Derrick Does Atlanta.

Thats the funny thing about those epic nights; you wake up on the ultimate high replaying the events of the night in your head over and over again, trying to get that feeling back.

The morning (afternoon) after…

As I sit here in utter awe of the events that I witnessed last night, I wonder…how does one go back to regular life after this?! Thats the funny thing about those epic nights; you wake up on the ultimate high replaying the events of the night in your head over and over again, trying to get that feeling back. Your mind stumbles upon little things you may had temporarily forgotten about and laugh…ahh, what a beautiful night. *Smiles*. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would have been able to be a apart of something like this on the DJ level, and I’m so happy and grateful that I’m doing something that I love. I know I say that a lot, but its true. When I think about it, I’m living my dreams, and its an indescribable feeling.

Coming into this I actually didn’t know that I was going to be apart of this. As I’m riding in the car with Stefan one day telling him how excited I am too see Derrick May, he casually tells me we’re playing the party too, and I’m like…”WHAT”!?!? It honestly took me a couple minutes to believe him, and I still don’t know how the hell I was last person to find out about this. I was in shock. At first, I’m thinking damn, I really don’t want to miss any of Derrick’s set, then I’m thinking, damn (again), your about to be apart of history!!! As the time passed the and the excitement grew, it would run through my mind, and I’d smile. Before I started playing out I had the feeling that once I did things would pop off quite well, but I didn’t expect to get the ball rolling so fast, so soon. Its crazy to think that last night I was hanging out in the DJ booth with Reggie Dokes and Derrick May, taking selfies with DJ Minx…like wow. I mean, I’ve hung around plenty of DJ’s before, but it feels even cooler now because I too, am a DJ. In training in many aspects of course, but it really is special to be respected by artists that I look up to…Artists who are black like me, artist who come from Detroit like me. It makes me proud, and is a reminder that I come from a special place that brings something powerful and authentic to the world.

I enjoyed playing with Stefan and Duncan, yet must admit that my main focus of the night was seeing Derrick perform. If you can’t already tell, he’s one of the few DJ’s that I can truly say is one of my idols. As I’m catching some of Kai’s set, he hands me his phone and tells me to help Derrick, and I’m like…umm, OK! From that point on I pretty much took on the role of “liaison”, if you will. Apparently Derrick was on his way in the uber and I was going to greet and escort him through the club. When I tell you I was excited, honey I was excited…I’ve always wanted to do this kind of work anyway, so I was living! I’m texting him from Kai’s phone telling him I’m Kai’s assistant and that I’m gonna be waiting on the street when he pulls up. Not sure where the assistant title came from, but it felt fitting in the moment. (lol) When his uber pulled up I greeted him with with the biggest, most overzealous smile in life, but I think he liked it. He’s like “you Ashleigh?, and I’m like”yup”!!!!  He had like 3 bags with him and I’m like wait, did you just come from the airport, and he’s like no…then I realized that it was all music that he had tow…damn!!! I grab the smaller of the bags, and begin to escort him through the massive crowd. Although I’m “little”, I’ve always had a knack for getting through crowds, and this time was no different. We got through seamlessly, and he’s like “wow, your amazing”. I’m thinking like, NO YOUR AMAZING (lol.) I ask him his drink of choice and he humbly says water…okay cool, my next mission: find Derrick May the best fucking water the sound table offers, which ended up being a still water in plastic cup….fail. HAHA. I did follow back up later with a bottled water tho, if that accounts for anything! This is all quite humorous looking back, but in those moments I was serious as ever. I really value the importance of making an artist feel comfortable and taken care of. You want everything to be right, so that in  return they can perform to the best of their ability.

At the end of of the night I thanked him for his contributions, and told him a little more about myself. We took a pic, he signed my record, and of course, I gave him some Underground and Black stickers. I hope I don’t come off as some over excited fan, but it was super cool to kick it with someone that I’ve always looked up to and admired. Its also so cool to have something that you care about (Underground and Black), and it feels good to have a logo to represent your mission; your cause. Underground and Black is my mission and my cause that has a ways to go, but without question is my dream, and I’m glad to be working towards it. I’m also glad to be living in Atlanta at time where we’re truly making our mark on the dance music scene. The music has always been here, but is on a new level, and I pride myself on being an active member of the movement.

All in all, it was a beautiful night, and everyone from every scene seemed to be in attendance. The Sound Table stayed open an extra hour too, which was fitting…it simply would have been disrespectful to have Derrick perform for less than 2 hours. I even had random people walking up to me telling me how much they enjoyed my set during the party, which I still sometimes get caught off guard about, but the reassurance feels good because I really am giving my all. As I walked back to my car alone and barefoot I couldn’t contain the happiness I felt within. It was a memorable night, and an experience that I will never forget. I know not everyone can understand how a dark room with red lights and loud music repetitive music could be so appealing, but yes, its true, this is when I’m home. This is one of the very few environments that I feel absolutely comfortable in, and one of very few environments where I feel like I can truly express myself and be myself. To now experience these nights as a fan and as a DJ, is very rewarding. My main goals throughout all of this will always be to preserve the roots of this music, and to be honest, I feel like I am.

