the group portrait

Back on the Decks

The crew of DJs behind the best parties in Brooklyn this summer.

From left: Oscar Nuñez (DJ Oscar Nñ, @oscarnn), Niara Sterling (@niarasterling), Quiana Parks (@quianaparks), Natasha Diggs (@natashadiggs), Mike Nash (DJ Mike Nasty, @djmikenasty), and Xiomara Marie Henry (DJ Bembona, @djbembona). Photo: Marie Tomanova
From left: Oscar Nuñez (DJ Oscar Nñ, @oscarnn), Niara Sterling (@niarasterling), Quiana Parks (@quianaparks), Natasha Diggs (@natashadiggs), Mike Nash (DJ Mike Nasty, @djmikenasty), and Xiomara Marie Henry (DJ Bembona, @djbembona). Photo: Marie Tomanova

This past May, Oscar Nuñez (DJ Oscar Nñ) got ready to play his first live show after 15 months. “I placed all these expectations on myself,” he recalls. “Like, What am I going to wear? What’s the first song I’m going to play? It set me up for an anxiety attack.” When Nuñez got to the venue, he did breathing exercises to calm down. “As soon as I stepped into the decks, it was like I flipped a switch. Like, I’m fucking home.” The first track he played? Nicki Minaj’s “Itty Bitty Piggy.”

Pre-pandemic, for a certain slice of Brooklyn — the mostly Black and brown creative types who congregate in Bed-Stuy, shop at Sincerely, Tommy, and get drinks with friends at Cafe Erzulie — there was a roster of clubs and parties where they would go to see and be seen. On a Sunday afternoon, they might head to Everyday People, where Niara Sterling was spinning a mix of Afrobeat, jazz, and reggae to a scene-y crowd. Or the Saturday-night destination might be Schimanski, where party-goers danced to a blend of trap and house from Mike Nash (DJ Mike Nasty). Many of the DJs played the same parties and could be counted on to bring out some of the biggest crowds in the city. But the scene still retains an underground feel, and the DJs tend to be part of the communities they play for. “You go to a party where Ant Blue is DJing, and he’s turning off the music and rapping his own song. And the crowd is rapping it back,” says DJ Quiana Parks. “That’s the difference between Brooklyn and the rest of the world.”

Though the borough is still in the process of reopening, the nightlife has seemed to waste no time in getting back. “Normally, there would be some wallflowers, but people are dancing more than ever,” says Nash. “They have been cooped up so long they’re going wild.” Tastes have also changed; according to him, crowds have been gravitating toward experimental sounds. “All the DJs have been at home becoming themselves, working on their music,” says Parks. “The sound is about to be out of control.”

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The Crew of DJs Behind the Best Parties in Brooklyn