Using turntables to make his mark

By Shardae Smith

Once a month, The Chronicle profiles people on campus who are doing interesting or important things. We’re always watching for faculty, staff and students with a story to tell. Here’s someone you should know.

If you’ve attended a student event at Columbia within the last three years, then you have probably seen Olu Adelabi spinning on the turntables. Also known as DJ Continental, the Kalamazoo, Mich., native has been making his mark on the college since he transferred from Western Michigan University in 2007. The 26-year-old senior advertising art direction major has deejayed at Student Convocation and Student Programming Board events, such as Big Mouth and the Hip Hop Concert, and is making the most of his Columbia experience as president of the Black Student Union.

The Chronicle: How did you end up at Columbia?

Olu Adelabi: I knew I wanted to do something other than bland market research or pushing a product. I wanted to help create the concept on how they sold it. I had no idea what that entailed, but I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I moved to Chicago to attend DePaul [University]. I applied and was accepted. I did everything but register for classes, and then I got to Chicago a semester before I was suppose to start at DePaul, found out about Columbia and decided to attend here.

The Chronicle: What’s your role in the music scene?

OA: I was 17 [when I started] doing mix-tapes for people on WMU’s campus, then I got connected with its campus radio station. I was a radio [disc jockey] before I even

touched turntables. I did that for a year. For my 21st birthday I bought myself [a] pair of CD turntables, and when I got to Chicago I switched to vinyl.

The Chronicle: Do you like turntables more than radio?

OA: I do. It’s a different feel, you’re interacting with people more directly and you get to see your audience. You see the response versus guessing, “If I play this song, are they going to love it?”

The Chronicle: If you spin music, why didn’t you major in music?

OA: Deejaying is more of a hobby than something I see as a lifelong career. It’s something I enjoy doing, and I’m able to get paid for it. I have a love for music and I enjoy playing music and watching people[’s] reactions, but the advertising art direction major has an element of art and design and the passion I have for advertising. It was a matter of choosing something I felt was going to be a more stable career versus deejaying … it wasn’t something I wanted to gamble on as far as a future.

The Chronicle: How did you get involved with campus events?

OA: When I first got out here, I started talking and got connected with some of the organizations and pushed myself as a product. “Hey if you got an event coming up, let me deejay your event.” So I kept sticking in people’s ears, [telling them] I’ll do it for whatever they can afford. I was always available. Sometimes I would get a last-minute call, that’s how it started. No matter how big or small the event was [I was there]. Because I’ve been so consistent, it’s like a collaboration that’s built in. If [someone on campus] needs a DJ they will offer it to me,[because] they know I’m someone they can trust.

The Chronicle: How did you get involved with the Black Student Union?

OA: When I first got to Columbia, there weren’t many black people in my classes, so I was trying to figure out where all the black students hang out at. I went to the Multicultural [Affairs] Office and found out about the Black Student Union. I got involved with whatever events [it was] doing. It was a way for me to connect with people to deejay. I was like, “Let me connect with an organization, I’m sure they do events or parties and they will need a DJ.” It was like if I’m already in the organization, it would be a logical choice to just use me.

The Chronicle: How did you become president of BSU?

OA: I became treasurer and from there, when elections came back up, I had done a lot of work and shown results. I ran for the position and was voted in. This is my second year.

The Chronicle: What advice do you have for students who want to brand themselves?

OA: Get a good understanding of who your market is going to be. Find people who are within your age group so you can have an audience that grows with you. It was harder to break into the Chicago scene than it was on campus because those were people who had a set way of thinking and what they like. But younger groups are into experimenting with different sounds, staying consistent and [being] professional. People always say you have a great lifestyle: “DJs get to drink and play music all night.” Don’t go to events drunk and don’t get drunk at events.

The Chronicle: Are you involved with any other organizations?

OA: I’m a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. I volunteer with different organizations, [such as] Saint Sabina Church giving clothes to Catholic charities. We held a fundraising event, the Taste of Omega, that goes toward a scholarship we give out every year. When I was coming up, a lot of the men who help mentor me were members of Omega Psi Phi, so that type of bond made me join that organization. Pretty much black Greek letter organizations are built on community service, so it was a matter of choosing that one and it was a better fit for me.