The year is coming to a close and it would be impossible for me to recant all that I’ve accomplished this year without feeling incredibly boastful, but let me say just say that I am happy. Let me also say that its never to late to follow your dream. I know that may sound cliche, but its true. I spent the majority of my 20’s trying to figure it all out, and things are finally coming together. I found something that I love to do, and I’m DOING IT. Its scary at times, and I sometimes feel like I’m in over my head, but I’m up for the challenge, and I refuse to let fear, or anyone/thing get in my way. I have some serious power moves happening in 2018, and the fact that the city of Atlanta just elected a black woman for Mayor has me even more inspired. To be a woman of color doing things they said we couldn’t do, or didn’t think we could do feels damn good. We are capable, deserving, driven, and much more powerful than we realize. I’m taking this power and strength and I’m running with it…there’s is no more holding us back!!!

To all my black women breaking barriers; I see you, and I salute you.

-ASH ❤

____________________________________________________________________________________________

**Here are the rest of my December gigs if you want to check me out sometime! Also, my bi-monthly event Expressions returns January 6th, 2018 at The Sound Table…please support this amazing night!!!***

 

December 8, 2007- FM Elle Art Basel Showcase // Miami, Florida @ SQL

December 15, 2017- Teknox // Knoxville, Tennessee @ The Birdhouse

December 16, 2017- Excursions // Atlanta, GA @ 258 Auburn Ave

December 22, 2017- Morph // Atlanta, GA @ Wildpitch

 

 

 

Hanna in Atlanta

Friday, November 10th was a special night, and I’m still on high from Hanna’s performance. I was a little late getting hip to this talented man, but became instantly hooked once I got a taste. Like many other Black, Midwestern artist’s, Hanna brings sounds, soul, and feelings to life in a manner that can’t be duplicated. As I stood there in amazement watching him perform, I felt a sense of astonishment, happiness, and achievement. My vision of this night was playing out right before my very eyes, and I couldn’t have been more proud.

As of late, I’ve been becoming a fan of parties with smaller line-ups. Unless at a private venue, clubs in Atlanta close at 3am, and get started around 10 or 11pm. If you think about it, that’s really not that long of a time, and it takes some of us more than an hour of playing time to truly get into the zone. Putting that factor into account, the two person line-up works great between Stefan and I. I do also realize the importance of showcasing other artists, which is why we’ve been exploring the idea of booking other talent to play with us. I don’t quite recall how the idea came about, but I do remember brainstorming and Hanna almost immediately coming to mind.

If you don’t already know, Hanna’s a pretty low key guy. There isn’t too much press about him, and he’s merely impossible to find on social media outlets. As I searched through Facebook with little success, I came across a “Hanna aka Warren Harris” fan account page. I figured I’d try my luck and inquire about his booking information via the group. After a few hick-ups, someone finally responded with a legitimate email, and from there everything began. Karl, owner of The Sound Table teamed up with us on this booking, and was just as eager as I was to get things confirmed. After a couple weeks of negotiations everything was finally in place, and it was now merely a waiting game.

As the night approached I was very curious to see how a live set would go over at The Sound Table, being that its such a DJ oriented venue. Stefan and I played our usual b2b sets, and by midnight the energy in the room was pretty intense. The music was poppin, the crowd was energetic, and there were plenty of folks on the dance floor. As the energy rose and the BPM’s increased, I started to wonder if were going to a bit “too hard” in preparation for Hanna’s live set. I was again anxious about the crowd response, but it was now showtime. Hanna was set to play at 1AM, so around 12:45 I approached him like “you ready”? And he replied: “of course I’m ready”,( in the most reassuring voice ever). I escorted him to his table, got him a fresh “dark and stormy” (his drink of choice), and from there the magic began. I was able to give him a nice introduction, which was cool, being that doesn’t typically happen at the events I go to, or am booked for. I’ve always had a thing for public speaking and love an opportunity to get on the mic. Hanna also got on the mic after his performance, shouted out Stefan and I, and stressed the fact that he doesn’t agree to just any gig, and was honored to be in Atlanta. It felt damn good.

After the performance, it was back to the DJ’s sets, and I couldn’t wait to drop a few Hanna tracks in his honor. He very responsive when I did, and it was such an epic moment to have Hanna dapping me up about my set. It was one of my best sets to date, and my confidence was through the roof. The dynamic between Stefan and I can be pretty competitive at times, which sometimes makes it all the more fun. As a woman, I’m always here to show and prove that we are capable playing with the best of male talent. After experiences like playing after Omar S. Movement weekend in Detroit there’s not too much I feel like I can’t achieve with a little determination. If you don’t already know, I’ve been a student of this music for nearly half my life. I didn’t just wake up and decide to be a Techno DJ, I spent years of my life studying and being passionate about this music…the DJ thing simply felt like evolving.

