DJ Goldielocks On Leaving New Orleans After Katrina, Confronting Fear And More

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by Nadirah Simmons

The best part about talking to DJ Goldielocks was when she mentioned the word “tribe.” Defined as “a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect,” there’s no doubt how important tribes are to creatives, especially when they are Black and women. For Goldielocks, a tribe that supports, encourages and uplifts its members is all she can be around. And it shows.

Not only did our conversation find us bonding over our disdain with how SoundCloud has evolved and our love for Megan Thee Stallion, but most importantly the desire to see us all win-from the DJs to the journalists to the hairstylists. That’s rare to hear right off the bat when talking to someone you barely know, but Goldielocks emphasized it whenever she could during our conversation.

We talked to her about her introduction to DJing, the lasting effect living in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina has had on her, her dream person to DJ for and more.

I’m so jealous, you’re from New Orleans and I’ve been trying to go to for years. Do you stay there?
I stay in Dallas, Fort Worth. But most of my work is in Dallas.

Well I know what the music scene is like down there. How did it influence you musically?
I can speak to what it was like when I was there. When I was younger everybody used to be at the block party t-popping-that’s tootsie popping. And I remember hearing Big Freedia and hearing Magnolia Shorty and hearing DJ Jubilee and being excited. I met Juvenile for the first time when I was six or seven after the Second Line. But the musical scene down there is so diverse and different. It’s literally gumbo, a little bit of jazz, a little bit of Hip-Hop, a little bit of bounce, a little bit of blues.

[Laughs] Yes to the gumbo!
And while my mom is from New Orleans my dad is from Mobile, Alabama. So I had diverse music in my upbringing. My mom hipped me to India Arie and Kanye and OutKast. I used to think she could’ve been a DJ because she hipped me to so much.

When did you move to Texas?
I went through Katrina. I don’t like to call myself a refugee, I call myself a survivor because I’m a citizen of this country. After Katrina they put us on a plane and we didn’t know where we were going and we ended up in Fort Smith, Arkansas. From there my mom was a traveling nurse at the time so she was able to go to Little Rock for an assignment and then to Dallas, and we stayed with one of her friends for a year and then she sent for us.

You were so young. And I think as a kid from up north who was young when it happened, a lot of people like me forget how deadly Katrina was. And how damaged the community still is. 
We were in the convention center, and my mom just started going back two years ago. Katrina was fifteen years ago. I could’ve lost my mother. When she was going to WalMart she had to get some food to feed her kids-she had me and my cousins…As a twelve year old I saw dead fetuses. I had to move a dead body. I’ve had to use the bathroom outdoors. And not being able to take a bath for days. Getting ran over by a stampede of people. All at twelve. But that’s my story and I tell it, it’s only fuel for the fire. 

When did you get your start in DJing? 
I was really into Slim K and Rob Gallardo. They have this mixtape series Purple Children. I had started listening to it and I thought it was so dope. I went into the music and listened to the transitions and how they would chop stuff. I was like man I want to do this.

I was working at Waffle House over the summer between semesters and one of the popular DJs was a regular, Captain Charles. I started telling him I wanted to be a DJ and he told me he had a couple of boards he wasn’t using and that he would bring them to me. A week or two later he came with it.

I took it home and the first song I ever chopped was “Say Yes” by Floetry.

What? I need to hear that!
It’s locked away on SoundCloud. It’s horrible [laughs]. After that I would DJ in my room, people would try to get me gigs on campus and I was nervous. I didn’t start DJing in the public until this year when I moved to Fort Worth.

What was holding you back before?
Fear. Fear of failing. I never wanted to go out in front of a crowd and fuck up.

What is the environment like in Fort Worth and Dallas?
Nobody’s double crossed me, everybody genuinely wants to see everybody win.

Do you remember your worst DJ experience?
Yes. It was on my birthday. I arrived and the people didn’t have anything set up and they were giving attitudes. I ended up not playing until 30 minutes into the event. But it was whatever, what happened was after the event was over. I had to drive back to Dallas to get my check. They didn’t pay me that night.

What does making it look like for you?
Making it means not worrying about where my next check is coming from. I want to be happy. I wan’t my family to be good. I want those around me to eat. And I want to be a DJ for an artist one day.

Do you have an artist in mind?
I don’t know if Ari Lennox needs a DJ but I will deadass abandon everything [laughs]. If Mac was still here I would’ve loved to work with Mac.

Aw you are about to make me cry. That guy was my favorite.
Swimming is it!

