Tucked into the corner of a quiet speakeasy, Mathias Broohm reminisces over the days when his love for music was just a hobby. After moving from New Carrollton to Frederick in 2000, “I used to be in charge of the music for house parties,” he explains. His eclectic playlists garnered enough support from friends to make the transition into DJing a no-brainer.
After months of practice and sending off mixes for critique from other DJs, Mathias became a mainstay of Frederick nightlife, and in 2011 he took his first gig in D.C. at Spaghetti Garden in Adams Morgan. He hasn’t looked back since.
Inspired by the “anything goes” mentality of some of his DJ peers, like Stereofaith, Spinser Tracy, and Jerome Baker III, Mathias follows suit at his own parties. He can be heard spinning everything from current hip-hop to throwback pop to underground club music for diverse crowds at venues like Rock & Roll Hotel, Velvet Lounge, Marvin, U Street Music Hall, and everywhere in between. But to stand out amongst the crowd, Mathias has a unique sonic signature to make every set memorable. Whether it’s a guilty pleasure or a song long forgotten, “every time I play, I always wanna leave something in your mind,” he says.
While Mathias considers himself “just a guy who plays records,” the long lines to get into his monthly parties say otherwise. He can hardly walk down U Street without dapping up a familiar D.C. party-goer or a fellow DJ.
Mathias attributes his success to networking, meticulous organization, and an unwavering passion for a myriad of musical genres. At just 14, he would go see Junk Yard Band at D.C.’s go-go parties. “My mom would kill me if she knew that,” he laughs. Growing up in a Ghanian household, he also listened to a lot of pop, R&B, and gospel music, as well as hiplife—an African hip-hop/dancehall hybrid that he describes as “very instrumental with a lot of riddims and tribal sounds.”
Whether Mathias is playing grime at U Street Music Hall or moombahton at TROPIXXX—the forward-thinking party he and The Clown Prince inherited—being versatile means being organized. “You never know what you’re gonna be thrown into,” he explains. And as a DJ who is never afraid to break new ground, having a plan B is essential. “If you’re organized, you know you can try something [new], but if nobody’s moving, you can drop another song [you] know they’ll like.”
Five years later, Mathias’ perspective on DJing is still driven by curating playlists for house parties. “I just want people to come out and leave saying ‘I danced all night,'” he says. While breaking new records and exposing D.C.’s club scene to innovative sounds is essential to him, appealing to his audience’s emotions is just as important. “If I can spark a memory, hopefully a good one,” he says, “or if you had that one moment where you were so happy or Shazamed a song, I feel great.”
Mathias Broohm performs tonight at U Street Music Hall with Nadus and Araabmuzik at 10 p.m. $15.
Photo by Kill The Light Photography.