Due to some personal issues, going into this installment of Expressions I had planned on it being the last one. I mean, why continue working with someone who you often cannot see eye to eye with? Stefan and I have been in each others lives for some years now, and as with many relationships, have our ups and downs. Trust me, its no surprise for us to be arguing back and forth over the stupidest shit behind the DJ booth, all the while still having to DJ together for the remainder of the night. lol. These things typically blow over, yet show the short comings that may arise when having to work with friends, (or people in general for that matter.) As the night came to a close we decided that Expressions is far too special of an event to cancel. I also realized that we should consider the people, the movement,  and not merely ourselves. Expressions has built a nice following over the past few months, and isn’t quite like any other event that takes place in Atlanta; its young, its fresh, and the music without question, comes correct. With that being said, Expressions returns January 6th, 2018 and I can’t wait to keep rocking with all of the supporters! Thank you again for helping make this night so special.

Cheers.

-ASH

For The Record…

I do believe that unfortunately not as many black people in modern day America are interested in dance music, but perhaps they could grow an interest by seeing, hearing, and learning about other people who look like them that are involved.

Hello!

I just want to remind folks that being “pro something” doesn’t mean you’re “anti the opposite”. I had someone message me stating that this blog, Underground and Black is “divisive” because one of the goals is to showcase people of color involved in dance music. He backed down once I explained my reasoning in detail, yet I’m left feeling like this happens far too often; the questioning of minority groups wanting to celebrate their culture/contributions. Historically, many black art forms have been subjected to white washing, and this, in my opinion, stems from different factors. I do believe that unfortunately not as many black people in modern day America are interested in dance music, but perhaps they could grow an interest by seeing, hearing, and learning about other people who look like them that are involved. As of late, there seems to be a resurgence of black millennial aged people who are taking an interest in this music, and I merely want to be apart of the process of keeping the momentum going (through DJing, my blog, and any other way I can.) Of course I think everyone should be celebrated, but with that being said, it’s often us people of color who are not celebrated when we are more than deserving.

I don’t know how effective this journey will be, but if I can simply educate and inform a few people about something that I’m passionate about, I’m content. In the year that I’ve been DJing publicly (and blogging) I’ve had people of all races tell me how they are inspired and extremely supportive of what I’m doing, and it makes me feel like I’m making somewhat of a difference. To the argument “the music is for everyone”, I get that, but let’s not forget those who paved the way, and at the same time let’s celebrate those who want to continue the legacy of black people in underground dance music. To me, this is bigger than being a “DJ” or a “Blogger”…this is some historical shit, and I want to be apart of it. Not for notoriety, but because it’s something that I care about immensely.

I was born in Detroit in 1985, the same exact time and place that Techno was born, and was listening to a lot of this music as a kid before I even truly knew what it was. Once I figured it all out (especially the black involvement) it amazed me, inspired me, and legit molded me into who I am today, so if you have a problem with me wanting to celebrate black people in dance music, then perhaps you are the one that’s divisive. We all have the platform that is the internet, and it’s up to you what you choose what to do with it, but please don’t shame me for wanting to share my experiences as black woman as well as celebrate those who are often overlooked. I’m blessed to be in the position that I’m in today, and I want to make a vocal and visible difference. I realize there will always be those people who feel “offended” or “left out”, and that’s fine with me, this isn’t about YOU. Stand or something or fall for anything. #straightup

Year Two…

If you don’t like something, create something new to challenge it.

Well, its been a while, and I apologize for that. Sometimes its far too easy (for me) to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Last time I wrote I was coming down from my House In The Park high, and today, I sit here feeling extremely enlightened and motivated moving into my second year of being a “professional” DJ. Yes, I’m using the term “professional” extremely loosely,  but I’m making moves and getting paid, so that attributes to some sort of professionalism. Right?

I played NYC last weekend which was fun, although I think I drank a little too much during my set at Black Flamingo, and ended up misplacing one of my USB’s. I realized this the following morning as I went to prepare for Lot Radio, and definitely felt a punch to the gut. While there is a chance it perhaps fell onto some random street corner and got stepped on, there is also the chance that someone got a ahold it, (and lucked the fuck up on a shit load of music.) It sucks to say the least, and its apparent that I gotta start keeping my shit in order at gigs.  I can’t deny I’m a sucker for vodka cranberry’s, but you really gotta take care, and be aware of your belongings…whether it  be headphones, usb’s, records, etc…things come up missing and its never fun. Lesson learned. On the brighter side of things, I enjoyed my set, the club had a nice turn out for a Thursday, and for the first time, I felt as if I eloquently mixed via rotary mixer…turning those knobs really is an art of its own.

