How DJ Neil Armstrong Taught Me to Be a Better Person

I’ve been staring at my computer for 30 minutes trying to write this piece. I was going to start by gushing about how DJ Neil Armstrong makes amazing mixtapes, tours with ultra-famous rappers, and has an Adidas sponsorship. But none of that matters. Well, it does matter, and it is impressive, but what matters most right now is that Neil is hurting over the recent loss of his beloved dog Poh. And Neil has been a friend to me over the years in more ways than he realizes, so I wanted to write this piece to bring him some happiness and let him know that he is appreciated.

I first spoke to Neil in 2004. I interviewed him about his Original mixtape for my cousin’s website. After our interview, we kept in touch. I dropped in on his 30th birthday party. He let me and my friend film him for a documentary I made in college. I talked to him on AOL Instant Messenger and he would give me advice about music and girls. When you are in your late teens and early 20s, what else is there?

I don’t know if it is fair to classify us as friends, at least not in a traditional sense. I’m a huge fan of Neil’s work and I pester him from time to time for an interview. We’ve hung out a handful of times. We send the occasional text or social media message. All that said, Neil is a remarkable human. He is kind and thoughtful and looks out for people, even if he doesn’t know them well. I could fill a book with all of the nice things Neil has done for me over the years.

Of all the kind gestures, one event will always stand out. In November 2006, I was living in Astoria, Queens with two of my best friends. It was a rocky time for me and I had just been diagnosed with Celiac disease. Neil was aware of my situation and, true to form, he called me up and asked me if I wanted to hang out. He drove to my apartment, picked me up, and brought me to a high-end health food store in Manhattan. We went shopping for a bit, then we left. It was a simple gesture, but it meant so much. On the ride home I said that I liked the mixtape Neil was listening to. When we pulled up in front of my apartment, he gave me the tape.

Sometimes it feels like society is obsessed with positive change on a grand scale. Everyone wants to disrupt, revolutionize, and move mountains. I get it, but I also think small acts of decency and kindness are essential. For this reason, I often think back to how Neil treated me when I lived in New York. He helped me out, treated me like a friend, and sought nothing in return. We should all model his behavior.

Thank you, Neil. I’m thinking of you and Poh this week and wishing you the best.

I am a director of academic support/special education teacher who loves to write about books, movies, music, records, and samplers. I also love interviewing people about these things. If you enjoyed this piece, please consider sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, and recommending it on Medium.
You can also check out my Bookshelf Beats publication.