2020- My year in review.

I’ve finally returned from my unplanned hiatus from the blog, and through all of the ups and downs that were 2020, I must say, things have been going pretty well.

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I’ve finally returned from my unplanned hiatus from the blog, and through all of the ups and downs that were 2020, I must say, things have been going pretty well. Outside of touring and in-person gigs, I continued working, and sharing my love of music. Adapting to the digital side of deejaying was an adjustment, but I haven’t minded it. I’m not a weekly or daily streamer, but I have been doing it every few weeks or so, and it’s been fun, and a much-needed release. Most things will continue to be on hold for at least another year in terms of my touring and festival schedule, so I’ve decided to rejoin the workforce. As some may recall, I left my day job in February of 2020 to embark on my grandest Europe tour to date. I was also starting a new chapter of deejaying and freelancing full-time. While I’ve enjoyed this past year to myself and was blessed enough to get commissioned for work and virtual gigs on a pretty regular basis, it still wasn’t providing me with the security I needed. That said, I got an incredible work-from-home job with a financial tech company, and the pay and benefits are my best yet.

I plan to stick with the job for about a year or so, then when things get fully back in the swing on the DJ side, I can start to put all of my attention back to it. I’m keeping a positive attitude about things, and I will still be doing my music and writing- that’s one thing that will never stop. I’m still not quite sure what the point of this post will be, but if anything, I just wanted to check back in. My goal is to get more content flowing here, as that’s always been somewhat a struggle, lol. If not here, you can catch me via NTS Radio for the monthly Underground & Black show. I’m going to share a few of my projects from over the past year, as I’ve wanted to share all of the content in one place for a while now. 2021 is well on its way, but surviving 2020 was an achievement, so shout out to everyone still grinding and trying to keep their head on straight. I’m right there with you!

One of the first projects I got commissioned for was to curate black arts and culture content for Berlin’s Club Quarantaene‘s website. This opportunity was presented to me in the aftermath of the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmed Aubrey, and Breonna Taylor, as were many others. With the racial reckoning that sparked after Floyd’s death, many necessary conversations came to the fore within electronic music. One of those conversations was the apparent lack of black and people of color holding behind-the-scenes industry roles, whether it’s booking agents or music journalists. Nonetheless, I remain grateful for the opportunities presented to me, as it was a time for me to educate and showcase one of the things I’m most passionate about, black culture. You can check it out here: https://undergroundblack.clubquarantaene.stream/

A couple of months prior, I participated in Club Quarantaene’s April broadcast alongside Moma Ready, Jayda G, and more. My mix was selected as one of Pitchfork’s best sets for June of 2020, and you can listen below!

The RA x Underground & Black Podcast was a project that I continued throughout 2020, with 2 of my favorites to date published. The first was with Waajeed, Dirt Tech Reck label head, and former Slum Village DJ. The second was with Detroit’s DJ Minx, one of the pioneering women of Detroit dance music and founder of Women on Wax. The podcast will continue in 2021, with Reggie Dokes up next! I also have a couple of other exciting guests in the works, so make sure to follow me for more updates! Check the two interviews below.

2020 was a year that we all found ourselves having those sometimes uncomfortable yet necessary conversations about race. In July, I got invited by Soul Clap to be a guest on their weekly live streamed show on Resort TV called “Schmoozing.” We spent most of the time discussing race, whitewashing in dance music, and the overall racial reckoning happening globally. I must say that this one of my most favorite interviews I have done so far in my career, and I didn’t hold back. We also spent some time talking about House in the Park, and the Atlanta house music scene, which was great. Check out the interview below, and thanks to Soul Clap for having me for this great conversation!

As the summer continued, the opportunities did as well. My next big commission was to hold the August Guest Editor role for Beatportal, Beatport’s editorial platform. This position put me in charge of selecting the cover story artist, the label of the month, and introducing artist. It also put me in charge of commissioning black writers to write those pieces and others. I got to submit some of my writing as well. We started the month with my “Letter From the Editor,” discussing the role and what it means to me. In the letter I wanted to reiterate that although I agreed to take on this role, I was still wary and not convinced about various platforms’ sudden commitment to inclusion. Things just felt so performative around this time, honestly. That said, the month was a success, and we featured talented black artists like Byron the Aquarius and Huey Mnemonic. We featured writers Imani Mixton, Crystal Mioner, and Mandy Alexander, to name a few. We covered South-African Yaadt music, learned the history of Detroit’s Sistrum Recordings, and about newcomers like The AM and Niks. You can find links to all of the pieces below!

