Updated: Feb 23, 2019
The word renaissance man gets thrown around a lot, but no one embodies the label like young entrepreneur Lanzel Smith Jr., otherwise known as DJ Zel. The man can turn your party up, whip a fire playlist, direct and edit videos, and give you one of the best shape-ups in your life. He has created a brand built off of hard work, community service, innovation and passion. You can’t help but vibe with Zel’s brand because of how clear his love and dedication to it is.
He got his start at Syracuse University, his alma mater, cutting hair for fellow students. Always possessing a love for art, creative expression and music he soon found himself curating the sounds of partygoers around campus. Syracuse’s huge house party culture was perfect for an upstart DJ like himself, but it wasn’t long before he would take over larger venues such as Skybarn and Goldstein Auditorium.
Being duly initiated as a Brother of the Delta Zeta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. in the Spring of 2016, his network only grew and he took his talents all across the state of New York. During the Summer of 2017 he spun a set at The Source 360 Festival, Conference and Marketplace in Brooklyn. Word of mouth and Instagram spread talent like wildfire, and due to his consistency he’s racked up 11k followers. For those unaware, surpassing that 10k mark is key in promotion as you can add swipe-up links to your Instagram story.
With great talent, and many of them, comes great responsibility and time management. Zel has become a hot commodity, thus he can’t be everywhere people ask him to be. As a creative, it’s important to provide some form of a takeaway to those you want to support your brand, but simultaneously consumers have to recognize your livelihood is directly impacted by what you do.
At first glance, one may immediately dismiss Zel’s price structure of $20 for a shapeup, $40 for a cut and $80 for a same day appointment. Take a look at his Instagram and talented he is with clippers. Also consider how much equipment costs, maintenance of said equipment, overhead for a shop or gas money to get to a customer. Consider the schedule of a popular DJ who is looking to launch his own comic book series #TheAdventuresOfDJZel and actively working alongside bubbling rappers like Smooky Margielaa and Drew Drippy.
Despite his exponential growth over the years, Zel maintains a very hungry demeanor. He has heights he hopes to reach, and ideas galore on how to expand his repertoire. You can still catch him spinning at his alma mater every so often, or traveling across the country doing gigs. It won’t be long before he’s a household name. It’s just a matter of whether he’ll be on the radio, an industry executive, or cutting hair on LeBron James’ The Shop while talking about his business ventures.