're doing. It makes you take a step back and see what you've accomplished."
Many in the industry recognize Irie's enterprising approach to music and sharp business acumen. "I have this incredible opportunity to perform and play my favorite music and travel, and I look at it as a business or marketing platform that I can leverage," he says. "Let's say I'm reaching, I don't know, 200,000 people on a weekly basis. How can I cultivate a message on behalf of a sponsor, brand, partner or what have you? I look at all these things and try to connect the dots, and it's allowed me to have pretty extraordinary success outside of playing records at a venue."
From his perspective, what's most remarkable about the high-profile gigs, awards and corporate sponsorships is that they're all due to pursuing something he's always loved — making music.
"It all ties back to the fact that I was a kid in my bedroom, just totally enamored with turntables," he says. "The fact that all of these different enterprises came out of that is just fascinating and mind-blowing and exciting. I like to keep it all in perspective — that this is all because of two turntables and a microphone."
DJ Irie with Ludacris. 11 p.m. Friday, January 26, at LIV, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami; 305-674-4680; livnightclub.com. Tickets cost $40 via tixr.com.