Words by Kristal Roberts
Just about any major reggae or soca artist you can name, this DJ has worked with—meet DJ Spice.
He’s an internationally respected DJ whose reach stretches from hit makers in the Caribbean like Beanie Man, Sean Paul and Rupee to hip-hop legends, including KRS ONE and RUN DMC. He’s also performed for the likes of Bruce Springsteen.
The 38-year-old has won International Soca DJ of the year seven times. He’s a top requested DJ for carnival celebrations across the globe, from Boston to London, to the mas in Trinidad. But before he got big breaks with superstar artists and international gigs, he was a little kid who grew up in New York and fell in love with music.
“I been deejaying from young,” DJ Spice said.
DJ Spice, born Calvin Collins, has been spinning records since the tender age of 3, and you could say it’s in his blood. Born in the U.S., but raised in a Trinidadian family, Collins grew up watching his father, the late DJ Rocking Mills, make a name for himself spinning soca records.
DJ Spice would tag along with his father, deejaying at Caribbean parties, weddings, concerts and a number of events.
“He showed me the ropes,” DJ Spice said.
Because his father was also the soccer coach for Team Caribe, Spice would also travel with his father to the international games and play music afterward.
If you ask him about his musical tastes, he’ll tell you that growing up, he was all about hip-hop; from the music and the clothes to the swag. He played for artists like Funkmaster Flex, and he felt that hip-hop was where his heart was. However, the more exposure he had to different approaches to soca music from different islands, the more he fell in love with the music of his Caribbean roots.
Over time, DJ Spice’s star rose, and deejaying gigs took him all over the U.S. and around world.
He won the International Soca DJ of the Year award for the first time in 2003, but a memorable turning point for him was in 2004 when he was invited to spin at the carnival in London. It was his first European carnival performance, and it hit him then that he was truly respected as a Soca DJ.
He continued to reach significant milestones, including hosting a number of AM and FM radio shows, and becoming the first Soca DJ to perform at the Barclay’s Center in 2012. There he shared the stage with the likes with Doug E. Fresh, Alison Hinds and Machel Montano at a massive Caribbean concert.
When he’s not traveling to play for artists, he has a radio show on New York’s popular urban station Power 105.1 on Sunday at 10 p.m. called “Anything Goes” with DJ Norie.
While he has accomplished plenty as a Soca DJ, Spice said the passing of his father in August 2014 put things into perspective about what he wants out of his career long term.
He decided to work toward leaving behind legacy, and that’s spreading the heart and soul of soca.
“I came to the point in my life where I saw that the world needed to understand the culture of soca and calypso. Not just Trinidad but all the other islands. I asked myself what could I do to help out the industry,” he said.
He created Teamsoca.com, a site that serves two functions:
1) Have an online source where listeners can tune in and listen to a soca set 24/7.
2) Have a retail store that sells merchandise with the Team Soca brand to promote the website.
DJ Spice’s site features fellow Soca DJs from around the world.
DJs can play a 3-hour set on the site uninterrupted and anyone can go there to listen. Soca DJs from all around the world can share their styles as well as listen to what the latest soca trends are in other parts of the globe.
When it came to the retail store, DJ Spice, who is also a computer technician and graphics designer, was very hands-on, from building the website to designing t-shirts. He wanted a way to spread the word about TeamSoca.com while giving people a way to represent the genre, so he started printing T-shirts with the Team Soca Logo and started giving them out all over the globe when he traveled for work.
The retail store is already seeing success, and DJ Spice says the range of customers he’s getting pleasantly surprises him.
“People are contacting me and ordering from the U.K., Germany and Finland…like some places I haven’t even been and they’re going on the website, that tells me there are people out there that love soca music. Love Caribbean music.”
He’s looking to expand into winter gear, accessories, gym wear and pieces for carnival goers.
He hopes to continue promoting the brand by having fellow celebrity DJs like Angie Martinez or DJ Clue wear the items, but right now he is working toward linking up with large Trinidad clothing stores to distribute Team Soca gear.
When describing his goals for teamsoca.com and his career at large, DJ Spice says he will not be done with soca music until every person on the planet understands and appreciates it.
“I come from a happy culture with happy music. When people understand it, they will love it as well.”