This is the second entry in our “Rebounds and Sounds” series where we highlight the official team DJs of the NBA and are provided a behind the scenes look on how these masters of in-game entertainment control the energy of some of the best homecourt advantages in sports.
In this edition I interview emcee, television personality, sports show host, radio DJ, turntablist, and instructor Ro Parrish. Parrish completed his fifth season as the team DJ for the Dallas Mavericks and is also a resident DJ for All-Star Weekend and the 8-city NBA Nation Tour. Ro has also been selected to host numerous NBA All-Star Weekend events and has emceed the NBA Celebrity Game on multiple occasions.
Ro’s next gig of note is the BigD NYE New Year’s Eve celebration where he will serve as the official DJ, Master of Ceremonies and Music Director. BigD NYE is the region’s biggest New Year’s Eve celebration with ABC simulcasts across Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Kansas.
Parrish also does extensive work with The Guide Right Foundation, an organization that provides community services, organizational support and educational scholarships for disadvantaged youth and citizens in the Dallas Area.
Ro took a few minutes out of his hectic schedule to answer a few questions for us and provide us with a realistic look of what his average day looks like:
Q: What inspired you to become a DJ?
A: Honestly I’ve just always loved the music. My parents always listened to a lot of different genres of music – stuff like Luthor Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, anything from Motown and even Elton John. My family was all over the place. My uncle also lived with us for a while and he was a DJ.
One thing I always noticed was when you watch shows like YO! MTV Raps, Rap City etc. is that even though the emcees are/were cool, I was always looking at what the DJs were doing. When Run DMC was out there I was always a fan of Jam Master Jay in the back. Or when I saw Salt N Pepa, I liked Spinderella. When I checked out EPMD, I liked the sounds DJ Scratch was making. DJs are in the background but they are basically running the show. I really like the technical aspect and the ability to control the crowd.
Q: With Electronic Dance Music (EDM) coming to the forefront, the definition of what a “DJ” is has changed and people are relabeling certain producers as DJs. Performers are also putting on concerts with pre-recorded mixes. What are your thoughts about the EDM movement and how to do you see this impacting the perception of DJs in general?
A: I always like to look at the bigger picture and I kind of look at it like I look at different genres of music. For instance, if I want to party tonight I want to hear some party rocking tracks like LMFAO or some EDM like Calvin Harris. There’s certain music for that. If I want to chill there’s certain music for that too, like Earth Wind and Fire or some Jazz. Just like there are certain types of genres there are certain types of DJs.
I’m not the type of person to look down on a DJ. I understand it’s taken a different direction lately and I don’t necessarily endorse certain things that are going on like playing pre-recorded sets and acting like you’re DJing.
I do understand though it’s become a part of the culture and ultimately it’s going to push DJs forward altogether. For a while DJs have been scaled back and forgot about. You go to certain concerts and you don’t even see a DJ anywhere. If you do see a DJ they are just up there acting. Now the DJ is back to the forefront and I do like that aspect but I wish DJs and producers would understand the craft and where it came from and have the respect not doing the pre-recording or acting on stage. That’s where I lose my respect for them (EDM DJs) as an artist or DJ. I understand what they are doing and I’m glad they are able to make money since that’s what it’s about. That and moving the crowd.
Pauly D isn’t the best DJ in the world and he’s not going to do anything spectacular but he’s helping other DJs out. He’s helping get DJs to the forefront. He’s not technical with his sets and he’s not a turntablist but he’s helping out the culture for the most part. It’s taking that 10-year old kid that is watching Pauly D do his thing and having him get interested in DJing and learning the craft himself.
Q: How did you catch on with the Dallas Mavericks and their in-game entertainment?
A: I started interning with the Dallas Mavericks when I was a sophomore in College. I was an “NBA Logger” where I was to document anything significant that happens during the game and timecode everything that happens so it matches up with the video. For example, “Jumper Nowitzki, assist Nash, fastbreak.” We do this so when you’re looking for a specific play you can go back and find it. I did this all throughout College.
