DJ Rico: From the turntables to the clubs

The University of Miami has undoubtedly produced its fair share of talent. From established actors like Ray Liotta, Jeff Garlin and The Rock to musicians like Ben Folds, Gloria Estefan and Enrique Iglesias, legendary footprints mark these walkways. But it isn’t just the university that breeds the talent. UM lies on a slice of heaven called Coral Gables, just a few blocks from the party capital of the south, and a few minutes south of the hustle and bustle of downtown Miami. This makes for an ideal breeding ground for the entertainment industry.

Puerto Rican-born Jonathan Arroyo, more commonly known as DJ Rico, is yet another UM student making a mark for himself. His name means “rich” in Spanish, and after 12 years of practice his mixes are as smooth as ever. Rico is a senior majoring in electrical engineering, and he began DJ’ing at age 11.

“When I was young I had an outrageous CD collection, like 400 or 500 albums of every kind of hip hop,” he said. “I saw hip-hop week on MTV, and they had two DJs battling. They were playing records, scratching and doing these crazy tricks. For me, that was it. That was the inspiration for me to get into it.”

When Rico started at UM, he joined Lambda Theta Phi, a Latin fraternity that gave him some of his first opportunities to DJ in Miami, mainly at parties and college organization events; not long after, he got his first job at a South Beach club.

But Rico is no regular DJ. He is a one-man show; he produces his own fliers, promotes his own events and makes the party rock with his beats.

“When I got down to UM I promoted myself and got my own name out there with a lot of effort; I am basically my own manager and agent,” he said.

And his hard work has paid off. Last year DJ Rico began to work with one of Miami’s premiere radio stations, Latin station Mega 94.9. After a month or so of regular shows and Friday and Saturday night slots, Rico left because of creative differences. “I didn’t want to be branded simply as a reggaeton DJ,” he said.
While DJ Rico has worked with over 20 different UM organizations, he’s making a name for himself throughout the city of Miami as well. This past summer he DJ’ed at Zo’s Summer Groove where he met Miami monster announcer DJ Irie, who introduced Rico to his co-workers DJ Knowledge and DJ Affect. Rico remembers those first few weeks after he met DJ Irie.

“[I] went out four or five nights a week and hung out with the big name DJs and got my name out in South Beach,” he said. “Irie is an inspiration because he is not only an amazing DJ, but he is a great businessman and he is really down-to-earth.”

But it’s not about clubbing on South Beach or hanging out with the stars (even though he has let T-Pain scratch on his tables during the Sean Jean fashion show and he has opened for Tony Touch and Jadakiss). It’s about the art of the music.

“My love for music definitely inspired me to become a DJ rather than the other way around, and I’ve always had an insane love and passion for hip hop and music in general,” he said. “My dad really pushed me to be a DJ because he saw my talent at a young age. I definitely owe my success to him.”

Over the next few years, Rico wants to continue DJ’ing to see how “big he can make it” in a career choice he views as very realistic. He is considering designing music equipment as a fallback.

“Being a DJ is a series of ongoing upkeep,” he said. “[I get pumped from] the sound from the speakers and the crowd going nuts. Dancing definitely inspires me to keep their energy up. I feel like when the night is in primetime, my abilities reach another level. I truly feel the most comfortable in that environment.”

Rico is a DJ, promoter, producer, manager and agent all rolled into one college student. His beats get him noticed and his parties are remembered. Although he is one of the many talented people to walk the campus grounds, he is a true master of his craft.

Dan Buyanovsky may be contacted at