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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Terrah-rizing the turntables: Remembering Akeem “DJ Terrah” Thompson

Thompson died of COVID-19 after a 20-day-long battle in UF Health Shands Hospital

Akeem Thompson lit up the room with his smile and hyped up crowds like no other. With his goofy persona and sick beats, Thompson brought laughter, joy and rhythm to Gainesville.

Despite being fully vaccinated, Thompson, better known as DJ Terrah from 98.9 JAMZ, passed away Aug. 19 from COVID-19 at age 39. The Type 2 diabetic was admitted to UF Health Shands Hospital July 30 after struggling with kidney dialysis for five years.

The family has set up a GoFundMe page in Thompson’s name and held a commemoration at Bo Diddley Plaza for him Sept. 4. As of Monday, the family has raised more than $3,000. 

Teary eyes and longing smiles filled Bo Diddley Plaza Saturday as booths and tents aligned the plaza to raise money for the family. Four major Gainesville DJ’s — Ardell Wright, DJ Zoo Hendrix, DJ Statuz and DJ Franco — mixed up the turntables to celebrate Thompson’s legacy as a DJ. 

Standing on the main stage, Gainesville City Commissioner Harvey Ward designated Sep. 4 as DJ Terrah Day in his honor as a COVID-19 rapid test tent sat in the corner of the plaza to encourage people to get tested.

Thompson sprouted the name DJ Terrah as a play on the word terrorize, his aunt Kim Daniels said. He wanted to terrorize the ones and twos — the names for the respective turntables. 

Daniels remembered when she made cameos on a radio segment he held called “Health Tips from Nurse Kim,” where the two discussed ways to obtain a healthy lifestyle. Thompson was passionate about helping others stay happy and healthy. 

In his final Facebook post, Thompson urged people to get the COVID-19 vaccine and attributed it to saving his children’s lives when he fell ill. 

Thompson’s kids are in his family’s custody. Daniels recalls when Thompson took his daughter Justice into the recording studio to make sound bites for his radio show. 

Daniels, a UF Health case manager, was one floor below Thompson when he was admitted to the hospital. Throughout the 20 days he spent at Shands, she said she raised her hand up to the ceiling and prayed for his health.

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“You couldn’t say nothing bad about him,” Daniels said. “Even the DJ’s who were always in competition couldn’t say nothing bad about him.”

Daniels also will miss Thompson’s humor. She recalls a memory in a New York subway where Daniel’s daughter, Grace, talked about her desire to move to the Big Apple. Grace shrieked when she saw a large rat, and Thompson joked around with her, causing the entire train station to erupt in laughter. 

“We gonna miss the funny,” Daniels said. “That joker was a trip.”

Desean Thompson, DJ Terrah’s 36-year-old brother, is also grieving the loss of Thompson.

The duo rose up together in the music industry, as Thompson became the vice president of Go Legit Entertainment, Desean's record label.

DJ Terrah discovered his love for the turntables at age 10 after watching the 1992 movie “Juice,” Desean said. Thompson attentively sat in front of the TV, watched DJ battles and learned the ins-and-outs of being a DJ. 

Across his career, Thompson took most pride in his appearance on BET’s “Rap City Tha Basement” in 2008, a show that displayed hip hop music videos, aired rapper interviews and held occasional DJ guest appearances.

Outside of DJing, Thompson prioritized his kids, Justice, 11, Jada, 14, and AJ, 12, Desean said. He wanted the best for them and sought out every opportunity to uplift them.

“He loved them a lot,” Desean said. “He just wanted to be the best father he could be.”

Lisa Canton, DJ Terrah’s 59-year-old mother, is heartbroken at the loss of her eldest child. However, she’s proud of what her son brought to her family and the Gainesville community.

“I would never see him walk through the door again,” Canton said. It hurts her knowing that his kids won’t be able to grow up with a father.

She will always cherish his witty humor and contagious, sweet spirit. 

“He was a gentle giant,” she said.

Canton remembers Thompson as a religious man. He constantly prayed for his children, attended church online and loved the Lord, she said. 

He never smoked or drank, and he pushed his children and family to stay healthy, Canton said. 

Canton was Thompson’s biggest fan, as she watched her son bloom into a powerhouse DJ. Thompson went by the slogan “if you are on time, you are late” — he was a hard worker. 

“I enjoyed watching my son work his passion,” she said. “Akeem knew from the time he was 13 he wanted to be a DJ.”

Jessica Williams, 39, saw Thompson as a brother. The two met at a Kappa Alpha Psi party at UF in 2001, where Thompson worked as the DJ.

Williams said his DJ skills brought him to local celebrity status — almost every student at UF recognized Thompson’s name from 2000 to 2010.

However, she feels Thompson wasn’t aware of his impact on the community.

“I’m teared up because if he knew a piece of what he did,” Williams said. “He had no idea.”

She vividly remembers his infectious laugh and clown persona. When she got the news of his passing, she was on the phone with her sister and couldn’t help but let out a scream.

Thompson and Williams were close from the start of their relationship. The pair had each other’s backs and often mused about life.

“He always saw the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “My heart broke ... I gained a brother that I didn’t even know I had.”

Thompson’s fans in the area are also feeling the weight of his loss. 

Gainesville resident Cherie Kelly went on 98.9 JAMZ in May as part of the Library Partnership of the Alachua County Library District. During her interview with Thompson, Kelly said he was warm and kind. 

“He was just very hospitable,” she said. “He was exciting, very welcoming and hospitable.”

Thompson’s daughter Justice will always remember her dad’s legacy. He will always be close to her heart.

“He was always honest about his opinion,” she said. “We love you, daddy.” 

Contact Faith Buckley at fbuckley@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @_faithbuckley.

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Faith Buckley

Faith Buckley is a first-year journalism student at UF and The Alligator's swimming and diving beat writer. She is specializing in sports media to one day hopefully work as an NHL commentator.


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