If you’ve been to a Reach Records artist show recently and thought “wow, those boys put on a GREAT show!” then there is a person you can thank for that experience. That’s the legendary DJ Official. He works with the artists and bands to craft a great live experience, and also mans the 1’s and 2’s on stage with them much of the time. He’s been a part of the fabric of the Christian Hip Hop scene as a producer and DJ for 12 years. He’s crafted hits for The Ambassador, Da’ T.R.U.T.H., Lecrae and many more during that time span. He’s a Stellar, Dove and Grammy Award winning producer. He’s traveled and rocked crowds from Alabama to Abu Dhabi. He has been the DJ spinning the records that helped shaped a movement. And while he’s been doing all of that, for the last 3 years DJ Official has been battling a rare form cancer & a rare form of emphysema.
Let me take a break before we dig too deep into DJ Official’s story. This story isn’t designed to make you cry or to feel sorry him. He’d never want that and neither would I. Rather, it is designed to encourage you as you push to do what you do while simultaneously facing challenges. It is to show you what it looks like push beyond your excuses, even good excuses, to accomplish what you feel God has put in your heart and to see what it looks like to love and honor Him in the midst of pain, loss and uncertainty.
After being diagnosed 3 years ago with the ultra rare form of cancer called Multiple Myeloma (also called Light Chains Disease) it would have made sense for DJ Official to quit music, stop honoring the Lord with his gift, pack it in and take care of himself. It would have made even more sense for the musician to retire when he also got diagnosed with a rare form of emphysema – especially for someone who never smoked or worked in dust filled construction sites. The cancer, a type that exists in the blood plasma, and its treatment would have been enough to send many of us packing. The emphysema, which is so severe it leaves him out of breath if he’s doing any movement at all, would alone also be enough to take a traveling musician off the road. I watched on one April night after a show he and Lecrae did in Massachusetts as he tried to navigate 3 flights of stairs. Every flight of stairs left him gasping for air as if he’d just tried to race Usain Bolt. But he had to navigate the stairs because at the top was the room that contained the nebulizer treatments he needed to take to get his strength back in his lungs. This event wasn’t necessarily unique to this event as he lives in a 3 story home back in Philly. Its a daily struggle for DJ Official.
How does a person continue to serve God in this capacity with such debilitating issues? Official says there are four things that get him through: “The Lord, His Word, His people and rest!” The people, he says, are a huge help for him because they care for him. If you follow him on Twitter, then you saw that this summer he took a break from traveling. The work was taking such a toll on him, it was effecting him both mentally and physically. He was burning out. So Lecrae and the Reach staff pushed him to take the summer off. To a great cost to themselves as they had already booked flights and hotel rooms for all of their summer dates. The cost didn’t matter. They cared for Official not as a DJ but as friend and family in the Lord. He has people in his corner that care for him and he fights to not take that for granted. The encouragement from them motivates him.
He also takes the bulk of the encouragement from God and His Word. A regular rhythm of scripture reading and daily prayer fuels him inwardly. While he admits that he’s not always encouraged every single moment, God always seems to find a way to grab his attention again. During one of the tough times, he had the opportunity to briefly talk with Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church and brain cancer survivor. Chandler told him something that he found deep encouragement from, especially considering they came from a fellow cancer survivor and one who understood that type of suffering. “He told me this is the way the Lord chose to love me and chose to use me. People will be blessed by you through this.” Knowing that the Lord would still love him and use him in this situation, he regained the faith he needed to press on some more.
When I asked him what he would say to people who are fighting to persevere he offered some advice regarding the last thing that gets him through. “Know your limits. Know where you can push and know where you can’t. Your mind will always want to quit before your body, but know your limits. Push, but in your pushing there has to be a time when you rest. You have to stop sometimes. For me I know I can’t be bouncing around on stage. But the Lord has been gracious to me. I haven’t collapsed on stage yet” he said with a laugh.
Now that his cancer has been in remission for 2 years, he is currently in the next phase of his treatment. He’s being prepped for much needed bone marrow transplant. While this transplant is potentially a life saving procedure, it will keep him out of commission for the next 6 months. That means no traveling for that period of time. For the traveling musician, no traveling = no paychecks to pay mortgage, lights, food, kids clothes, etc. You can help with that if you so feel compelled. You can donate to a fund that will help his family get through the tough parts of recovery. Visit, blessthedj.com and read more about his recovery and how you can help.
** UPDATE ** It was announced the $20,000 goal for DJ Official’s expenses has been hit as of today! Feel free to bless Official and his family financially and to shower them with encouragement and prayers!