So here we are Tuesday and I still haven’t been able to shake this whole “cornrow” situation that blew up on Twitter regarding NK. At this point, my anger and disgust more so stem from her reaction to all of this, whether than her initial actions of wearing the style. True everyone makes mistakes, but how one goes about the situation in the end is what can deem one noble. The case here is that NK simply feels as if she did no wrong, therefore she will never take responsibility for her offensive actions. There wasn’t a drop of nobility to her response to the backlash, which is important to note, because most of it came from the same black and brown people in the community she claims to care about. Her excuses, invalid points and retweets from clueless supporters shined a bright light on her white supremacy and entitlement. Rather than listen and attempt to have a constructive conversation about her use of the term “ghetto” and cultural appropriation, she jumped right into defense mode. The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was her having the audacity to call one of the most dedicated people to diversity in the scene right now, whom also happens to be a black woman, a racist. That’s the point when I lost all respect.
“How dare you speak to me this way” NK tweeted in response to one of the tweets critiquing her actions. It’s clear to me that this woman has never had anyone check her ass, and she simply folded under the pressure- I for one am not surprised. People like her spend their careers profiting off black culture, yet when it comes down to it, our concerns are invalid to them. This entire situation reflects that. These are the same type of folks who will run around screaming “black lives matter”, yet when it’s time to a be a true ally mf’s are SILENT. Personally, what I want to know is, where are all of the top white feminist DJ’s in this conversation? The social justice warrior types who always have something to say about every political thing yet won’t use their platform and white privilege to denounce the inappropriate actions of one of their peers. Again, not surprised. When sticking up for black people is convenient, everyone is on top of it, but I suppose this situation isn’t the most convenient one (being the power of the woman in question), so they don’t say shit. Ain’t that a bitch?
This entire situation has been equally draining and nauseating. I like to consider myself a strong person, but I won’t lie, this situation has hit me to my core. It’s one thing to have internet trolls coming for me, but for another black woman and DJ that I at one point admired and looked up to, come at me publicly telling me that I’m speaking out on all of this in hopes of “attention” or “accolades” is seriously disappointing. My initial tweet on this topic (that just happened to blow up on Twitter), received way more attention than I imagined. I was in a heated mental state and typed the first thing that came to mind. I don’t need attention, I’m not a hater, nor am I jealous. I’m a black woman who is passionate about my culture, dance music, and braids for that matter- I rock them about 60% of the time. I’m wondering if this person, someone who I’ve known for years, and is a fellow black woman, would have had my back the same way had I been in question about something? Now I’m not here to disrespect anyone, but I am indeed a 34-year-old grown ass woman who is not afraid to speak to my mind. As I mentioned above, the silence and ignorant statements from many on this issue are VERY telling. Scary to think that these are some of the same folks we rub elbows with at clubs and festivals around the globe.
As a black woman who wears cornrows on a regular basis, I find pride and strength in rocking the style, and it often feels like a form of resistance against the white society that tells me I need to wear my hair straight to be accepted. Perhaps this is what makes the topic a sensitive one, because to me, the style is not simply a fad or a costume for the night- it’s my heritage. Here’s a quick story for reference; when Resident Advisor reached out to me to contribute to their infamous podcast series I was elated, I felt like it would be the perfect opportunity for me to put some shine on my DJ career. When it came time to select a photo to accompany the podcast, I immediately told myself I would go with one of my more “polished” photos wearing straight hair- I told myself this was “prettier” and would draw more attention to the mix. I soon after realized how stupid I was being, and that I too was playing into society’s preference for European beauty standards. At that point I said the hell with it, I’m going to rep for the culture like I’ve been doing, I mean, that is what my platform, Underground & Black is all about. So yeah, the decision to use a picture with me wearing cornrows was a conscious one, one that was rooted in much more than simply being “cool”, “bad ass” or “ghetto” for the night. At the end of the day though, I realize that no matter how shitty NK’s cornrows looked, me, a black woman in the same exact industry with the same exact style, would never, and will never, receive the same amount of love and compliments for doing it.
Why is it so often that white people get applauded for doing the same exact things that black people have been doing for centuries? It’s truly absurd how so many seem to be completely unaware of how frustrating stuff like this is for black people. We literally cannot have ANYTHING to ourselves. We live in a world where people get upset that we get one measly month to celebrate our culture. We live in a world where non-black people think it is acceptable to use the “N” word simply because we do. We live in a world where non-black people profit off our culture, language, music, style, etc, everyday single day, all the while many of us still struggle on the sidelines. White people run our society, have a much better chance at successfully navigating through this tainted world and are somehow still upset about black people wanting to keep certain things solely in our community. The white entitlement is clear as day, and way too many folks feel so openly entitled to everything.
This is the world we live in, and I realize some of you will never know what it’s like to be a black man or woman living in a white man’s world. From day 1 of stepping into DJing I knew I’d never be the most popular or make the most money even if I truly was the best at it, and honestly, I’m okay with that. Unbeknownst to some, I’m not in this game for fame and fortune, I’m in this shit because its my passion. Being that I am a black woman born and raised in Detroit, this is literally my roots, my upbringing- I’ve been involved in this shit since I was a kid, and it’s important to me that folks know that. That they know my sheer commitment to everything dance music related, whether it be this very blog, my radio show, an interview I conduct, or a black artist I book. I am someone out here making a true contribution, as is Frankie of Discwoman, yet here we are being shaded for speaking out on what is right and what is wrong. The irony.
I’m convinced a lot of people truly do not understand the concept of bullying. Holding someone accountable for shitty mistakes is NOT bullying. A critique of someone’s careless actions is not hating, nor a reflection of what someone thinks of this person’s musical ability. People are turning this thing into something that it is not without realizing the bigger picture, which is that this conversation is much bigger than NK. This is not the first and not the last time this discussion will be had, trust me.
As I wrap all of this up, I simply want to say, LISTEN. Listen when black people or minority groups get offended about certain words, behaviors, or actions; show us the respect of hearing us out. Writing us off and ignoring our concerns is not conducive to growth and understanding. Also, if you call yourself an “ally”, stand up for us. SAY SOMETHING. White silence on these types of issues is one of the main reasons why things like cultural appropriation bothers us. This idea that it’s okay to mimic black people when its time to look “cool” and “have fun”, but when shit gets real many of yall are nowhere to be found. I could talk about this shit all day to be honest, but I’m choosing to move forward. Many of us have our points and thank you to those that stood up and showed solidarity. The black community came together on this, and it is important that we remember to come together ALL OF THE TIME, not just when these types of battles arise.
