For anyone who has ever been to a well-planned wedding, dysfunctional homecoming dance or seedy nightclub, one factor remains a driving force in the success of all these events — music.
The right song can turn a moment into a cinematic memory or a tarnished spot in time. No one knows this more than local DJ Charles Breeze. Born in Akron, Ohio, and raised in Monrovia, Liberia, Breeze, who goes by the moniker DJ Swift, has turned his passion for music into his profession as an established Lincoln DJ.
“Learning new things about how to manipulate music and different types of music is something that I really love,” Swift said. “I also love to interact with people whether it be just talking music, or whatever the case is, I feel like it brings a certain communication with people.”
Along with local clubs, events and a designated time slot on the local radio station Red 94.5, Swift also DJ’s pool parties at Latitude apartments, just off of 11th and N streets.
“Latitude reminds me of a Sunday Funday in Vegas, and that’s the scene that I see in my head and the scene that I try to create,” Swift said. “There are different things you can do with the pool area of Latitude. It’s up, you can see down, and it can be like a little mini Vegas for the kids in the building.”
Swift began spinning records around 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri, when a friend who was already a DJ showed him how to mix music on the soundboard at a local club that Swift was promoting. Since then, it has been an ongoing learning process and passion, according to Swift.
After taking a two-year break from DJing to focus on his other job at Google in Kansas City, Swift moved to Lincoln. After relocating, Swift said he decided it was time to get back to doing what he enjoys most.
“When I moved here, I wanted to get back into DJing,” he said. “I got a laptop from the pawn shop on O Street and a used controller and just practiced, practiced, practiced. I wanted to be someone's DJ on the weekend, and I wanted to have my own show for the radio.”
Along with practice, Swift said that above all else, a DJ has to be aware of the crowd. According to Swift, an effective DJ needs to know which songs need to be played at precisely the right time for the audience to maintain the right kind of energy. This can be anything from how intensely a crowd is dancing to how often they sing along to the words.
“You have to be able to work with your crowd,” Swift said. “If you’re playing a song and you’ve got a heavy crowd on the dance floor, but just half of them are dancing, then you get out of it. You gotta lift your head up, pay attention and know your audience.”
No one knows Swift’s knack for audience awareness better than his close friend and fellow DJ, Jeff Witt. The two met when Swift first moved to Lincoln through mutual friends. Witt was the person who gave Swift his first opportunity to DJ in Lincoln. According to Witt, what sets Swift apart from other DJs is his ability to work a room and maintain a steady crowd energy.
“He has a way of being able to talk to a room of people without necessarily asking questions,” Witt said. “He knows how to get the crowd and energy going.”
Despite his continued success and gigs at The Railyard in Lincoln’s Haymarket, Swift said he aims to achieve bigger goals, such as DJing for Pinnacle Bank Arena. As a DJ himself, Witt is supportive of his friend’s ability to achieve whatever personal goals he sets for himself.
“[Swift] is a ray of sunshine, but at the same time, he’s about business, and he’s headstrong,” Witt said. “Once he has an idea, he’s gonna do it no matter what. And if anyone sees that there’s a party or a bar that he’s gonna go DJ at, they better go check it out.”
With his sights set high, Swift remains tenacious in furthering his career, not for money, but for the joy he gets out of DJing.
“I just love working with people; in fact, I love DJing so much that I look at DJing every day [as] better than the money aspect of it,” Swift said. “I don’t need the cash, and I put having a good time and enjoying what I do as more important.”
This article was originally published in the October 2019 edition of The DN.