When DJ Forge steps into his booth at a night club, Jordan Chavis feels the pressure.
Chavis has to read the crowd and figure out what song will inspire this and that group to dance.
“It’s just like an ongoing study in human behavior every night,” said Chavis, 32, whose once hip-hop hobby has turned into small business and disc jockey persona DJ Forge.
After Chavis picks his music plan, he has to sew together song after song by matching tempos.
Never miss a local story.
“Once they are matched, you mix them together,” he said. “You bring song B into song A, and you switch fully over to song B.”
DJ Forge’s gigs range from nightclub appearances across the state and energy-drink brand Red Bull events to entertaining fans before home UNC-Chapel Hill football and basketball games.
Chavis was an engineering student at N.C. State University when he started teaching himself the basics of mixing, scratching and beat matching around 2003.
He acquired gear, turntables, a mixer, a laptop and eventually left school. In 2004, and started working for American Airlines, where for six years he was a gate agent and then dealt with in-flight operations.
Around 2005, Chavis was hired for his first DJ job by a friend who was the booking agent for hip-hop shows at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro.
About four times a year, he played music from doors opening to the first act for hip-hop shows. Meanwhile, he was following a mentor to shows, making guest appearances and playing slow nights at Triangle clubs.
Around 2006, he was asked to take a regular Friday night shift at Five Star in Raleigh. He picked up the now-closed Hi 5 on Saturday nights, along with other jobs in Greensboro and Charlotte.
In 2009, he and three others formed the Jukebox Heroes DJ crew. The group of now seven DJs from Raleigh, Charlotte and Greensboro with like skills and goals offer variety to clubs but use their network to fill individual calendars.
In March 2010, Chavis competed in Charlotte against about seven others in the Red Bull DJ competition Thre3style Championship. He won $1,000 and a state title championship, which he maintained in 2011.
“It helped increase my visibility, and it helped put me into a good relationship with Red Bull,” Chavis said.
In December 2010, Chavis left his then part-time airline job to focus solely on his business.
Chavis plays for about five Red Bull events a year, from music events to baseball games and wakeboarding contests. Live Nation asked him to DJ before rapper Jay-Z’s Greensboro concert in 2010. He also spent about a year and a half as the hip-hop booking agent at Cat’s Cradle.
Over the years, software and other technology have lowered the barrier for entry into the DJ field, saturating the market and decreasing nightly allowances from some clubs, he said.
In 2013, Chavis started focusing on corporate events and updated his website.
A hip-hop artist connected him with UNC-Chapel Hill, which was looking for a pregame DJ.
Chavis mixed music at his first football game in September 2013 and was asked to stay on for basketball season.
Now, two hours before every home football game, he sets up his laptop and a turntable in front of the Kenan Stadium student section and plays music that appeals to players, students and fans.
The players, who tweet requests to him, usually want to hear hip-hop. Then he turns to the older fans and younger students, who also send requests, by mixing together current music from multiple genres.
“I am trying to make everyone happy,” he said.