Come be yourself

click to enlarge From left, DJ Duppyy and DJ Allan. - PHOTO BY RUDY FABRE

  • PHOTO BY RUDY FABRE
  • From left, DJ Duppyy and DJ Allan.

Nightlife duo DJ Allan and DJ Duppyy projects a simple motto that says a lot about the parties they throw, whether it’s “R&B Night” or the more uptempo “Sultry Sounds” — on every promo is the phrase, “Come be yourself.”

They embodied this ethos as they sat together in the second-floor seating area of Happy Gut Sanctuary in the High Falls neighborhood. The pair was good natured and relaxed as they explained the reasoning behind their mantra.

“People come with a front — this tough-guy front, or ‘I’m cool’ front, ‘I’m the most beautiful in here’ front,’” Duppyy explained. “We want to deter that.”

Duppyy, whose real name is J.J. Inthavong, recalled a night in 2016 when he walked out of a club to stray bullets flying after a celebration of life for a friend who was killed in an act of gun violence. No one was injured or killed that night, but it stuck in his mind as an example of the behavior he doesn’t want partygoers to bring to shows. DJ Allan, whose full name is Allan Johnson, agreed.

“We don’t need people to have their guard up,” Allan said. “We don’t want them to have something to prove, like J.J. said. That’s what we’re trying to deter. We’re not trying to tell people ‘Hey, don’t come here.’ We just want you to know that when you come here, you don’t need to be something you’re not.”

click to enlarge PHOTO BY RUDY FABRE

  • PHOTO BY RUDY FABRE

Duppyy and Allan first met in 2014 as students at School of the Arts, where they both studied creative writing as their academic focus. They started working together at clubs and other venues in 2019. Both DJs enjoy playing R&B, and Allan also leans toward melodic, New Age hip-hop, while Duppyy favors amapiano, a style of South African house music with aspects of jazz and lounge.

Duppyy has noticed differences in the way he and Allan approach the music they play. “You embody the moment way better than I do,” Duppyy said to Allan. “You be livin’ it. As for me, I’m more analytical. But you just have a blast when you’re on.”

Both DJs want to elicit an emotional response from the partygoers, which can often mean going back in time. “Nostalgia is one of those emotions,” said Duppyy. “So we like to play shit that your parents were playing when you were little. When we drop it, everybody explodes.”

Swan Dive, a restaurant and bar on Alexander Street, is where Allan and Duppyy draw their largest crowds. Co-owner Paulina Swan said their goal is to book DJs who play a variety of styles, from hip-hop and amapiano to R&B, techno, and Latin music. “We also really focus on bringing in DJs who have their own signature style,” she said.

click to enlarge “People come with a front — this tough-guy front, or ‘I’m cool’ front, ‘I’m the most beautiful in here’ front,’” DJ Duppyy said. “We want to deter that.” - PHOTO BY RUDY FABRE

  • PHOTO BY RUDY FABRE
  • “People come with a front — this tough-guy front, or ‘I’m cool’ front, ‘I’m the most beautiful in here’ front,’” DJ Duppyy said. “We want to deter that.”

While the duo continues to play shows in Rochester, their ambition is to perform internationally. “We want to DJ in Toronto regularly,” Allan said. “Not a one-off thing. We really feel like our sound would fit in well out there. And our time there has inspired our sound a lot, so it’ll be full-circle if we can start working out there.”

Ultimately, they get the most enjoyment out of the music they play for each other. “It’s more fun to learn how to do it when you’re with somebody,” Allan said. “When we practice, it’s some of the most fun DJing that we do.”

Daniel J. Kushner is an arts writer at CITY. He can be reached at [email protected].

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