Roxanne Roxanne is The Best Film of 2018


by Melissa Kimble

One might forget that Roxanne Shanté was only a teenager when she changed the game. But a viewing of Roxanne Roxanne, the Netflix film about the rap powerhouse born Lolita Shanté Gooden, will remind you. The rap battle champ had been destroying her competition since childhood and by the time she was 13 she solidified her spot with “Roxanne’s Revenge.” Her story, brought to life by creative and film powerhouses Nina Yang Bongiovi and Mimi Valdés, was named one Netflix's most watched films of the year. And as the first biopic to center a female rapper and tell her incredible story through an incredible cast, Roxanne Roxanne is the best movie of 2018. Period.

The movie is a necessary piece of music history. From the door knockers to the matching fur coats for couples to the spray painted shirts, the style of the 80s is on full display. Add this to the makeup of the families and communities in the Queensbridge Houses, and the film gives viewers a full mirror look at “the Golden era of Hip-Hop.” Without a doubt, Shanté’s indelible mark on the industry is still felt today, every time your favorite rappers take shots at each other. Just as JJ Fad opened the door for NWA, Roxanne Shante opened the door for rap battles as we know them today. The film takes you through her journey, explaining why the pioneer’s star didn’t shine as bright as one would’ve hoped due to issues with money and managers in the industry.

Beyond this, the cast provides a stellar and sturdy foundation for an important story. In her first role, newcomer Chante Adams, is undeniable as Roxanne Shanté. Although she was born after this historic era, Chante delivers the tenacity and passion of the young rapper with ease and a strong on screen presence. “I think Chanté was born for the part. Her parents made her for me,” the real Shanté told the New York Times. The weight of carrying the role of a Hip-Hop legend is grounded by two legends in their own right - Nia Long and Mahershala Ali.

Considered by DJ Booth as “the most Hip-Hop man in Hollywood”, Mahershala is heartbreakingly evil as Cross, the older drug dealer that Shanté falls in love with. However their relationship turns sour when it becomes abusive. Mahershala masterfully plays the antagonist - gracefully evil, cool and demanding. It’s equally as delightful to see Nia Long shine as Shante’s mother - full of depth, grit, and a rawness. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Long had a connection to Roxanne.

“I was singing her records in the bathroom mirror with my braces, bangs, ponytail and red lipstick,” she told the Times. “You never know how things that shaped your life as a girl will come back and reshape your life.”

The Roxanne Shanté story also finds our hero navigating sexual advances from men and addressing the physical abuse she endured at the hands of her lover. This isn’t your average coming-of-age story. This also isn’t permission for you to feel sorry for her. The beauty in this film is that it presents Black girls and Black women in a way that doesn’t celebrate our pain but instead highlights our resilience. And in the midst of the #MeToo movement, founded in 2006 by Tarana Burke, the movie tells her story through the lens of power, not weakness. She knew who she was from an early age and despite the struggles stood up for herself. And in a year where rap beefs have been crazy (see Cardi vs. Nicki), it’s great to see the one of the originators, a 13-year-old girl who out-rapped grown men, finally getting her flowers with Roxanne Roxanne. Roxanne Shanté inspires us to never stay silent. Here’s to more of our stories seeing the light.

Melissa Kimble, who splits her time between Chicago and Brooklyn, is a writer, digital strategist, and founder of #blkcreatives, a collective that advocates for Black genius across across Creative industries.

This One’s For The Ladies


by DeMicia Inman

I, like many women, attend parties, kickbacks, and other celebratory events. Which means I am no stranger to that moment when the DJ proclaims: “This one’s for the ladies,” right before dropping a song by a man. The broadcast is typically followed by Drake’s “Nice For What,” Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” or another slow jam of some sort.

DJs who play Hip-Hop, R&B and other urban contemporary artists might not mean any ill will when their music selections are songs mostly by men. Their focus is on playing the hottest tracks, which means men will be played because, like in many aspects of life, contributions by women are overlooked due to misogyny and patriarchy. And that’s not to say women can’t or don’t enjoy rap music by men-we can and do. But I believe no artist celebrates women like other women.

Gender plays a huge role in how a song’s content is received. Rappers might have similar themes in their songs, but the difference in the way each track is interpreted by listeners can be attributed to the artist, more specifically their race, sex, class, gender and more. So it’s no surprise that a woman rapping certain lyrics is more empowering than if they were rapped by a man.

