A sit down with a Side Hustler
In honor of July 4th, we decided to sit down with U.S. Marine, Andrew Ellis A.K.A. DJ Just Drew who serves as this month’s, Side Hustler Corner feature!
First and foremost, thank you for giving us your time. We know time is money so we are super
appreciative. Let’s get to know a bit about you personally with our basic three W’s.
Q: Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do?
Andrew: I am the guy you see sitting in the back of the room shazaming all the songs I hear being played. My name is Andrew but I’ve had so many nicknames over the years that people have no idea what to call me. That’s basically how I came up with my DJ name, Just Drew. I’m also a United States Marine from Philadelphia, PA.
Q: What does your business as a DJ represent?
Andrew: A love for music is something that everyone shares. People often run out of words but music always speaks and it is a language that everyone can understand, no matter the location. As “The DJ”, I take it upon myself to bring you on a journey through musical storytelling. When a song comes on, I want to pull excitement from you. Remembering where you were standing the first time you heard a throwback or where you were when a new song is introduced, are the moments I live for and my business is sonically creating a moment.
Q: The joy I feel whenever I hear “Return of the Mack” could make any DJ feel like they hit the jackpot with me in attendance. *Laughs* What sparked your interest to begin DJ- ing? How did you know that was the avenue you wanted to explore?
Andrew: I have always had a love for music but watching people react to when “their song” came on was what made me start. I attended so many parties where I would watch the DJ trying to predict the song he/she would play next. Looking back those were my intern hours. I treated DJ-ing like a class and when I got the chance to play small house parties those were my exams. I would setup my dell laptop and use YouTube with Windows Media to fade the music in and out. The response I got from people let me know I knew what I was doing.
Q: What are the struggles that come with building your business/brand?
Andrew: Changing location every 8-12 months. There is a rotation of people that come in and out of my business life, so I only have a few chances to make a lasting impression on my audience because I don’t get recurring consumers once I leave a country.
Q: How do you build your clientele or fan base when you are in a specific place for a limited time?
Andrew: Social media and word of mouth have been the fastest ways. The first thing I do when I get to a new location is tell 3 people that I am a DJ and direct them to my Instagram. No one ever believes you when you tell them, so show them. My biggest break in the last two years has been doing military events. I got the privilege of organizing a Marine Corps Birthday ball at a U.S. Embassy. I didn’t book a DJ and it changed my life forever. I was getting recognition throughout the city being asked to DJ at local bars, clubs, and family events with the backing of a U.S. Embassy.
Q: US Embassy backing? That is a different type of flex! *laughter* How do you balance being in the service and trying to build your brand and maintain your brand?
Andrew: SCHEDULING AND COMMUNICATION. I write out my days to best utilize my 24 hours. I spend the time listening to new music, creating content, and building connections with people to get them to listen to the music I mix. Every interaction is a chance for someone new to hear a song they haven’t heard before.
Q: Let’s switch gears for a bit. What does being in the service mean to you?
Andrew: A sense of pride is represented in the Motto “The Few, The Proud”. I used the Marines as a stepping stone to better myself by becoming more financially stable, receive an education and travel the world. I have accomplished so much but I am always seeking more.
Q: What does being in the service as a black man in today's society mean to you?
Andrew: It is a challenge. Due to my unique position, I currently live in a country where there are no black spaces for me to be in. I have literally seen 12 black people total in the last year (I keep count). I haven’t been in America to experience what the current climate is like but I will experience it when I return later this year.
Q: Twelve… in an entire year. Some people complain about only seeing 12 in their office! What does being Black mean to you?
Andrew: Black means I am a leader and trendsetter and it is in my blood. It also requires me to switch my code up based on my social surroundings.
Q: Explain what Switch My Code Up means?
Andrew: Most people, especially black people, feel they are different people at work than at home. I never thought it was a true thing until I started picking the phone up at work. Someone pointed out to me that my voice in a little higher pitched and my English was more “professional”. Code switching is the approach that you are more professional in your work environment than you are around your friends. You talk differently put on the fake smile or bite your tongue because of who is around.
Q: Can you talk to the reason why you feel the need to code switch?
Andrew: There is a time and a place for everything. I feel like my blackness isn’t tolerated in some of my work spaces. People don’t see the real me unless it is outside my work environment and even if they do, that wall has to stay up because you don’t want to be viewed as the “(insert adjective) black guy at work”
Q: That is interesting that you even have to be concerned about that in the U.S. Marines. Being that there has been a shift in the severity of mental health in the black community, how and what practices do you partake in, if any, to maintain your mental health as a black man in the service?
Andrew: Exercise is the number one thing for my mental health. My biggest way to escape my mind, is running. I never liked to run before but it became therapeutic in the last year when I discovered Lo-Fi beats on Spotify. I often find myself running 8-10 miles and losing track of time.
Q: You are a part of many different tribes; Being black, a U.S. Marine in service, being from Philadelphia. All three buckets have their own sense of community. What does Community mean to you, how would you define it?
Andrew: A close group of people trying to reach a goal. Those people are there through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Accountability is a big part of it. The role of you being a part of one means you are pushing the others to be better and vice versa. If you aren’t becoming a better person in that community, leave. That space isn’t helping you grow.
Q: I like that, I think the “leave” part is the hardest on both ends for people to wrap their heads around. What does being a man in today's society mean to you?
Andrew: A few characteristics and leadership traits you need to have in order to be a man in today’s society are key. You need to be dependable, understanding, make sound judgments, have integrity, and seek self-improvement. You also need to be able to provide (not just financially).
Q: That is a solid list! Now I have to ask because you have such pride, what does being from Philadelphia mean to you?
Andrew: Philly means everything to me. I haven’t been home in almost 3 years and I know for a fact I would have never become a DJ if it weren’t for the influences and music scenes I attended there. Philly shaped me as a person from my funny accent to my fashion sense.
Q: What makes Philadelphia a unique city?
Andrew: Philly just has a very gritty feeling to it and it shows in the people who are from there. You have a sense of toughness that you carry around with you while also having compassion for people. The small things that rub off on you, from the word “jawn”, to a love for cheese steaks and water ice, make it a worthwhile city to be from.
This was great and def gave us more of an insight on who you are and what your brand represents!
Okay let’s end on a lighter note and do a quick round of Word Play. First thing that comes to mind when you read or hear the following:
Culture – Something everyone wants to be a part of
Influencer – Form of Leader
Army – Not as good as Marines
Meek Mill –Audemars and criminal justice reform
Philadelphia— I’m missing it
Entrepreneur – Own boss
Side Hustler – Person with multiple skills
Music – A great language
Self Made -- Rick Ross
Creatives – People who use their gifts to inspire others.
Freedom – Waking up without an Alarm Clock
Black -- Power
Minority – Small is number
unconventional – Not the norm but still effective
Underdog – Winner
Millennial – Changers of the past
Business – Another source of income
America – Fear
Reparations – Never going to get them
Marines -- First to fight last to leave
Navy -- Boats