DJ Mike Mars uses the AEBL to expose artists to new audiences
It’s an undisputed fact that the city of Atlanta produces the hottest hip-hop tracks, so it’s no surprise that AEBL fans expect the latest and greatest music while they vibe in the bleachers. Not only does DJ Mike Mars have to feed off the crowd's energy, but also follow the on-court action in order to know what to drop next.
“The only time we play R&B at an AEBL game is when you have the R&B thugs in the building. It’s more so like a skit between me and the host. We came up with this thing called “R&B thugs”. Like when I’m playing some of the hottest songs and they’re playing at their worst...I might play R&B music to let them know that we’re bored.” He explained.
For the last few years, Mike Mars has been holding down the set almost every weekend for the Atlanta Entertainment Basketball League. The League’s founder and CEO, Jahi “Jah” Rawlings, intiallity rotated DJs in and out when the AEBL began in 2013, but saw a long-term fit in Mike Mars after he noticed the chemistry he had with the host.
“About 4 or 5 years ago I was the tour DJ for Scottie ATL and he was a special guest to the AEBL and I met Jah at that moment. Jah had told me that he had been rotating DJs and seeing pretty much what weekend I was open. So I gave him a weekend and we started running from there. I was getting like once a month and then I started filling in for other DJs who couldn’t make it and he liked the way that me and Bria were corresponding with each other so it ended up being my job from that point on.” Mike Mars explained.
Mike Mars' DJing career began back when he was in college at Valdosta State University. In 2012, he began working for what is now Power 96.7.
“I spent time after I graduated down in Valdosta, Georgia learning radio. I started off as a weekend jock from 6 to 10 and I ended up moving to Monday through Friday as a full-time jock from 7 to 12.” He recalled.
Mike Mars always had a passion for music, but stumbled upon his technical skills after hanging with some industry influencers while in college.
“I was really good friends with a producer and a rapper at that time. It was a really good nucleus. That rapper was LaLa’s little brother. She was on MTV at the time and the producer was this guy named Soundz. This was right before he produced the record “Love in the Club Part II” with Beyonce and Lil Wayne. So it was us three and the fourth person, he was just a little dude at the time he just kept coming around, his name was Quentin Miller. Fast forward in time and he ends up writing “10 Bands” and “No Tellin’” for Drake and “R.I.C.O.” He recanted.
Once he realized that they could have a successful career in the music business, Mike Mars wasted no time putting in the work.
“First year in college, Diego Cash, that was LaLa's little brother's name at the time, decided he wanted to be a rapper. Soundz was already producing out of his mother's house, Quentin was already coming out with that writing, so I couldn't produce or rap at the time so DJing is what I picked up on. I went back to school and just perfected it.” He stated.
Fast forward to 2020 and diligence is paying off. Mike Mars is not only setting the tone during AEBL games, but he is also DJing at some of the livest parties and venues in the city of Atlanta. The key to his versatility is understanding his technical roles during different events.
“The AEBL games I have to pay attention to the game and pay attention to the host. The host at an AEBL game is the focal point. I’m pretty much backing her up...Pretty much my job is to make sure she is excited so it can transpire when she hosts. But DJing in a club, my job at that point is to make sure everyone is having a great time. So I have to read the crowd and pretty much have my music selected in a way that I can take them on a journey. It’s definitely a difference. Clubs are more transition oriented and AEBL basketball is more paying attention to the host. You don’t have to worry about transitions because you’re just going to bomb it out, she’s going to talk, and then you play another song. Transitions aren’t something that’s important.” He explained.
DJing AEBL games has provided Mike Mars a platform outside of the club that allows the opportunity to showcase music to a new audience that may not dabble in nightlife.
“Outside of DJing at [adult] clubs and lounges and clubs, it helps my brand in the sense of I have another way to present an artists' music. I’m known as a record breaker in the city. I do my own showcases to be able to give an artist a different light, another way to reach a wider audience...because you can have younger kids in the crowd and you can have older people in the crowd, versus just a set 21-30/35 year olds. Of course the music has to be clean, but it allows me to play their music in a wider audience if they don’t already have radio airplay. So I think that’s good for the brand.” Mars summarized.