9-5, 5-9: Andre Johnson
Words: Judnick Mayard
Images: Raven B. Varona & Tasha Bleu
Images: Raven B. Varona & Tasha Bleu
For those who love the grind, there’s no such thing as a day job or night shift. From 9-5 to 5-9, they’re always on. As a property manager by day and DJ at night, Andre Johnson is always working for the people.
Andre Johnson’s official job title should be "people manager". The Queens native, also known as "DJ Milhouse", spends his days managing not playlists and music but the regular citizens of his hometown. Johnson has spent the better part of a decade working as a property manager in Queens and it’s one those rare instances where someone lights up as they talk about their day job. Andre says he enjoys it simply “because he gets to help people with the things that matter most to them” and DJing because he gets to “enhance people’s experiences”. He finds it quite gratifying to alleviate people’s worries, whether it be making folks dance an awful workday away or simply addressing concerns about their homes. “People” are Andre’s whole thing.
The Hampton graduate got into property management almost by accident. Fresh off his college job at a telecommunications company, a family friend offered him a small position at a property management company. “It didn’t pay much” he recalls, “but it allowed me to come home.” However, this wasn’t just another accidental dead end job. Andre worked his way up from accounts payable to management. Once Andre found that he liked management, he began moving around and trying out different portfolios and companies for a great fit.
Last year in the midst of a burgeoning DJ career, Andre got his state license. It was just the beginning of a longer, two year process where he must work under a more seasoned broker before he can begin thinking about owning his own properties. Andre says “it’s definitely a goal” and how can it not be? Property is the only true gold left in New York.
Why would someone struggling to find work life balance already take up DJing? Andre says it was not exactly planned. “You know how in college everyone has their role [at parties]? Mine was always the music.” He and his friends, who called themselves "The Never Die Tour", began throwing parties throughout the city a couple years ago. One night, Andre DJ’d off an iPod for “maybe, like six or seven hours” and a friend suggested that he take it up professionally. Andre had never considered it as a career but he decided to give it a try. He hit up a friend, the legendary NYC DJ mOma (of Everyday People, etc) and asked if he would mind giving him lessons. When mOma was not able to teach him he would give him tactical advice and direction on how to find resources to master his craft.
Luckily, he began playing right around the holiday season. Which meant copious amounts of holiday parties, ranging from the very private to the monumentally corporate. This experience gave him a wide range of eyes and ears for potential future bookings. He threw a couple parties and caught the eye of someone from a global footwear brand. “The same week I got an email to play an [event].” From there he decided to continue the pursuit. A listen thru his “Everythings Coming Up” mixtape series can provide a literal tracking of his work thus far. Now on it’s third installment the quality of mixing in each makes a significant jump. “Yea the first one you can hear, my mixing is...not that good,” he laughs. He has a natural talent for putting together mixtapes featuring today's top radio singles as well as relatively unknown tracks that put people on to new music, which is something DJs live for.
In these days of streaming "Top 40 Radio" and "Top 40 Internet", it's hard for a DJ to stand out and bring something original to the table and cut through the clutter. It’s a wonder Andre can even find the time to keep up with a job that already has him on call. How does he manage? “I take Fridays off because that’s the day new music comes out. So I have that whole day to listen to whatever drops and prepare my sets.” DJing is a big part of his work life balance. “I [changed companies] because I needed more time for this. I didn’t want to show up to gigs tired or show up to work late.”
At this point it seems uncertain that Andre will ever have to choose between his two careers though DJing is his true passion. Still, both require commitment and a focus but the rewards are a freedom to have his hands in all his interests and maybe even combine his property and party skills. Whatever the balance becomes it will remain clear that Andre does it for more than just himself.