DJ D-Nice unites during the pandemic, one beat at a time

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2018 Invision

FILE - In this Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, file photo, DJ D-Nice poses for a photo at The Player's Ball at The Armory in Minneapolis. The hottest social distancing party in town Saturday night, March 21, 2020, was on DJ D-Nices Instagram, where more than 100,000 accounts tuned in during his 10-hour set, including the likes of Michelle Obama, Oprah, Rihanna and Will Smith. (Photo by Omar Vega/Invision/AP, File)

NEW YORK, N.Y. – When DJ D-Nice decided to start playing music live on Instagram amid countless closures due the worldwide pandemic, he did it in part to ease his loneliness and boredom given his own gigs had dried up.

At first, the audience for his hours-long sets was no more than a few hundred, mainly friends. But then word spread, and it grew to a few thousand. Then tens of thousands. Then the celebrities started showing up like Janet Jackson and Jimmy Fallon.

“By day four, which was Friday, it just took on a life of its own, you know, where Drake popped in,” said D-Nice. “Everyone's in it like, ‘Whoa, what's happening here?' And then it just started to build and it was building.”

Even Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey popped in on what would become known as #ClubQuarantine as the audience exploded.

“Best party of 1 and 100k I ever been to! Thanks @djdnice #ClubQuarantine,” Winfrey tweeted.

D-Nice, whose real name is Derrick Jones, says he's been overwhelmed by the response.

“I've been in the music industry for a long time, but this was a different kind of experience where it was is more global than just like even making records, like the impact that it’s had on people just through playing great music and allowing people to feel good feeling connected during this time where we are all so separated (and) isolated,” said D-Nice.

He began his career in the 1980s with the influential Bronx hip-hop crew Boogie Down Productions and had a solo career but is now known for spinning beats at the hottest parties (he played the afterparty at the final musical event hosted by the Obamas at the White House in 2016). But like most performers, his work came to a halt amid the call for social distancing and worldwide shutdowns to try and halt the spread of the coronavirus (For most people, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia).