ASH LAURYN is a DJ and party promoter hailing from Detroit, MI who is currently based in Atlanta, GA. ASH specializes in underground dance music, and says most of her influence stems from her roots back home in Detroit. As an active member of the dance music community for over a decade, ASH hosts her own event series called ORBIT, and is currently a resident DJ with Atlanta’s Deep South crew.
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. 🙂
My first introductions to this music had nothing to do with the artist, articles, or features, and was more so about a love for the music; how it sounded, how it made me feel…I want to get back to those roots.
Its been a bit longer than I expected, and I hate to use “being busy” as an excuse for not getting things done, but things have definitely picked up quite a bit since the new year. I have a few things to talk about, and I hope to not make this all about me, but if it ends up being that way, I’ll try not to bore you.
So its about two months into 2018, and I suppose things are going well. One major thing that has happened recently is that I’m no longer working my 9-5 job; they fired me two months before I planned to leave…(lol) go figure. People’s typical reaction to someone losing their job/ getting fired is pity, but to be honest, I don’t need it. I walked out of there with my head high; equally nervous and excited for the next chapter in my life. What I’m most proud of is the fact that I didn’t let it break me. Its never fun losing a job, especially by termination, but I wasn’t going to let that place steal my joy. I couldn’t be upset about it or take it personal anyway, I wasn’t happy in the first place. Of course there were aspects of my job that were cool, but the mere routine of sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day, 5 days week, is simply not for me…I’ve had to learn that the hard way many times, and this time I’m not sure I’ll ever go back. Its perfect timing if you ask me…now I have more time to focus on MY dream.
(And more time to live my damn life for that matter…)
As some of you know, I’m heading to Berlin for a couple gigs next month, and am keeping my fingers crossed about a couple other pending shows in Europe while I’m there. Its all quite frightening though…I mean, I took it upon myself to plan this “tour”, if you will, and with representation or not, its not guaranteed that people will actually want to book you. The whole process is eye opening and humbling because it makes you realize that no matter how good/great you think you are, not everyone will agree with that. Not everyone wants to book a new comer, not everyone wants to book a woman, hell, not everyone wants to book a black woman. I’m attempting to keep my spirits high, and I remain grateful for all of the good things that have happened thus far. It is a constant battle though, because I want so much more. I do realize that some of the things I want often take years to accomplish, so patience and commitment is important in this industry…I’ve been realizing that more and more. Sometimes I have to sit back and think about what I’ve accomplished in only a year and a half of DJing professionally, and just congratulate myself, sometimes I need that boost. And hey, perhaps some of my success was luck/good timing, but I also know that I am a force….even when I get down on myself.
What’s been on my mind lately is that I want to spend less time “online”, and more time perfecting my craft and studying music. As of late, I feel as if dance music is being oversaturated with content, and its impossible for me to keep up… (not that I even try). Everyone’s got a mix coming out, everybody’s got an interview coming out, everybody’s got a radio show coming out, shit…EVEN ME…I have all those things coming out too, so I get it…but sometimes I just wanna be in my own world to focus on the music itself and not be distracted by the overload of PR and shit being put on the internet that involves this music or the scene. My first introductions to this music had nothing to do with the artist, articles, and features, and was more so about a love for the music…how it sounded, how it made me feel…I want to get back to those roots.