It was important for me to use my platform to talk about this, because we all know every other outlet is going to tip toe around it and wait for it to blow over just like every other “Techno Twitter” battle. These are valid discussions that need be had, and the work doesn’t stop with this post. All of my Underground & Black projects have been about CELEBRATING and INSPIRING, and that is what I plan to continue to do. And hey, if I have to call bullshit on certain things from time to time, I’m down for that too. Although my blackness may be a trend and novelty to you, it is not to me, and I take it very seriously. I am not shocked to see how offended some get when a black woman speaks her mind, this is how the story goes people! Today, I still stand with my head high knowing that I got the cities of Detroit and Atlanta behind me. I’m going to keep doing me yall.
That’s one of the crazy aspects of DJing- you travel the world yet sometimes there’s only enough time for dinner and the gig.
I know I often used to start these things with my regret about not updating the blog enough, so this time I’ve decided to not go that route. What I will say though, is that I’ve missed this outlet, and it feels good to be back. It also feels good to be back in Atlanta chillin’ at my favorite coffee shop on a Friday off from work. I have the next 3 days free from my day job, as well as the weekend off from DJing, so I definitely plan to take this free time to focus on self care while also staying productive, as there’s always work to be done.
This past weekend I had to pleasure to complete my third Europe tour. Being that my schedule is somewhat limited due to my day job, this trip only consisted of two gigs. The first gig in Foligno, Italy was initially booked at the infamous Serendipity Club, a club that has hosted the likes of Jeff Mills and Little Louie Vega. As with the climate of today’s club culture, the venue unfortunately is having permit issues which I was told is in the works of being resolved. That being said, the promoters were able to find another venue and promoter to join forces with so that the event could still take place, and for that I was very gracious.
It was my first time going to Italy, and it really was a shame that my time there was so limited. That’s one of the crazy aspects of DJing- you travel the world yet sometimes there’s only enough time for dinner and the gig. It is definitely a blessing when you get those opportunities to have an extra day or two to be a tourist or whatever…that’s also when you start blowing your gig money though, so sometimes its best to simply get in and get out. DJ tours are nothing but business trips. People from the outside may look at it as a party or vacation, which I guess can sometimes be true, but for the most part you are working. You are working with your booking agency, different promoters, drivers, assistants, you are following itineraries, etc…it’s not rocket science, but you do need to be responsible to make sure you are on point and not missing flights or being late for pick-ups, dinner’s and what not.
Although Italy was mostly work I did get to experience an amazing homemade Italian dinner at DJ Ralph’s home made by his mother. I won’t lie, I don’t remember the name of half the things we ate lol, but it truly was a lovely spread. Different types of pastas, beefs, vegetables and breads, paired with a crisp white wine. As we all sat at the table dining I couldn’t help but to just smile. To myself I’m thinking “like damn, my ass is really out here in Italy”! It felt great, and honestly a vision that I had always had of my life. Me off in some distant land or country exploring, growing culturally, and living my best damn life…and here I was doing it…doing it again for that matter as I’ve been to Europe a few times now. I hate that I never shared my first experiences in Europe, but I always get the feeling that people are drawn to me over there because they can feel just how happy and excited I am to be there…it’s somewhat of a “soul glow”, if you will.
I had two DJ appearances in Italy, one at cafe/record shop called BPMdischi, and the other at a club called Cantiere 21. The cafe appearance was first and was really fun, I had a great time playing records with DJ Soch, a local hero in Foligno. This was the first tour I decided to pack records along with me on, and I am so glad that I did. I’m not really one to partake in the vinyl vs. digital debate, but I will say that I do feel a bit more accomplished now that I’m more comfortable playing records out and about. I am still majority a digital DJ, but I made the commitment early this year to start playing and buying more vinyl, and I have successfully acted upon it. I think it’s important to keep growing as an artist or creative, and I love being able to bring something new to the table. I get asked about production a lot, which I’m sure I’ll dive into at some point, but for right now I’m simply focused on being the dopest DJ I can be, and of course on continuing to grow this phenomenon called “Underground & Black”.
After completing two gigs on basically no sleep in Italy, it was time to head to London for SecretSundaze. The journey from Foligno to the airport in Rome was two hours that I took full advantage of for sleep. I literally felt like I closed my eyes, opened them and was suddenly at the airport lol. Those early airport trips after a gig are seriously brutal. That’s the behind the scenes shit y’all don’t see about the “glamorous DJ life” lol. Luckily when working with good promoters and agencies you get great seats on flights as well as priority boarding. I sat my black ass in 2A and dozed off for another couple of hours then woke up in one of my favorite cities, London!
As I approached arrivals there stood the well dressed driver holding the “Ash Lauryn” sign. I so wanted to take a pic but had to act natural so I opted not to put him on blast lol. He grabs my bag and escorts me to a Mercedes Van equipped with lots of extra space for me to sprawl out on. It was another almost two hour journey from London Gatwick Airport to London, so this was another opportunity to sneak in some rest. Working with legendary people/promoters like SecrectSundaze I knew I would be well taken care of, and realized this even more as we arrived at the posh hotel I’d be staying in. I check in, get my keys and head to my room. When I arrived at the door(s) to the room, I thought it was a mistake, as I’m thinking this wasn’t a hotel room, yet a small event space. To my surprise the key worked, and I walk in to what appears to be a small apartment. The room was so lovely, I really was in awe! This was definitely not your typical Euro tiny ass hotel room lol, but a suite. After all the traveling it felt so amazing to have this space to myself for a bit. Staying true to DJ fashion though, I only had 2 1/2 hours till my DJ set.