I wasn’t DJing much in college but I was doing all the on-air personality stuff. After college I left the Dallas Mavericks for a little bit and picked up a TV job. When I came back to Dallas (2007) they had an opportunity for me. They noticed I DJ and I had on-air experience so they created a position for me and next thing you know I was named the official team DJ for the Dallas Mavericks as well as the host for their pre-game show and TV program. I was in the right place at the right time. I knew the right people and they remembered me. They told me that I do good work and they wanted to make sure I was on board.
The TV work scratches the back of the DJ career and vice versa. I also work for the Dallas Cowboys in a similar capacity but more on the television side. This position helps me get other gigs like hosting/DJing player private events.
Q. What does your typical work-day look like and what type of preparation is involved before you perform?
A: After we won the championship things started changing in preparation for the lockout so they cut back in certain areas. Previously, I did the pre-game show and my responsibilities during the game depended on what was going on. Dallas has a sound person that controls the defense chants and certain music during the game.
After the lockout sponsors dropped and money wasn’t as available. The Mavericks are really big on in-game presentation but when you factor in having a team DJ, multiple in-arena hosts, drumline, the Maniacs, the dance team etc. and that the sponsors started dropping they had to pull back somewhere.
Although my responsibilities were cut back by the Mavericks I’m still recognized as an Official Team DJ by the league office, I like to say “accredited,” and they send me out to every NBA All-Star Weekend as both a DJ and a host. I was also selected to go on an 8-city tour with the NBA Nation.
Q: What types of songs make the best in-game music?
A: The thing that I’ve noticed in doing pre-game music, in-game, whatever is it really breaks down into certain segments. Some parts are for the audience and fans and some parts are for the players. For instance, the pre-pre game music once the door opens is usually some sort of themed, specialty mix. If it’s 80′s night you’ll pay a ton of that for example. If it’s just a regular game you can do an open format mix with a lot of different songs.
When you get into the pre-game when the players are coming out that’s when you want to have a mix of high energy tracks but also songs that the players like. You want to make sure they’re in the right mindset. I’ve had players come up to me and say “you’re playing some bullshit.” And I’m like my bad. The players really listen and they want to hear certain tracks when they come out.
I have good relationship with a ton of the guys and I can just text them or talk to them about what they listen to. For example, I know Shawn Marion loves Young Jeezy and wants to hear some Rick Ross so I work some of those songs in. It just comes down to communication as well as having an ear to the street and knowing what’s hot.
That’s different than what you play in game. It’s more fan friendly. You’ll have your defense chants for example. We’re able to throw in some instrumentals as well. Some NBA teams do it and some don’t but when the home team is on offense you can play some instrumentals. You’ll hear a hip hop beat when Dirk is dribbling so we’re able to mix it up a little.
I might throw in a few mash-ups during pre-games but during the games it’s more or less standard and the players are pretty focused on the game. As long as the bass is thumping and they’re familiar with the track they are good.
Q: What is your favorite experience from your travels as an NBA DJ/Personality?
A: You can mark down every single NBA All-Star Weekend. Those are just spectacular. Number one it’s just an honor to be selected. It’s like the NBA saying we look at you as the crèam of the crop just like when a player get’s selected as an All-Star.
Once you get there the camaraderie is great. I come from a background where I used to play sports so the unity part of it I really enjoy. Everybody knows everybody during All-Star Weekend so when the DJs come together we get to laugh together, hangout, trade music, etc. It’s really fun for me personally. A lot of times you don’t get to see these guys since you’re in a different city and now you just get to sit down and hang with these guys.
I have a ton of fun on the NBA Nation tour. It’s similar to All-Star Weekend. We’re hanging out and we’re pulling pranks on each other. For example, we were in Philly and I got challenged to do a New Edition set and I was like “cool, let’s do it.” I did a whole New Edition set for 2 hours. Those experiences are priceless. You’re just having fun. You’re getting compensated nicely. You’re out there with the fans. People are having a good time. They’re basically paying you to have fun.
