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. 🙂