Music holds a special power in the modern world – the power to connect people and make them move. To bring people together. It has the ability for people to hear a song and instantly be able to draw back on an experience from their past.
Music is relatable and can be heard anywhere – on the radio, through an iPhone, in person at a concert, or playing in the background at a party. At Springfield College, a common party scene is the Townhouse backyards.
Music can always be heard there. Sometimes it’s rap, othertimes it’s hip-hop, and on the rarest of occasions, Christmas music might also find its way blaring out of the speakers.
Everyone hears the music, everyone dances and bobs their heads to it, but does anyone truly know where it comes from? An AUX cord? Bluetooth? A guest DJ that weekend? Maybe at times, but at one point in the past that music was controlled by a pair of juniors on a mission to grow their craft.
Before they were creating merchandise and rolling up to parties across Western Mass., Shamar Martin and Justin Riggins came together to create their own DJ/sound system business known as “Next Generation Sounds” or “Next Genna Sounds” for short.
They’ve now gained prominence and a reputation, but they got their start in the backyards of the Townhouses.
Before he became the CEO & Head DJ of the company, and dubbed himself “Selectah $hmoney,” Martin entered Springfield College as a wide-eyed freshman with a passion for music and DJing.
Western Mass. is littered with colleges and universities. That means a lot of parties and other events that need a DJ.
Springfield College, UMass Amherst, Mount Holyoke, AIC, and so many other schools are in the area in need for sound.
“I saw a market that needed a DJ. I wanted to take over Springfield. That’s what I had a vision of my freshman year,” Martin said.
Martin, like his partner Riggins, is of Jamaican descent. His inspiration came from his godfather, who he calls Uncle Conrad, but others know him as “DJ Bert.” Martin’s uncle was the family DJ, and he provided an example his godson wanted to follow.
“Growing up I thought it was pretty cool what my godfather was doing, so I decided to learn from him,” Martin said.
He took the steps himself to get involved in the music and make himself a part of it. In high school he purchased his own laptop complete with DJing software. He began to take the steps of learning to DJ part time.
Martin wanted DJing to become a full time gig, but he enlisted into the Army as a freshman at Springfield and was gone for the entire spring semester. When he returned to Alden Street in the fall, he had his chance to get the DJ gig going for real.
The now sophomore purchased more items he would need: speakers, a DJ board, a mixer, and more. He began to play on campus anywhere he knew in his sophomore year – from Townhouse backyard parties to off-campus gatherings.
Quickly, his talent caught on and DJing started to click. It was at that same time when he connected with Riggins and their bond was obvious.
Martin had given himself the name “DJ $hmoney” or “Selected $hmoney” and as his name and popularity grew, so did his relationship with his right hand man in Riggins.
Though he was not yet a DJ himself, Riggins had always been there for Martin and was eager to get involved.
“Justin first started out as somebody to just help out there, someone who wanted to be involved in music, someone who was a similar background, similar mission, similar goals,” Martin said. “You know they say if you put yourself amongst successful people, then you’re going to be successful, so it was the same thing with me and Justin. We’re very alike.”
Riggins is now known as “DJ Level” and he is in control of the managerial aspects and business operations for Next Genna. His motivation was internal, and he had a personality that matched Martin’s.
“Essentially, everything just comes from our desire to do it,” Riggins said. “There’s nothing in this world you can’t achieve, so it’s just putting that time and effort and actually getting it done.”
Every good team needs cohesion, and Martin and Riggings have developed that.
Despite not knowing how to DJ himself at first, Riggins was with Martin everywhere and he made a concerted effort to learn. Riggins didn’t have a “DJ Identity” yet, but the two were determined to get him one.
“He didn’t have a name at the time,” Martin said. “Basically what we did is we just started to progress and do more and more parties, we were like ‘Yo, we could really do something bigger with this.’”
The first true “gig” the pair did was Fresh Check Day on campus. Annie Warchol, Director of Student Activities and Campus Union, helped with selecting the pair to DJ for Fresh Check Day.
“He and Justin performed outside Cheney and brought their own equipment and really got the crowd revved up and excited,” she said. “It was like ‘Oh, you guys should do this actually more often.’”
