Duane Powell has been spinning publicly for 22 years. Credit: Isa Giallorenzo
Credit: Tracy J. Lee

Great DJs keep their ears open to the world, and Duane Powell knows how to listen. He’s been plugged into local music since 1983, when he went to his first party at Mendel High School, a famed incubator for the city’s house scene. Within a couple years, he’d landed a street-promotions gig for house DJ Lil Louis, and in 1990 he worked for the Reactor, a short-lived nightclub where techno luminary DJ Rush and house producer Ron Trent helped kick off a new era in local dance music. Powell has worn a lot of hats since then—he’s been a consultant for nightclubs, a cultural historian, a manager at beloved defunct record shop Dr. Wax, and of course a DJ. He started spinning publicly in 1997, often organizing his own events under the name Soundrotation, which he borrowed from a weekly series he helped run till 2001 at Funky Buddha Lounge. Powell is a lifelong student of Chicago music, and for the past four years he’s been part of the team compiling the Chicago Black Social Culture Map, which documents the famous and forgotten Black performance spaces that have operated here since the start of the Great Migration in the 1910s. All of which is to say Powell knows his shit, and you can feel it every time he gets behind the turntables.