Basically, any NBA sanctioned event is the best because you’re put on a stage and certain people at certain positions are watching. I love those moments because you have to be on your “A” game.
Q: The NBA has some of the most intense competition in all of sports – explain the competitiveness between you and your fellow team DJs and what type of bets go on behind the scenes?
A: Every DJ in every arena has different responsibilities so it’s tough to have a competition like that and they don’t have the camera on the DJ the whole time so it’s tough to keep track. We tried to set up certain things during NBA All-Star Weekend and they haven’t really worked out.
Me and DJ Bedz made a side bet a few years ago. That’s the only time we can do a competition or make a wager. The best was whichever team wins the series gets to gloat and the loser has to go to the visiting city and rock a complimentary party and take pictures in the other team’s uniform. That was the series where Carmelo hit a last second three in one game and they ended up winning the series. I ended up going to Denver and did a mix with Bedz and getting a pie in the face. It was crazy but it was a lot of fun. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was all in fun.
Q: You’re an emcee, television personality, sports show host, radio DJ, turntablist and more – how do you find time to sleep? Kidding aside, what keeps you motivated and which role do you enjoy the most?
I always tell myself “It drops deep as it does in my breath. I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.” I do actually find time to sleep but I come from a family that is almost nocturnal. We stay up late and get up early. That’s how we’re made up. I always try to push myself to do better things. Climb the ladder. For example, I see things on Twitter and things online like the ten highest paid DJs in the world. I see those things and I tell myself I need to do something better. I need to turn off Sportscenter and open up the Serato. I need to get better organized. I need to download the right music. I need to make sure my sets are right. I need to make sure I’m in the know in social media. I need to know what’s going on.
I know I’m really busy but at the same time I know I want more. I want to be able to say “challenge accepted”. There are always different opportunities and when there’s not any you have to make things happen. If I’m not in the gym, I’m in the studio. I try to stay busy.
In terms of my favorite role I go back and forth. My first love was the music but later on I learned I love having a personality in front of the camera. It’s 50/50 sometimes. You get a certain satisfaction from rocking a crowd and then you get another when you’re holding the mic and you have to say certain things and do an interview. I compare it to when Deion Sanders was playing football and baseball. They’re two different sports and you want to compete at the highest level. They asked Deion how come you don’t high step when you hit a homerun. He told them it’s a completely different game. You get the satisfaction out of if but it’s a different game. TV is excellent. There are certain things I do on TV that I won’t do when I’m DJing and vice versa.
I love both of them. They both compliment each other really well. I’m like they’re really giving me a mic and they are paying me to run my mouth.
Q: Is there anything you would like for us to know that we haven’t discussed already regarding preparation or your in-game work?
A: I always tell people not to be ready, stay ready. For example, I always make sure I have tracks ready for “hot timeouts”. Have all clean music. I’m really big on organization. Know your music so you’re not stumbling to find a track.
For TV, I want to make sure I do my research. Find a tidbit I can throw in so they can tell I did my research.
People have the Five P’s but I have the 7 P’s – I live by Parish Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
Q: Tell us about the type of social or charity work you do?
A: First off I just want to say I especially admire DJ Bedz as a philanthropist and all he does with his charity work. He always goes over and beyond.
As for me, one thing I do now is I’m a member of Kappa Alpha Psi and we do work with with The Guide Right Foundation. It’s for black students that are in between their sophomore and senior year in high school. We work with them and teach them how to become leaders and how to become men. I really think it’s important to work with our youth and to show them that there’s other things they can do besides becoming an athlete. There are other things you can do to be successful. Just don’t think you have to do those types of things. We teach the students to treat women with respect, pay your taxes, just little things you need to know in becoming a man. I really relish trying to be that big brother.
Q: Where can we connect with you online?
Q: Anything else you want to add?
A: Look out for the Dallas Mavericks this season. A lot of people are sleeping on the team. Everybody is talking about the Los Angeles Lakers and the “Not 5, Not 6, Not 7” Miami Heat but keep an eye on the Dallas Mavericks. A lot of people are sleeping on them but you got to take your NoDoz.