From NFL to MP3: DJ Larry Johnson?

Bengals’ Larry Johnson trades helmet for headphones to make his Vegas DJ debut

Larry Johnson
Pure Management Group

Just in time for the one weekend a year that football meets nightlife in Vegas, Drai’s Afterhours is making its own mash-up of the two for a Super Bowl-eve event that’s certainly a first. Eager sports fans might be scratching their heads and reaching for their camera phones Saturday night. Is that … Larry Johnson … in the DJ booth?

Yes, the Cincinnati Bengals running back will be making his Vegas debut behind the turntables Saturday in the VIP hip-hop room at the popular afterhours.

“As much as I’ve been going out and going to clubs,” says Johnson, “I’ve always thought the music could be a little better.” Not one to sit around, the two-time All-Pro running back enlisted the help of friends about a month ago to get him up to speed on the tables. Johnson especially credits time in the booth with DJs Clue and Vegas’ own DJ Hollywood for coaching him on his new skills.


Larry Johnson DJs at Drai's
Feb. 6, doors open at 1 a.m.
Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall, 3595 Las Vegas Blvd. South
$30 gentlemen, $20 ladies.

“He would come in a week at a time and hang out in the booth and I’d teach him the basics,” says Hollywood, a longtime friend of Johnson who says the NFL star took to DJing without much handholding, spending on average four to five hours in the booth watching Hollywood select music and program. “It’s almost like he picked it up without my even teaching him. Some people have a niche; they’re good at whatever it is they choose to do.”

A detail from Larry Johnson's flier promoting his Saturday, January 6 Vegas DJ debut at Drai's Afterhours.

A detail from Larry Johnson's flier promoting his Saturday, January 6 Vegas DJ debut at Drai's Afterhours.

Hollywood said he's planning to help Johnson get more club gigs clubs and advance further in his DJ skills, including telling the Weekly exclusively that he and Johnson had come to an agreement for Hollywood's Beat Clan artist management company to officially manage and represent the running back as a DJ, arranging nationwide gigs for the NFL star as well as furthering his training.

“I’m going to go more in depth with him once I start booking him.”

When the Weekly caught up with Johnson (aka DJ LJ) in Miami, his ringtone sang, “I just wanna be successful,” by Drake and Trey Songz. To that point, Johnson said that it reflects where he is personally right now, wanting to be a success but fully understanding that fame can be a double-edged sword.

When Johnson comes to Vegas, which is pretty often, he says he prefers to frequent clubs that allow him access to the DJ booth so he can watch and learn, clubs like Pure, Drai’s and most recently, Vanity. A month ago Johnson began trying out his DJ prowess in Cincinnati before taking on New York’s The Eldridge this week, and now Vegas. “I’ve gotten great feedback,” he says.

In Ohio’s “loungy, mixed crowds” Johnson’s set tends more towards pop, “a little more party songs; a little Ke$ha, a little Britney Spears, and then move on to Oasis...” However, Saturday’s gig is set for Drai’s VIP hip-hop room, so his set will trend more towards that style of music. “I’ve gone in there a lot of times,” says Johnson, “I’ve gotten very used to what people move to.”

When in the booth, Johnson keeps his eye on the dance floor, and though he admits fans might recognize his name (no moniker for him, though friends do jokingly call him “DJ No Requests”), Johnson says “I would like to be recognized as just being a DJ sometimes.” That’s a tall order when you’re the all-time NFL record holder for single season rushing attempts. “Its not about me, it’s about the crowd … If I get a vibe that people are slowing down, I switch it up real quick to get people dancing, get the energy up.” But if you are going to request a song of Johnson, he cautions “request something everybody can dance to.”

Although he’s only booked to play an hour and a half set, Johnson says he’s already used to spinning from “11 p.m. to 2, 3, 4 in the morning.” So if the crowd wants more, Johnson is prepared to deliver, endurance being the mark of a true athlete.

Which is the crazier life, the booth or the field? Says Johnson without hesitation, “The DJ thing is definitely crazier.”


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