Lot Radio was another highlight of the trip, and I felt a sense of responsibility having the opportunity to host my own show on Friday night. Carry Nation and Analog Soul had the slot before me and it was really awesome to kick it with such respected artists and members of the dance music community. Its mind boggling playing alongside people like this, being that I wouldn’t have imagined this possible a couple years prior when I saw Analog Soul play at SmartBar in Chicago. I was so inspired when I saw them up there, and was hella proud to see two Black women controlling the dance floor with such strength and soul, and now, of course, things feel full circle.

Speaking of strength and soul, the weekend prior to NYC, was AfroPunk, which I’m sure some of you wanted hear about. I have decided to not go into full detail about some of the shortcomings I faced, but looking back on the day in itself, it was fun, and a great opportunity. AfroPunk being my first festival appearance felt extremely appropriate, and it was an honor to be there representing what I felt, was black people/women in dance music. While AfroPunk is pretty eclectic with their musical selections, the percentage of House Music / Techno DJ’s is still pretty low. When I first got booked for it, I immediately started thinking about all the hip-hop and soul edits I could potentially play….then as time passed I decided I would stick to my roots and play what I normally play… that’s the freedom of being an artist, and I don’t ever want to lose touch with that.

Due to some scheduling issues, my first set got cancelled, and I was to only perform my second set, which was from 10-11PM…the same time as Solange, the festival headliner, who everybody and they momma (including myself) wanted to see. I already knew my stage wouldn’t have much of an audience,  I mean, I can’t compete with Solange…lol. I had a crowd of about 15/20 throughout my set, and I’m glad that my friends were there to support me, it actually wasn’t so bad anyway. Random people would walk up and start dancing, clearly intrigued by sounds that were more then likely unfamiliar to them, and it felt good. It was crazy being back at work the next day…I went from being a respected artist with my own dressing room, to back sitting behind a desk kissing ass in a matter of less than 24 hours. Damn.

Next up is Milwaukee, and I’m ready. This will be my first time playing in the Midwest outside of Detroit, and I have a feeling I’m in for a treat. Playing gigs across the US has been a great experience, and I def still have a few more cities on my radar…LA, Miami, Chicago, and Pittsburg, to name a few. After this Milwaukee gig, and after Expressions the following weekend I’ll be pretty much open in terms of bookings. My local bookings have slowed down, and I’m taking this as an opportunity to brainstorm and get better. I’ve been peeping folks on social media griping about not being booked locally, and only getting respect outside of their hometowns, which I understand could/can be frustrating. I know I haven’t been out here long as a DJ, but the best advice I could give to those feelings is to quit focusing on who “doesn’t fuck with you”, and start focusing on who does. Not everyone has to like you or support you, and I’m just now really accepting that. It sucks, but thats just one of harsh realities of  this shit. I think complaining is counter productive when you could simply start creating your own platforms to showcase those  you feel are being overlooked (yourself included.)

One of the main reasons I started Expressions, or even thought of it, was because I wanted to start headlining and getting more playing time at my gigs. I figured, if its my party, I have control to set it up the way I see fit. Who cares if everyone isn’t booking you, its not their obligation to imo. Some people won’t book you bc they legit are a hater, and some may not book you because they legit don’t like your sound….thats their problem, not yours. I guess all I’m saying is that I rather focus on the good shit thats happening rather than whats not. If you don’t like something, create something new to challenge it. I used to get in my feelings when certain people would ignore my accomplishments, but at this point I really don’t care anymore. I’m focused on me, those that support me, and achieving goals. And honestly, people will come around if you keep shining and doing your thing…they’ll have no choice than to respect you in the long run.

In closing, I just want to say thank you….again. I’m moving into my second year of this journey and I don’t know where the hell I’d be if weren’t for so many of you that believe in me and trust me enough to be apart of your visions. Later this week I’m going to be on fucking NTS radio, and I been smiling all day. The day before I got the email, I thought to myself how NTS would be 2018 goal, and now here I am knocking it out much sooner than I expected. I know its not easy out here, and I know I’ve been blessed to accomplish so much in so little time, but best believe my work is far from done. I still only know a small percentage of this trade and lifestyle, and I’ll forever be a student. That being said, I’m eager to blossom into what I one day hope can be a long term career as a DJ and person of color keeping the visions of American underground dance music alive.

Until Next Time…

-ASH ❤

 

 

 

House In The Park: The Family Reunion Of All Family Reunions.

House in the Park is not merely a celebration of House Music, its a celebration of Black culture.

Well folks, another House in the Park/Atlanta Weekender for the history books! Sitting here now reflecting on it all, the first thought that comes to mind is WOW. It’s hit me over the years that House in the Park is not merely a celebration of House Music, its a celebration of Black culture, a celebration of family, a celebration of togetherness, a celebration of life. This year marked my 7th year in attendance, and I must say, with every passing year this festival grows and blossoms in ways I never thought possible. I don’t speak about it often, but my first attendance to House in the Park in 2010 truly solidified my passion for Dance Music. It was the first House Music event I had ever attended in Atlanta,  and without a doubt rekindled my relationship with the music I grew up loving in Detroit. I spent my first two years in Atlanta completely out of the loop musically until that grand day a friend from Detroit told me about “House In the Park…the rest is history.

