When Walter Cooper started going out at the age of 17, he would frequent Inuendo Nightclub in Detroit.
“As a young person coming out, going to the club is a big deal. It’s very exciting to see the drag shows and people feeling so comfortable in their own skin,” said Cooper, who started his career in the LGBT community as a lip sync performer named Romeo Milliown.
“I spent a lot of time in the club listening to other DJ’s,” he said. “I would always want to hear certain songs, so instead of always asking the DJ to play what I wanted to hear, I decided to become a DJ so I could play what I want to hear.”
Cooper built a good relationship with the establishment where he became resident DJ on Friday nights with DJ Ray. When asked why he calls himself Romeo, he said it’s his “handsome babyface. So dreamy.”
That kind of confidence was instilled in him by his mother and father who are about to celebrate 15 years of marriage this September.
“They are the couple that I really look up to,” said Cooper, who grew up in Detroit as the oldest of three. “They have been supportive of everything that I do. Anything that keeps me out of trouble and makes me happy, they are 100 percent behind me.”
As Cooper gets ready to release a new mixtape, “Savage Beats, Volume 3,” he talks briefly with BTL about his professional experience as a DJ in Detroit.
Have you always wanted to be a part of the music industry?
It’s so funny. As a kid, and still to this day, I think I can sing. But I’m totally terrible. I know I’m terrible. I always said, though, if I can’t be the person that’s singing, I want to be the person who helps the singer, as a producer or a DJ.
Why is music so important to you?
Back in 2013, I was in a different relationship in another city distanced from family and friends. To be honest with you, I was lost. All I had was my music that I listened to every day, so I invested in that. I went out and bought a mixing deck and I got lost in my music. Whenever I felt lost and alone, I picked up my headphones, my laptop and my deck and just played. Music really saved me and brought me out of that situation. The grace of God took me out of that place and now I’m in a better place. This is a blessing to be doing what I’m doing. I never thought I would get this far and I’m not stopping.
What kind of music is on your playlist?
I’m the kind of DJ that listens to and plays all kinds of music. When I say that I mean everything from country to rock. I love to play with many different genres. My strength is hip hop and R&B. My favorite artist is Chris Brown. I love his energy. His old stuff gets you into a groove and gets you dancing.
What have you learned in this industry?
I didn’t get as much support starting out as I do now. You have to really work hard for your support. I didn’t think in a million years that I’d be DJing Hotter Than July two years in a row, let alone the first year. Just because you’re a DJ doesn’t mean you’re going to get the first booking that you want, or the second, or the third. You have to build relationships, support other local artists, DJs and promoters. They’re the ones who are going to book you. And take advantage of opportunities presented to you. If a party is lame, you still play like there’s a million and one people there because your client deserves it and you never know who’s listening.
Have you met any DJ’s that you look up to or are inspired by?
DJ Don Q from WJLB is a really cool guy. He came to support me at Inuendo, which is shocking because I’m a fan of his. So for him to say “I love your style” and support me makes me feel like I’m doing a really good job.
Tell me about OneFour3 Entertainment.
It’s a company my fiance, Gerald Terrell, and I started in October of 2015. He is a photographer. We created this entertainment group to offer DJ, talent and photography services. We came up with the name around the time we expressed our love for each other. We got engaged in December 2016. We’re planning our wedding for June 24, 2018. That’s a special day for us because that’s the day we got together so it’s our three-year anniversary.
How important is it for you represent gay culture in your profession?
I don’t label myself a gay DJ, but I’ve always been an open person. My clients always know. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s in my voice, it’s in my demeanor, but even outside of being a DJ, I don’t push myself on anybody. This is me. You accept me or you don’t.
What does celebrating black gay pride mean to you?
It’s a celebration of who you are. We are having safe fun, being ourselves, relaxing with and around other people like us that we have something in common with. Just enjoying each other’s company.