DJ Lily Jade was unmistakingly looking like a deejay. Headphones were around her neck, and she stood in front of a laptop and turntables. 

The music was pulsing. She even did a little hip-hop turntable scratching. But no one was yet dancing at the Sept. 17 Hip-hop Trivia Brunch at Zanzibar Soul Fusion restaurant on Shaker Square. The event was organized in connection with the Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival. 

“I want to have a dance battle, y’all,” she said. “Can I get somebody to come up here?”

I love all of it. I get to go to all these new exciting places. I get to play new music. I get to meet new people. I get to learn a lot about people.

DJ Lily Jade, speaking of her life as a deejay

A dance battle didn’t ensue, but a cluster of people started dancing. Perhaps it shows adults aren’t too hesitant about taking orders from a child. (Although, admittedly, this  is a low-stakes way of taking orders.) 

DJ Lily Jade, real name Lily Jade Goodwin, 9, is a fourth grader from South Euclid. She has to stand on the top of her DJ case. If she doesn’t, she can’t fully access her equipment and she risks the crowd not being able to see her.

Despite her age, DJ Lily Jade isn’t a novice. She began deejaying during the early days of the pandemic. Already she has booked dates throughout Greater Cleveland and even some other cities, including Chicago.

“I love all of it,” she said of her DJ Lily Jade life. “I get to go to all these new exciting places. I get to play new music. I get to meet new people. I get to learn a lot about people.”

The elementary schooler has been able to parlay her deejaying into other pursuits. She hosts  her weekly The Lily Jade Show on WOVU 95.9 FM. Guests have ranged from sports figures such Cleveland Cavaliers Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff to political figures such as Council President Blaine Griffin to hip-hop artists such as Krayzie Bone of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. DJ Lily Jade was named to Forbes magazine’s Cleveland Under 30 list. (Though this is obvious, it’s still worth mentioning that she is way under 30.)

The roots of the transformation into DJ Lily Jade began in March 2020, when she began battling her father, Juan Goodwin, on the turntables.. She heard her father spinning some 1990s hip-hop, such as that from Tupac Shakur, and expressed her displeasure..

“Dad, your music is trash,” Goodwin said his daughter told him. “I said, ’Do you think you can do better? She said ‘Yeah.’ I showed her how to work the equipment, and 10 minutes later, she got it.”

Father and daughter soon began battling on the turntables and posted the competitions  on Facebook. Goodwin said his daughter beat him several times. 

“I didn’t let her beat me,” he said. 

But it wasn’t always an old school vs. new school hip-hop battle. Both father and daughter agree that DJ Lily Jade has warmed to old school hip-hop.

Goodwin said his daughter’s grades haven’t suffered from her deejaying, radio hosting and other activities. He said she’s good at juggling.

In fact, DJ Lily Jade said her outside activities have made her a better student. She said she does a lot of reading when preparing to interview guests on her show. She said being part of Cleveland Reads–she appears in its publicity campaign–has helped her to read even more. The initiative’s goals include having Clevelanders collectively read 1 million books in 2023.

“It helps my reading a lot and my writing,” DJ Lily Jade said. “I’m now in the advanced reading class.”

Goodwin chimed in.

“The thing that my wife and I are most proud of is that our daughter is a straight-A student,” he said.

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Economics Reporter (she/her)
Olivera, an award-winning journalist, covered labor, employment and workforce issues for several years at The Plain Dealer. She broke the story in 2013 of a food drive held for Walmart workers who made too little to afford Thanksgiving dinner. Olivera has received state and national awards for her coverage, including those from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW). She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Olivera believes the sweet spot of high-impact journalism is combining strong storytelling with data analysis.