Most DJs who have been in the game for a while have a rough idea of when they first started to spin, but few know the exact date. New York native Richard Rodriguez, however, clearly remembers his first gig, it was on July 10, 2000. Better known as DJ Formula One, Rodriguez has since built a solid career as an open format DJ playing at clubs, boat parties, parades, wedding venues, pool parties and community events.
Born and raised in Western Queens, NY, Rodriguez is part of a large family. His parents are from El Salvador and he grew up with four brothers and a sister in a two-bedroom apartment in Long Island City, just 20 minutes on the Subway from Midtown Manhattan. Growing up in the inner city meant that noise was everywhere, everything from police sirens to the nearby N Train subway line, and arguments in the street to the occasional gunshot!
However, from the age of 6 or 7, it was music that fascinated Rodriguez. “When my parents would go to parties I would tag along and that’s when I was introduced to DJing,” he tells us. “It amazed me that the DJ had the ability to make people dance, laugh, and have a great time by playing particular songs and genres. Being Latin American, my parents would attend Latin parties. In New York, during the early ‘90s, Salsa, Merengue and Cumbia were the genres that dominated the Latin scene. I started listening to local radio stations and eventually started collecting Latin music.”
Then, in Junior High School, he was exposed to another genre of music that he could listen to and enjoy with his peers. “When I first heard Hip Hop I fell in love with it instantly. I started to listen local Hip Hop radio stations and noticed how the DJs would cut, scratch and mix songs! I soon realized that was what I needed to do!”
After years of relentless begging, Rodriguez’s father eventually agreed to buy him a pair of Technics 1200s and a Vestax PMC03a 10” mixer. “I was a lucky kid”, he recalls. “That was the best day of my life! Every day after school I would rush home to practice on my turntables and then Friday, that was religious, that was the day I would take the Subway from Queens to Manhattan and go record shopping!”
Now he had the decks and a growing music collection, all that was left was a DJ name. “When I started collecting Hip Hop records, before I even had my turntables, I realized that I love music and didn’t want to limit myself to being a Hip Hop or Latin DJ. I wanted to do more. The first thing people ask me is, ‘why DJ Formula One, is it because you love Formula 1 racing?’ No, genres are my formulas and there is one outcome, greatness! Now that I have grown up, the name Formula One relates to a lot more than just genres. It includes music, radio, events, my personality… but the outcome is still the same, greatness!!”
In 2002 Formula One graduated High School and at the same time his family moved to the suburbs. This opened the door to new experiences, new people and new endeavors. While studying Electrical Engineering at college he was exposed to new musical genres as well as the club scene and the business side of being a DJ. He began to play at all kinds of events and eventually became a full-time DJ. Now running a fully-fledged entertainment business, Formula One is able to offer DJ, Emcee, lighting, photo booth, custom monogram, table pin-spotting and video mixing services to his clients.
When it comes to music, Formula One has wide-ranging tastes and influences. However, as an open format DJ, he recognizes the importance of playing the music that a crowd wants to dance to. Left to his own devices though, he’d choose to go back to his musical roots. “There is something about Funk, Disco, Old School Hip Hop and Classic R&B that brings me joy!” he tells us. “I could name an entire playlist, but examples are songs like ‘I Want to Thank You’ by Alicia Myers, ‘You’re the One for Me’ by D Train and ‘I.O.U.’ by Freeez. They bring back childhood memories of my parents.”
As Formula One is still based in New York, we were interested to know the advantages and disadvantages of DJing in what is arguably the most iconic city in the world. “The advantage of being a DJ in New York is that the city is extremely diverse. It is rich in culture, ethnicities, businesses, transportation, food… everything! You can find your niche in any market. You just have to get up and find it. Another advantage is the access to DJ Equipment. There are many DJ Stores where you can actually try out the equipment and take it home the same day. You can also find music everywhere! You can walk down any neighborhood and you will be able to listen a variety of genres. The only disadvantage I see is that the population of NYC is about 8.4 million people and it seems that there are about 4 million DJs! You better be talented or you will be replaced or undercut in a New York Minute! As they say, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere!”
The first thing people ask me is, ‘why DJ Formula One, is it because you love Formula 1 racing?’ No, genres are my formulas and there is one outcome, greatness! Now that I have grown up, the name Formula One relates to a lot more than just genres. It includes music, radio, events, my personality… but the outcome is still the same, greatness!!”
Having spent more than 15 years DJing in the city that never sleeps, as you can imagine, Formula One has played at lots of memorable parties. For him though, there’s one gig that he’ll never forget. “A few years back I had the opportunity to DJ a community event in my hometown of Long Island City, Queens. It was a significant event because it was a rally to save the ‘Mecca of Graffiti’, a building once known as 5Pointz. Home to artist’s studios, the highly visible building was legally painted with graffiti. The owners wanted to tear it down, so the curators of 5Pointz did all they could to get the it landmarked. They held a rally to gather petitions and I was invited to DJ. To my surprise there was a police presence, supposedly they expected an aggressive crowd, but everyone came in peace. The local press wrote about me, saying, ‘While there was a noticeable (and unnecessary) NYPD presence, at times the rally had a party atmosphere. Old School hip hop music was provided all afternoon by DJ Formula One.” I ended the evening with tracks like ‘Apache’ by the Incredible Bongo Band and ‘Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved’ by James Brown. It was an amazing event, and the acoustics of those walls made it feel like the whole city could hear the music while the 7 Train passed in the background and people were break dancing in the street! Unfortunately, two days later the building was whitewashed, so the bid to save it failed, but it was a real honor to be the last DJ to play music at 5Pointz!”
A New Yorker through and through, not only does Formula One work throughout the city, it’s also where he likes to spend his free time! “I enjoy quality time with my family, but I also like being a tourist in NYC! I love site-seeing and one of my favorite places is stopping in the middle of the Manhattan Bridge and viewing the Brooklyn Bridge and Downtown Manhattan during sunset. I also love to check out new places, like restaurants, lounges and parks, as well as going to the Ball Park to see my New York Mets!”
As a DJ who is both passionate and successful, Formula One was quick to offer advice for the next generation. “Don’t stop!! When I was ready to take my DJing career to another level, many people told me that being a DJ is just a hobby and not a real job, that I was wasting my time, which is complete nonsense! At the same time, I had others telling me to keep going, and I’m glad those are the ones I chose to listen to! If being a DJ is your passion, don’t allow anyone to tell you different. Do what you love and do it with passion. Look at it as a marriage, not as a one-night stand! It takes time to build, have patience and never settle. Keep practicing and keep educating yourself and you will see how things unfold. Show love to music and music will show love to you! Be different than your competitors and always be original. When we perform, we are psychologists, sociologists and therapists to our crowd. Use your power wisely!”
This is clearly something that Formula One always does, wherever and whenever he finds himself behind the decks. Having grown up in the melting pot that is the Empire City, he uses his eclectic musical background to always play the right track at the right time at the right party. “As long as I have a crowd, no matter the size. I have a responsibility to serve them with a great time!”
For more information on DJ Formula One or to connect with him on social media, follow the links below.