Fast forward to today, and many years of being apart of the Atlanta House Music Community, I feel equally proud, humbled and inspired after this weekend. Proud because it’s safe to say that after years of hard work and dedication, Atlanta has made its mark, and is now known as a House Music destination in America. Perhaps not year around, but Labor Day weekend without question. And while every other weekend may not have as many events going on, or out-of-towners supporting our scene, best believe that EVERY weekend there is a a dance music event to choose from; whether it be Soulful, Techno, or Tribal. Humbled because this time last year I was still a bit shy of my first live DJ appearance, and now, a year later, I not only performed as a DJ at Atlanta Weekender events, I also was given the opportunity to host my event Expressions as an official Atlanta Weekender event. Having my party recognized alongside many other long running events in Atlanta like Kai’s Alce’s Distinctive, and Salah Ananse’s “LoveSexy” Prince Tribute Party, was very special to me. I feel inspired because now, more than ever, I realize the musical canvas that is Atlanta. The possibilities are endless, and I’m really excited to be apart of our ever-growing scene.

Saturday night Stefan and I hosted our bi-monthly party “Expressions” which is held at one of the most notable music venues in Atlanta, The Sound Table. Over the years The Sound Table has hosted the likes of Moodymann, Theo Parrish, Hunee, Mike Huckaby, K-HAND, and many, many, more. The night before our event was held, DJ Kemit and Josh Milan played there as well, so you could only imagine the honor I feel being able to work in the same DJ booth as so many other well-established artists that I look up to. I’m also blessed to host an event where I can take things wherever I’d like musically…I get bored easily, so am constantly acquiring new music, especially before a gig; expect to hear some hot new shit. Also, expect to hear some classic Detroit music as well; I think its safe to say that its pretty much synonymous with my sound. I played everything from Octave One- Daystar Rising, to Aaron Carl- Down, to Shari Vari by A Number of Names. After some very deep and sexy sounds from Austen Van Der Bleek, I started out my set with a new Hannah track called “July”…the vibes continued on from that point. At Expressions Stefan and I pretty much do a B2B set, with each of us playing multiple sets of about 30 minutes or so throughout the night. I really like that arrangement, because I can’t stand “2 and 2” b2b’s, I avoid those if at all possible. That being said, our styles compliment each other well, and the dance floor stayed full throughout the night. I was initially apprehensive when Salah (DJ and Atlanta Weekender organizer) approached me about potentially adding a friend of his to the bill. I mean, Expressions had always been just Stefan and I, and I didn’t see the need to change that, yet after doing a little research on Austen I was sold. He is an established DJ and promoter with his organization Open House Conspiracy, and has booked as well as played alongside the likes of Keith Worthy, King Britt, and of course, Kai Alce.

The night went well overall, and many, many friends came out. The highlight of my night without question, was incorporating vinyl into my set for the first time. I have to admit, I’ve had this fear of playing vinyl in public for a while now because I felt my skills weren’t all the way up to par. I was afraid of “train wrecking” or flat out embarrassing myself. In the past, there’s even been a couple gigs where I’ve brought vinyl with me and didn’t even up playing it because I’d get too intimidated. Every time I’d talk to Stefan about it he’d simply tell me to “stop talking about it”, and to “just do it”, and Saturday night, I finally did it. That morning I had woken up feeling incredibly inspired and started going through my records. Once I realized all the quality music I  was missing out on playing, I decided right there that I was dropping records that night, “scared” or not. I had myself a nice little selection of about 20 records I knew I could potentially play. It wasn’t until almost 2am that I finally got the courage to drop one of them, a K-HAND record to be exact, titled “Beat that Bitch with a Stick”…classy, huh? From there I recall dropping some classic Kerri Chandler, and a “Call Me” Remix by Deee-Lite. Once I started playing records I felt like I didn’t want to stop, it felt good. There’s still work to be done, but I am proud that I finally took the leap.  It was a special night…thank you to those who continue to support this event.

House In The Park in itself was, as always, equally fun and refreshing. With all the sub-genres and scenes in dance music, this is one of the very few events in Atlanta that can bring all of us together. I saw so many familiar faces whom I’ve I gotten acquainted with over the years, and while sometimes its only a quick hug, or hello, it feels good, and it means something. House In The Park is basically the family reunion of all family reunions, and is something that must be experienced to fully understand. When you enter that pavilion and the energy hits you theres no turning back…that sea of black and brown faces lost in rhythm is like nothing else you’ll ever experience. As we all sweat, dance and sing together, you realize just how powerful those moments are. If you haven’t been, I suggest you try next year. Good food, good music, cute kids, and vendors selling all the shea butters and ethnic apparel you’ll ever need!