Take Cardi B’s hit “Bodak Yellow” for example. The track interpolates the flow on Kodak Black’s  “No Flockin,” and both songs find them rapping about the power of money. While “No Flockin” peaked at No. 95 on Billboard’s Hot 100,  Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow“ made history, reaching No. 1 and earning Grammy nominations. The commercial success of Cardis cut was aided by her vibrant personality shown on reality television and social media, encouraging women to root for and support an artist who’s real and that they relate to. Kodak on the other hand, whose song still gets spins at parties and has a hefty 165 million views on YouTube, turned off listeners with his comments on women with darker skin and his first-degree criminal sexual conduct charges. And too often for Black women loving rap music often means reconciling blatant disrespect with a banging beat. Yet while Cardi B’s songs get played, she’s one of only a few women receiving their much deserved shine.

From a young age, I rapped along to Salt N Pepa and learned every Queen Latifah verse. With age, this catalog grew to include Trina, Eve, Diamond, and Princess of Crime Mob fame, and other adolescent favorites. I watched and the adult women in my life stood in the mirror, singing along to Missy Elliott, Foxy Brown and Lil Kim, basking in the power of black womanhood. And today my pregame playlists shuffle between Rico Nasty, Megan Thee Stallion, LightSkinKeisha and more women deserving of play beyond my personal Bluetooth speaker. Adding more women to party sets and playlists creates room for women to excel in an industry dominated by men-as rappers, singers, producers and engineers. And all of these voices should be championed everywhere, including bars and clubs.

A party ain’t a party until women run through and it’s time for the sound to match.

Four Songs That'll Make You Groove And Leave You Hungry


By Chanté Griffin

Good music will cause you to smile and dance without thinking. So will good food. Just in time for the holidays, here are songs from our favorite artists that’ll make you groove and leave you reaching for a plate of food.

“Soul Food” - Good Mob

Goodie Mob’s “Soul Food” reminds us how soul food got its name. The group raps about the comfort that soul food provides: respite from discrimination and embrace in a world that constantly tries to keep us down.

Soul food is the art of turning nothing into something delicious, of transforming racism’s leftovers into a delectable feast.

Fast food got me feeling sick
Them crackers think they slick
By trying to make this bullshit affordable
I thank the Lord that my voice was recordable

In contrast, soul food is portrayed as the food that nurtures the mind, body, and soul:

A heaping helping of fried chicken
Macaroni and cheese and collard greens
Too big for my jeans
Smoke steams from under the lid that's on the pot
Ain't never had a lot but thankful for
The little that I got why not be

Somber yet uplifting, the song boasts a steady beat and a heavy bass. You can’t help but nod your head in agreement. It’s the type of song you play when you’re driving home from work after a trying day, or after you’ve heard about another racist incident: the police being called on a black girl trying to sell lemonade or on black folks just trying to barbecue. The song reminds you that somebody’s got your back—an uncle, cousin, mama, or auntie. When you get home, somebody will have a plate ready for you.

Come and get yo' soul food, well well
Good old-fashioned soul food, all right
Everythang is for free
As good as it can be
Come and get some soul food

“Collard Greens & Cornbread” - Fantasia

Is anybody’s love better than yo’ mama’s collard greens and cornbread? What about her sweet potato pie? According to R&B songstress Fantasia, the love that she’s found ranks right up there with her mama’s best dishes.

Sampling Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Your Precious Love,” this song finds Fantasia belting out praise for the one who’s making her so crazy in love. With her unique, gospel-infused singing style, Fantasia proclaims:

I ain't gonna lie
Boy you got me out of my mind
in L-O-V-E
I go crazy when you love me
Got me acting a mess
Even got the nerve to say I'm better than my momma
Collard greens and cornbread yeah
Collard greens and cornbread yeah

Her longing for this man is so potent it makes you question the type of love she’s singing about: Is it THAT good or is it dysfunctional? Either way, it makes you hungry for a side of greens and cornbread.

“Cornbread Fish & Collard Greens” - Anthony Hamilton

Whereas Fantasia romanticizes the soul food analogy, Anthony Hamilton explicitly sexualizes it. His song introduces us to a woman who stands confidently in her sexuality. To satisfy her, Hamilton knows he’s gotta come with a full buffet: cornbread, fish, and collard greens. He serenades her:

Cornbread, fish, and collard greens
I got what you need
If you want it (cause I'm pimp, girl)
If you want it (I'm a pimp, girl)

Although I would have hoped that all artists would have outgrown using the word “pimp” in their lyrics by now, the word’s connotations weaken because he’s slinging “food” and because he gives the woman a choice:

If you want it
If you want it

Hamilton makes it clear that she is the one ultimately in control.

