For some, spinning for Neo soul artist Erykah Badu, on a live stream or being posted about on the personal Instagram page of hiphop powerhouse Nas, would be a major career highlight.
But for Sophia Clayton, a 12-year-old DJ from Delaware, her proudest moment so far has been getting followed and written about on Instagram by Ravens star quarterback Lamar Jackson – her favorite player of all time.
For as long as she can remember, Clayton and her family have been huge fans of the Ravens. And recently, she has been performing for some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, while gaining almost 44,000 followers on her Instagram page.
“I’ve always loved the Ravens since birth,” said Clayton. “I really wanted to do something special for my followers, since the pandemic was going on and things in football were going to be a lot different.”
Before the Ravens season home opener began on Sept. 13, Clayton wanted to show her football pride and get people excited for the game, despite the changes caused by COVID-19. The young DJ hopped on her turntables and sampled old football news clips, with fast and funky beats and attempted to gear fans up for game day through a one-minute video.
“I was on [well-known DJ and music producer] D-Nice’s [Instagram] live, and he had so many on that day, and DJ SophiaRocks was of them and I was just blown away,” said Ed Reed, former Baltimore Ravens safety and pro football Hall of Fame inductee.
Back in July, Reed, who also spins in his spare time and goes by the name DJ UkeBox00, tuned into Clayton’s stream and decided to reach out to her. Since then, Reed has had her perform on his streams and has worked with his agent to introduce her work to team officials.
Influenced by her father, David Clayton, who is also a former professional DJ and Baltimore-native, Sophia started on the turntables at the age of two. But by the age of six, she was performing at events like the Stone Soul IV Festival in Hampden, Mass; the Sway in the Morning Show in New York City, the Queens Youth Festival in NYC and DAP Fest 2 in Camden, New Jersey.
“I completely endorse her deejaying for the fans during half times and time outs,” said Reed. “For her to be a young lady, [performing] with no headphones, with her level of energy, is what Baltimore needs in my opinion and is just a relationship [for the team] that wouldn’t be a bad one,” he added.
According to Tom Valente, the director of Public Relations for the Ravens, the team has not worked with Clayton in any official capacity.
Clayton’s ability to perform has drastically changed since she can no longer spin in person. Now that she performs via live streaming, she has been able to play at events put on by Nickelodeon, a cable channel for kids, and Black Girls Rock, an annual award show that celebrates Black women. She has also streamed for the James Brown Foundation and the after-party mix for Erykah Badu vs. Jill Scott and D-Nice.
“For me, as dad, I do a lot of the behind the scenes work and I just want Sophia to get as much out of this as she can. As opportunities arise, I just want to support her and help her collaborate with the people that she wants to work with,” said David Clayton.
“I look up to Beverly Bonds [a professional DJ and Black Girls Rock creator] and as I get older, I want to be like that. I want to begin to pursue more entrepreneurial ventures while continuing to DJ, but now that school is back in session that is my main focus,” said Clayton, where just started the seventh grade this year at Postlewait Middle School in Delaware.
Despite being a minor, Clayton’s talent positions her to profit from her work through booking fees scheduled events and donations she receives through mobile payment services, like Cash App.
But according to her mom, Nicole Clayton, she uses this opportunity as a way to teach Sophia how. to manage her money and save.
“Before [the spread of] the coronavirus, we would have to have money to travel and get equipment and it wasn’t cheap, but I actually put my money toward going to college,” said Clayton.
Nicole, her mom, explained that all of Sophia’s earned revenue goes back toward her. Her parents prefer to only involve themselves in Sophia’s work on an “as needed basis” as her guardians.
And according to Reed, if the opportunity to work with the Ravens develops, “[Sophia] should absolutely get paid for her services if she’s working."
“She’s one of the best DJs, I’ve ever seen, and given her age, she’s only going to get better,” he added.