For over a decade, Dallas’ Will Rhoten aka DJ Sober has played a major role in shaping the city’s music scene. The DJ, producer and illustrator is disrupting Dallas culture in the best way, weaving hip-hop and deep Dallas rap to R&B and house into a sure fire dance party wherever he goes – ultimately and undeniably uniting people on the dance floor. From his days working with DJs Select and Nature as a supergroup known as The Party!, to spinning at Cowboys games and private events for Dallas legends like Erykah Badu and Dirk Nowitski, to mixing for the masses at his weekly Big Bang! residency at Beauty Bar – wherever DJ Sober’s at is where you want to be. His innate ability to essentially make a function, through his music and connections, lead to the formation of Them Two Productions, DJ Sober’s latest endeavor started with his manager Rosalinda Ruiz. We caught up with him in Dallas on the cusp of the first Them Two produced event, Leon Bridge’s Birthday Bash, at It’ll Do Club. We learned a lot about the Dallas music scene that weekend – that Leon Bridges will get down on the dance floor with anyone and everyone, that DJ Sober is steering soirees in Dallas and beyond, and that Them Two Productions is an outfit destined for greatness.
Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do. How did you get the name “DJ Sober”?
I am Will Rhoten aka DJ Sober or Sobes. The name Sober was suggested to me as a graffiti name by a friend because I didn’t drink. I liked it and started developing basic lettering skills. When I DJed my first house party, the people throwing it asked me what my DJ name was for the flyer. I didn’t have one, so I just went with Sober, seeing how people called my parents’ house asking for Sober. I went with it, and it stuck.
Tell us about some of your most memorable projects/experiences you’ve worked on/artists you’ve collaborated with over the years.
I’ve gotten to open up for a lot of my musical idols, like Jazzy Jeff, Devin The Dude, Snoop, Wu-Tang, Rakim. I’ve played shows with Hip-Hop legends and have toured a few times. I’d say DJing Bun B’s set, Dirk Nowitski’s wedding, Erykah Badu’s birthday party and the years (’06 – ’09) with my former DJ crew – The Party – all stand out.
Talk to us about the Dallas scene – historically as you’ve seen it grow and change vs what’s happening right now. What’s made you stay predominantly in this city/build it up over the years?
I started really making moves in Dallas with my crew The Party in 2006. Along with DJs Select and Nature, we offered the Dallas nightlife something new and fresh and introduced open format (playing multiple genres) to the club scene. A lot of folks that still come out to my parties met years ago at those “legendary” The Party nights. When the other two guys moved out of Dallas, I took it upon myself to keep the momentum going and to keep building in the city. I am very fortunate to be a full-time creative and to have the love and support I have in Dallas. The scene here is great and it’s only getting bigger!
How did your production outfit, Them Two, get started with your manager Rosalinda? What’s the vision for it moving forward?
Ro and I work closely together on so many creative projects. We are both Geminis and super creative and meticulous with everything we do. We’re constantly coming up with ideas and can’t help but look at something and immediately see how we’d put our spin on it or make improvements. Our venture “Them Two” is an avenue to put our style and touch on projects.
Can you tell us a bit about your background in design as well? Is that a creative muscle you will get to flex more through Them Two? Is there a particular aesthetic you’re pursuing or is that more on an event by event basis? What connections or crossover do you see between design & dj-ing?
I have drawn / illustrated and have been into art for as long as I can remember. Design is something I’ve always been passionate about. Ro is not an illustrator but has design skills and an eye for formatting and layout. I think we work really great together in terms of bouncing ideas off of each other, finding other creatives to work with and coming up with an end product we are both really happy with. In terms of style, I’d say I aim to give each project its own aesthetic within a set of style parameters I’ve developed / grown to like over the years. I cater my DJ sets to fit the vibe of the event and do the same with design.
Can you explain how the first Them Two produced event, Leon Bridges’ birthday bash, transpired? What was the thought behind this party – the stylistic choices in venue, music, etc. – and is this the model you plan to follow for Them Two events moving forward?
The Leon event happened very organically. After my all R&B party – Satin Sheets – that took place this Valentine’s night at It’ll Do, Leon asked if we could work together on something. One Thursday after Beauty Bar, he invited me to lunch in Ft. Worth and we discussed a birthday bash. Rosa and I locked down the venue and planned / executed every aspect of the event from the art to the decorations to the ticketing to the cake and music. The event was so much fun to plan and turned out great. I’m thankful that Leon put his trust in us and allowed us to intro Them Two to the world in such a proper fashion. We’re not aiming to be event planners, but we’re open to taking on any projects we believe in and think we can put our spin on.
Where do you think the Dallas music scene is headed and how do you hope your music/Them Two will continue to shape it?
I think the Dallas music scene is a great incubator for talent. We have some of the most creative individuals in the game and the scene has grown so much over the past 10 years, especially within the past 4 or so. More people are moving to Dallas, which grows the scene exponentially. More artists are exploring and connecting with other creatives and business minds inside and outside of the city, which is great and also necessary. I hope the moves I make in and outside of the city inspire other creatives to keep working toward their endeavors. I hope what Them Two accomplishes will do the same, because we have some really big goals.
What does the South mean to you and how does it impact your work?
The South is where I’m from, so it definitely has impact on my DJ style. I think DJs from the south have a certain energy that other places don’t have. We were rocking southern Hip-Hop sets when our music was regional and now our sound is global. I think being from the South affects my ear and how I approach rocking a party. I don’t just want head nods; I want bodies to move. I’m happy to be from a place that has its own musical culture that has influenced the world. “The South got something to say.”