Young DJ Omar Ennis’ calling when he was still in diapers
It was an Instagram photo that forever changed Omar Ennis in the eyes of his peers.
“It was always normal to me. And then when I posted a picture of me and (the rapper) 2 Chainz everyone went crazy,” says Ennis, 14, seated in his family living room in Trumbull beside his younger brother, Landon, and mother, Lillie.
The photo, taken backstage at Bridgeport’s Webster Bank Arena after a show in which Ennis, then just 11 and grinning broadly, opened for the Grammy-award winning rapper. Prior to that, his classmates knew Ennis was a DJ, but they couldn’t have fathomed his caliber.
“That’s when I realized this is a big deal. But in the beginning, it wasn’t a big deal. This is what I grew up doing,” says Ennis, with a hint of that same grin.
Since he was 2 years old, Ennis has been a DJ. Almost literally overnight, he went from fooling around on his dad’s equipment — his father is Oraine “Buddah” Ennis, a DJ and founder of the entertainment company Sibling Music — to becoming a highly sought-after music mixer.
“I never pushed it on him,” says Oraine Ennis, joining the family. “I would leave my equipment in the house. I came home and he was on it.”
He played his first gig at 4, spun at a school function at 5 and made his debut at New Haven’s historic Toad’s Place at 6. His early gigs proved more than mere novelty. Ennis had chops.
“The reason why we call him BamBam is when he was still in diapers, he used to take baby wipes boxes, flip them over and bang on them,” Lillie Ennis says. “It sounded good.”
In addition to his improvised drumming, MTV was often blaring from the TV and other rhythms often emanated from elsewhere in Ennis’ childhood home.
“All day there’s music playing in the house. My husband’s Jamaican, so he has his reggae. I’m Puerto Rican, so Saturday mornings, when we clean the house, it’s salsa playing,” Lillie Ennis says. “It sounds like chaos, but to us it’s beautiful chaos.”
A love for all styles of music arose.
“I’m very versatile, I play everything — disco, hip hop, reggae, Spanish music,” says Ennis. In his room, on one side of his bed is his electric controller, a device used in place of a turntable to mix and modify the music he plays. On the other, record covers given to him by his grandmother are hung, including the Sugar Hill Gang, Michael Jackson — an inspiration to Ennis’ father — and a Motown compilation.
That versatility has helped Ennis book a wide variety of events. He plays charity functions, birthday parties, weddings, nightclubs and concerts. He’s traveled, always with his mother and younger brother, throughout the country, and internationally, to perform.
In the kitchen, the Ennis’s have two calendars — one with Buddah’s upcoming events, the other with DJ BamBam’s. On weekends, it’s common for Ennis to work five gigs.
“My weekends are crazy,” Ennis says.
His schedule has been the source of some controversy.
Lillie Ennis remembers posting to social media after her son’s first gig at Toad’s Place. The pride she felt in his performance was dampened by backlash from people online who questioned her judgment.
“The attacks came in: ‘You’re a horrible mother, you had your child out at two in the morning.’
“It was really hard. But then, by the same token, he was so excited about everything and so happy,” Lillie Ennis says. “I wanted him to be able to do what he was passionate about but also protect his innocence.”
She refers to herself as his “momager.” She’s had to be assertive while booking gigs to assure her son had a space backstage separate from the recording artists he’d often open for. She’s also had to coordinate with teachers when her son’s travel interfered with school.
“He performs pretty well, so his principals and teachers are very understanding and accommodating,” she says.
Ennis’ would be a hectic schedule for anyone, but the teenager shows neither complacency nor fatigue. He’s trying out for his school’s basketball team and has launched a clothing brand, “A Master Plan,” to which he hopes to dedicate more time.
Meanwhile, his mother believes that as he ages out of the novelty of him being a child DJ, his career will start to take off.
If he feels any pressure, Ennis isn’t showing it.
“Anything that I cross paths with and find interesting,” Ennis says, “I want to be the best at.”
Twitter: @justinjpapp1; 203-842-2586