Twin Cities-based DJ and music mixer Julian White, who entertained millions over a decades-long career that included mixing songs and spinning records for Prince, has died.
Known to the world as Brother Jules, White also worked as a radio engineer and on-air personality at KMOJ radio, where he last hosted “The Twilight Zone” show late on Fridays and Saturdays.
He died Dec. 4 at Methodist Hospital in St Louis Park of complications from a stroke, according to Ray Seville, a veteran Twin Cities DJ and honorary father to Brother Jules. White was 50, and had long been suffering from kidney disease.
“This news is just devastating,” said Sharon Smith-Akansanya, who ran marketing for Prince and his Glam Slam nightclubs in Minneapolis, Miami and Los Angeles. She hired White, at Prince’s direction, in the early 1990s.
“Prince thought Jules was amazing because he loved and understood music, and that’s why he and Prince got along so well. It was all about the music,” she said.
“Brother Jules could rock a crowd like no other,” Seville added. “He had a deep understanding of how to mix music and to mix sounds that you might not think would be good together but sounded great together.”
Seville was perhaps the first professional DJ White met, and he made his passion for music evident immediately.
“I was DJing a party and here comes this 9-year-old kid wanting me to mix a Prince song so he could see how it was done,” Seville recalled. “He was hungry. Next thing I know, he’s 15 and DJing professionally at different events around town.”
White gravitated to KMOJ, a community staple that he began listening to as a kid.
“There are DJs who can spin records, but Jules also had a great personality,” said Walter “Q Bear” Banks Jr., a mainstay at KMOJ for four decades. “He had an aura about him that you just knew he could come into a room and make the environment better.”
White had broad musical tastes. Over the decades at KMOJ, he did shows incorporating blues, jazz, gospel and hip-hop, among others.
“It didn’t matter the style or genre, he just loved music,” Banks said. “He was a historian of music.”
An only child who grew up in Minneapolis, White first spun music at First Avenue when he was 15. Shortly after, he started DJing at Prince’s Grand Slam nightclub. Prince welcomed him into his orbit, paying for his education and helping him buy a house. White warmed up crowds at concerts for Prince on his world tours.
“Once you started working for Prince, you never stopped,” Akinsanya-Smith said, recalling that Prince liked to make White, as the highly visible DJ, look funkier.
“And it was never about the music — it was about being more entertaining,” she said. “Prince would say, ‘Sharon, I think Jules should wear a big afro tonight. Think he’ll do it?’ Jules was more than just a DJ behind the scenes or a mixologist. He helped Prince entertain millions of people across the globe.”
KMOJ morning radio personality Freddie Bell recalled that once he got a call from White, who was riding in a limousine with Prince at the time. They were listening to the station. Prince wanted to know why Bell played his song “Most Beautiful Girl in the World” every morning at 6?
“I said to tell him I just like the song,” Bell posted on social media. “At that time I didn’t believe he was actually riding with the most iconic entertainer in the world. Had I believed Jules, I might have given a more intelligent response.”
Seville, too, has memories of working with White, including once when they did a gig in Northfield. The students from Carleton and St. Olaf colleges were so happy, they literally danced out of their clothes.
“We said, ‘let’s do a DJ battle’ — I was playing ’80s and ’90s music and he was playing 2000s stuff,” Seville said. “We rocked them so hard, they ran out of the room, came back in and were dancing in a line naked through the whole party. Everybody — Black, white, whatever — all they had on were tennis shoes. It was legendary.”
Services are being planned.