I arrived at Oval Space a few minutes after 5pm as I’m wrapping up my conversation with the taxi driver who knew all about SecretSudanze and house music…lol typical London stuff! As I walk into the DJ booth I instantly feel as if I’m inside of some sort of spaceship…all I saw was gear upon gear and knobs upon knobs. At that point I felt kinda glad to be playing first inside as I truly needed a moment to get my bearings with it all. People forget that I’ve only been doing this DJ stuff on a professional level for a little under 3 years now, so I definitely don’t know how to do it all! After about the first 30 minutes it felt like smooth sailing, and lot’s of people from outside started to come inside to vibe with me. I also made a new friend with a fellow DJ called Helena Star who came out to support me and it made me feel so good to have a woman there supporting me though it all. Giles and James of SecretSundzae are honestly some the kindest souls, and I was very drawn to their warm energy. I recall telling Giles just how happy and in shock I was to be up there playing music at their legendary gathering. I never imagined some of these things happening to me actually happening, and I swear sometimes I just have to pinch myself to make sure its all real.
I got some serious partying and dancing on after my set, and had lot’s of people approach with kind words, which also turned into emails and dm’s the following day thanking me for the music. I do not say this to boast or brag, but simply to explain how lovely it feels to connect with people through music. Music is the single most important thing in my life, and to know that I’m doing it right, and in a way that touches people’s hearts and souls gives me purpose. While I was playing a woman handed me a note that read I’m her inspiration, and this too gives me purpose. I often have friends or peers tell me that I inspire them, and it so powerful, as hearing those words in return inspires me. I too have those that I look up to and admire and if we all can continue to be positive and uplift one another I think this music stuff can be great.
SecretSundaze was by far one of the biggest/best parties I’ve ever played, and I was in love with the diversity and energy of the crowd. At one point there had to have been at least 10 black women all in the DJ booth dancing to Marcellus then Joe- it was so beautiful! Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the SecretSundaze crew for giving me the opportunity to share the music I love, while also sharing a bill with legendary act’s like Joe Claussell and Marcellus Pittman-both of whom I got meet and chat briefly with. Completing this gig was truly an accomplishment of my career, and I have no doubt that things will only be up from here.
I’m back in the states now gearing up for Detroit where I’ll be hosting my very first Movement Festival Weekend event. The event came together seamlessly and with every passing day I get a little more excited and equally nervous. I do know that it is going to be something special, and it is my hope that this will turn into an annual thing, so please come out, and please support black music! Since I started this blog a couple years ago I have become familiar and acquainted with so many young black people involved in the realm of underground dance music, and that mere fact gives me hope. When I started Underground & Black, I was fearful that the culture of this music was slipping away from us, but as of late I do feel like there is some serious reclamation going on, and to that I can only smile. There is still lots of work to be done, and of course the usual bullshit white washed politics of this music, but I think we’re up to something good. Even with this platform and U&B Radio show, I feel like I’ve gotten people’s attention, and that was one of my purposes. I want/ed people to know that I’m a black woman involved in dance music who is proud of our cultures contributions, roots and sound, and will stop at nothing to preserve it. I now know that I’m not alone on this, and plan to keep pushing as will all of us!
As the year comes a close there’s no denying that there was a lot of great music that came out these past 12 months. The state of dance music is often questionable in this day, but coming across quality music that captures the true essence of the sound and culture we come from is always refreshing. The music featured in this piece is music that I held close throughout the year, and will continue to hold close moving into 2019. Black music is still as relevant as it ever was, and I feel so honored to be able to express myself through this music. As the “end of year list” antics commence, I just want to say that I’m grateful to have a platform that I can use to shine some more light on these amazing artists with. Much love and respect to those who continue to innovate and inspire!
1. Patrice Scott- Moments and Concepts (Sistrum Recordings)
As many of you already know, Patrice is by far my favorite producer, and 2018 saw him turn in some show stopping work. Starting out the year with a coveted release on Sounds Of The City, followed by his epic remix of Alton Miller’s “All the little things”, Moments and Concepts (below) on his Sistrum imprint, and most recently, the “Powder Fresh” EP on NYC’s Second Hand Records. This my friends, is true soulful, deep house, and I’m saying this now, “Be Free”, is the deep house track of the year- straight church vibes! Patrice has been humbly and steadily on the incline for many years now, and its time to show this man some respect! True Detroit royalty that deserves just as much shine as the rest of em. #realright
2. Stefan Ringer- FWM 001 (FWM)
Stefan is no stranger to the scene, and has been doing his thing in Atlanta and throughout North America for a minute now. After releasing some prized EP’s on labels like NDATL, CGI, and Argot, he decided to step up to the plate and start a label of his own. “FWM” dropped its first release by Ringer in August 2018, and features summer favorites like “Wanna Be Bad”, and “Southside”. All five tracks go hard, and you can’t lose with this one in your record bag or playlist. Keep an eye out for what’s next from this Atlanta staple who has proved consistent over time. #iwannabebad
3. Alton Miller- All Things Good EP (Waella’s Choice)
I was lucky enough to build a relationship with some of the folks behind Dimensions Festival this past year, which included Andy Lemay, who runs a called label Waella’s Choice. This is the label behind my next pick, Alton Miller’s “All Things Good EP”, which features what I like to call “grown and sexy” house. These are definitely not your peak time rave tracks, yet more so, your feet in sand, hair in the wind type of tracks. In terms of the dance floor; tracks you can two step with your lover to. “In The D” is by far my favorite, and feels like a little taste of South Africa and Detroit mixed into one. #grownfolksmusic
4. Waajeed- From The Dirt (Dirt Tech Reck)
Waajeed is another artist who I’ve mentioned quite frequently in the past, and rightfully so. After the success of last years “Shango EP”, he stayed busy in 2018 DJing throughout Europe, Asia, the US, and beyond. He also premiered his first live show at Good Room in Brooklyn back in May. On November 9th, Waajeed dropped his first solo, full length LP “From The Dirt” on his label Dirt Tech Reck, that includes 10 perfectly hand crafted tracks with each a style their own. According to Waajeed, Dilla’s basement in his childhood home was the birthplace for their discovery of un-quantized beats, and that its reflected in “My Fathers Rhythm”-my favorite track on the album. #strength
