DJ Damage is a radio star with a face made for television, so it comes as no surprise that after graduating in 2011 with a degree in broadcasting, telecommunications and mass media, he’s taken on a gig as one of the new hosts for one of BET’s most popular programs, “106 & Park.”
A native of North Philadelphia, DJ Damage, born Abdul-Quddas Muhammad, has slowly been working his way into the music scene.
“I went to college knowing what I wanted to do,” said Muhammad, 22. “And I knew I wanted to network above everything. So I started doing a lot of things early that people probably do after college.”
At 20 years old, Muhammad was living a dream beyond the realm of what an average student could even fathom.
“Really, it’s pure talent,” Muhammad said. “I come from a DJ city. A lot of people do it for the girls or just for fun, but I really took it serious.”
Muhammad has been turning his passion for music into an art for the past 10 years. After starting a rap group with his brother, a rapper known as FESE, then 12-year-old Muhammad realized he had no future in rap, so he turned his attention to the next best thing: DJ-ing.
With the help of his good friend and classmate DJ Young Shizz, Muhammad said he put his time and energy into polishing his skills on the ones and twos. That same winter, he received his first set of turntables from his mother. Following in the footsteps of influences like DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Touchtone and DJ Jay-Ski, he began to take the world of DJ-ing by storm.
Refusing to miss a beat, Muhammad said he ensured his visibility in the scene by grabbing gigs where he could, all while building a brand that includes a show on WHIP Radio, an entertainment group called Stay-Wit-It Entertainment, the Kollateral Damage College Tour featuring Meek Mill and a Web series, “The Damage Report.”
Muhammad said “106 & Park” reached out to him because of his diligence to stay relevant and successful branding. Next thing he knew, he was in the national spotlight.
“It really didn’t hit me at first until about the third time,” Muhammad said. “[Because it was live] I didn’t get to see it until we did one pre-recorded show and then I got to see it and understand how big it was to see myself on a national television program.”
It wasn’t long before it was announced that he, along with a few other DJs, were official correspondents for the hit show. And although this story has a happy ending, things weren’t always so glamorous for the music aficionado.
His upbringing in North Philadelphia led him down paths he said he isn’t necessarily proud of, but Muhammad said his time at Girard College and eventual success at Temple shaped him into the well-rounded go-getter he is today.
It has also inspired him to reach out to the youth in Philadelphia who stand in the very spot he stood in just years before. After being invited by the mayor to a brunch for young, African-American leaders, he realized how much positive influence existed in the community, and was determined to spread that influence to the kids. He set out on a tour of his own in the fall of 2011, the All Hamm DJ Damage Back to School Tour.
“I was just there five years ago in high school so I know what they’re going through and I know what they’re thinking,” Muhammad said. “They’ve just got the wrong mindset for the real world. It’s not cool to be ignorant to the things going on around you. So I’m trying to go out there as a person they look up to and really explain it to them, rather than having a teacher who they feel wouldn’t really care about them.”
His efforts have been covered by CNN and have led to his speaking on different panels to youth. The mayor extended an invitation to continue his tour in the spring. His words aren’t meant just for younger kids, but for college students, as well. He encourages everyone to network, build connections and relationships, be passionate and really put themselves out there. This formula has proven successful for Muhammad.
With a slew of DJs in the area, Muhammad has never even come close to getting lost in the mix. Unlike other DJs, Muhammad gets his music simply by talking to people, going to parties and figuring out what it is people are listening to. Although his life revolves around music, he doesn’t even own an iPod.
“I don’t listen to music casually anymore like I used to,” Muhammad said. “I don’t even have my own liking for a lot of stuff anymore. I just like what the people like.”
His ability to throw himself into his art, pursue his dreams with tenacity and remain humble and dedicated to his community are just some of Muhammad’s attributes. Without a doubt, he’s only skimmed the surface and has a lot more havoc to wreak on the industry.
Maryline Dossou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.