DJ Booth: DJ CJ brings house, hip hop, R&B to campus party scene

Safiyah Anwar-Chuku

DJ CJ mixes various music genres influenced by his dad in his sets. (Photo courtesy of Nasir Grissom.)

DJing flows through the veins of New Jersey native C.J. Vilfort ’24, better known as DJ CJ. Vilfort’s father, who is also a DJ, grew up in Queens, N.Y., during the advent of hip-hop in the 1970s and 1980s. By exposing him to the music of Eric B. & Rakim, LL Cool J, and Run-DMC, Vilfort’s father cultivated his love of music, particularly hip-hop. 

“I watched him as I grew up, mixing music and seeing how he made these pieces into something new, something unique that told a story — he told his own story, “ Vilfort said. “I loved that about music and mixing, and I decided to run with it myself.” 

When he was 12, Vilfort received his first turntable. Growing up with an experienced DJ mentor allowed him to play around with his technique and personal DJ style. “[Using the turntable] was really experimental as I became more familiar with the hardware and how to be in control of music,” he said. 

Although Vilfort had DJed a few parties by senior year of high school, he did not formally consider himself a DJ.

“I [DJed] a couple of times in high school and then stopped doing it because I really didn’t take it seriously,” Vilfort said. “I just thought it was fun to play music for people.” 

During his first year at the College, he said that the pandemic affected his participation in the social scene. To remedy the social isolation Vilfort was experiencing, he turned to DJing. “I would have my turntable in my room and I would just mess around with that,” he said. “I think music has always been a safe space for me — somewhere I could find myself. And I really relied on that during my freshman year to get me through the lockdown.” 

Last year, during Brooks House’s weekly party, “Brooks Thursday,” Vilfort reentered the DJ scene — this time, formally as DJ CJ. His campus debut was met with high praise and, according to him, put campus DJs on the map. 

“There were a ton of people in that sweaty basement just moshing to whatever I was playing,” Vilfort explained. “From there, people started talking about [the party] — they had never seen a DJ on campus control the party like that.” 

Thanks to Brooks Thursday, Vilfort was inspired to see where he could take his DJ career on campus. “I really appreciated that people appreciated what I was doing,” he said. “It made me want to give more of myself to the community in terms of creating spaces for people to enjoy themselves through music.” 

Vilfort lives by the saying “work hard, play hard.” He hopes that his DJ sets provide students with an opportunity to unwind on the weekends after a stressful week. “People work day in, day out at this school,” he said, “I tried to make something that people can enjoy — people don’t have to dread trying to find a place to spend their weekend by having a solid option every weekend.” 

Additionally, Vilfort aims to foster inclusivity through his DJing. He wants students who may not feel welcome to popular party spots to feel included. “I really try to make it something inclusive, something for everybody,” he said. “I can definitely see how people might not want to be in 71, getting stomped on by athletes all night.” 

Vilfort tries not to limit the musical styles he plays in his DJ sets. “I feel like there’s no limit to what you can do in music,” he said. “You can mix whatever genre. I’ve done a House set, and I do Caribbean and Afro beats, hip-hop, and R&B.” 

His diverse music taste has enabled him to reach groups on campus he would not have reached otherwise, such as the South Asian Student Association and WCFM. This has made DJing for Vilfort not just a musical journey, but a personal one as well. 

“I’m a very reserved person, so I don’t venture out and talk very much to a lot of different people,” he said. “But this music stuff has really allowed me to experience a lot of different things and meet a lot of new people.” 

Vilfort hopes to take his DJ career beyond the College. “I feel like if I really applied myself, I could possibly continue this and make this into something lifelong,” he said. “It doesn’t even feel like a chore to me playing this music. I’m having just as much fun as the people dancing on the floor. If I could do that every day in my life, I definitely would.”