5. Steven Julien- Bloodline (Apron)
London’s Steven Julian, aka Funkineven dropped his sophomore album “Bloodline” in April on his Apron imprint, which pays tribute to his family roots. According to Julien, his drum programming (which is extremely impressive on this release) isn’t coming from himself, but from “a long line of ancestors, that includes rhythm from tribes in Africa and natives from the Caribbean.” “Bloodline” and “IDK” are my two favorite tracks on this one, and I also want to note that I really appreciate the imagery of this album, which showcases pictures of what appear to be a young Julien and his family. In reference to music, I recognize the importance and pride in paying homage to ones roots. #rolandtr808
6. Kai Alce- Back in this sh!t (NDATL)
Kai Alce’s NDATL records celebrated 10 years in 2018, and what better what to celebrate than with all the amazing music that debuted on the label this year. With releases from Andres, DJ Spinna, and Alce and himself, NDATL had a pretty successful year. “Back In this Sh!t” dropped in April 2018, and I had a nice time playing these tracks everywhere from Berlin, to NYC, to Atlanta. Posted Below, “Jam Tight” is described as a “Detroit flavored burner”, and I’d have to agree. My favorite memory of this track is when I dropped it at Paloma Bar in Berlin, and DJ Amir came running up to me like “damnnn, who is this!!?” I was obliged to let him know it was our friend Kai Alce. Cheers to another 10 years of one of my favorite labels, NDATL. #lifesgoodafterasession
7. Ladymonix- BC I Want To (Frizner Electric)
Next up we have the debut EP from Detroit’s Ladymonix, titled “BC I Want To”, on her Frizner Electric imprint, which she also debuted this year. Its great to see fellow women out here doing their thing, and Monica made some nice moves over the year, including starting a residency at Detroit’s beloved Motor City Wine. As soon as I heard these tracks I fell in love, and they all got major play in my sets throughout the year. “BC I want to” is “a deep and sensual body mover, anchored by empowering vocal samples that make no apologies”, and my favorite, “In Flight”, is “a soaring track that blends the energy of an evening into the power of the night.” Much love to Monica for being a continued force of the scene, and I look forward to seeing what she and Frizner Electric have in store for 2019! #bcshewantsto
8. K15- Be Glad You Create Anything (WotNot Music)
K15, a man known for deepness, dropped “Be Glad You Create Anything” on WotNot Music this year, and not surprisingly, sold out quickly. As Juno nicely puts it, “Be Glad You Create Anything”, is “a sparkling, mid-tempo shuffler that wraps darting, Kaidi Tatham style jazz-funk synth motifs around loose and languid beats and a suitably warm and attractive bassline.” “Communion”, my favorite track on the EP, was included in my June episode of “Underground and Black”, and was received with open arms. This is another person who has stayed consistent over the years, and I’m always looking forward to what next. #createanything
9. Kaidi Tatham- In my Life (2000 Black)
After releasing his incredible LP “Its A World Before You”, on First Word Records back in June, Kaidi Tatham returned to 2000black, with the EP “In my Life”. “Freddie Can’t Run Away”, is a nice fusion track, and showcases the true creativity of his artistry. “But You Bring It Up” is a warm jazzy track that features vocals from Nadine Charles . The EP covers everything from jazz, to boogie, to funk and was definitely a necessary purchase this year! #inmylife
10. Wbeeza- The OD EP (Troy Town)
I’ve been a big fan of Wbeeza’s for a while now, and was so excited to learn he was dropping a new record after a 3 year hiatus. He is revered as a 1st generation pioneer of what has become affectionately known as the “Peckham Sound”. The 3 track EP features a mix of sounds from Techno, to Deep House, to Bounce. My favorite of the 3, “Bizzle Boogie”, is a “equal parts gritty, Midwest-influenced bounce track.” I included this track in my Truants mix, and it got more than a few ID request’s! #southlondon
Support black music, black people, and never forget the roots of this gift to all of us- post the David Guetta article, you see how easy it is for history to be misconstrued.
Fall is officially here and its time to grind. I’ve spent the past few months promoting and staying busy, but as of late have had an extreme drive to get back into whats really important to me, the music- not the hype. Being actively involved in social media for years of ones life can often be extremely distracting, and not to mention stressful. I know we’ve all been there; scrolling social media aimlessly, feeling sorry for ourselves while seeing other people “living their best lives” and what not. It can all be quite overwhelming at times, and its totally okay to take a few steps back to focus on your damn self for a while. I honestly don’t know how healthy it could be to know peoples every move, gig, setback, or milestone anyway. I suppose its all about finding a healthy balance, which goes for many things in life. Sometimes I get frustrated about the state of things in regards to music, yet can only appreciate the frustration as it often makes me want to work harder and smarter. Whats also important to me is this here blog, and what will come of it as time progresses. I want to feature and celebrate all the amazing black people contributing to the culture, and I will try my best to do that here, and though my NTS radio slot.
I’ve gotten a few emails and requests for some of the tracks on my Truants mix, so I decided to drop the track list here. I really appreciate everyone who has taken the time to listen or reach out to me personally to tell me they enjoyed it. This mix includes music from some very close to me, some I hold in very high regard, and some who stay inspiring me musically. I never intentionally plan to record a mix that features about 90% black artists, but as I mentioned in the interview, black music is what resonates most with my soul, and I think its important that this music be embraced and played as much as possible. Please do not tell me its not about race, because many will never experience the joy and freedom that I feel as a black woman playing black music that was born in exact same city as myself. Playing black music in a country that doesn’t want me here, yet and still doing it with a smile. Knowing all of that, and being able to play this music freely not only in America, but across the world is a phenomenon that I will forever recognize. Black people, and black culture has had a profound influence on the world, and frankly, the world would be stale without it. Support black music, black people, and never forget the roots of this gift to all of us- post the David Guetta article, you see how easy it is for history to be misconstrued.
Cromie- Informal Path (Stefan Ringer Remix)
Atjazz- Facet of Jazz
Karizma- Tech This Out
Byron The Aquarius- Nights in Jakarta
Javonntte- Sweet Midnight Dub
Patrice Scott- Movin It
King Britt, Oba Funke- Uzoamaka (Nuno Dos Santos Bonus Beats)
Submission- Women Beat Their Men (Celvin’s Peak Hour Dub)
The music I play is a reflection of my soul, and I hope you feel me when you hear it.