As things winded down, the post-festival depression hit me hard as I geared back up for work after the holiday weekend festivities.  All the fun and gigs were behind me, and my 9-5 was patiently waiting to eat away at my soul. Sometimes I feel selfish because I know I should be content with the way things are going for me musically, yet at the same time theres still so much more work to be done. There’s also still so much I’d like to do and accomplish. Its crazy to go from a check-list of gigs, to the day when all the gigs are behind you and you find yourself back at square one…the hustle never ends. In response to this, all I can do is continue to practice, plan, and execute. I’ve gotten some great press, which of course, has increased my visibility, and I’m glad that people are truly starting to know who I am. Not simply the girl from Detroit who lives in Atlanta, and is “on the scene”, but as Ash Lauryn, a respected DJ, writer, and event promoter. I’ve mentioned this before, but my goals with dance music are not merely for fun; this is a personal mission, a passion, and a calling. At this point in my life this is the only thing I can picture myself doing.

I’m proud of the recent success with my “Black Girls Like Techno Too” mix for Honey Sound System, and it felt surreal to be selected alongside people like DJ Bone (a long time hero of time) for the best DJ Mixes of August by Pitchfork. As I idly scrolled thru Twitter I saw the article and couldn’t contain the goofy smile on my face. “Mamma, I made it!”… Not quite, but ya girl is on her way, I tell you that. In addition to some TBA  traveling gigs, I’ve been in contact with a few booking agents who may potentially want work with me, so I’m hoping that comes into fruition. It’s honestly just a matter of time, and I’m gonna keep pushing. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart to those that keep me inspired. I vow to stay humbled, hard working, and diligent with this journey.

Talk Soon.

-ASH ❤

 

 

 

 

Making Moves In The City…

I know I haven’t done anything remotely close to what I want to achieve in the end, yet everyday I feel as though I’m one step closer.

Back in Atlanta, and finally finished with US “mini-tour”, as myself and a couple friends have called it. (lol.) Let me first and foremost say, I commend all of you full-time traveling DJ’s, because the car, bus, plane, train life can be pretty exhausting. Without question, traveling is exciting, but I won’t lie, I’m pretty glad that I don’t deal with an airport this weekend. That being said, New York was amazing, and of course, the highlight of my weekend was my set at Bossa Nova Civic Club at UmFang’s Technofeminism party.

I arrived into New York bright and early Friday morning, and bus/trained over to my God Sister’s crib in Bedstuy, where I was staying for the weekend. It was my first time in Bedstuy, and I immediately fell in love; the multiple African braiding shops, the guys on the stoops and corners chopping it up with one another, the old folks chillin outside observing and giving the “black nod of acknowledgment to those that pass by. Hell, I even got a kick out the guy who attempted to hustle me into buying some baby clothes for my so-called “baby girl” (whom clearly doesn’t exist.) LMAO. In all honesty, prior to this past weekend, the only thing I really knew about Bedstuy was that Biggie Smalls was from there, and that it was currently going thru the inevitable and unfortunate gentrification process that we’re seeing so much of today.

I’m not sure what Bedstuy used to be (pre-gentrification), but the section I was staying in was predominately Black, and (imo) still had an energy that felt authentic. I got the opportunity to support a local Black owned business called Bee’s and Coco’s which had food to DIE for. The place had modern decor, yet still felt very “mom-and-pop”, (especially by the quality of the food.) The staff was young and friendly, and I’m not sure if it was the head chef or the owner, but there was a lady working there that was extremely personable and accommodating. She even gave us free mimosa’s while we waited on our carry out. Yes, please! While I’m positive Bedstuy, as well as many other Black neighborhoods in America are seeing changes…some for the good, and some for the bad, there are still those random streets, blocks, businesses, or experiences that can give you a true sense of the spirit of that particular neighborhood. I sensed the sprit of Bedstuy as I aimlessly walked down Howard Street taking in the sights and sounds. I sensed the spirit of Bedstuy as I observed the stunning brownstones on Decatur Street. I sensed the spirit of Bedstuy as I walked down Malcolm X Blvd. and stumbled into an African shop to get my hair braided. I sensed the spirit of Bedstuy as I walked past the Bedstuy Community Garden where some elder Black folks gave me some of the warmest and most welcoming smiles. I even sensed the spirit of Bedstuy when my God Sisters neighbor blasted classic old school music from his motorcycle outside of her window for what seemed to be 2 hours. HA! But in all seriousness, it is ESSENTIAL that the spirit of these predominately Black neighborhoods is preserved, it is what truly makes them what they are. I can only hope that the next time I return to Bedstuy, whats left of that spirit remains.