The upbeat tempo boasts a strong beat and bassline that invites you to rock your pelvis back to front, side to side. Hamilton sings with the swag of a man with who is certain that he has what we need. And by the end of the song, I’m hungry. I’m swinging my hips back and forth, snaking my body, and admitting—yes, yes I do want your cornbread, fish and collard greens.

“Family Reunion” - Jill Scott

Jill Scott’s “Family Reunion” is a mid-tempo celebration of food and family that compels you to tap your feet and bob your head.

Scott poetically paints the picture of her family gathering for its reunion. There’s the typical drama: family secrets, spats, and folks in recovery. But what cements them together, besides the bonds of family, is the food. Scott sings:

Neicey made her famous potato salad, somehow it turns out green
Maybe it's all the scallions, could be the celery
But oh, Uncle Jerome loves it

This description of Neicey’s potato salad reminds me of my mom’s potato salad that I can’t get enough of: mounds of potatoes mixed with eggs, scallions, and celery, meshed with mayo and sweet pickle relish. Uncle Jerome’s celebration of that imperfect salad reminds me of family’s willingness to embrace us through most anything.

Oh shit, Damn Micky and Steven are fightin' again
Move out the way, somebody might get hurt
Aw look at that what happen is worst
They knocked over Helenora's Lemon Cake (Em)
You know the one she barely ever makes
I'm gettin' rilled up, I want them to go
But Somebody turn Frankly Beverly on the stereo
Cousin Ruby starts rockin', shaker her good hip and bottom
So we all fall into place, smiling and laughing

Despite the scuffle and the loss of the cake, all is good. There’s always enough food and love prepared.

So grab a plate, turn up the music, and groove.

Our Twitter Chat With Yan Snead


by Nadirah Simmons

A week ago we hosted our very first live Twitter chat with Yan Snead, a woman making major plays in the field. She is the Communications & Digital Strategy Manager at the Katal Center for Health, Equity, & Justice by day, Editor of Dinner Land Network and Digital Strategist for Chase N. Cashe’s brand “Can’t Buy Respect.” She’s a Jack of all trades with an indelible ear for music and she’ll definitely argue Dom Kennedy’s greatness to the death.

Throughout the conversation we talked about the importance of Hip-Hop culture, self-preservation in the often draining business that is entertainment and navigating male-dominated workspaces. The conversation was so good that we here at The Gumbo decided to share all of the gems in an article for everyone to read. Check out the gems below.

What did your introduction to the media industry look like? 
Podcast About Nothing, 2015. To be honest I’ve been writing and blogging since tumblr came about, but I didn’t REALLY get into the mix until @JamarMDickson threw me into it. We used to interview artists, media personalities, and entrepreneurs within the music community it’s actually wild how far I’ve managed to get in three years. But what worked for me was being extremely personable, connecting with whoever no matter how popular or unpopular they were/are, & asserting myself. I never wait on opportunities, I just did & still do whatever speaks to me.

The media and entertainment industries are without a doubt boys clubs, much like many other fields. What are some challenges you face as a woman? How do you navigate male-dominated workspaces? 
Two things actually. The biggest challenges I face are one, maneuvering through genuine interest in connecting and building versus “you poppin’, I’m going to act like your friend so you’ll promo my shit.” And two, dealing with male egos. I’ve come across a handful of men that are intimidated by my upward progression and attempt to block plays or take credit for my strategies. But as @OloriSWANK said, I could show you my hand and I’ll still win.

You described Hip-Hop as an umbrella under which music exists alongside language, fashion and more. How do you feel about its current state? 
Hip-Hop influences everything. Black Culture is pop culture. As far as hip-hop music, it’s a LOT of quality shit out there. The cliché answer would be “it’s in shambles, we praising too much goofy shit,” but there’s a lot of quality artists and music in circulation. Hip hop is alive and well, and if you believe otherwise it’s a reflection of the goofy shit and wack music you personally entertain.

Having so many different jobs can take a toll on one’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. What do you do to practice self care?
You have to take time to feed your spirit. For me that looks like reading books, listening to podcasts, having conversations about life/business with good friends, sometimes it’s totally isolating myself because I NEED me time, and other times it’s surrounding myself with love.

Some people champion having a seat at the table. Others champion building their own. What do these two statements mean to you, and how have they influenced your career decisions?
When I first started out, honestly the only  thing I was sweating was a seat at the table, but that was before I recognized my value and influence. Now I understand the value in knowing how to be a guest at a table & the importance in building your own. Need that balance.