Hey there, its me! The girl who deleted her last post because she wasn’t content with the way it turned out. Um yeah- Although well written, I realize it was “just one of those days”, and that maybe I shouldn’t put that type of energy out there. Rewind to that day, which was about a week ago, and I was feeling extremely insecure and uncertain of the future. That is still true in some aspects, as we all have our insecurities and uncertainties in life, yet here I am today with a much better outlook on things. I went from being jobless with only one gig booked for the entire month of October, to getting two job offers and 4 gig opportunities all in less than a weeks time. It actually made me feel quite stupid as I was freaking out over what ended up to be nothing but overthinking and overanalyzing. What that situation taught me though, is to simply have patience, because you never know what the future has in store.
I also deleted my last post because I didn’t want to seem entitled, or ungrateful. I know there are tons of people who would kill to do some of the things I’ve had the opportunities to do in regards to music and DJing. I do think the difference between me and a lot of folks though, is that I made a conscious decision to not simply choose the DJ path as a novelty, but as a career. I’m still figuring that part of my life out, and even though I’m starting a new day job next week, my ultimate goal is to still be a full time DJ touring the world. I don’t think those aspirations are illegitimate, but I think a lot of people are fearful of even attempting to pursue that path. I’m saying all of this to say that this is the reason why I’m so hard on myself about gigs and what not, because I want to do this full time. You know, like the new catch phrase “booked and busy”, thats what I’m trying to be! That being said, I decided to move forward with the day job mainly for financial reasons, oh and then theres the health benefits and all.
This new chapter is going to be an interesting one, but I’m up for the challenge. I still have my weekends to myself, so I at least will still be able to do stateside stuff when opportunities arise. One of the main aspects of life that I’m starting to respect more is simply putting in work to get to where you want to be, no matter what it takes. Sure I may not be able to sleep in anymore, or take extended vacations, but trust me, when its all said and done I’ll get that back. I had a nice 7 month break of traveling and basically doing whatever the hell I want, so now its time to get back disciplined. To be honest, I’ve never really been the hardest worker, and I’m still learning how to be. On the contrary, I’m all about enjoying life and taking time for family, friends, and travel, so don’t worry- I’ll never lose sight of that, as its who I am as a person.
Speaking of hard work, I’d like to mention my recent Truants Mix that dropped yesterday. I recorded 3 versions of it, and absolutely loved the 3rd one, minus a little slip up during a transition, and one track that I simply wasn’t feeling, so I recorded it one more time hoping for perfection. I can’t say perfection was the outcome, but I can say that I am in love with the mix, and worked hard on it. I’m proud of the outcome, and have been following the Truants Blog for a couple years now after I obsessed over Mr. G.’s Truancy Volume from 2016. As some of you know, I got really anti guest mix for a while, but not for a second was I going to turn down this opportunity. Something I strongly believe in is quality over quantity-so whether than do 20 regular ass guest mixes, I rather do 3 quality and meaningful mixes. I played the music I love, and I hope I got my point across. What’s cool about DJing is that its an opportunity to show the world just how unique you are. The music I play is a reflection of my soul, and I hope you feel me when you hear it.
Moving into my second year as a DJ, I don’t think I could ask for more. Trust me, I’m not rich, and I haven’t all the way “made it”, but I’m on my way. My experiences in Europe were incredible, and I will never forget a second of it. From playing with Josey Rebelle and Peggy Gou at Dimensions Festival, to being on the guest list at Berghain, to playing after Fred P. at Tresor- it was all magical! The weekend before last in NYC and DC was also amazing. The DC gig was posh, and gave me a taste of what this life could really be like. Car service, dope hotel, quality food and drink (which was all free btw), I mean damn, it was so cool! And not to take away from NYC at Le Bain with Stefan, bc we had so much fun. The summer was filled with so many memories, so many lovely people, and so many positive experiences that have left me forever changed- playing the music that I love is something I deeply cherish.
I’m sure this post isn’t as compelling as the one I deleted was, but these words feel much better. Theres nothing wrong with being transparent, or “keeping it real”, but this post is real too, perhaps even realer, because I am actually happy in many aspects. I have a lot to be grateful for, as do many of you, so thats what I’m choosing to focus on right now. As humans, we all have those days when we are down, and thats okay, but when you’re down, take some time to think about all the things we have to smile about, because best believe theres someone out there who’s got it way worse than you.
In closing I just want to say thank you again for all the love and support! As a black woman trying to navigate in a world that often doesn’t want to see us win, I’m making my mark on this earth and that wouldn’t be possible without so many of you! To the readers, listeners, believers, dancers, and supporters, I appreciate you!!!!!
There’s a lot of expansion that I’d like to happen with Underground and Black, and although it hasn’t happened as quickly as I’d like, I still have a dream and a vision.
Feeling like I don’t really know where to begin, but its grey outside and raining like hell which is pretty fitting for today’s mood. I’m not sure what it is, but as busy as I’ve been w/gigs this past month I still sit here feeling somewhat stagnant, one reason being that I haven’t been updating the blog as much as I’d like to. Things are happening, and I have things to look forward to, but I’m still frustrated. Not looking for sympathy, just stating the real because I think from the outside looking in things can often appear to be different. As much as I love this blog, I sometimes find myself wondering if I even want share so much. I know that there are people out there who enjoy it though, and even some who find it inspiring, so I’m going to keep pushing. It can be confusing sometimes-trying to figure out how to gauge all the projects and ideas I have inside.
July was a busy month and I got the opportunity to play some great events and meet lots of lovely people. Of course one event that sticks out was this past weekend in San Diego with Rick Wilhite for the Bouquet series, an outdoor event on the pier with the San Diego bay as the backdrop- it was an absolutely gorgeous view and day. During my set I truly felt in sync with the environment and people around me. It was my second time playing with Rick, who is an inspiration, and friend of mine for some years now. I still have tons of mix CD’s he used to give me when I’d come back home to the D to visit. As I’ve mentioned in the past, moments and opportunities like this bring things full circle in so many ways. I was a bit anxious in the beginning- I mean Keith Worthy, Patrice Scott among others were all in attendance. They are my friends, and I know they aren’t judging me by any means, but I still feel that fire within me to perform well in front of people that I look up to. The set in my opinion went perfect, and I was over whelmed by the response after- everyone said they loved it, and that made me feel so great. Being able to connect with people through music is a beautiful experience, and most definitely a joy in my life.
