by Rachel James-Terry
It’s a muggy late night in Dallas. Inside Sandaga 813 lounge, a healthy crowd of bodies covers the back patio. People sit on picnic tables; others blow hookah and some order to-go plates from a food station in the corner. But almost everyone is dancing.
Jason Straughter, aka Jay Clipp, is responsible for the feel-good vibe as he cranks out songs on the ones and twos – slang for turntables. Originally from Vicksburg, Straughter graduated from Jackson State University with a bachelor’s in mass communications in 2000.
“As I youth, I was always influenced by hip-hop music. It was my love of music that led to me becoming a DJ,” he said, pointing out that his inspiration was Jam Master Jay, the DJ for the iconic rap group Run DMC. The trio made Kangols, shell-toe Adidas, and tracksuits the unofficial hip-hop dress code.
“Jam Master Jay and I share the same first name, the same birthright. So I think I was destined to become a DJ,” he tells the Jacksonian, then laughs perhaps in jest. Either way, Straughter is serious about his craft.
His knack for spinning records grew at his “dear ol’ college home” where he became part of a DJ crew named Third Eye Entertainment. It was during a time when DJs carried vinyl records in milk crates and lugged around Technics 1200 turntables – a far cry from today’s era of digitization.
“When I was on the yard, I had a Mazda pickup truck, and that gave me the chance to hang out with these guys because I was able to help transport equipment so that they would get me in the parties for free,” he explained.
Straughter recalls one day practicing his mixing skills from 10 a.m. until nearly 11 p.m.
“From there, it was history. Once they saw that I was serious about doing my thing, they started to show me stuff,” he said. “I still had dues to pay. It wasn’t easy, but that’s what prompted me to get into it full time.”
Moving to Dallas in 2004, the DJ said being in a highly populated city with professional sports organizations and international appeal helped propel his career.
“In Jackson, I had pretty much exhausted everything I could have done. Moving to Dallas when I did, it was one of the best decisions that I made for myself at the time,” said Straughter, whose first major Texas gig was spinning for over 100,000 guests during Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3 tour featuring artists Young Jeezy and Trey Songz.
“I got paid very well for maybe an hour’s worth of work. That’s when I knew these opportunities were obtainable. I knew gigs like that really did exist.”
With persistence, a sound work ethic and high-caliber customer service, Straughter is reaping the rewards.
Celebrities like neo-soul singer Erykah Badu can be found among his client list. The chill-energy Straughter not only DJ’s her shows and events, but, last February, he had over 6,000 attendees rocking to his tunes at Badu’s birthday party inside the Bomb Factory located in the Deep Ellum district of Dallas.
His style was so impressive that actor Jada Pinkett Smith sought him out to express how much she enjoyed his set.
He is also the go-to DJ for former Dallas running back and Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith and works internationally and locally with fellow DJ Spinderella of the popular ’80s hip-hop rap trio Salt-N-Pepa.
“Doing good business affords me opportunities to take my career and my DJ skills to the next level and play for some really prominent people,” he explained.
In 2014, Straughter started The Keep Spinning DJ Academy offering tier-level instruction that covers DJ history, music theory, timing, technology, techniques and much more.
The idea came to him during a class at JSU where he had the task of creating a mock business plan, but he said that he never imagined the project would become the precursor for his business.
“I knew I wanted my plan to involve children and to motivate children through music and I named it Keep Spinning. To keep spinning means to keep moving, keep evolving,” said Straughter, whose career is just such an example.