“I always put God first. Before I even touch the tables I do a small prayer. If it wasn’t for him I don’t think I would’ve made it this far,” the Philly DJ says as he reflects on all his accomplishments over the years. This month marks 21 years that DJ Arun has been spinning. He’s been in the smallest of Camden clubs to opening for JayZ at the Electric Factory in front of thousands. I sat down with him in the studio to talk about his experiences in the city, his influences guiding him, and his mayhem of a party “Proper Panda” held weekly at Voyeur.
PM: How did you get your start as a DJ?
Arun: I used to watch my uncle DJ at family functions and it would peak my interest. I would also gravitate towards the DJ at dances and school functions. Me being a super shy kid, it was amazing to me to see how one person could command a room full of people without even saying anything.I was kind of just in awe of it all.
PM: How did you get your start in Philadelphia?
Arun: I had a couple friends at Temple who were DJs. I learned the art of mixing records together there. How to find a tempo and match it with another tempo, how to make a complete sentence out of just words. At the end of the day that’s what record’s are…they’re words. You put them together, you make a sentence. You put the sentences together, you make a paragraph. I made a great friend of mine there…DJ Excel. He showed me how to play Rock n Roll music in my sets.
PM: What were your influences growing up?
Arun: Herb Alpert is a huge inspiration. Quincy Jones. Gladys Knight. Luther Vandross. Lionel Richie. Temptations. Beethoven. Patti Labelle. Aretha Franklin. Earth, Wind, and Fire. Shirley Ceasar. Reverand James Cleveland. These are all records I grew up on.
The first hip hop artist I listened to was Mad Skills from Virginia. That was my first cassette. Jay Z, Biggie, Nas, LLCoolJ are all good ones too.
PM: Where did you get your start as a residency?
Arun: Camden New Jersey, 6th Street Lounge. A block from Rutgers University. Got paid shit money. We did
all the promotions, printing up all the flyers.
PM: Over the years you’ve become a staple name around this city, particularly your event with Lee Jones and DJ Dav called Proper Panda. What is Proper Panda to you?
Arun: Proper Panda is my release…musically. There’s not too many parties I get to play that I’m able to play what I want. Proper Panda is a funk, soul, RnB, reggae, breaks and samples. We’ve been doing it for 3 years now.
PM: How Did PP start?
Arun: It was from the mind of Lee Jones. It was his idea to be a hip hop version of his Sunday
parties…which was an eclectic party of all genres of house music. He wanted to do a mid week party of just hip hop, funk, soul, RnB.
PM: Why is it called Proper Panda?
Arun: Propaganda. Essentially it has nothing to do with the name which is why i like it. There’s no logo as much as it’s just a panda.
PM: How has the DJ scene changed over the years in Philadelphia.
Arun: Back then the DJ scene was more or less based on talent. If you had the talent you were the one who did
the dope parties and played at the dope venues in Philly and abroad. It’s not so much talent anymore as it’s about who you know. Which is okay too I guess but it leaves a lot open for some of the not so talented people. The economy has changed it a lot. I attribute it to when Iverson left the Sixers. Not too many artists came to the city anymore. The movers and shakers started overlooking Philly. It’s not good or bad. It just changed. I have high hopes for Philly. I love the city. Philly used to be a huge musical town. Any artist who was anybody came here to record or produce entire albums.
PM: Your favorite experience DJing in Philadelphia?
Arun: One of my favorite moments is when I started DJing in the night clubs. Denim nightclub in particular. I was a resident there for 3 years. Also opening up for JayZ during the Hanger Tour. I was at this burger King in North Philly with my cousin. I got a phone call with this weird area code. I answered it. They were calling from Def Jam, somebody had given them my number. They asked me if I’d be interested in opening for JayZ. Tears just started rolling down my face and my cousin is sitting across looking at me like what is wrong with you?!
Arun is constantly behind the tables. Catch him if you can by following the RoXoff DJs page and come to Proper Panda Wednesdays at Voyeur !