I got to play several shows in Atlanta last month as well, which was cool because I was starting to feel like one of those DJ’s who gets booked everywhere but in their hometown…lol. Which is definitely “a thing” in the DJ world. My only complaint about these hometown gigs though is getting paid about 80% less for my services. Budgets in Atlanta are pretty small and I understand that, so I sometimes still take these gigs because I love what I do, and most of the time it doesn’t feel like work. It is a crazy contrast though- to go from being this important headliner getting free flights and meals, to just a regular bloke getting paid the bare minimum I think a DJ should get. In the end, I suppose all the gigs balance each other out, and more than anything I’d like to keep touring. Not just for the money, but because it really is fun and rewarding. On the contrary, it can also be tiring and not as fun as you expected-but thats all apart of the game of course.
I’m not sure why I’ve been self loathing so much lately, but I guess its simply because I’d like to be more productive than I am currently. It’s been hard to be productive though because sometimes I just don’t feel motivated, or sometimes I’m simply distracted. Distracted by things that don’t deserve to be distractions. It’s so easy to get caught up with bullshit these days, and I’m really just trying to stay focused. Honestly, I can’t say I’m trying my best though, which is why when I woke up this morning I made the commitment to finish this blog post or die (lol…kidding.) Completing tasks makes me feel good, and is a reminder that I can do whatever I want to do as long as I take the time and effort to actually do it…and so can you. There’s a lot of expansion that I’d like to happen with Underground and Black, and although it hasn’t happened as quickly as I’d like, I still have a dream and a vision. Life in this day and age is far from easy, and I commend everyone just doing whatever they can do to stay happy and afloat. I don’t have all the answers, but just keep working towards whatever it is you want to do/be in this life. Even on days when you feel discouraged, just keep grinding.
I’m off to NYC then Europe at the end of the month. August 24 I’ll be playing at Nowadays with Olive T. and Turtle Bugg which I am really looking forward to. Ya’ll know I’m all about the preservation of black people in dance music, and this event will be just that. From there I’ll return to beloved Berlin for two weeks that will include some soon to be announced gigs. I’m not sure what the future has in store for post Berlin and as fall creeps in, but I just hope to stay busy. I’d also like to stay growing-which I know is inevitable.
I promise to check back in soon, and stay tuned for the first Underground and Black podcast coming before month’s end.
There’s room for all of us to create our paths the way we see fit, and I’m done trying to fit a mold, because I can only be me, and I like who I am.
I’m going to be quite honest and admit that I’ve been self loathing these past couple months over not updating the blog, and although Underground Black has been alive through my radio show, DJ sets, and interviews, it all began with this blog, and it is something that I believe in, and am proud of. I’m not sure if some of you know, or if I’ve mentioned it before, but I grew up aspiring to be a writer/journalist. I went through countless journals in my teenage years, wrote for the school newspaper, and even had a few pieces published in the Michigan Chronicle- the black owned and operated newspaper in Detroit where my grandmother, Marie Teasley, spent many years as the Woman’s Editor. As with anything, inspiration doesn’t always spark when we want it to, and there are times when I find it difficult to write. However, here we are today, and I’m back in Atlanta pondering my next move.
Today feels reminiscent of post Movement last year, being that all the gigs are behind me (for now), and its time to return to reality. I’m still not working a day job, and although it seems as if I’ve been “gigging” like crazy, it’s still not enough to cover all the expenses of a grown ass woman. I get paid significantly more for certain gigs compared to some of my others, and can say that I’m flexible in the sense of my willingness to work with friends or venues that may not have the budget that some of these larger clubs and organizations do. Don’t get it twisted though- I know my worth, and will not allow someone to short change me when I know they are working with a real budget. Overall though, I love music, and it still blows my mind to be getting paid for something that often doesn’t feel like work. I finally understand the joy of doing something you love as a profession. I’ve been pretty much miserable at many of previous jobs, and I feel so happy to be able to do something as cool and fullfillng as DJing.
Detroit was incredible, and went to by so quick that it’s actually quite scary-time flies when you’re having fun. I spent a week in town, and the connections I made have left me filled with so much inspiration and hope for my future. For the first time ever, I drove all Movement weekend, (Dad let me borrow the car lol) which kept me a lot more grounded than usual. I also had 4 gigs to play while I was there, so to say the trip was “busy” would be an understatement. As the weekend approached, I made up my mind that I was going to pick my top few parties that I wanted to attend, and pretty much spend my nights there whether than party hop every night.
Some of my favorite events I attended during Movement 2018:
Music Gallery @ Artist Village Detroit
Sound Signature’s Music Gallery event took place at The Artist Village in the heart of Old Redford in Detroit, and serves as a hub for creatives throughout Detroit. The party definitely had the DIY vibes going, and its clear that Music Gallery is one of the few events that brings the old school and the new school together. Its a night of education, and leave it to Theo Parrish to have his event 20 minutes away from all of the over Movement festivities…I don’t think many others could get away with that…lol. And in true black, Detroit fashion, Aunties, Cousins, and even Granny’s were in attendance-socializing, assisting with, and working the event. As my friends and I pulled up, some hood looking dude with no shirt on directed us into our parking spot, and escorted us to the door. I’m not sure if he was actually working the event, or was just excited to see all these hip folks going to some live ass party right there on his block. Lol. His friends stood there in amazement saying hello to all the ladies that walked by. Once we’re inside I’m buzzing with excitement as I randomly make eye contact with Moodymann and he tells me he “likes my hair” (I was rocking some freshly done box braids). Feeling flirtatious, I respond to him “I like YOUR hair”…he smiled. Only in Detroit, I think to myself…Ha. The music was great, and Theo banged out record after record, some even popping and crackling, making the experience feel that much more authentic.
