Pain produces greatness. This is the message behind James Merritt, aka DJ Deaf’s story. The “Deaf” in his artist name stands for “Don’t Ever Accept Failure,” which is a testament to his grit and character. Since 2008, he’s been rocking Louisiana airwaves, and now, he’s the official DJ for The Harlem Globetrotters. Along with that, he’s a successful radio personality, business owner, real estate investor, and motivational speaker.
How did you become a DJ?
2008 was the year when I started taking DJing very seriously. 2008 was also one of the lowest points in my life where I became homeless, living out of a Motel 6 near Louisiana State University. Some told me to just get a job as at McDonalds (which isn’t a bad thing), but it wasn’t what I wanted to do. My vision told me otherwise. I had to make the decision to continue doing what I love while in school or go home and not exceed my expectations.
Who are some of your inspirations as a DJ?
DJ Jazzy Jeff, Kid Capri, DJ AM, DJ Obscene, DJ Scratch, DJ Vice, A-Trak. The list is endless!
When did you realize that DJing was more than someone you enjoyed doing?
When I started receiving calls from fraternities – sororities on campus at LSU. Those calls then led into me getting signed by a record label called BayouBoi Entertainment. A few months after I got signed, LSU made me the 1st official DJ for LSU Athletics. I was doing all the music for LSU Football and Basketball. Over the next few years, I became the most sought out DJ to book throughout Baton Rouge, LA.
How did your opportunity with the Harlem Globetrotters come about?
I saw a friend post something about the opportunity on social media. I sent in my press kit not thinking much of it. Three days later, I got a call asking if I wanted to go on tour. Of course, I said yes, not realizing that they wanted me to leave in two days. My apartment lease was ending in four days, so I called my close circle of friends and family, and they came to help pack all my things up while I caught the first flight out.
Talk briefly about your other business ventures (radio personality, business owner, realtor, motivational speaking.)
I come from humble beginnings for sure. DJ Deaf is more than a name. It’s a lifestyle, an acronym, and a purpose. DJ Deaf is EVERYONE. Deaf stands for Don’t Ever Accept Failure, a mantra I tell myself every day in the mirror. You can fail many times in life, but it doesn’t have to be your last if you choose. I’m an on-air personality (mix show) DJ for the #1 Radio Station in Baton Rouge, LA Max 94.1. I’m also the owner of DJ Deaf’s “Blitz Blingo.” This is a game that I patented that is an interactive way for customers to enjoy a healthy, fun environment with family and friends. The game is successfully running in Baton Rouge, but it will be expanding to other markets soon. Shoutout to my partner Brad Gordon, CEO of DGEvents.
My new DJ Deaf Clothing Line in collaboration with Jeanisis Lifestyle recently launched a couple months ago. With the outpouring of support from friends and fans, I was able to sell out my first launch. More merchandise will be added over the next few months. I’m currently a licensed Realtor in Louisiana and Texas, and I help my clients from anywhere in the world. I have a great team behind my back as well, which will also be expanding soon.
My parents always taught me to treat everyone with respect, no matter the race or color. At the end of the day, we all bleed red, we all like green, but always be aware of your surroundings. When we moved to Louisiana, we weren’t welcomed. Someone set a cross on fire in our front yard. The way my father handled that situation showed me how to be a real man. This lead me to motivational speaking.
One of my main concerns is the youth. Any opportunity given, I take time to speak with the youth about my story. I let them know that they can do anything in life that they want to do. When I was 9, my parents moved from Los Angeles due to gang violence. I grew up in a small town called Dry Prong, LA. In high school, I had great teachers. However, there was a select few that wanted to see me end up in jail as another statistic. With the power of GOD, (who I’m nothing without,) I was able to change my journey. It’s my life’s purpose to let others know they can also change their situation for the better.