There’s a lot to say about being self-made, stories of the people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Shit, that’s the American dream. But it’s often not until success is realized that the hardships of the journey are fully understood. In this series, we look at the Las Vegans in the thick of it—dancing along the line of triumph or defeat. Because let’s face it, we learn best when the struggle is real.
Passion has a unique ability to light a fire. For Las Vegas native Cody Courtney, 33, that hasn’t always been the best thing.
Better known as DJ EDOC (the phonetic version of Cody backward) and for a full, luxurious beard that has its own name—Billion Dollar Beard—his zeal for music, family and his favorite plant, cannabis, creates a mix that has caused both destruction and restoration in his life.
“My dad had a giant record collection, he loved it, and he was meticulous about how it was kept. I was a sloppy person, still am, so I was never really allowed to mess with any of that stuff.”– Cody Courtney
“I’ve always been into needles and turntables,” Courtney recalls. “My dad had a giant record collection, he loved it, and he was meticulous about how it was kept. I was a sloppy person, still am, so I was never really allowed to mess with any of that stuff. It was completely off-limits.”
Courtney’s father was a bass player, working in lounges around town and practicing at home on the weekends. Though the record player was out of reach, musicians such as the Allman Brothers Band rang through the happy, music-filled household on the west side.
Ultimately, Courtney made his way to the drums, teaching himself the ropes after a few lessons at age 6.
“I stayed in my room, played my drums, listened to a lot of Nirvana, Bush, Allman Brothers and REM. I taught myself to play drums just listening to those songs.” That same experimental nature led him to DJing when he was 16.
“I always wanted to mess with the records; DJing was neat to me. I’d listen to the radio, Power 97, a Top 40 hip-hop station. I’d fuck around—because my stereo had an equalizer on it, I’d turn it up and down and pretend I was mixing and have a bunch of fun.”
“I saved my money, and I had the choice to buy a car or turntables,” –Cody Courtney
From drumming with local bands as a kid to adding rapping to his repertoire as an adolescent, Courtney was finding his stride. As a part of the Las Vegas hip-hop scene, he hung out at the now-defunct underground shop Da Joynt and Industry Records next door in Downtown. It was there that he built a strong foundation with area b-boys and DJs, and built his record collection, eventually buying his own turntables.
“I saved my money, and I had the choice to buy a car or turntables,” Courtney says. After snapping up a set of Gemini turntables—the “DJ in a box kit” popular at the time—from music store Musician’s Friend, he says, “it was the dumbest thing, but it was enough for me to get a handle on things.”
Although not an ideal setup, that DJ kit gave him the tools and confidence he needed to learn the craft. But even as he mastered the decks, it wasn’t the kind of skill set that he could make a living on—at least, not yet. With wife Amy at home and a baby on the way, he had to pay the bills somehow, which led him to Best Buy. But changes were afoot.
After losing his job at Best Buy due to his struggle with sleep apnea and the work he missed because of it, Courtney heard of an exciting prospect on his favorite local radio station at the time, Hot 97.5.
“I hear about a DJ competition on the radio, and I’m like, fuck yeah!” Courtney remembers with a smile. “I call the station and Mike P answers, and I ask him if you need to bring your own records or whatever. He responds in his radio voice, ‘Just come and do you!’” So like “a boy scout,” he came prepared.
“We go on a remote, and a supervisor says, ‘Let’s get some weed.’” They ended up toking up in the station van. “Two days later, I get to work and I’m fired.”–Cody Courtney
He was the only one who did. Courtney mistook what the Galleria at Sunset mall competition was looking for—on-air personality DJs, not the mixing type he’d become.
After making it to the final round, the station decided to add both finalists to the staff. Courtney began on-site meet-and-greets with listeners as a street team member. But that’s where things got interesting.
“I smoke weed, so of course I get to know everybody who smokes weed at the station,” he says. “We go on a remote, and a supervisor says, ‘Let’s get some weed.’” They ended up toking up in the station van. “Two days later, I get to work and I’m fired.”
Things spiraled from there, starting with an eviction. Losing the family apartment with a young child was the last straw for Amy. She and the baby went to stay with her sister. And with a due date looming for a $2,000 fee for an altercation he says he had with his wife’s stepfather, an unavoidable incarceration was in his foreseeable future.
“I’m sleeping in my car at Desert Breeze Park. It’s actually pretty nice; I have a bunch of blankets and two pillows,” he jokes. Pushing 30, this was his version of rock bottom. And then another DJ competition fell into his lap.
“DJ Zo [a friend] calls me and tells me about this tablet DJ battle [event] sponsored by Verizon, and the prize is $2,000!” The only power outlets he had access to were at the area McDonald’s, where he’d been using its Wi-Fi to apply for jobs.
“I embrace my homelessness and make some cue cards with cardboard boxes and a Magnum [marker] to hype up the audience for my set,”–Cody Courtney
“I can’t really do anything because my stuff’s in storage, so I hit up all my DJ friends for a place to practice my set. Turns out, it’s some scratch DJ app on tablets, and it doesn’t resemble traditional DJing in any way.”
After preparing as much as he could within his limited means, he made it to the competition ready to battle and bring the showmanship.
“I embrace my homelessness and make some cue cards with cardboard boxes and a Magnum [marker] to hype up the audience for my set,” Courtney says.
Not all of his competition was as prepared. The first competitor was in a panic as he had difficulty using the app. Then Courtney was up.
“I played a super-hype remix to ‘Seven Nation Army,’ so I wrote down some lyrics to the hooks. Basically, I rocked the fuck out, going hard, dancing with the crowd.”
He took the win, bringing home the money, some tablets and a gift card. The victory not only preserved his freedom, it also solidified his aspirations to pursue music, all while his wife cheered him on.
From living in his car to moving into a Downtown apartment with his growing family, things were on the up and up. He was confident and ready to make DJing his career, and after his charismatic performance, plenty of venues were lining up to book him.
Behind the tables, Courtney is anything but mild-mannered. His energy is contagious, and he says, “I’m really good at adapting.”
This, matched with strong musical knowledge and a distinguishable look, has helped him establish a following and a calendar full of gigs. He spends his days as a stay-at-home father to his daughters.
“Not to be a whore about it, but I love music and I’ll play anything,”–Cody Courtney
From DJing Tuff-N-Uff MMA fights at Thomas & Mack to the live-art Secret Walls competitions, Courtney continues to build his name. He’s a regular at the Donald J. Pliner retail store in Forum Shops at Caesars and is best known for playing at art collective I.S.I. Group’s events, including the monthly Off the Wall Graffiti Disco at Beauty Bar.
His most recent passion project, Creative Cannabis Group TV’s Zunday Zesh, a weekly YouTube Web series with friend and partner Phil Limon, features the pair smoking copious amounts of weed with friends and guests as they talk about current topics and conspiracies. It has brought him back to the habit that almost derailed a career. His goal is to turn the venture into an income generator.
Music, weed and family are the fires that burned his life to the ground and the same fuel that keeps him growing, specifically the tunes.
“Not to be a whore about it, but I love music and I’ll play anything,” he says joyfully. “I love the blend. When two songs I’ve heard and played a million times before become something new, it gives me the same feeling I get when I make original music. And the booty-shaking—I love watching people have the best time … sometimes the best day of their life.”