Resident of the United States

Obama’s official DJ, Adam 12, on spinning for the commander in chief

The First Playlist

And you thought Bill Clinton was hip when he played saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show. For his 2012 campaign, Barack Obama joined Spotify and shared some of his favorite tunes—with a little help from his staff. Covering a wide range of genres—and likely carefully cultivated, aimed at appealing to all kinds of folks—the ever-increasing list of songs spans everything from Darius Rucker’s country stylings (two tracks, actually), inspirational/motivational ditties, some sweet soul and quite a few surprises—seven of which we’ve listed to the right. Interestingly enough, we did notice that Obama doesn’t seem to be a house-music fan, despite the genre’s origins in his old stomping grounds of Chicago.

1. No Doubt, “Different People.”

2. Ricky Martin featuring Joss Stone, “The Best Thing About Me Is You.”

3. Wilco, “I Got You.”

4. Arcade Fire, “We Used to Wait.”

5. Electric Light Orchestra, “Mr. Blue Sky.”

6. REO Speedwagon “Roll With the Changes.”

7. Ray LaMontagne, “You Are the Best Thing.”

Sports teams have ’em. So do touring pop stars. But, the president? Yes, even Barack Obama has an official DJ—a few actually, depending on the locale—and Adam 12, a.k.a. Adam Bravin (also of She Wants Revenge fame) is on that roster. As a regular guest DJ here in Las Vegas at Insert Coin(s), Bravin chats about beats, his band and Barack.

How does one get a gig DJing for the leader of the free world?

I was spinning in the VIP room in the back of a club that closed down, called Trousdale. This woman comes over to me and she’s like, “I find myself in a lot of clubs. I just wanted to let you know that it was nice to be somewhere not hearing the same shit all night. I was really impressed. Do you do private events? I think my boss would really like you.” She hands me a card, and it says “Obama 2012” on it. I’ve been DJing in L.A. forever, and I’ve heard it all. I’m thinking, “I will never hear from this person ever again.”

But you did and now you’ve spun for multiple presidential events. What happened when you met President Obama?

I was like, “What do I call him? Mr. President? Barack?” And I’m going over it in my head, at the same time trying not to appear like I’m freaking out. She grabs me and pulls me over to him and she’s like, “This is Adam, the guy I was telling you about.” He leans in and says, “Thank you for being my DJ.” And I was like “Uh …” Nothing came out! I don’t think I’ve ever been that intimidated in my life. And he was so nice. We live in a world where we have a president that understands and comprehends what it is to be a DJ. He gets it. He’s our president. It was really impressive. Super cool.

Is there an official presidential playlist?

There’s not. The first time I did the House of Blues gig and he was going to be there, I asked “Do I need to play it safe? Is there something I can’t play?” And she was like, “Do your thing, dude. That’s why we hired you.” So no, there’s wasn’t, though he put out a Spotify playlist of stuff that he liked [see sidebar], which I basically went and downloaded everything I didn’t already have. Those kinds of rooms, that kind of crowd, you can never go wrong with playing some ’60s and ’70s soul.

Was there an intense background check with the Secret Service poking around in your business?

Yeah, the Secret Service definitely checked me out a couple times. I guess I’m not a threat. I’ve never really done anything wrong. As far as DJs are concerned, I know they need for your taxes to be straight. So apparently my taxes are all in order.

Are you personally an Obama supporter?


If you were asked to DJ for a president you didn’t support, think you would’ve still taken the gig?

That’s a hard question to answer. If you asked me about a specific president …

… George W. Bush?

Probably not.

I bet he’d ask you to play the “Chicken Dance.”

He wouldn’t even know how to phrase it. He’d have somebody do it. I mean, that’s a tough question to answer because as you know, it’s a promotional gold mine. In a world where everyone is a DJ now, you kind of have to use whatever you can get to create some kind of “buzz” for yourself. There are a million, trillion DJs, so it’s a tough question to answer, even though I don’t agree with certain things that certain people have done in the past. Again, it would look good on a résumé!

What did your mom think when she found out?

She was super impressed, really happy. It’s funny because it looks like a joke when you read it. “I’m the president’s DJ!” It’s not until you see the picture. These days, one of the only things I continue to do is try to do things to impress or make my mom proud of me.

You’re also in the band She Wants Revenge. Would you say you have two distinct personas?

I would say so. The band tends to be a little bit on the darker side of things. When I DJ, it’s just me. I play my music and have fun and party, [whereas] I kind of get in character for the band. Yeah, I’m a little bit different. But underneath it all it’s always me.

Which came first for you, DJing or being in a band?

I’ve been DJing since I was in high school. The band just started about six years ago.

Sometimes your DJ gigs are billed as “Adam from She Wants Revenge.” Does that lead people to think you’re spinning industrial music as opposed to your typical eclectic mix of hip-hop, soul, funk, pop, etc?

Exactly. I walk into a place and everyone’s wearing rubber, and there are lots of buckles and black everywhere. They’re expecting me to play a very specific set—which I’m happy to give them.

When I first heard “Adam 12,” I was thinking of the guy from the band Powerman 5000. Do you get that a lot?

There have been a few of those. When our band first started, I remember people on MySpace were, “I can’t believe you would go from Powerman 5000 to this.” I was like “Uh, wrong guy.”