Dutch DJ and producer Afrojack pegged the crowd at 3,000 for Jennifer Lopez's June 20 performance on “Good Morning America” in New York. Afrojack, who collaborated with Pitbull, Ne-Yo and Nayer on the 2011 hit “Give Me Everything,” mentioned the number as a point of comparison for his performance with Sting on the ABC morning show Friday, which he said drew 2,900.
“To only have a hundred less than Jennifer Lopez …” said Afrojack (real name: Nick van de Wall) over the phone, less than an hour after the performance in New York City's Central Park.
Clearly, the 26-year-old Afrojack — set to perform an outdoor show Saturday at Navy Pier — was proud to be in such good company. And why wouldn't he be? As famous as Afrojack is in dance music circles (he's finished in the top 10 of DJ Mag's Top 100 DJs list the last three years) and as many big names as he‘s collaborated with (including Sting, his partner for the “GMA” performance), he's still making a name for himself in the mainstream media. But Afrojack said Friday's performance wasn't just about him. It was about the rise of the dance genre as well.
“I'm really proud that I got to represent dance music,” Afrojack said. “That's the most fun part. I'm a DJ who makes dance music who got to play with Sting.”
The Afrojack-Sting track “Catch Tomorrow” can be found on Afrojack's debut album, “Forget the World,” which was released in May. Afrojack said he had someone from his label pass the song along to Sting because “you don't just call Sting.” When Sting's camp gave the green light, Afrojack then jumped into the studio with the former frontman for The Police. The novelty of directing Sting — a legend more than twice his age — wasn't lost on Afrojack.
“He would ask me ‘How do you want me to do this?'” said Afrojack. “And I'd be like, ‘Dude, you're Sting.'”
Afrojack has been DJing since he was 15. He said he waited until now to release a studio album because the opportunity hadn't presented itself before. Also, he said, the thought just really never crossed his mind. But when he got started on the project two and a half years ago, he was determined to make something refreshing for himself and his fans. In addition to Sting, “Forget the World” features collaborations with Snoop Dogg, Chris Brown, Wiz Khalifa and Neon Trees singer Tyler Glenn, among others.
Did Afrojack release the album of mostly original songs, in part, to earn credibility in a DJ genre where the biggest stars sometimes are accused of being nothing more than button-pushers?
“(Forget) credibility,” Afrojack said. “The only person you need to be credible to is yourself. When you stand in front of the mirror and nobody is watching, are you happy with yourself? If I really cared what the world thought about me, the album would be only instrumentals because that's what the die hard club (fans) think is cool and underground. I don't want to be cool. I want to be me. You'll be a lot happier if you're you.”
There was, however, a time when Afrojack cared about his image. And that's why he passed when fellow DJ David Guetta offered him the opportunity to put his name on the hit they co-produced "Titanium."
“I always say it was my biggest mistake,” Afrojack said. “I gave into peer pressure and thought 'I don't want to (put my name on) an uncool song like that.' One of the reasons why my album is called ‘Forget the World' is because when you listen to the world, you make stupid mistakes.”
It's apparent in speaking with Afrojack that he practices what his feel-good club songs preach. His views and values reflect the sort of themes (have fun, you can do anything, live life to the fullest) often found in dance music. He said he enjoys spreading this message and reading tweets from people who were inspired by his music.
“For me, it's a great thing to tell people anything is possible,” Afrojack said. “When I was 15, people told me ‘You're not going to be a DJ. You're Nick. Nobody (cares) about you.' Everyone said I couldn't do it, and now here I am … doing an interview with you.”
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand Avenue
Tickets: $60, clubtix.com
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