Fresh Check Day ended up being just the start. They did events on campus for Residence Life, Taste of SC, Midnight Breakfast, and more, all the while their popularity and brand continued to grow.
The two started making business cards and tried to brand themselves. Martin consulted his godfather for advice on a name and they settled on “Next Generation Sounds” or “Next Genna Sounds” for short.
While Martin had the DJ skills, Riggins possessed the vision for logos and designs, and the connections to book more gigs.
“Everything we make is seriously our own brand, our own trademark, it’s drafted originally,” Riggins said.
“From there on, just trying to brand ourselves in a way, in a light that we like. So everything you see is original, those cards, the logo, the shirts, the clothing brand, and it’s all a part of a big intercorporate company where we just have everything we do on a platform for everyone.”
Martin is appreciative of the time Riggins has given to the brand.
“He came up with the design logo, he did a lot of artwork himself, a lot of personal time and investment he put in to make the designs, that’s all him,” he said.
Everything was in place: the music, the equipment, the brand, the logo, and now “Next Genna Sounds” is doing its best to take over the region.
The duo no longer DJs in the Townhouse backyards or at house parties near campus. Instead, they upgraded.
A few connections throughout the area opened the door for the pair to land their first gig in the region that was not on or near the campus of Springfield College. That first gig was at Mount Holyoke College.
“Justin networked a lot and his cousin was able to get us a party,” Martin said. “Last year in the Spring semester, it was called Dollar Wine, and it was held at a smaller Mount Holyoke, but it was still our first time off campus,” Martin said.
The gig was a major success.
“It was a small party we did over there and that created a lot of buzz for us and kind of put us on the map a little bit. At least a small amount of people outside of Springfield knew who Next Genna Sounds was, and who we are, and what we do, and that was because of Justin,” Martin said.
Now, the two are trying to expand on their initial taste of success. As they move forward though, they are not going to forget their roots.
The group’s mission statement, which can be found on the back of their business card, states, “providing generational and loving vibes through music” is a statement they made themselves, and one they take seriously.
“It comes with the people. We do it for the people, because people made us, that’s why we’re here,” Riggins said.
For the pair, DJing is about more than music, fame, or success. It’s the internal desire Riggins and Martin share to uplift people with music.
“That’s what it’s all about, it’s all about the people and the connections you make. Essentially, we do it for the love and not just for the credibility or the money. We both love music and love people. We like to see people move, because if you just see people have a good time, what better way to found that than through music?” Riggins said.
For now, the group is continuing to look into expanding across Western Mass. Martin will be leaving campus in the spring to spend his semester in Fort Myers, Florida as an intern for Corporate Partnerships and Client Services with the Boston Red Sox spring training session.
Despite his absence, Riggins, who is now fully comfortable and knows how to DJ on his own, will keep the business going.
“That’s allowing for myself and him to enjoy all the time we have together before he leaves, because at the end of the day, that’s my brother. It is deeper than music.”
The idea now is to build on the momentum the duo have created.
“Basically our vision is to make sure that we replicate what we have here on a larger scale at some of the larger universities nearby within a 45 minute radius,” Martin said. “The gear isn’t the issue, we have a lot of sound power, we have the will, we have the mentality. We see the need to takeover and make Springfield what it should be, again.”
For Riggins, a junior Applied Exercise Science major, and Martin, a junior Sport Management major, motivation is not an issue.
“It’s really about us just continuing to grind and work hard. Once you work hard, success will come, you just got to wait for it and be patient, and continue to be hungry. So that’s what we’re going to do right now. We’re going to continue to work,” Martin said.
Despite whatever may come their way in the future, the two will always point back to their inspirations and the mission state they made together for their company.
“I wanna point back to the mission, ‘providing generational and loving vibes through music,’ because at the end of the day, it’s more than just a party, or an event, or money. It’s about us making sure that people have a good time through music because that’s what we’re all about. I enjoy making people have a good time through music,” Martin said.
He smiled and added, “Big things in store for Next Genna, stay tuned.”
Photo courtesy of Shamar Martin