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On the Ones and Twos

Being a professional DJ is all Lonnie B’s ever wanted to do.


Lonnie says it’s the largest hip-hop collection in town. The records, collected over a decade fill the entire 20-foot wall opposite the front door, resting neatly alphabetized in encased rows. Those filed after the letter “s” fill another bedroom-sized room and a hall closet. There are enough records to open a store.

In January, Lonnie was inducted into The Heavyhitters, one of a handful of exclusive DJ fraternities with an invitation-only membership founded by New York’s famous DJ Enuff from WQHT-FM Hot 97, the most popular hip-hop outlet in New York. Lonnie also is a member of SupaFriendz, a Wu-Tanglike clan of Richmond hip-hop artists — MCs, DJs and producers — many he’s known since childhood.

Outside his own circle, he supports other area hip-hop and R&B musicians by putting their music on the radio during another weekly DJ slot on Power 92 Sundays from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. called Straight from the Streets. He recently started a promotion company called NVA, for “In Virginia,” and dreams of opening a music library where people can burn songs from his records onto CDs. Lonnie posts all this information on his Web site,, which lets visitors mix beats like a DJ.

At 28, Lonnie is of the generation that came up with hip-hop. He is an ’80s child who heard the early sounds of MCs like Kurtis Blow and Whodini and DJs like Grandmaster Flash. Hip-hop broke into the mainstream around the time he got to high school and Lonnie followed the new music by buying as many records as he could afford from local music stores like Willies.

In high school, Lonnie and some friends broke into a rec center as a mindless prank, doing some minor damage and nabbing some snacks. He was caught, and the center’s manager, a parks-and-recreation employee named Alex Irby, arranged for Lonnie to DJ dances at the center as community service. It was his first break as a DJ.

Lonnie did not go to college after graduation. By the numbers, his mother was considered too well-off to receive financial aid, even though she could not afford tuition. Deborah Battle promised her son that if he sat out from school she would buy him his first set of professional turntables, which she did, though Lonnie later realized, “It turned out she really didn’t have the money,” and had to miss a house payment to do it.

Lonnie says his mother’s sacrifice “paid off a hundred — a thousand times.” He admits to only one higher calling than being a DJ: being a father to his 6-year-old daughter. Like most people who make a living doing what they love, Lonnie has an aura of easygoing confidence, of satisfaction, especially when he’s showing you his stuff.

At his studio in a Fan row house above a Main Street beauty salon, he points to his new Pioneer CDJ-1000. About the size of a horizontal hard drive, the black box has a moveable disc that allows turntablists to scratch CDs just like vinyl. Even with the new contraption, Lonnie says, “I’ll probably never stop buying vinyl.”

His long and narrow studio is reminiscent of a cluttered dorm room without beds. A poseable Snoop Dogg figure and a Talking Master P doll sit near the door. There are crates full of records. There are overflowing piles next to the turntables, slouching stacks propped up against the walls, records and record sleeves strewn in all directions. Stand around long enough and you’ll swear they are multiplying.

Lonnie usually comes here every day after his gig at the radio, to organize his records, practice sets and make mix CDs to sell. “My mom still calls it playing with my records,” he says, smiling and clearly aware of the understatement. “This is all I do.” S

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