Poizon Ivy Is the DJ Behind Those Basketball Beats

Ivy Awino spins for both the Wings and the Mavericks.

You moved to Dallas from Kenya when you were 9. Was there much culture shock?

Yes. But I think being a young child, you know, children absorb those kinds of things. They’re pretty good shock absorbers. I think most things are more of an adventure of sorts. You move around the whole world, and then you have a new home. I grew up in Farmers Branch and then went to Hockaday. I really do have to credit that institution for molding me to be the woman that I am now. It changed my life.

And when did music become such a big part of your life?

I used to secretly enjoy singing. I was convinced I’d be a pop star at 21. But when I got to college, my partner fraternity brothers were pretty popular DJs. It intrigued me, because I love people, I love crowds, have always worked in sports. I’m notorious for, like, thinking things are cool and then wanting to do them the next day. And actually doing that! I asked my friend DJ Adamosity to teach me, and he literally showed up at my house the next day, dropped off some turntables, and left them there. I’m like, “Soooo, how’s this supposed to go?” But I think discovery is part of learning, allowing me to fiddle and figure out. It took off from there—from my kitchen; to Marquette University radio, where I had a show; to small stages around the city; to Summerfest, opening for Wiz Khalifa, 25,000-plus people; opening for Nas, Lupe [Fiasco]. It just grew legs.

What brought you back here?

I finished up school in 2012; I actually had my daughter two days after I graduated from Marquette, so it was nice to come back to my support system. The city of Milwaukee was great—it’s like a third home to me—but I love Dallas so much.

You started with the Wings before last season, but you already worked with star Skylar Diggins.

I still do. In the offseason, we do the Shoot 4 the Sky Basketball Camp Tour. We take the camp around the country. And Skylar is very, very, very adamant about it being a representation, to the kids, of her basketball life. I’m kind of like the added component to that, in that Sky, obviously, is a huge fan of music, and music is a great part of her workout. And I think there’s an additional piece, because a lot of kids come up to me, post-camp, and talk to me about DJing. So it’s kind of a two-for-one, maybe. [laughs] I did one of her very first camps in Chicago, so we’ve known each other about two or three years.

Now that you’ve done both, how different is it working Wings and Mavericks games?

A little. Arena’s a little smaller in Arlington, a few other things. Quarters are shorter. But it’s pretty much the same. Here, with the Mavs, the production is different: a lot more copy, a lot more breaks, a lot more PA activity. So you have to really, really, really pay attention, because you’re one of a lot of moving parts.

Okay, the Mavs are rolling and the other team calls timeout. What are you playing?

Right now, Bruno Mars is putting out some great arena music. If we’re on a big run, Pitbull and Flo Rida are great. There are classic jock jams, but I’m really charging myself to re-produce, do some custom edits. I auditioned to be the Milwaukee Bucks DJ in 2012. Just a 22-year-old little girl. That was really my introduction to “This is really possible.” I was one of five people invited to that audition, and for that audition, I had one of my friends custom-remake Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us.” I like things that are custom to the team, to the players, to the city, things you can learn the words to—I break down everything. So you can imagine listening to the radio with my ears. [laughs]


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