Deep Detroit @ Red Door Digital
This was my 7th (or maybe 8th) Deep Detroit attended, and without question, I have never seen this party as crowded as it was this year. As the days of the Music Institute location have come to an end, this year Deep Detroit found a warm and cozy home at Red Door Digital on Oakland Ave, not far from The Tangent Gallery. Derrick May was this year’s special guest, and as always, Kai had the sounds banging- they could be heard from blocks away. This was a night I wished I would have had some ear plugs handy, but damn did it sound good. Movement 2018 was all about the indoor/outdoor vibes, and at one point I swear there must have been at least 200 people between the two spaces. Hood niggas in “Linwood” t-shirts, hipsters, momma’s, DJ’s, tourists from Europe, and lots of other random folks were there- all who seemed to be loving the music. Derrick smashed it, and even took some time to kick it with sis and I in the booth after his set. In my head I’m like “Wow, I really know Derrick May”…lmao. As he does each year for Deep Detroit, Kai dropped his “Special Edition” release, which celebrated 10 years with a double pack featuring music from Omar S., Stefan Ringer, and Kyle Hall, to name a few. Oh, and if you stuck around long enough, you were there for the treat that was an impromptu DJ set from Mike Huckaby at the very end.
Excursions @ The Baltimore Gallery
By the night Excursions rolled around I started to realize that depending on your musical style, you’re more than likely to run into the same people at each event you attend. If you’re on the black, deep, soulful, Detroit-centric sounds such as myself, I’m sure I ran into you more than once. As I’m sitting on patio at Excursions observing, I see Theo Parrish, Marcellus Pittman, Hieroglyphic Being, and more all mingling amongst the crowd. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no dance music groupie, but its super cool to see some of your hero’s in person casually kicking it at the function. The dance floor had to have been at least 100 degrees- which pretty much matched the weather in Detroit the entire weekend. No one was complaining though, I tell you that much. This was probably the hottest Movement weekend in history, and everyone was eating it up. Anything beats the cold IMO. It was cool seeing Hieroglyphic Being do a DJ set, and I still don’t know what format he was using, but I’m sure most of the tracks were original, and he had the room banging. Marcellus Pittman followed with some insane EQing, and dropping classic’s like a personal favorite of mine “Lovelee Dae” by Blaze.
I’m not sure how the hell we pulled it off, but we stayed at Excursions until 6am, then were back on the streets at 8am to catch Jay Daniel and Kyle Hall’s set at the All Day/All Night party at El Club. Although I was damn near dead when it was over, it was worth it, and they played my favorite set of the entire weekend. The crowd was minimal at certain points, but I could tell that the ones that were there were in it for the long haul. I also spotted many other young Black DJ’s at the event, who seemed to be there for the exact same reasons I was. It is always somewhat of an educational experience (for me) going to see other people of color that I look up to perform. As my sister and I sat outside on the patio of El club baking at one point, a random guy tells my sister and I that we look cute as hell. Ha, how sweet, because we were running on fumes, and its always refreshing getting compliments and smiles from random strangers at the party. I’m sure about 70% of us were running on little or no sleep by this point in the weekend. LOL.
The day flew by, and still running on no sleep it was time for me to play the Haute to Death pool party at Common Pub in Midtown. Now I knew this was a pool party and all, so I’m thinking chill poolside tunes with an intimate crowd. Boy was I wrong. As we approached the event all I hear is 140 BPM Ghettotech blasting from behind the fence. I’m thinking WTH? As we squeeze our way in and get a glimpse of the pool, I swear my heart dropped…it was packed AF. This was the exact same feeling I felt last year when I opened the curtains to the dance floor at El Club before my set that was right after Omar freaking S. Although DJing is fun, I always feel some initial pressure and anxiety when performing for a large crowd- especially when the person before me is absolutely killing it. I work well under pressure though, and I made sure I got myself together mentally before my set. In my personal opinion, I delivered, and in the most humble way possible, I’m often approached by an overwhelming amount of people after my sets telling me how much they enjoyed it. Trust me, it doesn’t go to my head, but YES, it feels DAMN GOOD. I walked out of there smiling, proving to myself yet again, that I can do anything I put my mind to. Thanks very much to Ash Nowak and Haute to Death for inviting me out. Detroit, please check our their events if you haven’t done so yet…they are without a doubt, all the way live!
Last year I left Movement feeling proud yet frustrated on many levels, and this year, although still frustrated in certain aspects of my life, when it comes to DJing, today I can honestly say that I feel mostly love and inspiration. I can’t begin to count the number of people I got to connect with “in real life” opposed to cyber space, and it’s also crazy simply realizing that people really do know who I am-I swear I am no where used to it. Every time I hear “Hey, are you Ash Lauryn?” I’m like damn, this is nuts! I appreciate it though, and it feels good to be recognized. I’ve made my goals and mission in this music clear to the best of my ability, and I’m glad that it hasn’t been in vain. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be some musical guru, producer, or record label boss, but I’m creating my own path thats fits exactly what I want to do. I want to contribute through this blog, playing my friends music, playing Detroit music, discussing representation of black people in dance music, throwing parties, giving other people opportunities to shine, and of course, doing my monthly show on NTS. I used to feel pressure when approached about production, but who says you have to do what every one else does? There’s room for all of us to create our paths the way we see fit, and I’m done trying to fit a mold, because I can only be me, and I like who I am.
I know that there still are some folks out there who can’t stand to see me shine, or think I don’t deserve so much, so soon, but its a fact that when you’re doing something great there will always be those people who “feel a type of way” about it. Worrying about other peoples judgements will only hold you back though, so I’ve learned to just keep doing me, and do what I love do- which is play quality music. I know I’m still only ankle deep in the industry, but simply having people like Delano Smith giving me an enormous hug and telling me how proud he is of me makes me feel like I’m doing something right. These are full circle type moments for me. It’s not easy getting respect from cats out of Detroit, but I can humbly say that I know most of my hero’s personally, and they all respect me and want to see me be great. Its not always easy as a new comer, especially as a woman, to get that respect, and I’m honored to get it. I know I’m not the best there ever was, but I’m making a name for myself…how can anyone hate on that? Even when Chez Damier remembered me in Detroit from our gig in NYC last month felt so rewarding. He met my sister, and remembered my story about her exposing me to the music, it was really cool. Let it be known, I’m not just some “cute girl from Detroit”; I am a woman with a mission and a passion. I also happen to know how to rock a crowd, and I don’t care if someone believes that or not…there’s a reason why I keep getting booked, and for the assholes that think its because I’m “pretty” , try again. I’m no Paris Hilton, and I’ve been listening to dance music out of Detroit before some of you even knew what it was, so don’t even think about trying me.
