It’s game night, and the music is pumping at the Moda Center as fans flock in to watch the Portland Trail Blazers take to the court. And the man whose job it is to raise the roof? That’s DJ OG One, a.k.a. David Jackson, the official Blazers DJ for nigh on 15 years. When he’s not hyping pre-game crowds, he also produces his own records, hosts on the Numberz radio station, serves as the Recording Academy’s Pacific Northwest chapter’s vice president, runs his own coaching company, and mentors Black youth. He grew up in a poor section of the LA neighborhood of Watts before he and his mother moved to Oregon with the Ecclesia Athletic Association, a church-led group they joined when he was 10 years old. But in 1988 it was revealed that children there were beaten and one child died, amid allegations the group was a cult. (Jackson’s mother was among several adults from the group imprisoned for manslaughter, and the three children Jackson fathered as a teen were temporarily taken into state care.) At 21, he found himself without family or a home. He began building back, working his way up from minimum-wage jobs and sleeping in his $200 car to parties with Michael Jordan and Rihanna, and finding his place in Rip City.
I’ve always been around music, since [I was] a kid. Music was the fabric of my life. When I was younger, I lived in poverty, in a poor neighborhood. So there wasn’t a lot of resources to buy equipment. But I was always the kid in my neighborhood that had the music, the cassette players, boom boxes, and things like that.
I was gang affiliated by the age of 10. But that was just a part of my neighborhood that I grew up in, and it was out of survival. Growing up in that environment, either you was a gang member or a drug dealer, an athlete, or the person that got beat up on, and I didn’t want to be that latter person.
Once hip-hop hit the scene, that was the thing. I saw a DJ, how he had the ability to allow people to escape from their present reality: whatever they were dealing with prior to them going into that room or that party, it was left at the door and they were able to come in. He was the master of being able to take people out of their present situation. When I saw that, I was like, that’s what I want to do.
I was 10 [when my mother joined the Watts Christian Church, which formed the Ecclesia Athletic Association]. I was a child growing up in [the organization]. Everything I knew about life as a man came from that perspective. So I had to change a lot of my own thinking, and the ways I view the world [after it was exposed]. Everything. Relationships, responsibilities—I had to get reprogrammed in a lot of ways.
[After the organization dissolved] I didn’t know how to take care of myself, and I ended up getting a job with [youth development organization] Camp Fire. And they had me as a director for a gang prevention program called Gang Peace. I was working and mentoring kids and steering kids away from gang involvement.
I would [DJ] after-school parties for kids at Whitaker Middle School, and I would use these parties as incentive for kids to get good grades and good behavior in school. Say, “Hey, the only way you can get in is if you have a note from your teacher or your parents saying you had good behavior that month and good grades.” One of the kids, her aunt was a local promoter in Portland and invited me to DJ my first concert, which was to open for Run DMC and Naughty by Nature. After that, the floodgates just opened.
I’ve been DJ’ing for a while. Even prior to being the official Trail Blazers DJ, I had many years of experience DJ’ing celebrity events, from the Super Bowl to the NBA All-Star weekend. Oftentimes people ask me, do I have a playlist I go by? I tell them no. I have certain ideas of what I think would get fans excited, or people on the dance floor. But really, it’s the fans and the people I play to. They are the ones that dictate the music that I play, just by their body movement, the energy that’s in the place.
I first met Larry Miller when he was the president of the brand Jordan at Nike. I was DJ’ing an event, and he and I bonded. Because of the relationship, I got a chance to DJ for Michael Jordan on several occasions. When [Miller] became the Trail Blazers president, it was easy for me to ask ... “Hey, Miami has a DJ, LA has a DJ, why do we not have a DJ?”
Here I am, 15 years later, able to have an amazing job just because of a relationship. I mean, in terms of just skill set, there’s tons of amazing DJs, but not all of them are in positions where they have those types of relationships.... This is what I mean when I tell a young person, “Hey, be kind to other people.” Be kind, not just because that’s a great and warm and fuzzy thing to do, but it’s also very practical.... That person you were mean to in elementary school could be the next CEO of a major corporation where you one day might want to find employment. So I treat the person that is the multimillionaire just the same as I treat person that is the janitor.