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How DJ D-Nice and #ClubQuarantine gave us a reason to dance again

D-Nice DJing Sophia Chang's book release party last September. Now he rocks the party from his kitchen on Instagram. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Audible)
D-Nice DJing Sophia Chang's book release party last September. Now he rocks the party from his kitchen on Instagram. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Audible)Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Audible

On Saturday night, I danced. I partied alongside Michelle Obama and Oprah and my president, Rihanna.

It wasn’t a dream. And I didn’t have to leave my living room. This is how we party in the age of coronavirus: online. All week long, DJ D-Nice and his collection of gorgeous hats have been hosting “Homeschool,” social distancing Instagram live parties from his kitchen in California. Naomi Campbell has been to every single jam.

But on Saturday, the party started at 5 p.m. and carried on into the early hours of Sunday morning. At one point, there were over 100,000 people tuned in, singing and dancing from their homes. We used emojis to lift our glasses and put our hands in the air. A lot of us were up on our actual feet, partying with our new friends.

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“We are one,” Lenny Kravitz commented.

He’s right. We might be alone, but we’re together in this pandemic. It is a tragic equalizer. We might not all have the same riches or privileges, but no one is immune to coronavirus. We’re all looking for a small reprieve from the heartache.

Maybe that’s why politicians joined the party: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Stacey Abrams, Corey Booker, and Julián Castro, too.

I wonder which song made them hop out their seats? Was it “Square Biz” by Teena Marie or “Cool it Now,” by Roxbury’s New Edition? Did they beatbox when D-Nice played “The Show” by Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick?

Bostonians like Donnie Wahlberg, BBD, and Bobby Brown were there. The celebrity drop-ins were endless: Missy Elliott, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Will Smith, Ellen, Jimmy Fallon, Steph Curry, Magic Johnson, Naomi Campbell, Diddy, and many more. Mark Zuckerberg rocked with us, too.

All of us are isolating. Some of us can’t get home. And we are mourning.

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We grieve for the lives we used to live, the lives that will never be the same, and the people who won’t make it out this pandemic alive. We might be dancing alongside one of them. The truth: one of them could be us.

On Saturday, Massachusetts authorities announced more than 100 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, bringing the state total to 525. A second Massachusetts resident died from COVID-19 related illness. And Italy announced 793 more deaths and 6,557 new cases.

We’re scared. And a vaccine may be a year or more away. We don’t know how long we’ll live like this. I’ve cried. I’ve raged. I’ve gone numb. I’ll feel those things again, too.

But we’re still here, with the rest of the world, and for the lives we still have, there is gratitude.

D-Nice is reminding us of that blessing: to live, to be able to lose ourselves, or in this case, find ourselves in songs like “Love’s in Need of Love Today,” by Stevie Wonder. (He was there, too.)

Best known as a member of hip-hop group and pioneers Boogie Down Productions, D-Nice is also a photographer and DJ. He’s the resident Essence Fest DJ, and DJ’d the last house party hosted by President Obama and first lady Michelle at the White House in 2016. Now, he’s the official Quarantine DJ.

Logging on to that virtual dance floor, knowing my friend Chris was watching from his couch in Dorchester, Priscella was watching in Quincy, hearing a message from fam in D.C. and hearing D-Nice blasting in the background, while seeing my favorites like Ava DuVernay and Janet Jackson check-in to the party? It was cathartic.

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“I just wanted to do something that provided a little love for people in this hard time for people who are at home and can’t get out or be with their family,” D-Nice said to all of us, noting his own loneliness. He missed playing for people.

And just like Lenny Kravitz said earlier, “We are One." D-Nice later played “We Are One,” by Maze featuring Frankie Beverly.

We are one, no matter what we do

We are one, love will see us through

We are one, and that’s the way it is

Music is our universal connector. It allows us to breathe, to sing, to dance, to celebrate. It cuts through our burdens with joy. It draws us out of our pain, if only for a moment.

In 2020, CDs feeI like ancient artifacts. But there’s one I keep in my car and always will for as long as I drive: “The Blueprint” by Jay-Z. It came out on Sept. 11, 2001.

