For more than 20 years, dj NIMBUS (born Greg Stevens) has been mixing house, soul, techno, hip-hop, and more in various places. His brainchild, a monthly party called Exposure, is held every fourth Friday and celebrates its three-year anniversary tonight at Cafe 4212 in Third Ward. The Press recently spoke with NIMBUS, who was happy to provide some background.
Houston Press: Tell us how the party started.
dj NIMBUS: Exposure was started for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, my longstanding love of house music from my introduction to it in the late '80s is what gave me the desire to be a DJ and share that music with people around me. Exposure was inspired by an event one of my DJ brothers (Kemit) in Atlanta throws called SPREAD LOVE. I've been to seven of them, and his concept of multiple DJs, sometimes live elements, and themes of various shades of house music, true to its roots, gave me the idea. It also showed me what an authentic house event looked and felt like – people of color and all other walks of life celebrating their music culture and history under one roof.
How do you define Exposure?
Exposure is just what its name implies. For Houston, and I safely say Texas, many who claim a like or love of "house music" that are natives have not been exposed to the origins of house music, nor all of the foundations that led to the expansion of this music across the globe. Many have no idea of where it comes from, what that sounds like, who was involved, and the evolution of it. Exposure's primary goal is to be a landmark event for those who do understand house music...not just the local flavor tech/techno/EDM/nu-disco derivatives that identify themselves as house, or have been very monolithic and mainstream in their offerings. Exposure is the sound of Chicago, New York, New Jersey, San Francisco, South Africa, Ibiza, Paris, London all rolled into one event...not a snapshot of Vegas.
What made you start the event?
The event was started for a couple of reasons outside of the need for more variety in the house scene. One very real issue for me was creating the closest thing to what I experience when I DJ abroad in places that have been a part of house music's history. When I would go to "house music" events in Houston, I often found myself one of a very small fraction of minorities, and I also noticed what I was hearing in most cases did not represent what I knew house music to be. Only a small handful of DJs here were dropping tracks like those I heard in Chicago and other places in the early '90s and late '80s. I also wanted to host an event that truly would accept anyone who came out and supported the music, which is sadly a reality that Houston struggles with. My conscience won't allow me to DJ at a venue that is going to deny entry to people who look like me. Exposure has no requirement of anyone other than to like, love or be open-minded to house music.
Do you think Exposure being in Third Ward adds a special quality to the event?
I think it's important, because it's unprecedented. In a city whose primary urban music is rap, to plant and grow a foreign musical event in a place that has never had it, speaks volumes to that quality. It also has special meaning in terms of historical value, as house music started in the black communities of Chicago, New York and New Jersey, and to see the South finally embrace another part of black music culture and history is paramount. Those who patronize the event in their forties and fifties have expressed how refreshing it is to feel like they are back at home, and how the unity and common love is invaluable.
What do you think Houston needs to work on when it comes to the music scene?
I think Houston's music scene needs more diversity, first and foremost. I hate the fact that so much of the city chooses to remain segregated as opposed to unified by a common love for music. In having said that, I also believe many "party" for different reasons. Some are on the house-music bandwagon because it's trendy, whereas others it may be a significant part of their life and it's a "spiritual thing," as often said in our community for them.
I also think lack of authenticity and originality plague the music scene. There are a lot of clones copying other successful platforms. One DJ creates a certain vibe, then you see ten pop up with the same exact music, same concept, and often on the same day, and wonder why they fail. I also believe some of the more prominent DJ/promoters could take this city to the next level if they learned to value more than just their comfort-zone demographics and combine efforts to create things that would reach larger audiences and expose people to what's going on beyond the city limits of Houston. I can appreciate bringing "big-name headliners" to town, but I also think some of the locals who can't figure out whether they want to be a DJ or promoter, should spend that energy honing their own craft so that the world beyond Houston will want to hear our sound, not just be another tour-date destination.
How did you end up in Houston?
I moved here due to relocation when I was working full-time as a Mechanical Engineer for Cooper Cameron.
What makes you stay in Houston?
I stayed in Houston because I created two businesses, Superior Audio Solutions and DJ NIMBUS, to which the timing and opportunities aligned themselves in such a way [that] to leave would be foolish. Houston may not be perfect, but it has a lot to offer, and in some regards [is] a city with much untapped potential.
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Best DJ set or show you've ever been to?
This one is hard because I've seen so many off-the-chain performances. The most notable ones that come to mind are (in no particular order) Osunlade at The Blue Parrot in Playa del Carmen for Mi Casa Holiday. Black Coffee at the Tribe Party at WMC in Miami was surreal. Just this Labor Day, Kai Alce in Atlanta for the Weekender was unbelievable, and Marques Wyatt at DEEP was phenomenal.
Best show you've played?
I think the best performance and biggest crowd I got to rock for was at The Clevelander, for WMC. I closed from 3-5 a.m., and the people literally had to be put out, and it was a packed house on the main-stage pool level outside.
Advice for young DJs trying to come up in the game?
My advice to any DJ trying to pursue this game is the need to know their history of the music (whatever music that is) they want to play. You cannot have a future without knowledge of your past. Be able to connect to your audience and be artistically authentic so that you will forever be relevant. That means don't be like everyone else, even if it's the "IN" thing to do. Following gimmicks and trends will shorten your shelf life. Last thing is to always be willing to help the next generation of DJs coming up under you, and not be [an] obstacle hindering them, the way you may or may not have experienced in your journey.
Exposure takes over Cafe 4212 (4212 Almeda) tonight with DJ Nimbus and special guests Ms. Melodic, Oscar P, Bobby Blyss and Tian Chi Chi. Mixing starts at 9 p.m.