In August, I released an EP with my partner Stefan Ringer, called the Expressions EP, taking its name from our former residency at the Sound Table in Atlanta. The EP features three tracks, two of which had been in the works for some time. “Let’s get the Rhythm,” the standout track on the release, was an idea I had to make a track based on one of the hand clap games I used to play when I was a kid. We had a great time writing the vocals, and the track turned into something incredibly fun. I’m honestly still surprised at just how many people said they loved it. Stefan and I are back in the studio working on some new projects for 2021, so keep an eye out for that, and if you have not purchased the Expressions EP yet, you can right now on FWM Entertainment’s Bandcamp! Thanks to the many who have supported us thus far!

I was attempting to make this post a not long-winded one, but so much happened in 2020! It’s a blessing because it was most definitely a year of loss and hardships for many, so to be able to bounce back after my canceled DJ tour and income stream was very reaffirming. Writing is something that I have always done and something that I will continue to do, even if I do have a hiatus here and there. Despite the blog not being my most active platform over the last year, my writing did grace the pages of The Face Magazine, Mixmag, Resident Advisor, and Electronic Beats. I interviewed Larry Heard, Honey Dijon, and Robert Hood, to name a few! I learned a lot and grew the most I have as a writer in what feels like ages. The Robert Hood Cover Story without-question is what I’m most proud of and is one of the most in-depth pieces I’ve written. Sometimes I suffer from imposter syndrome when it comes to labeling myself a writer because I know that there are so many who do it better than me! I’m proud of my contributions nonetheless, and to get all this writing work in months and weeks after my grandmother’s passing felt like a sign. There is no doubt that my gift with words was a gift from her, and it’s a joy to know I am making her proud. For reference, my grandmother was a writer and the former Women’s Editor of The Michigan Chronicle in Detroit for many years. Check the links to some of my best stories and interviews of 2020 below!

RA Art of DJing interview with Detroit’s Al Ester:

https://ra.co/features/3738

Honey Dijon: Dance music has been colonized interview for Mixmag:

https://mixmag.net/feature/honey-dijon-dance-music-has-been-colonised

Underground Music Academy interview with Waajeed:

https://theface.com/music/underground-music-academy-detroit-waajeed-dj-producer-interview-ash-lauryn

2020 also seemed to be the year of the virtual panel as they were popping up everywhere. I guess it only made sense that I would eventually be apart of one, and what a lovely opportunity it was! Red Bull Arts Detroit invited me to host and assist in curating a panel on Detroit’s DIY creative culture and scene. The panel included Detroit-based creatives Waajeed, Crystal Mioner, Sophiyah E, and Cornelis Harris and was apart of the programming for Omar S’s Conant Garden’s party store exhibit. It’s my first time sharing the archive link, so please watch and enjoy!

Red Bull Arts Presents: Detroit DIY from Red Bull Arts New York on Vimeo.

And last but certainly not the least are live streams! I participated in a decent amount of them, and they kept me sane! They also kept me with some extra income, which was great. Trust and believe I get compensated for all of the work that I do. I don’t do free content, and you shouldn’t either. Know your worth, and make these people/platforms pay! Some live streams, unfortunately, don’t get archived, but here are a few you can catch now via youtube! Note: My Junction 2 set aired in Jan 2021, but was recorded in late 2020 so I decided to include it anyway. 🙂

In closing, I want to say thank you for the continued support! I’m a few years into my DJ journey now and have no serious complaints. Things are well, but there is always work that needs doing, so that’s what I plan to continue to do. I’m playing a BHM live stream alongside Chicago’s Terry Hunter this Thursday, and I also recently participated in Off White’s SS21 “Imaginary TV” platform. I know a lot of things are still up in the air right now as it relates to traveling and club gigs, but I’m patient, and I know the day that we are all reunited on somebody’s dance floor will be a sweet one.

Love and Respect,

Ash Lauryn

Peep my Off-White set and the rest of the “Imaginary TV” performances here.

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