Female deejays are not a novelty or a new thang and they definitely should be taken seriously. Men do not own the patent on spinnin’ jams to the masses. Spinderella showed us what a sista could accomplish with a turntable, a mic, and quick fingers so it’s no surprise that the ladies have stepped up to the plate and taken the deejay business by storm.
To be quite honest I had never really given second thought to the fact that there are many emerging and established female deejays making a name for themselves (especially since I don’t frequent clubs). I knew it was happening, but I didn’t think it was unusual. I then realized that almost all of the deejays getting critical acclaim are male such as DJ Jazzy Jeff and Kid Capri. I’m sure the fellas feel like the ladies are stepping into their territory, so I had to school myself and talk to a few ladies that could give me insight on what being a female deejay is all about.
DJ Jenna Brown, DJ Superlative, DJ Afrodjiak, DJ Luna, and Fathom DJ are five ladies that each have their own unique experiences in the male dominated world of deejaying. Here are their perspectives on a few topics.
Superlative: When you are starting out, it’s hard to get a guy to mentor you or help you learn things, so a lot of stuff you either a) have to do on your own, or b) find a good friend to help you out. On the other hand, being a girl can be beneficial because female deejays are a novelty so guys (who tend to run shows) will book you or ask you to spin.
Afrodjiak: I haven’t encountered any drama from the fellas but I have experienced some snide remarks in my past. It’s only encouraged me to work harder and stay on my game.
Luna: One night I was wearing a t-shirt that said the name of my DJ company and a man remarked, “Is that your boyfriend’s shirt?” I said, “No, I’m the deejay tonight.” It kinda pissed me off to see someone make an assumption based on my gender.
Some guys are just jealous. They question my knowledge about this artist, or that piece of equipment.
Most of the time when I spin for a straight club, I get hit on by men who point out that it’s nice to see a female deejay. Depending on how they say it, depends on whether I take it as an insult or a compliment.
Fathom: I have always encountered some form of drama based on being strong and independent. Most of the male deejays I’ve encountered are somewhat afraid that you will take from their shine because you’re a woman. I didn’t realize how much control men want to have over us and how they seem to only see us physically. I think most of us are fighting to be defined by our craft not by how we look.
Jenna Brown: Sure I have experienced drama from the fellas. I have been doing this for a while! That is just the nature of the business though. It can get pretty competitive at times. I do get offers to help me carry my equipment!
Jenna Brown: It’s about the music that you bring to the people. There is nothing more exciting that playing to a group of people that want to hear exactly what you want to play. My group really gave me the wings to still be playing at a club in Detroit but play for myself while being synergistic with the crowd. It’s a beautiful thing. I also love sharing new music with my deejay friends and them reciprocating. I spend a lot of time looking for my music and I know everyone else does, but I don’t believe in hording my tracks. If I find a hot track I share it with a friend. If they find it smashing as well and they play it because they heard it from me that is exciting to me. I feel in Detroit in the places that I play, if everyone sticks together then the people will recognize the tracks I want them to.
Superlative: Once I put those headphones on, I’m in the zone. I’m feeling the music, and I get into it like everyone else. You can usually catch me dancing behind the decks. It’s a feeling of exciting calmness…you’re in control of the crowd. When you’re the deejay, everyone worships you. It’s like you get to play puppeteer for an hour or two.
Fathom: It’s exciting to able to create experiences for listeners. To be a part of ones memory based on a feeling that you spark while playing. To be able to evoke and provoke emotion through motion is the ultimate!
Luna: When I first started out on the east coast doing private parties, many people were surprised to see a female deejay. I got a lot of compliments. When I incorporated the club scene into my schedule, I found it to be very competitive. I had no problem with that because most of the time clubs would hire me over other deejays.
When I moved to San Francisco I deejayed for mostly lesbian events. No one has ever questioned why I wanted to be a DJ or made remarks about my gender as they did in the straight East Coast scene.
In the past year, my name has been advertised much more so promoters have really taken the opportunity to hire me on a consistent basis.
One thing I notice in this past year is how people treat me differently. Many people, who wouldn’t give me the time of day before, now kiss my ass. It’s kind of weird.
Fathom: I consider music my life and cant wait to be completely involved in creating my own sounds!!
Superlative: Deejaying is still my hobby and I prefer to keep it that way. When it turns into work is when the magic is lost. I enjoy the connections with people that it affords me and notoriety it brings, but I don’t want it to be my work. I wouldn’t mind spinning at Pink in San Francisco or the Notting Hill Arts Club in London someday, though.
I’m finishing grad school to be an epidemiologist, so that’s my full time trade. My real dream is to be a dancer. I love dancing more than I love being behind the decks.
Jenna Brown: I own and manage a franchise restaurant in Royal Oak, MI called The Pita Pit. It is a fast food gourmet joint, and its healthy too!
Luna: I deejayed full time for the first seven years and made pretty good money doing it. When I moved to San Francisco it took me a while to build contacts, network with promoters, and establish a client base. I used to work full time for an audio/visual company here in San Francisco, but now I’m booked almost every week as a DJ, so I plan on getting back into the DJ thing again full time.
As you can see the life of a female DJ is very much like the life of a female in any profession. Female deejays are handling their business and multitasking. They kick ass no matter what Tyrone, Dick, or Harry stands in their way! They run businesses, attend grad school, or live in music 24 hours a day! It’s really quite simple if you love what you do and have the passion for it.
According to Fathom DJ it’s about banging, “I have a concept for female deejays in the making called she can “bang”. It can also be trying to work with females as well. Everyone wants to rock but can she bang? The most important thing is to know your position on the team and play it to the fullest.”
I couldn’t agree more and banging is what these women do all day everyday. Maybe I will have to step behind the deck to feel the power. Nah, I’ll leave it to the professionals and let my sistas do their thang!
DJ Luna spins hip hop, r&b, reggaeton, old school, and 80’s in San Francisco at The CafÃ?Â©, Space 550, The Hush bush Lounge, and The Forum in Sunnyvale, CA.
Fathom DJ spins at Cozmos in Chicago as well as on her Internet mix show on projectivevibe.net.
DJ Superlative spins deep house, broken beat, old school hip hop, nujazz, downtempo, and old school soul/r&b at The Temple Club in Old Town Lansing every 2nd Tuesday night. She also spins periodically on Wednesday nights at 621 in downtown Landing.
DJ Afrodjiak is a part of Soundbrokerz, a subdivision of Geoclan, Inc. comprised of some of the hottest deejays, producers, and emcees that Philly has ever seen.
DJ Jenna Brown loves to spin techy/grooving/dirty/electro house with a tribal tip and she is part of a collective that is a landscape of nightlife, art, and clubbing in Detroit, www.picturethisdetroit.com