Few people can claim as many contributions to local DJ culture as DC legend Chris Stiles, aka DJ Stylus Chris, though he’s modest about tooting his own horn.
Fellow legend Chuck Koch, aka DJ Dirty Hands, however, is quick to say, “Chris’s importance to this city would take two articles. As a deejay, his knowledge of music is crazy. As a store owner, he helped preserve the art of the deejay. As a promoter, we had one of the hottest DC parties ever, called Soul Camp.”
Born and raised in Northern Virginia, Stiles discovered hip-hop in the early ‘80s while roller skating with an uncle. At the rinks, Stiles says, “You’d hear Hall & Oates, Pink Floyd, then the Sugarhill Gang.”
In the mid-‘80s, “when b-boying exploded,” Stiles started buying hip-hop records. “Herbie Hancock’s ‘Rockit’ changed it all,” he says. “The video was the first time I was really exposed to scratching — the most amazing thing I’d ever seen.” Stiles busted several of his parents’ turntables trying it at home. “I didn’t understand it was a different kind of turntable,” he laughs.
B-boys “wanted to write graffiti, dance, rhyme, DJ — do it all,” Stiles explains. “You always were trying to express yourself through all the elements of hip-hop.” He played basketball as a Herndon High School freshman, then at Chancellor, but lost interest “when I started going to DC clubs on the weekends.”
After graduating in 1992, Stiles moved to Baltimore and threw club and warehouse parties. “Scott Henry (renowned Buzz and Fever promoter) gave me one of my first jobs in promotion” arranging bus trips to out-of-town raves on weekends.
One night at a New York club called Caffeine, “I was dancing and Lady Miss Kier and Dmitry from Deee-Lite approached and said, ‘Hey, we like how you dance.’” In 1993 they moved Stiles to New York, had him choreograph songs for their “Dewdrops in the Garden” album, nicknamed him “Noodles,” and hired him as a dancer for their world tour.
Stiles returned to DC in 1996, and with partners threw legendary underground parties including Pollen and Nectar, the hip-hop Soul Camp, and one-offs like Bionic Buddha, which booked a 16-year-old unknown named Craze, whose turntablism skills were dropping jaws in Miami.
Last year, while Stiles and Craze were deejaying together in Las Vegas, the now three-time DMC World Champion told him, “I’ll never forget you were the first to give me a gig outside of Miami.”
In 1997 Chris became hip-hop buyer for 12 Inch Records. DMC got wind of Stiles’ events and recruited him to throw the annual DMC DC regionalx, which led to hosting the 2003 U.S. Finals. In 2002, when 12 Inch’s lease was up, the owner retired and Chris and some partners opened DJ Hut.
During its heyday, the now closed DJ Hut was more than a record store. “For so many deejays, two hours at the store picking out records was the highlight of their week,” Stiles recalls. “I really enjoyed providing a service and seeing how much it meant.” Grandmaster Flash, Grand Wizard Theodore, Biz Markie, Common, Dilated Peoples, Doc Martin and Eric Hilton were among the luminaries who came through.
Stiles also made his mark as half of rap duo Defined Print, whose 2001 single “My Library” was played on ESPN’s X Games; as a resident DJ at Las Vegas’ Eyecandy at Mandalay Bay Hotel; and as the Washington Nationals DJ. “It’s really fun seeing people come into the stadium and start dancing. Little kids love watching the turntables and mixer. You see on their faces, they’re like ‘I want to do this, too.’”
Now DC’s go-to guy for event and club consulting, Stiles is excited to be developing a DJ program with turntablist Geometrix for the Bach to Rock music school chain, set to launch at the Bethesda campus in April. “We’re really amped up to get it going and hopefully create the next superstar deejays.”
The stylin’ DJ known for sharp kicks and hats celebrates nine years at his Friday night residency at Modern come July. “Modern is a diverse crowd that keeps me on my toes,” he says. His Saturday nights at Current are “a bit more hands in the air, energetic start to end,” and sometimes include saxophonist Natty Rico or percussionist Names jamming along.
Once a month, Stiles plays trendy Metro! in Roanoke, Va., where Owner/Chef Andy Schlosser says, “Chris is the quintessential party DJ. His rapid-fire style pours it on. Chris has made a huge impact on Roanoke nightlife.”
Which affirms Dirty Hands’ props for Stylus Chris: “This city wouldn’t be the same without him.”
For more information on DJ Stylus Chris, visit www.myspace.com/styluschris.