DJ Alizay.
Courtesy of DJ Alizay.

DJ Alizay

Isaiah “DJ Alizay” Johnson has acquired many skills during his 20-plus years working in the music industry: writing, producing, A&R duties, and, of course, DJing and rocking live audiences all over the world. He has also dabbled in artist management and is credited with discovering superstar rapper Wale; he was the first DJ to play Wale’s music on the radio when he worked at WKYS. Recently, Johnson has been especially industrious. He coproduced “We’re in This Together” on Justin Bieber’s latest EP, Freedom; Johnson is also listed as a lyricist and composer on the track. “The song came together based on different collaborations and relationships,” Johnson says. “One of my good friends is Tay James, who is Bieber’s A&R and DJ. Tay got my song to Bieber and he liked it and decided to use it on the new EP.” Johnson also released an extraordinary project last month called Live from the Go-Go—a collection of classic Isley Brothers and Earth Wind & Fire songs remixed with go-go beats. For example, Johnson mashes up Earth Wind & Fire’s “Sun Goddess” with the explosive percussion from Northeast Groovers’ “The Water” to create “Water Goddess.” “Reasons,” another seminal EWF track, is layered over a lively bounce beat to create the buoyant “Reasons To Bounce.” Making Live from the Go-Go was a labor of love for Johnson, because he has a deep personal connection to D.C.’s indigenous music culture. During the pandemic, he did livestream performances playing only go-go music. He also participated in the live outdoor Moechella concerts to support the Don’t Mute DC movement. “The idea for the Isley Brothers/EWF project originated when I saw them featured on the Verzuz series,” Johnson says. “I decided to strip ‘Footprints in the Dark’ down to the a cappella. When I put Ronald Isley’s voice over the go-go beat, I got goose bumps! I was able to show the range of go-go music by using it with mainstream songs and highlighting the versatility.” “We’re in This Together” is available on major streaming services. Live from the Go-Go is available at Bandcamp. Free–$12.