While there were a few different highlights to this trip, the main one, as I mentioned before, was my set at Bossa. Although the night somewhat feels like a bit of a blur, there’s no denying or blurring of how amazing I felt and played that night. From the first track I dropped I legit felt like I was on a soaring on a spaceship. I wore heels that night, so the platform under the DJ booth for short people (who can’t reach the decks…lol) actually made me too tall, yet I was still not tall enough with my heels on to not use it…I said fuck it; still used the platform, took my damn shoes off. Yes I DJ’d barefoot at Bossa for 3 hours, which included an emergency bathroom break where I ran off the decks, through the crowd, into one of the single bathrooms where a guy (who unfortunately didn’t lock the door) was peeing. “I’m the DJ, I gotta pee, hurry up, I yelled!!!” HAHAHA. The guy looked equally shocked and entertained by all of this, it was classic. Olive T. was in the building, Kfeelz was in the building, SHYBOI was in the building, my boy Pablo Louis was in the building! It felt good to have some of the NYC Black Techno crew there to support me. My girl Jen from ATL was also there, as well as a few other familiar faces, the night felt like family. I was, and still am, on a high. Thank you to Emma, Frankie, and Christine of Discwoman for being so friendly, awesome and professional. These ladies are cool af, and have been willing to assist in getting a few things in line for me, which they really don’t have to do. I admire them, and it feels good to get love from the female community.

I got the chance to hang in the city before & after my gig, and I had fun, although parties in NYC are sometimes quite expensive. A place that really resonated with me was The Lot Radio. It was my first time there, and I really had no idea of how dope such a simple place could be. Its literally a radio station and coffee shop built inside a shipping container (with a very spacious outdoor sitting area) broadcasting from middle of Brooklyn. I’m not sure who runs the place, but I want to commend you on putting together something so simple, yet so complex, that brings people together in the name of music. Radio is something that I’ve been interested/involved in, so it was fun to be apart of that. I’m not sure why I was so nervous before my set there, but it can be a bit intimidating knowing that your entire DJ set is being filmed live, while people tune in and chat/message you in the studio in real time. I opened up after a couple glasses of wine (per the usual), and it ended up being great. A couple friends stopped by also, which made the gathering even more cute. After Lot Radio Jen, her friend, myself, and Turtle all went out for food. As we’re walking down some random street in Brooklyn we run into some locals that Turtle knows…he introduces me and tells them I’m playing at Bossa later that night. The guy responds “Oh yeah, Ash Lauryn, I was actually listening to some of your mixes earlier today”. I smiled and played it off cool, yet in my mind felt cool af… like damn, this cool person in NYC knows who TF I am?! I also ran into Galcher Lustwerk at The Level Party at the Knockdown Center, who also mentioned that he had just read the blog, really enjoyed it, and related to some it. This type of shit is crazy to me because I guess I didn’t expect so many people to read, or even care for that matter. I know that humans can be fickle, fake, and disinterested, so I’m always equally surprised and shocked when people reach out to me about my mixes or blog.

My goal through all of this is to keep getting better while remaining as humble as possible. I know I haven’t done anything remotely close to what I want to achieve in the end, yet everyday I feel as though I’m one step closer….that simple fact keeps me inspired. NYC was great, and surprisingly made me appreciate my local music scene here in Atlanta as well. Atlanta’s scene may not be quite as large or “trendy”, but it’s intimate, quality, and colorful, which is important to me. That was actually the exact vibe I got from Bossa on Friday, and honestly can’t wait for the opportunity to go back.

This weekend will be my first local gig in about a month, and I’m really looking forward it. Crazy to think that it’s still a bit shy of a year since my first public DJ gig. A lot has happened, and a lot is happening. As I’ve said before, THANK YOU for being apart of this journey with me. Thank you for caring. Thank you for listening. I’m still working as my own agent rn, (which hasn’t been too bad), so I’m hoping to get some more out-of-town gigs lined up in the near future. So yeah, in closing, shout out to all my NYC people, you know who you are. Special shout out goes to the homie Turtle for kicking it this weekend and having those long ass musical/political conversations with me….much appreciated.

Until Next Time……

-ASH ❤

Californian Epiphanies.

Every gig is different, every crew is different, and every vibe is different; best believe you better be able to adjust.

Heyyy yall! So its been a while, and I’m glad to be back sharing my opinions, experiences, and whatever else in between. I’m currently on a flight headed back to ATL from San Francisco, where I was for the weekend for a gig at club F8 with the Polyglamorous crew. This was my first real “out-of-town” gig, and I must admit, the DJ life seems that much more appealing now. I mean, that fact in itself that people are willing to fly you out, give you a place to stay, pay you, and buy you dinner is pretty dope if you ask me. I’m still new to the DJ game, so this type of shit still kinda amazes me, humbled and grateful would be an understatement. On the plane ride arriving into San Francisco I sat there looking down at the mountains in sheer amazement, wow….mountains! You don’t see those much where I’m from, I felt like a big ass kid; amazed by the beauty of the world, and equally amazed to be experiencing it first hand.

