DJ TGIF on 50 Cent, HYP3FEST, and Flourishing through a Pandemic
ALBANY — If you live in Albany or just enjoy going out anywhere in the capital region, the chances are great that you know who DJ TGIF is. Brooklyn born and Albany raised, Craig Earle, 34, is a legend in the area and beyond. He’s traveled the country with his brand, been a long time celebrity DJ, and is solely responsible for creating one of the biggest, most successful and looked-forward-to festival events in Albany history; HYP3FEST.
Please welcome to the stage, DJ TGIF.
BC: “What made you want to DJ? How did you get into it?”
DJ TGIF: “The movie Juice, with Omar Epps. It had Omar Epps and Tupac in it. The first time I saw the movie, I knew I wanted to DJ. I didn’t have the means then but once LimeWire came around it made it easy.
BC: How has the pandemic affected you as a DJ?
DJ TGIF: Everyone was chilling in the house with nowhere to go. It was a shock to the whole DJ network. I’ve been doing it for 13 years and there’s never been a weekend where I haven’t been booked up. It was hard to come to terms with not doing it for a year…
BC: You’re one of the people who I’ve noticed has really been able to stay inventive and flourish throughout the pandemic. You hosted Wine Down Wednesdays at Wellington’s, right? Can you talk a bit about that?
DJ TGIF: I built a virtual following doing it live on Facebook first. I got so sick of not DJing that I just set up at home and started streaming every weekend, March through October. People tipped me on cash app. In October, indoor dining came back and I moved the event to Wellingtons. It was packed. Reservations all booked up. It was as packed as you could be in a pandemic with limited capacity and face masks. But we made do.
TGIF is definitely a master of building a loyal fanbase. His event “HYP3FEST’ will make its eighth return this month (Saturday July 24th to be exact). HYP3FEST started in 2014 as TGIF’s birthday party at the Albany Armory.
DJ TGIF: The audacity of someone having their birthday party at the Armory – like, who does this guy think he is? Then we had over 1,000 people at the first event and that kind of answered the question.
BC: Now that HYP3FEST has transformed into something so much larger and means a lot to so many people, what does it mean to you to be able to do this for your city?
DJ TGIF: It quickly became the city’s event. It means everything. Being a celebrity DJ is cool, traveling the country is cool, but none of it means as much as thousands of people coming out to your event. To me, it means everything.
BC: What can people expect from HYP3FEST when they purchase a ticket?
DJ TGIF: Absolute controlled chaos. Everyone is coming in to have a good time, to dance and sing. We’ve got 5 of the best local DJs and they’re just gonna put on a show.
BC: The turnouts have been amazing and the events keep getting larger. Can you talk a bit about your marketing and promotional strategies that help you put together such successful local events?
DJ TGIF: It’s a combination of feet on the ground promo and social media, since things have transitioned that way. When we started with HYP3FEST we started by putting flyers in fun places. Some that were maybe not beyond reproach. On an Uncle Sam Statue, on the back of moving buses. We spelled “HYP3FEST” out on a bus terminal at SUNY with flyers. Now I do a lot of creative radio ads and skits, ‘cause that’s how things are going.
BC: Who are the other DJs on the event?
DJ TGIF: DJ Tek, DJ Ketchup, Var Da Allstar, and DJ Siroc.
In addition to throwing his own events, TGIF also DJs for celebrities.
BC: You recently DJ’d for 50 Cent in Saratoga. What was that experience like?
DJ TGIF: It was a super amazing opportunity. 50 Cent came up to Saratoga for a hosting and he performed three songs. We finished the three songs, then 50 looks over at me and goes, ‘so, what we doin?’ … Then I dropped 21 Questions and we performed 8 more songs together after that.
If all this hype isn’t enough to get you to HYP3FEST then I don’t know what is. Do yourself a favor and buy a ticket. Saturday, July 24th. 2021 at the Albany Capital Center.
BC: Any upcoming plans?
TGIF: Stay tuned. We Outside.
You heard the man. Stay tuned…