Another thing thats been on my mind lately is the whole “guest mix” trend. If I told you how many guest mixes I’ve had to turn down the past couple months you may not believe me. (And if you asked me for one and are reading this, this is not directed towards anyone directly, so please don’t take offense)…Where I’m at with it right now is that I rather have someone book me than request a guest mix. I’ve done so many of them that I’m beginning to bore myself. I get that releasing mixes can sometimes help with bookings, but what I don’t want is to be the girl putting out mixes for any/everybody…I’d like a keep a little mystery about myself, ya know…like do that shit in waves. Why do you think people like Moodymann and UR are so revered and respected…? Because they don’t work just with any old person that inquires. (Btw, I know I ain’t Moodymann, but hell, a girl can take notes.) Its okay to not jump onto every single opportunity thats presented to you, just do what works for you, and don’t overwhelm yourself. There’s definitely never going to be a shortage of mixes in this day and age, so I figure I can focus on something else for a bit…(ie: This Blog) Oh, and if you do happen to be interested in booking me or requesting a mix, please do it because you truly enjoy the music I play, and like what I’m about. I am not a “trend” or a commodity and only want to work with other people who are truly supportive of the real roots and meaning of this music. That being said, I have a couple more previously committed to mixes to finish then will be taking a break to focus on my NTS radio show. I now have my own platform, and would like to spend more time pushing my own movement. I really want to be smart about the moves I make…this music stuff is business too, don’t forget that.
All in all, I feel good, and as I mentioned before, these next few months I’m ready to start taking my craft to the next level. I had a nice ride this first year being the new kid, but I’m starting to get “real” bookings now, and I want my shit to be all the way on point. I’ll never be that girl that was “all hype”, I’m going to be that one that blows your mind…no matter how long it takes me to get there. I don’t know about some of these other cats, but I’ve been dedicated to this music half my life. I’ve been studying this music before I realized I was even studying it, and it has put me in the position to do/create great things. I will forever be appreciative for all of the influence and inspiration that I received over the years of being a kid/teen in Detroit, all the way to being the girl in the front row of countless shows in Atlanta…it was all preparation for whats happening right now, and for what’s to come.
That’s it for now I think, and special shout out to all of the other Artist’s and DJ’s out there doing what they love and simply trying to make it. Its not easy out here, but it is possible with hard work and dedication (for some of us)…just keep doing you, keep shining…
The current state of dance music is often questioned, yet there is no denying that there is still quality music coming out.
As 2017 comes to close, I’d like to take a moment to reflect upon some the amazing music that came out this past year. The current state of dance music is often questioned, yet there is no denying that there is still quality music coming out. After compiling this list, I noticed that most included are long-time respected music veterans, (which was not on purpose, by any means). My musical taste is very much influenced by Black, American artists, and this list without question confirms that. Black music is equally present and relevant as it ever was, and one can only pray that it will continue to stay that way. As a music lover, and as a DJ, I recognize the importance of embracing new talent and exploring unknown territories musically, yet could never deny the fact that my true love of this music was formed by some of the pioneering individuals on this very list. I was not surprised to see the major publications “Best of 2017” lists barely including any people of color, so I decided to take matters into my own hands. The majority of the music on this list I have purchased, played out at gigs, and hold in very high regard…
So, without further ado, here’s Underground and Black’s Best of 2017 list:
Waajeed- Shango EP // In the past I had typically associated most of Waajeed’s productions with Hip-Hop, yet was presently surprised to learn that Waajeed, was indeed creating what I affectionately like to call “intelligent dance music”. That beautiful place where, funk, soul, jazz, hip-hop, house, and techno meet. I can’t recall not one time that I dropped “Better Late Than Never”, or “Winston’s Midnight Disco” without someone running up to the booth to inquire. In addition to the EP, he also released an awesome music video for the Shango track….What up doe Waajeed!
2. DJ Aakmael- Tales of the Deep EP //
If your anything like me, when you think of “Aakmael”, you think “Deep”. Deep indeed is the one they call DJ Aakmael, and no one does deep quite like him. Tired of me saying deep yet? LOL. “Tales of the Deep” EP dropped on Axe on Wax in April, and would probably have to be some of my favorite work produced by an artist, who in my opinion, deserves a lot more recognition. The somewhat reflective piano sample on “Kosmic Bounce”, is almost hypnotic, and will leave you filled with emotion. Its a track you could cry to, reflect to, or dance to…I love how music is versatile in that respect. Same thing goes for the track titled “Deep Side”, while “Moodcapacity” asks a question that all DJ’s should be able to answer “YES” to….
