DJ NonStop describes himself as “just a kid from Logan Square.” The internationally touring jock now backs acclaimed rapper DMX on his tours, and says he has achieved every success he could have ever imagined as a DJ. NonStop’s résumé includes contributions to multiple smash records in the 80s and 90s, televised performances and highly successful tour engagements, which took him around the country and to overseas destinations. “It cost me $57 to call home from London,” recalls DJ NonStop as he laughs and recounts one of his first trips abroad.
Mario Nieves, aka DJ NonStop, is a consummate storyteller, and his personal narrative is entrenched in the birth and rise of hip hop culture in Chicago, for which Logan Square served as an incubator. “My whole career, my whole life…everything that I’ve become has happened in this neighborhood,” NonStop says. He traces his first foray into hip hop culture back to the early 80s, when he started breakdancing in Logan Square at the age of 11. A piece of plywood and a stretch of sidewalk near at the intersection of Armitage and Kimball served as NonStop’s first stage, where he would break with other kids from the neighborhood. Eventually, his involvement in that culture would lead him to graffiti and street art and he soon developed his trademark, a neatly placed tag of his handle right next to the numerals on the front of the Milwaukee Avenue bus.
Nieves’ tags caught the attention of a local graffiti cohort, the Artistic Bombing Crew, or ABC. Through a chance meeting with one of the crew’s prominent members, he was invited to join ABC. NonStop recalls the culture of breaking, BMX biking and tagging which thrived in the 80s in Logan Square. According to him, “The whole Logan experience was graffiti, and graffiti was hip hop.”
But not long after being inducted into ABC, Nieves began to see more and more clearly the role he wanted to play in the hip hop culture that was emerging in Logan Square. Dissatisfied with the radio mixes used for breakdancing at the time, NonStop resolved to become a DJ to play music his way, for his crew. His dedication to mixing and scratching began with a set of mismatched turntables, a pivotal gift from the young DJ’s mother.
So began the birth of the DJ known as NonStop. Nearly everywhere he played, NonStop was recognized for his dedication to mixing, and his skills landed him the local gigs that would serve as this early basis of his career. Eventually catching the attention of Latin freestyle artists TKA, DJ NonStop was asked to tour with the group, and soon he got his first taste of touring life. When TKA broke up, former frontman for the group Louis Sharpe, aka K7, turned to DJ NonStop to become the first member of his new group, K7 and the Swing Kids. In a meteoric rise to international acclaim, K7’s single “Come Baby Come” became a chart wrecker in 1993. Riding the massive success of that track and the group’s Greatest Hits album, DJ NonStop played shows with K7 all over the US, as well as in Belgium, Germany and the UK. Thus, NonStop’s hip hop legacy was cemented.
Today, NonStop is still very much a working and touring DJ, playing clubs and large-scale parties all over the US in addition to his support of rapper DMX. Mario Nieves, aka DJ Non-Stop, the self-described “Puerto Rican kid from Logan Square,” has left his mark on his neighborhood, Chicago and venues around the world. His story is one of seemingly unlikely success, but to meet Mario Nieves is to encounter the pinnacle of music industry professionalism. In other words, it’s abundantly apparent just why the DJ was so prepared to shine when life presented him with the breaks that were pivotal in his ascent to the top of the DJ game. Says NonStop of his myopic focus and the neighborhood that molded him, “All I wanted to do was mix, and it all happened here.” DJ NonStop is truly a Logan Square legend.