Sean McDermott wanted the Buffalo Bills to get in a groove from the start of his first practice.
Impressed by a performance from Amilcar “DJ Milk” Hill during McDermott’s welcoming party at (716) Food and Sport, the coach invited Hill and his turntable teammate, Yusef “DJ Yes” Jackson, to participate in the team’s opening minicamp.
Bills practices became regular gigs for the DJ duo throughout training camp and the regular season. They have also performed at New Era Field during pregame warmups for home games and grown popular with players.
“DJ Milk is killing it,” LeSean McCoy said following a recent practice. “What makes him good is he’s diverse. He’s got music for the country folks, got some music for the urban guys.”
The DJs serve dual roles for the Bills: entertaining fans and bringing energy to practices.
“Sometimes you might be tired but the music gets you pumping, gets you going,” McCoy said. “We could be having a terrible practice, but the music uplifts us.”
The audience influences which songs the DJs bring into the mix.
“For the fan experiences, we play upbeat, Top 40 pop, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake, that kind of stuff,” Hill said. “For the players, it’s current hip-hop and trap music, with a touch of country mixed in. We’ve developed a rapport with the players and can play exactly what they want to hear instead of guessing.”
Players have started booking the DJs for private events, such as Eric Wood’s ugly sweater party earlier this week and the Thanksgiving dinner for area youths that Micah Hyde hosted through his foundation.
“I’m a fan of the players, Shady, Eric, all these guys, and being able to talk with them about music and build a relationship with them has been incredible,” Hill said. “But it’s changed the dynamic from being a fan to being a cog in the organization. Once I get into work mode, the starstruck, being a fan stuff drops in the background and I’m totally focused on doing my part to get them ready for the game or practice.”
The DJs further earned their charging Buffalo stripes last week when they didn’t miss a beat as the weather conditions worsened before kickoff.
“When we made it through this past Sunday, I think we sealed the deal with the players,” Hill said. “That gave us a little badge of honor. They noticed that we made it through the whole day.”
As a lifelong Elmwood Village resident, Hill knew he couldn’t pull the plug in inclement weather.
“From the start, I said we need to have a setup for rain or shine,” Hill said. “If we were there when the weather was good but we weren’t there when it got bad, that would look flaky.”
Hill, a former wrestler and football player for St. Joe’s, has been practicing his DJ skills for more than 25 years. Previously a stay-at-home dad who did freelance multimedia work, Hill set out to become a professional DJ about four years ago.
After performing at local clubs, Hill broke into the sports scene when he was hired for Bandits games three years ago. The following year, he started working at Sabres and University at Buffalo games, leading him to train Jackson and bring him in to handle the influx of gigs.
While playing at an ECMC event for breast cancer awareness last year, Hill introduced himself to Kim Pegula after he noticed the Bills co-owner dancing. “That was the first time I ever really promoted myself like that,” Hill said.
Soon after, the Bills asked Hill to perform for fans outside the gates entering New Era Field.
The DJs have appeared frequently at charity events and organizational parties for the Bills, Sabres and Pegula Sports and Entertainment.
This weekend, they will entertain at the Sabres, UB and Bills games, along with holiday parties for the Bills and Sabres. Sunday may be the Bills final home game, but the DJs have another date at New Era Field lined up — the USA vs. Canada outdoor game during the World Juniors Championships.
“I’m personally blown away that I DJ for the NFL, NHL, NLL and the NCAA,” Hill said. “The whole situation grew so organically. I had no idea that when I started DJing for the Bandits that one day we’d be doing it at the 50-yard line.”