“Do you have the ability to create a mood”?????
3. Patrice Scott- The Detroit Upright //
“The Detroit Upright” without question was one of my favourite tracks to come out this year. This particular track got me out of bed on many days when I didn’t think I’d last another day at my 9-5….there’s something about it that just feels good and inspiring. “Who We Are”, is also another beauty….I suggest you check out both of these tracks if haven’t done so yet! Really look forward to more great music from Patrice in 2018. #Detroit
4. Hanna- Bounce EP //
I was introduced to the track “No Fear” on Josey Rebelle’s Rinse FM show that I was featured on, which gives it that sentimental value every time I drop it. I play this track when I’m ready to get people moving, and it never seems to disappoint!
5. Norm Talley- Norm-A-Lize //
In 2017 Norm Talley dropped his debut album on Omar S’s FXHE label, and what I can say….14 tracks of solid heat! I’ve been watching Norm play since the Agave days back in the early 2000’s, and it’s great to see him still doing his thing after all this time. Make sure to cop this record if you haven’t done so yet!
6. Ron Trent Presents Prescription: Word, Sound & Power //
The infamous re-release of this record had a lot of people smiling, including myself. Below is Ron Trent’s previously unreleased “Black Magic Woman” feat. Harry Dennis…imagine how I feel playing this track….yeah.
7. Karizma- The Power EP //
Another historic reissue that I wanted to get my hands on! The reissue includes the bangin remix below by none other than Atjazz. I dropped this track in one of my recent mixes, and it got a great response when I played it out as well.
8. Dego, Kaidi- A so We Gwarn //
When it comes to Sound Signature we all know what to expect…intelligent music at its finest. Looking forward to playing some of these tracks on my NTS show, which I feel would be very fitting, being that some of these aren’t your typical club tunes. This is black, grown people music, and I’m grateful to share it.
9. Hanna- The Never End //
I was waiting like hell for this one to come out!!!! Hanna’s “The Never End” dropped on Steven Julian’s Apron Records this past summer, and I was so psyched to play my favorite track off the release “July” in July…lol. The other tracks are stunning as well, which I’m sure we all can expect from the one they call Hanna. Check this release if you haven’t done so yet, it feels good to support Black labels…Shout out Apron Records.
10. Loleatta Holloway (Louie Vega, Josh Milan, Yvonne Turner)- Can’t Let You Go //
Last but not least, the infamous “Can’t Let You Go” remixes by Louie Vega and Josh Milan. Every time I dropped this track people came running to the dance floor…there’s something about Loleatta’s voice that does that to you! I have a feeling this will be one of those tracks thats in circulation for a long, long time. If not mistaken, it was also nominated for a grammy, which it is more than deserving of, I’m glad to see real music still getting recognition.
And that’s it folks!!!! I hope you guys enjoyed the list, and my feeble attempt at music journalism (lol). 2017 was a great year in music, 2018 will be better, and hopefully blacker. 😉 Thanks to everyone who’s been following the blog, I truly appreciate each and every one of you. I’m looking forward to continue sharing in 2018….
Its been a while since our last guest mix, and I’m so excited to add another one to the collection by the one and only Olive T! She’s been putting in serious work on the NYC music scene for some years now, and is definitely an artist to watch in 2018. I became hip to Olive back in late 2016, when a mutual friend posted one of her mixes on Twitter. I remember listening, and thinking that we had very similar tastes, and honestly was just so excited to find out about another black woman involved in dance music. I sent her a message on FB hoping to not sound like too much of a groupie, and luckily she was very responsive and friendly. Long story short, we finally met when I had my NYC debut at Bossa Nova Civic club this past summer, and we have been supporting each other as black women and artists’s ever since! I really admire Olive for all of the hard work and dedication she has put in, and can’t wait to see what else she has in store for us in the years to come.
