DJ Epps is a world-famous, award-winning deejay and producer who keeps his Haitian-American heritage alive by putting others on the map.
Epps, a New York native, worked his way to the top of the hip-hop circuit by pitching his skills on the South Beach party scene in the ‘90s. He became the inventor of hip-hop parties on the well-known strip that attracted the likes of the late Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Diddy, Lil’ Kim, Jerry Seinfeld and more. Epps, whose real name is Yves Felix Jr., said his ability to attract celebrities is what grew his brand.
He has since gone on to produce tracks for Pitbull, Tory Lanez, Scotti Boi, Brianna Perry and more. Most recently, Felix produced the Latin track, “Turnt up Party” featuring Rayvon & 2nyce.
Now, Felix is paving the way for other Haitian-Americans with his group called We Dem Zoes, a collective of artists bonded by the spirit of Haiti.
Felix shared his journey to the top with Caribbean America Web.
Some of these responses have been edited for clarity.
Where did your journey start?
My first experience with music was in Harlem, New York. That’s where I was born. Growing up and learning and wanting to be a deejay, I watched and was inspired by people like Dr. Dre and Ed Lover on MTV Raps, Red Alert on WBLS, Funkmaster Flex, Tony Touch and so on.
I knew exactly what I wanted to do, but I couldn’t grow because there were so many deejays at that time in New York City. So, I thought about going to another market and try to really grow from there. So that’s what made me move to Miami. Back in the early ‘90s, I learned that there were just a couple of deejays out there at the time.
Tell us about the moment you absolutely fell in love with the idea of being a deejay?
It was walking on South Beach looking for a gig to play in Miami. I was walking with my crate one day, and then I ran into a club with this humungous security guard, a doorman named Rich, who I give all the credit for putting me on my first gig. I just asked him can I come and do a set. He kind of just look down at me I said, “You can come to do a set, and if we like it, you can come here every week. Okay, but if you wack, I’ma throw you and your crate out on Washington Avenue.”
What words would you use to describe yourself?
Humble, hustle, grind and relevant. I find myself every year Jan. 1 trying to figure out what can I do differently and better this year that I didn’t get to do last year. That’s what keeps me poppin’ at all times.
How does being Haitian-American influence your everyday life?
Your grind and your hustle are even stronger, or whatever motivation or whatever occupation you’re trying to build. You know you must be successful. So, that’s one of my tools that I use to go get it — to do it for my Haitian people.
What do you like most about being Haitian-American?
I sometimes notice people underestimate me. They kind of judge me sometimes, and it’s my job to prove them wrong. So I use that, you know, to motivate me and try to be a better person.
I love the culture, and the food is delicious. Who does not like Haitian food? Getting a chance to go back to Haiti and go visit my roots was another inspiration because I got to perform with the biggest Haitian stars such as T-Vice or go to the public for their learning. I’m definitely very proud of that — 100%.
What is your definition of success?
As long as you’re basically creating content, executing them and making it greater than what it is, then you’re successful. I still got more to learn. There’s more to do. There’s more success coming my way.
When are you the happiest?
When I am with my kids.