Sorry, that’s the Detroit coming out. 🙂
Teaching the CDJ workshop at the Discwoman X Boiler Room event was most definitely a highlight, and everyone got a kick out the “How To DJ Right” book I brought as a reference. I actually received it from a friend when I decided I wanted to take DJing more seriously. It has helped me a lot, and I’d like to pass it down to another DJ in training at some point…its important that we share the knowledge. Going into it I was very anxious about teaching something that I feel, I too, am still proactively learning, but I survived, and even managed to teach one of the over zealous students a thing or two, although it wasn’t easy…lol. Teaching takes some real patience. My set went well also, and I was very eager to get the people moving. That’s one of my favorite aspects of DJing…getting the crowd moving- aka dancing. I’m a high energy dance floor type, and that typically translates into my sets. A friend from Atlanta surprisingly showed up, and was right there in the front my entire set, and as a DJ its always so lovely to see your peers out there supporting you. When I finished my set Frankie from Discwoman gave me a shout out on the mic that was followed by a very large round of applause for my set- I stood there blushing and in shock, filled with an equal amount excitement and embarrassment from the attention. It felt damn good honestly. If you were there, thanks for dancing…I only had an hour, and I tried my best to showcase my love for music in that period of time.
Another highlight was Rick Wilhite, Kyle Hall, Delano Smith, Earl McKinney, Bruce Bailey and Al Ester all just happening to be in attendance during my set at Mix on the Thursday before Movement weekend. I really wasn’t expecting that! This was a great opportunity for me to “prove myself”, and I had both Delano and Al dancing. Thank you Jesus, I’m thinking. This was definitely a Detroit centric event, and I honestly don’t understand how people come to Detroit, rant and rave about it, yet fail to attend any of the real Detroit events-especially the ones put on by people of color. Of course there are other good parties to go to, and no offense to anyone else, but I don’t go to Detroit to see DJ’s from other cities. I go to Detroit to see the people who came up in this city, the people who created this music, the people who paved the way and still shape our sound today…that’s just me though, I guess.
Last but now least, my Mom basically planning a Family Reunion during my set at Takoi. My Mom is infamous for this type of stuff, yet I swear I had no idea to what extent she would go this time. I am not exaggerating when I tell you there were at least 20 of us there. We took a huge group photo when I finished, and it honestly ended up being way more cool than embarrassing. The way I see it, if there’s family members in attendance you’re at a real Detroit event. I realize that no matter how old we grow, our parents and families will always want to support us, and in the end, music is family. I’ve been seeing Kai Alce’s parents at his Deep Detroit event ever since I started going, and this year was no different. I’m proud to be where I’m from, and its cool to teach my family about something born right there in our city. Oh, and to add, Takoi has really good food, a cute happy hour, and a legit music program ran by Ali Berger-I suggest you check it out if you haven’t done so yet!
As a black woman, I feel like what I bring to the table during my sets isn’t like anyone else, and I pride myself upon that. The black woman experience in various forms cannot be duplicated, and I say that in the most humble, yet truthful way possible. I do realize that there are people out there who may not like me as much as they used to-now that I’m making a name for myself as DJ. I suppose it bothers them to see me doing things they’d like to be doing themselves, and it’s kinda sad to realize that some folks will only like you when they feel as if they are above you. These are sometimes the exact folks that were encouraging you in the beginning, yet now that you’re flourishing their ego’s can’t handle it. Oh, and thats another thing that I don’t think is discussed enough in the DJ world, “The Ego”. I’ve witnessed, experienced, and read a lot of egotistical behaviors via DJ’s in my short time of doing this, and it honestly just makes me look at them different. What happened to being proud of our peers? I don’t know the answer, but what I will say is that I’m not one to kiss ass, so trust me, if you don’t fu*k with me, I don’t fu*k with you. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have more than enough supportive people on my team, and we will continue to build each other up, while some will remain dormant and bitter talking shit on the internet. The choice is yours.
I know it seems as if I have so much going on, which is true in a sense, yet I’m still struggling with the day job aspect of my life. I know I need one, yet I honestly don’t want one, and I’ve been loving the time I’ve had to myself doing even the simplest things like going to the pool, or riding my bike on a Wednesday afternoon. Life has been so fun traveling to different cities, connecting with people involved in dance music, DJing gigs with my best friends. Its almost all too good to be true. Last Tuesday was my Birthday, and my Birthday has always fallen on Movement Weekend. That’s another thing that makes is so special, I mean, I can’t think of any other way I’d like to spend my Birthday for the rest of my life, tbh. Perhaps that sounds crazy lol, but this is my life, and this is what brings me joy. This music is so important to me, so relevant, so therapeutic, and so much bigger than all of us. As I rode in the Uber to JFK and the sun was coming up this past weekend, I swear I shed a tear because the moment was just so beautiful. I feel so lucky to be able to do what I’m doing right now, and the love and support from many of you has been overwhelmingly touching. I promise to never take it for granted, and I promise to always do my best. I also promise to keep black people and black culture alive through this amazing music that we have created.
I’m working as my own agent for US bookings, and one day I’d love to start my own booking agency through Underground and Black, representing the next generation of POC’s in Dance Music. I also am thinking about putting together my own U&B event for Movement next year, so be on the lookout for that. I have so many ideas right now, and I’m so inspired for the future! If you are reading this, I want you to be inspired too. Go for your dreams at any means necessary, and don’t give up. There’s room for all of us to shine.
I finished the whirlwind of these past two weeks DJing a b2b set with Stefan in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and what a memorable way to end it. There’s something special about having a matching energy that translates through the music when two people play together, and I must admit that we were completely in the sync that night. I didn’t think Tennessee folks could dance that hard, but I was impressed, and they stuck wish us from start to finish. Prior to that was the NYC gig at Elsewhere which also was great, and a huge achievement for me personally- headlining one of the best clubs in NYC right now was so awesome.
In closing, let me just say that yes, Dance Music has changed in many ways over the years- but what has not changed is the community foundation that this culture was built upon, and being of apart of this community has brought eternal joy to my life. Its so much deeper than being “cool” and listening to “Techno”, its about love, its about family, its about respect, its about acceptance, freedom…Please don’t forget that, and stay true to yourself at all costs, theres only one you, remember that. 🙂