Gritty persistence are just two words that begin to explain the road forged to success by Clayton County’s own Darren Sturgess, Jr. (DJ). The story starts with an eleven-year-old boy whose father and primary caregiver was sent to prison. DJ was left to finish the school year with little parental support, but filled with sheer determination. At the request of his mother, DJ set his eyes on the Atlanta area and never looked back.
After graduating from Morrow High School in 2006 and having his dreams of becoming a football star stamped out by the gridiron’s harsh reality, Sturgess locked his sights on making his love for hip-hop music pay off for him. To that end, a career in music and a major in communications he couldn’t ignore.
DJ’s commitment to a calling from music eventually landed him at Clayton State University (CSU). Unbeknownst to Sturgess, CSU would require an internship from each of its graduating seniors. So, on a whim and a prayer, he sent radio station V-103 an internship application on the next to last day of submission without any real hope of success. Sturgess ended up with an interview, and the rest as they say is HIStory.
Now known as the “Late-Night Party DJ,” Sturgess recognized then that with time, consistency, and dedication he would one day land right at a top urban radio station. He needed time to work his way from the bottom and do each and every menial task with a smile and a humble nod of grace. He commanded consistency by always being on time or, on many days, arrived earlier than his shift required. He branded dedication by almost every night practicing to the wee hours of the morning just to master his on-air persona.
These combined experiences helped train the young DJ for life in “the industry,” and without things being packaged neatly with a bow he still managed to seal a career. Now the producer of The Big Tigger Show with his very own club spot on Saturday nights from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., Sturgess is one of Atlanta radio’s most recognizable voices.
Was this enough? The burgeoning philanthropist without question felt the answer was . . . “No.” Upon leaving an Atlanta Hawks basketball game and being approached by a young man without shoes, DJ quickly reached in his car and graced the young man with a gently used pair of sneakers. A light bulb moment went off and The Sturgess Foundation was born, connecting low-income kids throughout metro Atlanta with gently used sneakers and his special brand of philanthropy.
What is next for DJ Sturgess? Even he doesn’t know exactly, but a transcending radio career and a transforming nonprofit may be just what the trailblazing DJ ordered.