DJ Darryl Cohen
February 13, 2020

Spinning for a living

DJ Darryl Cohen ’92 takes his music skillz seriously
by Nancy Hitchcock

“It’s a good night when no one is sitting down,” says Darryl Cohen ’92, aka DJ D-Skillz. “If people aren't coming over to you trying to suggest things to play, that means they're happy, they're in sync with you.”

Working as geographer at the U.S. Census Bureau for the past 20-plus years, Cohen has recently made a big change, pursuing music as a full-time DJ in Berlin.

“I just always work on music—I literally wake up with music in my head almost every day,” he says.

Cohen began his pursuit of DJing the summer before he came to Andover. He was inspired by the movie Krush Groove in 1985, captivated by DJs like the late Jam Master Jay. At Andover, he immersed himself in many opportunities, but especially Af-Lat-Am. The student organization not only provided a space for Cohen and his peers to congregate and talk, but it also offered him a position as social functions director, where he could test out his emerging DJ skills at parties.

“I broke a lot of needles in that first year, trying to learn how to scratch and mix on my little raggedy belt drive turntable that I bought at a pawn shop,” he recalls. “It was quite a learning experience, and I have to say, the Af-Lat-Am folks were a very discerning crowd. A lot of them were from New York, and I came from DC. I had to learn very quickly what made the New York kids dance.”

Cohen also hosted a weekly radio show at WPAA and was in a rap group called the West Quad Posse. The Posse recorded a number of original songs and performed at campus events. A few members continued to meet as a band after graduation, renaming the group the Rising Sonz, and recorded an album in 2001.

Cohen continued to hone his skills at UNC Greensboro’s commercial radio station when he attended school there, and has since DJ’d part-time, hosted radio shows, turned the tunes for Andover reunions and the Af-Lat-Am 50th, and recently produced an album.

After completing his album, Eternal Weekend, in early 2019, Cohen realized he was ready for a change. “Seeing people dance to music that I created is kind of a new experience,” he says, “and it’s been very gratifying.”

Looking forward, Cohen is taking advantage of a deferred retirement from his government job and is embracing the music scene full time. He moved to Berlin where he has previously performed at clubs such as Matrix, located in an old subway station with five dance floors and thousands of patrons each night.

Cohen is grateful for the skills, values, and experiences that Andover provided. For many years he has volunteered as a DJ and event coordinator, reunion chair, class secretary, and Alumni Council member as well as former chair of the Washington, D.C., Regional Leadership Team. In 2019 he received Andover’s Distinguished Service Award.

“Whatever path you decide to take,” says Cohen, “Andover certainly gives you the tools to meet a wide range of challenges. In my case, whether as a DJ or a geographer and civil servant, the work ethic, values, and life skills I acquired at Andover have proven to be indispensable.”

When asked if he planned to return to campus for his 30th Reunion in 2022, his swift reply was, “You’d better believe it!”

Follow Cohen's musical adventures on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Categories: Alumni, Magazine

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