Pittsburgh's DJ Afterthought brands music, clothing with enthusiasm
Being a disc jockey is more than just playing great music.
It's about knowing the crowd you are entertaining. It's about making adjustments throughout a performance. It's even about wearing certain clothes.
“Music is and will forever be far more than a collection of sounds,” says Ryan Haynes, known in the entertainment world as DJ Afterthought. “It's part of the foundation and a supporting force behind emotion and thought. But as a DJ, you also have to take in the atmosphere and transfer music into that atmosphere. Sometimes it's about being vocal and grabbing the microphone and talking to the crowd.”
The 27-year-old Haynes from Millvale does all of that. At a recent Friday night show at Ivy in the Strip District, he had the dance floor packed for a Wiz Khalifa after-party event, the tunes spinning into the early morning hours.
Haynes was hired for the event by Brandon Cercone of McKees Rocks, owner of Limelight Consulting. Cercone has a partnership with the owner of Ivy, Unrico Abbondanza, as a constultant for the club's entertainment.
“He has a big following,” Cercone says of Haynes. “You can tell he loves what he does, and he is moving up the ladder. He has a following in other cities. He is also down to earth, which I really like. He is as humble as pie, and I love working with him.
Cercone heard about Haynes from many of his colleagues and friends in the entertainment business and noticed Haynes' passion immediately.
The scene at Ivy is a perfect example of the attention Haynes draws for shows, here and all over the country. He has connections to celebrities Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller. Haynes has done pre- and post-parties for Khalifa.
The three have promoted local clothing lines. Miller and Haynes have worn items from Daily Bread, while Khalifa and Haynes have represented Hater Magnet. Haynes is a brand ambassador for both clothing lines where most items are $20 to $25.
He says wearing the garments across the country brings a little piece of Western Pennsylvania wherever he goes.
Having support for the clothing lines helps get the brands recognition, says Vinni Buck II, president and designer of Hater Magnet from the South Side. And as Haynes' stock rises, the exposure for the clothing lines most likely will be on the upswing, too.
“I am impressed by how spontaneous Ryan is,” Buck says. “He is sharp, and the people around him enjoy being around him. His ability to change what he is playing during a show is a strength, because he works the crowd and sees what the people he is performing for are doing and makes the necessary adjustments.
“He is a personality. He is a great model for the clothing line because he represents what the brand was founded on — you are who you are and you should be proud of who you are.”
Haynes says he is blessed to have the job he has and he will never stop working at getting better or promoting local designers.
“I want to help build the brands,” he says. “I get excited before every event. Through all the blood, sweat and tears, I try to stay humble.”
Becoming a disc jockey was originally an afterthought in terms of a career path for Haynes, who officially started his music career in 2009.
“Since I started, my goal has remained the same, keep moving in one direction — forward,” Haynes says. “I believe it's impossible to consider oneself truly involved in anything, especially music and entertainment, if we do not know how to listen. Listening to what is being asked of us, and providing even more. My work is like my child, nurtured, strengthened and presented with professionalism and care.”
John Smith, known as Dre, who is from California but recently moved to Pittsburgh, has hired Haynes for events.
“He is hungry and his thirst for this business is real,” Smith says. “He is a people person and he knows how to get the crowd moving and he knows how to work well with everyone. He is respectful, and all of that defines a real DJ. Anyone can play music, but not anyone can reach out to the crowd and feel what the crowd is feeling, even if he has to stop mid-song, he will, and change it up. It doesn't matter where you are from. If you are a good DJ, people will find you and people have found Ryan.”
Haynes is thankful for the work.
“I want to make it in Pittsburgh,” says Haynes, who is originally from Mahwah, N.J. “I love Pittsburgh. People here are grounded and they are passionate. When I meet people from other cities, I am proud to say I am from Pittsburgh.”
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7889.