To his family and close friends, he's known as Maurice DeLoach. But to high-profile artists such as P. Diddy, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, Common, Queen Latifah, J. Cole, and his thousands of social-media followers, he's DJ Aktive; Janet Jackson's touring DJ, among other high-profile gigs. But before the glamour of a world tour with Jackson, Aktive, 38, developed a sense of musicality from his family. Along with the influence of a group of older cousins who were also DJs, he watched his father collect and spin records in the basement of his West Philly childhood home, igniting the curiosity of how a future for a young Maurice DeLoach would unfold.
Aktive's introduction into the music industry began in the early 2000s when now-manager Mike McArthur Jr. heard Aktive DJing on Power 99 FM and invited him to a rehearsal with Philly neo-soul artist Musiq Soulchild. After he successfully landed the gig, Aktive's vibrant, on-stage persona and masterly mixing skills caught the ear of industry names like Nas and Marsha Ambrosius, who began to seek him out for their shows.
On Sunday, Aktive plans to celebrate over two decades of DJing with an event he's hosting at the Schmidt's Commons featuring appearances by Estelle, Ambrosius, and others.
Adam Blackstone was the music director for Kanye West and he got me on to work with Kanye in 2009. After the tour with Kanye, the calls started to come in. Then I did this DJ routine on Instagram, and a rapper and movie star by the name of Common posted the video and Jermaine Dupri reposted it. [Blackstone] then gave me a call and asked me if I remixed or do anything with Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." I told him I did and he said: "Janet saw it. She went on your YouTube page and found out a lot about you. She'd like for you to come to Los Angeles for an audition." They flew me out for an audition and by the grace of God, she kept me. That was in June of 2015, and I've been on ever since.
Philadelphia definitely influenced me. The whole sound of Philadelphia — Gamble and Huff, Patti LaBelle, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince — all influenced me. Especially Jazzy Jeff, he's one of my heroes. He taught me a lot. DJ Cash Money, he's another one from Philly as well. Jazzy Jeff and Cash Money is who I looked up to and try to pattern my style around. So I'm just trying to keep the torch going, in the DJ form, for Philly.
When I first started working with Janet Jackson, she announced my name to about 60,000 people saying: "I have a DJ now. This is my first DJ. This is DJ Aktive from Philadelphia!" That kind of blew my mind. Then when she announced me in my hometown of Philly last year, it also blew my mind. I thought: "Wow! This is Michael Jackson's sister."
I would say not practicing all genres of music. You can't just know hip-hop and trap and R&B. You've got to know your rock, your soul, your classics in order to succeed in this business. If you don't, it might be hard for you and you might get [pigeonholed] into being a hip-hop DJ. I try to tell the younger DJs to try and learn all types of music, from [electronic dance music] to classic rock to house. It'll keep you working. Learn how to mix and not just scratch and you'll be successful.
Oooo … Rob Base's "It Takes Two."
I would say EDM, not house music, but EDM. Some of the DJs, and I'm just going to say it, they're not really DJing. Sometimes their music is prerecorded. It's like hit play, queue the smoke, and hit the stage, as opposed to authenticity, creating and remixing live right there in front of you. [EDM] DJs will get paid $250,000 a night for something that was just recorded in the studio.
I do. There's absolutely no black DJ that's making that type of money. Not one. So it's definitely a factor.
DJ can do that by giving back to the city. That's what I'm trying to do now with the DASH program [which provides opportunities for students to learn about various aspects of the entertainment industry], that my managers and I have started. We try to help the kids learn about DJing, producing, and making music. It's a free class we try to do in the summertime in Jersey and Philadelphia in some of the schools.
The purpose of my life is to show people a good time and forget about their worries with my music. Around me, people are going to have fun. Sometimes there are challenges, but I better understand what my purpose is now because it's been the same since I was kid. My service is to make people enjoy themselves.