This gig helped me learn and recognize the importance of being able to be a chameleon while in the DJ world.  Every gig is different, every crew is different, and every vibe is different; best believe you better be able to adjust. In the past and coming weeks I’ll have gone from playing Beautiful Sunday in Detroit, a super soulful/black/old school crowd, to playing Polyglamorous, a super gay/white/male crowd, to next weekend playing TechnoFeminism, which I’ll assume is a super femme, weird, and techno crowd. I used to question DJ’s whom “play to the crowd”, but I actually kind of get it now. Of course, stay true to yourself and your sound, yet you also gotta give the people want they want, and what they like. I’m all for “educating a crowd” musically, but certain shit just doesn’t feel appropriate for certain crowds/venues, so why even bother?

After this gig I also realized just how much more music I need to acquire, and that I’m still pretty far from mastering the art of  reading a crowd. I do my best, but it hit me this weekend that these out of town gigs aren’t always the most simple. In a lot of instances you’ve never been the venue your playing at, nor am familiar with the sound, set-up, or crowd. This is something that has to be assessed in the hour or less time you have at the venue before your set. I guess “big time” DJ’s can do shit like show up right for their set and leave right after, but in the words of an epic Josey Rebelle tweet: “raver first, DJ second”. The reason I think I’m even remotely a “good DJ” is simply because I’m first and foremost, a die-hard fan of the music and the culture. I like to get to the the party early for one, to scope out the scene/try to catch the vibe, and to secondly, legit have a little time to party and dance. If I ever do “blow up” I’ll be that DJ you see at the bar or on the dance floor chopping it up with the people and supporting the other acts. I get that sometimes there may not be enough time to “hang or socialize” before a gig but if time permits, I don’t see the harm in doing so.

The first day of this trip I was ecstatic, and I’m not sure if it was my own insecurities or that strong ass California weed that brought upon my “over-thinking” on day #2, but I think its safe to assume it was a combination of the two. I sat there gazing down upon the beautifully designed flyer with my name and photo on it and all of a sudden became eerily fearful and self conscious. Am I good enough for all of this? Do I deserve this? Am I really as good as people claim? Did I let the promoters down? I felt like crying in that moment. Some of the shit that has happened/is happening to me is still pretty surreal, and believe it or not, its not always joy that comes from huge things happening in your life. Honestly, it can be scary. Scary (to me) because unfortunately, I often worry about letting people down. And yeah, people are quick to say you can’t “let the people down”, you can only “let yourself down”, but thats bullshit. I want to entertain the people, I want to make them dance, I want to make them smile, I want to make them cry, I want to inspire them…that’s a lot to deal with sometimes, and its not a simple task. DJing isn’t just about you, its about the people. I’m not DJing to simply entertain myself, I can do that at home. I’m DJing to entertain the people while sharing the music that I love… thats not a job that should be taken lightly, or for granted.

My insecurities also stem from the hellish place called the INTERNET where I’ve been seeing a lot of talk lately about disadvantaged groups of people getting illegitimate shine in the industry simply because they come from disadvantaged demographics, and aren’t truly deserving of their current success based skills. These posts, tweets, etc. always make me feel a bit uncomfortable because I wonder if thats how people feel about me and my current success. I’ve had a nice little ride in the past year of me playing out, and I hope that people don’t think I’m only getting booked simply because I’m a woman, or because I’m black. This whole shit kinda feels like the affirmative action debate to me. Sorta like being the only black girl at the University and wondering if your white classmates resent you because you had a lower GPA than their best friends who didn’t get accepted because the school needed a more diverse student body. I mean, I know my tracks are good, ain’t no doubting that. I also know that my mixing isn’t bad, and that I’m capable of doing shit like pulling off a set after people like Omar S. and Kyle Hall. Am I on their level in terms of skill and selections? Hell no. Am I capable and brave enough to get on the decks after them and still make people dance….YES. So to anyone who feels that some of us are not worthy of the gigs or attention we receive, the only thing I can really say is “don’t hate the player, hate the game”. As a player, most of us are taking up on any opportunity thats presented to us, and would be a fool not to. I remember when someone told me I should turn down a gig, or ask to play first instead of headline because I was nervous and still new. Mannn, If I had listened and started out turning gigs down because I was nervous or new, I’d still prolly only have one or two local gigs under my belt. Which why I realized its not always good to entertain people and their antics/opinions.

Where I’m at with things now is that I’m simply going to worry about myself, and not about what anyone else is and saying, doing, or thinking. People aren’t always going to like what your doing….I’m coming to terms with that…all I can do and move forward and do ME. I watched a  documentary last week where Jimmy Iovine of Interscope, in a clip  speaks about why race horses race with blindfolds on. They race blindfolded because if they took the time to look on either side or behind them they’d lose sight of the race and lose. This can applied to humans as well; when we take the time to look everywhere but ahead, we get distracted, and in return, fall behind. I don’t know about yall, but I’m striving to be the horse with the blindfold on. I’m done looking around, I’m looking to the future, and I hope to see you there.

 

-ASH ❤