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Celebrity DJs’ live online sets have become house parties for the homebound: Welcome to Club Quarantine

DJ D-Nice attends an event in Minneapolis in February 2018. (Omar Vega/Invision/AP)

It all started because he wanted to throw a party. Wait, no, back up: It started because we’re all stuck inside and because boredom is a powerful tool that can cold-press anyone’s creative juices, much less an actual “creative.”

Enter DJ D-Nice (real name Derrick Jones), the 49-year-old rapper/photographer/OG disc jockey who has burned up turntables everywhere from VIP parties at the White House to that club you could never get into. Until now.

Last week, Jones woke up at 4 a.m. and, instead of being crippled by the anxiety of the times, decided to throw a party online for his famous pals. With his laptop, signature wide-brim hat and view of Los Angeles ready to go, Jones played music he loved for an Instagram party of about 200 music-industry heavyweights. The next day, 2,000 people joined. Then 12,000. Then 25,000. By Saturday night, more than 100,000 people — including former first lady Michelle Obama and a host of A-listers — were jamming together in “Club Quarantine,” the tongue-in-cheek shorthand for the hours-long broadcasts streamed live from Jones’s kitchen on his smartphone.

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I never would’ve imagined that the best party I would create and DJ would be from the comfort of my own home. Homeschool is a thing! Yesterday was absolutely insane. The amount of artists and friends that virtually partied with me far exceeded my expectations. I’m feeling nothing but gratitude. 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽 Thanks to all of you that supported. This has been a great way to keep our spirits high. Blessings! Sending some love to my family. Shout out to all of my industry execs! Much love to all of the artists! JLo, Drake, Naomi Campbell, De La Soul, Black Thought, Diddy, Bun B., Keri Hilson, Will Packer, Gabrielle Union, H.E.R., America Ferrara, Donnie Wahlberg, Uncle Luke, Russell Simmons, Dapper Dan, Rob Morgan, Mary J. Blige, DJ Khaled, T.I., Kelly Rowland, Common, Lance Gross, Queen Latifah, DJ Clark Kent, Rich Medina, DJ Tony Touch, Stretch Armstrong, Traci Ellis Ross, Ne-Yo, Usher, DJ Premier, Swizz Beatz, NO I.D., Yvette Noel Schure, Erykah Badu, Fat Joe, Jay Electronica, PNB Rock, Nile Rogers, Fonzworth Bentley, Marisa Tomei, Michelle Williams, Victor Cruz, Karruenche Tran, Ciara, Daymond John, Angie Martinez, Groove Theory’s Bryce, Tank, Cam’ron, Ludacris, Fabolous, Dorian Missick, Yvette Nicole Brown, Tasha Smith, Jadakiss, Kwamé, Chris Spencer, Royale Watkins, Estelle, Bresha Webb, Jermaine Dupri, Vanessa Williams, DJ Aktive, Lee Daniels, Affion Crockett, MC Lyte, Ro James, D-Dot Angelette, Kenny Burns, Tika Sumpter, Marlon Wayans, Lauren London, Loni Love, Dallas Austin, June Ambrose, April Walker, Just Blaze, Kangol Kid from UTFO, Omar Epps, Keisha Epps, Roland Martin, Big Tigger, DJ Trauma, Lil Jon, Dule Hill, Jazmyn Simon, DJ Cassidy, Marsai Martin, Lance Gross, Anthony Hamilton, Young Guru, Lalah Hathaway, Carl Payne, Damien Hall, Denyce Lawton, Lennox Lewis, Niecy Nash, Mashonda, Erick Sermon, Jairobi, DJ Envy, DJ Enuff, Miles Brown, Lamann Rucker, Mark Brown, DJ VLuv, and more. Wow! #DNiceHomeschool #DNicePhotography #SelfPortrait.

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The online party is all anyone is talking about (well, besides the very reason for them). On Monday morning (does the man sleep?), Jones was on “CBS This Morning” talking to Gayle King (yep, she was “at” the party, too), and later that night, he appeared on “The Tonight Show: At Home Edition” with Jimmy Fallon.

“I just wanted to do something good for people, and it turned into something really good. It was so unexpected,” Jones told Fallon.

“What you’re doing is exactly what we need,” the late-night host said.

As noteworthy as the jam sessions are, the public’s zealous response is just as interesting. Diplo, Biz Markie, Questlove and a host of folks you have probably never heard of are mixing songs for the self-isolating masses. But DJing live online is nothing new: For nearly a decade, websites such as Boiler Room have been broadcasting musical mixes from across the globe.

“You can’t talk about D-Nice without looking at it in the context of what already exists,” said Adrian Loving, a Washington-based DJ and artist. “It’s not a singular phenomenon.”

But these are strange times. New or not, what Jones is doing (and will keep doing, he says) has sparked something severely lacking in these past few weeks: joy. While no online stream can replace the feeling of being in the actual club, sweating and laughing with your friends, that is precisely the point. Those days might be gone for the foreseeable future, and society will have to find new ways to connect that don’t include grinding on each other.

Just as we are putting those physical walls up, though, D-Nice and his social distancing parties are breaking metaphorical ones down. The club is so often associated with velvet ropes, VIPs and the dreaded “list.” Club Quarantine eliminates all that. Where else can your auntie jam to Beyoncé “alongside” Mrs. Obama? Where else can Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg walk into the room (or chat, as it were) and keep the party going by making sure the technology doesn’t shut the whole thing down? In that way, the Instagram live parties are underscoring a fact that could be easy to forget while home alone — we’re all in this together.

“I don’t have a playlist,” Jones told King on Monday. “I literally just play what feels good. I wanted people to feel good. I want their spirits to be lifted through music, just one song at a time.”

After taking a much-needed break, D-Nice will be back at it Wednesday at 6 p.m. Eastern time.