Behind every successful rapper is a humble DJ. “The DJ is not meant to be in the forefront. You have to be cool with playing your role and laying the foundation for the artist to do what he has to do.” That’s how DJ Official views the profession that has taken him beyond the streets of New York to different cities all over the world.
Nelson Chu, known as DJ Official, was born in the Bronx, and raised in Brooklyn and Long Island. While his mother is Puerto Rican and his stepfather is Chinese and Puerto Rican, Official grew up in a predominately African American neighborhood and went to a school with the same demographics. As a result, he was introduced to Hip-Hop at a young age, despite his parents’ unfamiliarity with rap and the culture. Official recalls that it wasn’t easy being a Hip-Hop fan: “Being a minority within the school I went to was hard, at first, because you didn’t see many Puerto Ricans or Caucasians in Hip-Hop at that time. But I loved Hip-Hop and fought to make myself a part of it growing up.”
By the time Official entered junior high school, Hip-Hop had impacted him so greatly that he even started a rap group with a friend. He had also taken an interest in deejaying and began developing his skills by practicing on his stepfather’s old turntable whenever he could. “I wasn’t that good at first, but I was determined to learn and get better,” he admits. His amateur status was upgraded after high school when he met and befriended Cipha Sounds, who he credits with teaching him what it means to be a “real producer and DJ.” Official quickly left behind his emceeing ambitions and embraced deejaying as he began to learn from DJ Riz and Funkmaster Flex. “That’s when I knew I wanted to do this for a living rather than just a hobby. Really, I knew much sooner but it wasn’t till I got my foot in the door that I realized I could live off this.”
However, Official’s perspective on life was shaken up, in 1996, when he found himself incarcerated. While in high school, he and his friend were rapping and getting in trouble--living a life of mayhem. On visits to his friend’s house, his mom would talk to them about Jesus, and although Official was reluctant to listen, he would soon be forced to. “After being arrested, I remember sitting in a jail cell thinking about my life and where I went wrong. I remember, as I was there lying on a cot, the discussions with Mike’s mom came into my mind.” He immediately got on his knees and surrendered to Christ.
Official later realized he could combine his love for producing and deejaying with his love for Jesus, so he began working with different Christian Hip-Hop artists. Today, that combination has allowed him to reach hundreds of thousands with the Gospel and encourage believers in their faith.
He has been nominated for a Grammy and a Dove, along with being featured in Vibe Magazine and The Source, not to mention having produced over 160 tracks. “I always had dreams of doing music full-time; as a DJ for Christian artists, not only can I do it full time, but it also has a purpose behind it.”
In 2009, Official produced his first full album—Entermission. The album blended a diverse assortment of songs and artists aimed at encouraging believers to get excited about being missional in there own state or abroad. He currently tours with Lecrae, Trip Lee, Tedashii, and Sho Baraka all around the world, but calls Philadelphia home. He attends Epiphany Fellowship with his wife and two kids and enjoys being able to spend time with his family. Through his craft, Official hopes to communicate that if the Lord has given you a gift, make sure you own it and give it your all.