DJ D-Nice's 'Club Quarantine' series helped him as much as it helped others: 'It kept me going'

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When DJ D-Nice saw former first lady Michelle Obama virtually join his "Club Quarantine" Instagram Live session during the pandemic, he knew it was something big.

"When (Obama) popped in to support what I was doing it just felt special," Derrick "D-Nice" Jones, the recipient of ASCAP's 2021 Voice of the Culture Award, tells USA TODAY.

"It’s always cool to do something for people, but when people you admire actually come back and do a little bit for you to inspire other people, it’s a beautiful thing," he says.

What started as a thought at a cigar bar days into the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020 turned into what is known today as "Club Quarantine," the benchmark of Instagram Live series that have kept people entertained and connected through music.

But if you ask D-Nice, he "didn’t think it would become what it has."

"I just had this feeling that ("Club Quarantine") was something I needed to do. I went live and everything changed from there," he says. "It changed the way we use social media."

DJ D-Nice's #ClubQuarantine online concerts draw famous viewers like Michelle Obama, Oprah, Rihanna

D-Nice provided a "safe space" from his home for thousands of people during his live Instagram sets, which stretched up to nine hours long, to provide joy and some form of normalcy in the "crazy world that we live in."

"That’s what motivated me to wake up in the middle of the night to play music," he says. "I knew there were people that needed community. You couldn’t see faces but you would read these comments and it kept people going."

"Club Quarantine" went on to earn D-Nice the 2020 Webby Artist of the Year award, BET Awards' 2020 "Shine a Light" honor, NAACP Image Awards' 2021 Entertainer of the Year and, most recently, ASCAP's 2021 Voice of the Culture Award for his major influence on music and culture.

D-Nice to be honored for Club Quarantine celebrating music amid COVID

Despite all the accolades, D-Nice said it's not about him.

"That energy that I gave is because I received so much of that energy from people and that people poured into me," he says. "They allowed me into their homes and there’s nothing more powerful than that to me."

He continued: "So I’m truly just grateful that the world embraced what I was doing and it just kept me inspired to keep doing it."

Derrick “D-Nice” Jones created the revolutionary “Club Quarantine” Instagram Live series.
Derrick “D-Nice” Jones created the revolutionary “Club Quarantine” Instagram Live series.

And "Club Quarantine" is far from over, despite the country opening up as vaccines are widely accessible, mask guidelines being eased and live music returns. D-Nice is bringing his revolutionary Instagram Live series to the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival in September.

"Even though the world is open, people want to have that experience together," he says. "It’s like a real community that we have here."

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And the series' signature name is not going anywhere: "I was running away from using the word quarantine… but this is something people resonated with."

As for what he's most excited for? "I just want to see people dancing," he says with a laugh.

"I spent all year looking at a green dot, now it’s time to feel the energy from people. I'm really excited about that."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: DJ D-Nice's 'Club Quarantine' helped him as much as it helped others