I think our generation doesn’t pay enough attention to all the helping hands the greats received by being guests at someone’s table so that when they built their own it would be solid. You can’t do shit alone in any industry, ESPECIALLY not media/music. and what I’ll close that thought with, like I always say, while you’re at the table, you better be inspiring, teaching, plugging and giving back just like someone did for you to be able to sit there.

You can only take on project from this year into 2019. Which one are you picking and why?So we gon’ talk about the production quality, endless game dropping and replay value on Victory Lap or nah? Album of the year.

You get to executive produce an album and you’re choosing two rappers and producer. Who are you picking and why?
@Lowcollege and @DOPEITSDOM. I’ve always wanted to executive producing a Dom project, that’s my favorite rapper, real ones know. & Joe College the best thing out of Jersey. 

As far as the producer, y’all know I was always choosing my right hand @ChaseNCashe. He laces everything.

Who are some women in Hip-Hop that you look up to and appreciate? 
The women that I admire & appreciate are @vashtie, @erinasimon, @BreaSimone, @hinadirah, Ethiopia Habtemariam, @DJMissMilan, @jamisaaa, @BiancaEnRogue, @IvyLikeBlu, @theKYingredient, @TheKaiMiller, @viasimone_, @__KCarter__, man its a bunch of y’all.

What advice would you give your 10-year-old self? 
Stop comparing yourself, they ain’t you and you don’t want to be them. You’re special and people will see it when they need to.

Boston Chery Talks Healing People Through Music And The Importance of Support

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by Nadirah Simmons

Boston Chery stands out from the crowds for many reasons. For one, her aesthetic is that of a 90’s fan, but not the kind that simply reposts pictures of our favorite artists of the time. Instead, Chery has a deep respect for the artistry and the culture that manifests in her DJ sets and her personality, through which she shares her love for nostalgia and appreciation for the cultural pioneers before her-Mary J. Blige, Busta Rhymes, Brandy and Diddy to name a few. That was where we bonded.

But what struck me during our conversation was when she revealed that she rarely drinks or smokes. “Maybe four times a year,” she said over the phone. Instead, she prefers to let music heal her and get her through tough times, the same way a glass of wine or weed would for someone else. It’s not a knock, it’s just how she maneuvers. Music is her vice.

We talked to her about her introduction to DJing, the healing nature of music and the freeing environment that exists within queer party spaces.

Where did you get the name Boston Chery?
I came to New York from Massachusetts and I back then I had a super heavy Boston accent. There was this girl would call me “Boston” all the time and my last name was Chery, so that’s how I put my name together. 

When did you start DJing?
I started about eight years ago, when I was 19. Music was always with me, I actually linked up with a friend from elementary school out in Crown Heights and his mom told me I had a really good ear and that I should get into DJing. So I did. 

I was going through your social media pages and I saw a large 90’s influence.
One, I’m a 90’s baby. Two, nostalgia heals. We’re in a time where people are talking about their feelings and their mental state, and with music I’ve always wanted to heal. I’ve always wanted to bring that vibe where people make that stank face that reminds you of a song you haven’t heard in a while…Good feelings, that’s all that I’m about. Bringing good feelings to the dance floor.

I find music to be therapeutic and healing. How has it done that for you personally?
I was going back and forth between Boston and New York a lot as a child, just to different family members. Music was my escape, it made me feel good, it gave me a foundation and hope. A sense of security and a sense of belonging. Music is very spiritual to me.

How does your music taste shine through in your sets, because you have such an eclectic palate. 
I just go with I’m feeling at the moment or what the crowd is feeling, and then I make sure I play a little something for everyone. I don’t believe in bad music, I believe in something being relatable or not relatable. And then I put a little nostalgia and culture in it, and I’m a West Indian girl so I have to throw that in.

I want to switch gears a little bit, tell me your best DJ experience?
I have a lot! Could I give a top 3? The Joy, Brooklyn Boyhood and Remarkable, they have a party during the summertime for the queer crowd. I was the first person to open up during Pride weekend and it was crazy! I also did a collab party that weekend too…can I do two more? And I did another queer party in Oakland, the vibes were like Brooklyn vibes. And DJing with KAYTRANADA in Montreal.

Wait! How you gonna put that one last [laughs]. How did that come together?
Ha! It was a few years ago, I was going in order! But I was signed to this agency and they put me on the Osheaga Festival.

