by Nadirah Simmons
I’ll never forget one of the first parties I attended in New York. It was my first summer here, and I was excited to partake in what everyone from the city proclaimed to be the “best time of the year.” My function of choice? A “4 Lovers Only” party at SOB’s, where the bill promised a sponsored one hour open bar and 90’s R&B music all night. To this day it remains one of the greatest parties I’ve been to, because of the music, specifically DJ 9AM’s set.
You have to love a DJ who doesn't go from “Poison” to “This Is How We Do It” to “No Scrubs” when it’s time to play 90’s R&B. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all great. But when someone spins those deep cuts that aren’t not everybody’s you have to respect it. The crowd and I did, for sure. Everyone was dancing for the entirety of her set, not to mention the few men who were professing their love for her in front of the stage. Yes, I’m serious.
Yet DJ9AM was cool as ever, maintaining a crowd control and confidence that I had never seen before. Thus talking to her was exciting, because she not only loves the art form that is DJing, but she’s got the vibe and the music taste a girl you’d want to be friends with-I was hype when she told me Smino is one of her favorite artists too.
We chatted about how she got her name, what happened the one time she couldn’t play “Meek Mill” at a party and the problem that is the male ego.
Where did your name come from?
Nine was a playful nickname back in the day that my friends gave me. And the initials to my real name are “AM,” Angel Monique. So I put them together and it sounded good! It has nothing to do with time [laughs].
How did you get your start in DJing?
Six years ago when I first moved to New York-I moved to Harlem. I used to work at this bar where I met one of my homegirls, and her and I decided to throw an event. Nobody knew me then so it wasn’t this big event and it ended up being practice for me.
At this very same bar they threw a Hip-Hop night and DJ Kool Herc and DJ Scratch came through...DJ Scratch got on the turntables and I was like “oh my god!” Then I spoke to him, told him I was a DJ and asked him if he had any pointers for me. He said yeah and said he would give me a lesson. So he had a studio in Brooklyn and he gave me a lesson there. It was so dope.
That’s honestly crazy as hell [laughs].
Right? It was a sign.
Indeed. Are you originally from New York?
Nah, I’m from Las Vegas!
Oh wow! What was growing up over there like? Did it influence your decision to become a DJ?
Yeah, it’s one of the biggest entertainment cities ever. Living there allowed me to see how successful you can be within this career. At the time I didn’t like the music that they played in Vegas clubs. They played a lot of Hip-Hop but they played a lot of EDM. I didn’t appreciate that type of music until I moved [to New York]. So now I’m into House, EDM and Hip-Hop as well.
And Vegas really showed me that a DJ is also an artist.
I love that you mentioned them being artists. I’ve asked many of the DJs I’ve talked to about their feelings towards people who don’t participate in it as an art form. They plug their phone or laptop in and think that makes them a DJ.
I feel like they’re doing it for the wrong reasons. If you don’t really get into the craft and learn how to DJ-I feel like they’re doing it for the wrong reasons. They’re doing it for the clout and it’s just a hustle for them. And if that’s your hustle I respect that. But you can only go so far with that. At some point in your career you’re going to be tested and the truth is going to come out. There are some events where you can be an aux cord DJ, but you can’t rock a club doing that.
What has your branding process been like? Walk me through it.
It’s one of the more difficult things, because a lot of time people want you to be who they want you to be. If you go outside of that people will ask what you’re doing. I just try to stay true to myself and as genuine as I can.
How important has social media been?
Social media is like the new business card. Some people might not even hit you up, they’ll look at your Instagram instead of asking for your EPK.
I go back and forth with it because I realize how important it is, but a part of me hates that it is very important. There are so many DJs and people want that total package. You can’t just be a good DJ, people also want a certain vibe at their party and they can pick that up off of your Instagram.
Instagram actually introduced me to your podcast “Breakfast at 9am.” Tell me a little about that.
I really wanted to show people my personality another side of me outside of my mixes, and I thought a podcast would be perfect.
Do you find your podcast and DJing to be therapeutic for you?
Yes! They take me into a different world that allows me to express myself freely. Being able to do that and being able to create, that’s therapeutic in itself. If you see me out I don’t really talk too much and I’m not the most social person. All of these creative outlets are a way for people get to know me.
I love when women have that outlet. Sometimes we don’t have the spaces to let things out so when you do you cherish them.
Very important. It keeps me sane.
Has it been hard for you as a woman in the industry?
It’s hard being a woman period. Especially when you’re first starting out people don’t expect you to be good because you’re a woman. Like I’ve had someone come behind the booth to see if I’m really playing!
Yes! I’ve had hosts come and mess with the knobs-I notice they only do that to certain women. I’ve noticed as women some of our biggest obstacles in the industry are men. Period. And their egos.
I agree. Where do you think that stems from? Are they intimidated or envious of women being good at what they do?
I think it comes from a hateful place. Women are getting booked a lot, and they don’t like it because they think we’re getting booked just because we’re women. They’ll think we’re using our sex appeal to get booked or we’re flirting with some dude who might like us to get booked…At the end of the day it’s more than posting a sexy picture on Instagram. We’re out here in the field really grinding. The girls who are getting booked, we’re not just sitting on our a** waiting for someone to someone to book us. Like nah. Work harder. And we have to keep working hard.
What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you while you were DJing a party?
Oh my god! I was playing at this bar uptown in Harlem, and the owners didn’t want me to play a lot of trap and Hip-Hop. They wanted me to play world and Afrobeat music to keep away a certain crowd. One night I was playing and these girls came up to me and they were like: “You don’t have no fcking Meek Mill, you a whack a** DJ!” I was like I got it but I can’t play it like that. I was trying to tell them it wasn’t my fault.
Long story short, I ended up calling for security over the mic because they were distracting. And then they got mad and started swinging on me! One girl contacted and I had to back up and come from behind the table…I literally got into a fight with two girls because I didn’t play Meek Mill.
It goes back to being a woman. If I was a man and told them I couldn’t do it they might’ve gone on with their night. But because I’m a woman and I’m petite they thought they could do that.
That’s wild as hell. But you’re not wrong about that part.
In your eyes, what does “making it” look like?
I feel like when you are able to survive financially and fully off of your craft you’ve made it. One of my goals is to go back to Las Vegas and have a major residency there. Also to get my show on a higher platform because I really enjoy it. And to be able to travel and play.
Would you ever want to tour with an artist? And who?
Absolutely! That’s one of my biggest goals. Definitely Jean Deaux, I think she’s really dope. I feel like our vibes are similar and I would love to go on tour with her.
What advice would you give your 10-year-old self?
It’s okay to be confident in everything that you do. I would enforce confidence because it everything. It dictates your whole life and everything you do. Don’t let that first dude hit [laughs].
Yo! You’re funny as hell!
Ha! And I would tell myself not to waste time […] and to listen to my father.
Listen to her podcast and mix below.