Olive was nice enough to answer a few interview questions in preparation for this mix, so before you get into the groove of these soulful, deep, jacking, dark, sounds, have a read below, and get to know the one they call “Olive T.” a little better…
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your influences:
My DJ name is Olive T, I’m from NY -I’m a DJ/Producer/Baker
I brought my first pair of turntables when I was 17 and started DJing professionally about 6 or 7 years ago. My influences are my parents, a few punk ideologies, abstraction in art, nature, sound & feelings.
2. What is your view of the current state of underground dance music?
I think underground dance music is at it’s best point I’ve ever seen it. A few years ago the only dance records I had easy access to were distributed by huge record labels’ sub labels. Now I see regular people creating small record runs and releasing music on bandcamp/internet. There’s a lot more options, diversity, and a further reach to fans imo.
3. In regards to NYC, how do you feel about Black representation in dance music?
This is a tough question, there’s certainly many talented black producers and DJs here that may not receive the same attention as their non black peers due to I suppose… having connects in the business or support networks in the scene, ownership of labels and venues, not having financial means to make music. The representation & exposure could be better. Also a lot of the poc youth here like dance music that may not appeal to the masses or have venues that understand -which makes parties a bit harder to throw.
4. What are you dreams, goals, aspirations for the future?
My dream would be to live a sustainable life, just from making art/music. My goal right now would be to put out a record/ep or two in 2018 or ’19.
As for future aspirations…i’m not sure, I try not to think too much about the future. I just set small plans and work toward them slowly heh. I would like to help more women of color learn production and to DJ out more/navigate the night life on the talent side.
5. Any upcoming gigs your looking forward to?
Right now i’m looking forward to tackling my New Years Day 4am set for the ravers still going. And I’m real excited to open for Kyle Hall and Jay Daniel at Good Room in Brooklyn, NY on January 14th. I’ve been a fan of their work for years. I haven’t seen a lineup of younger black DJs and producers headlining a club night ever. More of that in 2018 would be awesome.
Amel Larrieux – Bravebird
A Tribe Called Quest – The Hop (B-Squit Edit)
AshTreJinkins – Skitz
Jad & The – Disco Dancefloor Tool
Larry Heard, Mr. White – Supernova
Nils Penner – Multa (Johnjon Remix)
K-Hand – Live
Lady Blacktronika – Unreleased
Anthony Shake Shakir – Pursuit Mix 2
Black Noi$e – Creepy Crawlers
Glenn Underground – Escuchame’ (Escuchame’)
Lucretio – The Way We Do
Freestyle Orchestra – Twi-Lite
Three Kings feat. Jaygun & Bashy – Shake Dat Booty (DSB Re-Edit)
Sudan Archives – Paid
Mr. G, Mike Grant – My Soul, My Spirit (Mr. G’s Freedom Train Mix)
Ikonika – Oral Suspension (Big Strick Remix)
Norm Talley – The Dream
The Oliverwho Factory – Basement Party
Posthuman – Preach ( feat. Josh Caffe)
Anthony Shake Shakir – Frictional Beat #6 (KMFH 808 DUB)
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 the event. 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…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 in tow. 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. This is all quite humorous looking back, but in that moment I was pretty determined. I really value the importance of making an artist feel comfortable and taken care of. You want everything to be right, so 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 represent your mission; your cause. Underground and Black is my mission and my cause that may have 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, 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, which I still sometimes get caught off guard by, but nonetheless, the reassurance feels good because I truly am giving my all. As I walked back to my car barefoot and alone 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 repetitive music could be so appealing, but yes, its true, this is when I’m home. This is one of the few environments that I feel absolutely comfortable in, and one of few environments where I feel like I can truly express myself. To now experience these nights as a fan, and now 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 sometimes I feel like I’m in over my head, but I’m up for the challenge, and 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 is no more holding us back!!!
To all my black women breaking barriers; I see you, and I salute you.
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.