Mackenzie Johnson, better known as MAKJ, has gone from professionally racing cars in China to becoming a world-renowned DJ, he continues to overcome, evolve, and embrace everything around him.
Though Mackenzie’s racing career ended abruptly at 18 years old, he returned to the States from China with an experience that would prove to be pivotal. “One of the best moments of my life was going to a nightclub and hearing dance music for the first time.” After returning home, he was accepted into the architecture program at California Polytechnic State University, but after three years, it was apparent to him that his passion was music. “School’s hard for a lot of people, and for me, the routine and the schedule didn’t work for my life. I looked at the current situation I was in when I was around 20 and packed up all my stuff. With maybe $1500 in my account, I got in my car and drove to Los Angeles.”
Mackenzie’s initial involvement in the club scene led him down a reckless path. Self-awareness and a bigger desire to be a part of the music led him out of it. He began going to clubs to enjoy the music, meet people, build friendships and surround himself with good people. A lot of those good people helped him build his career. To him, it was clear what it would take. “Being a DJ requires you to not be a DJ. Nowadays you have to produce music for people to want to come to see you. You could be a DJ for nightclubs and bars, and be really, really good, but if you want to be an artist, you have to produce music.”
Now, MAKJ is headlining clubs and shows all over the world. Just eight years into his music career, he has performed at some of the biggest festivals, including Coachella and Electric Zoo Festival. Though he still admits to getting nervous each night, his desire to be the best has helped him continue to overachieve. “One thing I’ve learned is to smell the roses. If you don’t smell the roses, you’re not gonna enjoy what you do.”
As his music career continues to evolve he adds more responsibilities to his daily grind. In addition to his involvement with the charitable foundation California Innocence, he is part of a small real estate business and a weekly podcast. His days are long, but he’s still grounded in music. “I’ll always be producing music. I can never describe the feeling I get when I make a song, go play it, and people sing it. That is unbelievable to me.”