Entertainment

D-Nice talks about his three-night residency at The Kennedy Center



In 2020, when COVID-19 shut the world down, and society’s outlook was dire, one man stepped up. This unexpected hero gave the people hope, serenity, and positive energy. That hero was Derrick “D-Nice” Jones. 

It’s been three years since D-Nice opened Club Quarantine (CQ) online, injecting viewers with nostalgia and fun. He’s since taken the CQ show on the road, making people dance live in places like the White House, the Hollywood Bowl, and Carnegie Hall. 

From Oct. 6–8, D-Nice has a residency at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Each night has a different theme: comedy on Friday, R&B and hip-hop on Saturday, and gospel on Sunday. D-Nice spoke with theGrio about the residency, working with a live band, and what he misses most about CQ online.

D-Nice works his magic at “MusiCares: Music On A Mission” online celebration and fundraiser during the 63rd annual Grammy Awards in March 2021. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images The Recording Academy)

The first night of the residency is the “CQ Comedy Showcase.” It will feature a lineup of stand-up comedians D-Nice curated: Chris Spencer, Michael Che, Sherri Shepherd, and Gina Yashere, with Tisha Campbell as host. D-Nice is best known for playing music but says comedy was essential to Club Quarantine’s early days.

“You circle back to the pandemic, during that lockdown, I did things that were either funny or I had these characters, like Chinchilla Jones,” D-Nice told theGrio. “It would always like to add a level of fun to it because we were all stuck at home.”

The Saturday show will feature an eclectic line-up of R&B and hip-hop artists, including Camp Lo, Frédéric Yonnet, Jadakiss, Kem, Machel Montano, MC Lyte, Muni Long, Shanice, Tracie Spencer, and Vin Rock of Naughty by Nature. 

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Enhancing night two of the CQ Live experience is the Revive Big Band and Orchestra, with trumpeter-composer Igmar Thomas as leader and conductor. Thomas’ Revive Big Band has blazed the New York jazz scene trail for over a decade, fusing big band and hip-hop, playing behind Busta Rhymes and touring with Lauryn Hill.

After D-Nice worked with orchestras for Baltimore and Miami shows, his tour manager suggested working with Thomas, and their partnership sparked after a chance meeting at an airport. 

“I was like, Oh my gosh, I was just talking about you a few days ago,” D-Nice said about Thomas. “I’d love to chat with you about what I’m doing. The conversation was just great. He is now my brother. We’ve done multiple shows together.”

DJ D-Nice thegrio.com
D-Nice spins at the Lumiere De Vie Hommes Launch Event Aboard Superyacht Utopia IV on Oct. 13, 2018, in New York City. (Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Lumiere De Vie Hommes)

With Thomas and the Revive Big Band providing dense instrumentation and intricate arrangements for the guests’ songs, D-Nice said that his chemistry with Thomas helps give the songs a new life.

“When we get together, it’s always one of the most amazing experiences, especially for the artist,” D-Nice said of the Revive Big Band. “A lot of artists have never heard their music this way with full orchestration. And like to hear for the first time, they’re like, ‘Whoa, this is incredible!’”

For the final day of the residency, “CQ Praise and Worship” will bring together a who’s who of gospel artists including Bishop Hezekiah Walker, Anthony Brown and group therAPy, and J.J. Hairston. In the past, D-Nice has often juxtaposed gospel singers with R&B artists and MCs for Club Quarantine Live. He said he was apprehensive about including gospel music at first. 

“I was afraid to play it because I think now people only know me for hip-hop,” D-Nice said. “They don’t know that I love to play gospel.” However, when he started playing gospel music on Sundays, live chat comments from artists like Fred Hammond and Ty Tribbett affirmed that he was doing the right thing. 

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“It’s just been like this amazing feeling to have no boundaries when it comes to the love of music and God and spirituality and community,” D-Nice said. “We had no boundaries when we were locked down. We all loved each other. So, why not celebrate that same way now that the world is real? That’s why it’s been extremely important for me to be inclusive of gospel artists, and God, and artists creating spiritual music.”

With the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, the live iteration of Club Quarantine is going strong all over the nation. However, there’s one element of the online version that D-Nice wishes he still had: “I miss the comments.”

Global Citizen Festival 2023
D-Nice performs onstage during “Global Citizen Festival 2023” on Sept. 23, 2023, at Central Park on Sept. 23, 2023, in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Global Citizen)

The community engagement in the live chat and comment sections on D-Nice’s Instagram Live made Club Quarantine such a phenomenon. 

“What was important about CQ and what helped people get through a dark time wasn’t just the music. It was the community, and it was the comments. We read those comments while we were dancing, and we laughed. When have you ever been able to communicate with Rihanna and talk to your homeboy in the same virtual party?”

D-Nice said he plans to incorporate a live chat element on a big screen for future Club Quarantine live performances. In the meantime, his Kennedy Center residency is the perfect microcosm of what made Club Quarantine the transformative online event it was during the pandemic and the live musical and entertainment force it is today. 

“Between laughter and dance and praising, that’s what got us through.”

Matthew Allen is an entertainment writer of music and culture for theGrio. He is an award-winning music journalist, TV producer and director based in Brooklyn, NY. He’s interviewed the likes of Quincy Jones, Jill Scott, Smokey Robinson and more for publications such as Ebony, Jet, The Root, Village Voice, Wax Poetics, Revive Music, Okayplayer, and Soulhead. His video work can be seen on PBS/All Arts, Brooklyn Free Speech TV and BRIC TV.

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