It was Labor Day, 2009. Closing time at Jenks Club in Point Pleasant Beach. For many clubgoers, it would be the last they'd see of the Shore until the next summer, so DJ Unique – who was spinning records that night – had to go out with a bang.
He chose to mix "It's Not Unusual" by Tom Jones with some Notorious B.I.G. But the classic Jones lyric would close out the season.
"I like to take ‘em on a ride, kind of like a rollercoaster," said the Red Bank native, who is a regular at Jenks and the Aztec in Seaside Heights. "I know once I have ‘em, I got ‘em for the night and I can go anywhere with them."
Unique is known as one of the Shore's top DJs, and a rare breed in that his mixes will often cross genres from fist-pumping house beats to the latest hip-hop to the occasional classic rock beat. Billy Joel's "Big Shot" mixed with LMFAO's "Shots" is a staple, along with DJ Class' "I'm the Ish" and generous heaps of homage paid to Brooklyn's Notorious B.I.G.
Unique got his start spinning tunes at a rollerskating rink in Monmouth County that no longer exists, but the gig led to a lifelong love of mixing music and entertaining crowds.
"That was my start and where I got the love for the game," he said.
His next stop would be Club Abyss in South Amboy, which he says "propelled me to the next level." He'd stay there as the resident DJ for the next decade.
But for Unique, the land he needed to conquer was the Shore.
"Working down the shore, people respect you a little more in the game, especially when they know where you came from," he said. "Once I proved myself as far as my music skills, people have really supported me with whatever I do."
At the Shore – from Jenks to Aztec to the House of Blues in Atlantic City – Unique said he found himself suddenly playing to demanding, but appreciative, audiences.
"People pay attention, and they do listen. I always remember that," he said.
His beats and rollercoaster-style mixes can be heard blaring from Jenks all winter long, but the summer is his time to shine and get more creative, he said.
"I get more creative in the summer time. You get to wild out a little more," he told us, adding that the Shore crowd likes a more upbeat mix, especially at a place on the beach like Jenks. "It’s the shore, so people want to party. They want to hear some good tunes, get their drink goin'. If they want to go back to a dark club, they’ll go to the city."
But Unique's signature will always be, well, his unique style behind the turntables – switching up genres, mashing up three or four songs into one, and making it look easy the whole time. Younger crowds, he said, consisting of 20-somethings who grew up downloading songs in an instant and discovering different types of music, allows him the latitude that has become his creative trademark.
"With the Internet and access to everything, people are hearing all kinds of music. Years ago when house was really big, we had crowds that went specifically for that. But now everything’s a mix. You can go 30 percent hip hop, 30 percent commercial and 40 percent house," he said. "The younger generation listens to everything."
Unique, who works with Upper Level Entertainment, spins just about every weekend at Jenks, and at Industry Night every Monday at Aztec.
As for his favorite artists: he told us it's a toss up between Guns N' Roses and the Notorious B.I.G. Truly unique, indeed.