I want to go back to what you said about the different types of party spaces. Whenever I go to parties that are predominantly queer they’re always a tad better than cis and straight spaces [laughs].
I think what it is, too many people are trying to maintain a persona. And I feel like [for some] queer people they’ve been upholding a person their entire lives. To be queer is to be free and finally free. To be finally free is just not giving a f*ck. I have a lot of straight friends that come to my queer events and they always say how no one dances at these other events. It’s about dancing and turning up and meeting good people. 

One thing I saw on your Instagram page is that you spun at Museum of Sex for an event supporting sex workers. I was inspired by that because conversations around sex work need to happen. How did you end up DJing there?
I was actually reached out to by one of the curators who works there. I had spun at a party before and there were a few sex workers there, and it had opened my eyes. I was inspiring by their stories and I wanted to show love and support to sex workers and have the information to be able to educate people and also tell people that they have to respect everyone.

What does making it look like for you?
Being free and creating with whoever, whenever. Not having to worry about bills and traveling the world without worrying about finances. And healing people with music. I also want to inspire more women to produce and more women to DJ.

Is your family supportive of your career path?
I’m West Indian, I’m Haitian. So you already know I was supposed to be a nurse a long time ago. In the beginning [my mom] didn’t understand it, but my fourth year of DJing I was walking in SoHo from work and she said “I don’t know what it is, but I feel like deep down you’re going to make it big and I want to let you know I support you and love you.”

Bianca Chase On DJing And How She Became The “Alternative Hoodrat”

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by Nadirah Simmons

Bianca Chase’s Instagram name is Alternativehoodrat, and it falls in line perfectly with the Brooklyn-bred artist. Bianca can do it all, from jewelry designing, rapping and photography to art curation, fashion designing and DJing.  

We talked to Bianca about their relationship with New York, the stress that comes with presentation and how the internet helped breed the “alternative hoodrat.”

What makes Brooklyn different from the other boroughs in New York?
We’re really diverse, and I feel like sometimes we don’t really realize it. It’s a melting pot and people bring their energy and their art and we adopt it.

I read one of your other interviews and you said you have a love/hate relationship with New York. Why is that?
I got bullied a lot as a child. The things that people used to pick on me about are the things people love about me now, and it’s trauma. It makes me feel a way because this is the environment I grew up in. Then I go to other states and people like it, but when I’m home people pick on me about my lips and stuff. 

I love that you mention that, especially being fellow a bald-headed person-I remember when I shaved all of it off and everyone was not happy.
Same, I had to let it all go. I kept my hair because everyone around me wants me to have hair. But I was like I’m not happy, it makes me uncomfortable, it’s was a weight on my shoulders. And when I shaved it off I was like “wow!”

Same! I had this big afro and everyone was like “don’t do it!”
That’s real. But who is going to braid this for me? Who is going to detangle it?

Ha! But you know what? That’s so good for younger Black people. To be reminded to be multidimensional and to do whatever you want with whatever, even if it’s starting with your hair.
Right! There’s more than one way to be and ways you can be. 

You yourself are also a multifaceted artist. A quick glance at your Instagram shows that you have your hand in a lot of things. How has the internet helped your career?
The internet grew me. When I saw alternative stuff I realized I want to dress gothic, I want to wear platforms..I [also] realized what you can and can’t put on the internet. I notice that when I’m sad or angry my work doesn’t share as well, and when you’re in drama and people peep it they see you in a certain way. And I’ve worked really hard to get out of that negative space. But I’m just like I am on the internet as I am in person.

When did you get into DJing?
I’ve always really loved music. I’ve always loved certain tunes and the sounds that were a part of songs. I asked my father to buy me this synthesizer in 2014, my junior/senior year in high school.

What songs are you playing at a function to set the mood and then get everybody hype?
“Sticky” by Ravyn Lenae and to get hype? Asian Doll’s “GUMMO” remix.

What advice would you give your younger self?
I would have told myself to be a little bit more patient and consistent with my art. I would’ve told myself to be more prepared and not to get caught up in the fck sh*t.

What do you mean by fck sh*t?
When I was younger I was trouble maker! But I also got bullied a lot so I was very paranoid-from elementary school until the year I graduated middle school, and then when I got to high school I didn’t talk to people. And if I did talk I wasn’t very nice.

If you could pick one song or one artist as the soundtrack to your life who or what would it be and why?
Steve Lacy, “Looks.” That’s my mood right now.

DJ 9AM On The Origin of Her Name, Her Worst DJ Experience And The Male Ego

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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!

Wait, what?
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.
Mhm, crazy.

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.