I couldn’t get in touch with my family, many of whom live and work near the Pentagon. Phone lines were down. I was an intern at The Kansas City Star covering music and style. I’d just got off a plane from Disney World the night before and woke up to our country exploding. Everything was out of my control. I wailed. I bought a copy of “The Blueprint.” Those soul-samples were medicinal. And I clung to them like a security blanket.

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It’s happening again. Our world is shattering. We’re going to lose people. And music won’t save us from the long suffering ahead. But it will soothe us. There’s always been solace in songs, redemption in dance, a reminder of our energy. It’s why, on Wednesday, there was a Netflix Twitter watch party for Beyoncé's Homecoming. It’s why, all week long, thousands of people have logged on to Instagram to a virtual party. It’s why D-Nice stands in his kitchen over his Serato and a catalog of music that transcends generations and plays a work shift for us. Last night he played for 9 hours straight. At 1:55 a.m. as the last song played, there were 47,000 people tuned in. He plans to do it again at 6 p.m. Sunday.

“We’re going to figure out how to get through this together,” D-Nice told the crowd. “We are here trying to not contract coronavirus.”

Staying at home to save our lives sounds easy enough. But here in Boston, where the streets are bare and everything is cancelled, the silence screams the way drivers used to.

It’s hard. It’s heartbreaking. And it’s just the beginning.

But last night? Last night a DJ saved our lives.

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I never would’ve imagined that the best party I would create and DJ would be from the comfort of my own home. Homeschool is a thing! Yesterday was absolutely insane. The amount of artists and friends that virtually partied with me far exceeded my expectations. I’m feeling nothing but gratitude. 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽 Thanks to all of you that supported. This has been a great way to keep our spirits high. Blessings! Sending some love to my family. Shout out to all of my industry execs! Much love to all of the artists! JLo, Drake, Naomi Campbell, De La Soul, Black Thought, Diddy, Bun B., Keri Hilson, Will Packer, Gabrielle Union, H.E.R., America Ferrara, Donnie Wahlberg, Uncle Luke, Russell Simmons, Dapper Dan, Rob Morgan, Mary J. Blige, DJ Khaled, T.I., Kelly Rowland, Common, Lance Gross, Queen Latifah, DJ Clark Kent, Rich Medina, DJ Tony Touch, Stretch Armstrong, Traci Ellis Ross, Ne-Yo, Usher, DJ Premier, Swizz Beatz, NO I.D., Yvette Noel Schure, Erykah Badu, Fat Joe, Jay Electronica, PNB Rock, Nile Rogers, Fonzworth Bentley, Marisa Tomei, Michelle Williams, Victor Cruz, Karruenche Tran, Ciara, Daymond John, Angie Martinez, Groove Theory’s Bryce, Tank, Cam’ron, Ludacris, Fabolous, Dorian Missick, Yvette Nicole Brown, Tasha Smith, Jadakiss, Kwamé, Chris Spencer, Royale Watkins, Estelle, Bresha Webb, Jermaine Dupri, Vanessa Williams, DJ Aktive, Lee Daniels, Affion Crockett, MC Lyte, Ro James, D-Dot Angelette, Kenny Burns, Tika Sumpter, Marlon Wayans, Lauren London, Loni Love, Dallas Austin, June Ambrose, April Walker, Just Blaze, Kangol Kid from UTFO, Omar Epps, Keisha Epps, Roland Martin, Big Tigger, DJ Trauma, Lil Jon, Dule Hill, Jazmyn Simon, DJ Cassidy, Marsai Martin, Lance Gross, Anthony Hamilton, Young Guru, Lalah Hathaway, Carl Payne, Damien Hall, Denyce Lawton, Lennox Lewis, Niecy Nash, Mashonda, Erick Sermon, Jairobi, DJ Envy, DJ Enuff, Miles Brown, Lamann Rucker, Mark Brown, DJ VLuv, and more. Wow! #DNiceHomeschool #DNicePhotography #SelfPortrait.

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Jeneé Osterheldt can be reached at jenee.osterheldt@globe.com and on Twitter @sincerelyjenee