When crisis brings out the ugly in people…

With the Covid-19 pandemic in full swing theres a lot going on in the world right now- most of which is impossible for many of us to wrap our heads around. I just got back to the states from Europe yesterday after my entire DJ tour was cancelled before it even actually began- I know many others can relate to some degree. And while some plan to lose more than others, this really isn’t the time for comparisons; we’re all faced with the same harsh reality; major loses of income. This whole ordeal comes at an interesting time for me not only because I DJ and work in a gig based economy, but also because I just left my full-time, decent pay, full benefit job just last month. The timing of my departure from the corporate world felt right regardless of losing my benefits and the guaranteed income; I worked hard to get to the point where I could sustain myself off music and was beyond excited to embark on the chapter. Sitting here today with the future of my DJ career unknown, I can’t say I now regret my decision to leave my job. In the weeks following my departure the creative juices were flowing and it felt amazing to simply live life on my own terms. Its day 1 of my quarantine since arriving back in the states, and to say the least, my mind is racing.

What’s crazy about dealing with these type of worldwide emergencies in modern day is that we are all still very much connected to one another thanks to things like the internet, social media, and television. And while one would think our access to these resources would bring us together, it actually in fact, in many cases, tears us apart. Over the past few days I’ve witnessed some cruel reactions to those asking for financial assistance and to those simply stating their frustrations or fear of the unknown. I understand tensions are high right now, but it’s truly disappointing to read some peoples responses to those in fear or need. The way I look at it is this; if you want to donate to a cause and its something you believe in, go ahead and do it. If its something you do not see fit to donate to, simply don’t and move on. Enough with the call out culture and hot takes- some of the behavior on these platforms is just as toxic as the damn virus itself. In a time of panic and confusion, why spread more negativity when we can offer support and understanding? It seems as if folks just sit around and wait for the right moment to shame people and when the opportunity strikes all hell breaks loose. I myself even fell victim to contributing to the negativity online and had to stop and check myself; so many of us are acting off emotion whether than logic and thats one of the problems. Its also eye opening, yet not surprising, to see how people start acting when it comes to money matters.

I don’t know about every DJ out there, but I’ve never seen anything wrong with deejaying while also holding down a full or part-time job, many of us do it. Whats tricky though, is actually being able to maintain the two successfully. From my personal experience, working full-time and deejaying was great in terms of financial security, but it also meant that I was forced to turn down certain opportunities. It was also extremely exhausting at times. Most jobs won’t let you take time off to go complete a DJ tour outside of the country, which is something that is important when you are trying to get a global reach. It can also put a major strain on your ability to create as working full time in America takes up so much time and energy- usually when I got home from work I was drained mentally and physically and far from inspired. I say all of this to explain that it’s not always so simple to just “get a job” or “keep a job” while also trying to pursue a full-time DJ career. I don’t think me leaving my job was irresponsible in the least bit, and I don’t think that others that may be in this same are position are either. On the contrary, I do think that in current day many are eager to jump into this life full time without a real back-up plan and thats what many need to focus on right now. I hope that this 14 day or more quarantine will give us time to brainstorm just that.

Through all of this, I know many have been told to “stay strong” which is right, we have to. But also don’t be afraid to cry or to even be a little angry, we need not to ignore these emotions; addressing them has helped me keep my sanity. The past few days I was so focused on “staying safe”, and “being strong”, that I hadn’t had time to truly address the sorrow I felt within. No one has the right to question your hurt or struggle. Our passions,  livelihoods, and futures are all in jeopardy right now, its okay to be worried about that. I do not suggest dwelling, but sometimes you gotta get through the hurt and crying phase to get to the plan of action phase. It felt the most real for me yesterday as I got back to my apartment with all of my luggage in tow from what was supposed to be a 1 month tour in Europe. As I dragged my luggage and record bag up the sidewalk towards my building the tears started to flow freely- it was a sobering moment I’m sure I won’t forget. My world isn’t over by any means, but after planning my last day at work with this tour in mind, and all that I had to look forward to in the months after no longer happening definitely sucks. Nonetheless, now that I’m home and attempting to re-settle I’ve been focused on what’s next. While there are plenty of high profile and highly paid DJ’s that can sit back and quarantine for even a few years easily if necessary, the reality for many of us isn’t as such.

I’ve been seeing the word “entitlement” thrown around a lot lately, and I couldn’t help but wonder if I too appear to be some entitled touring DJ crying about losing gigs and cancelled travel? The reality though, is that this situation is so much deeper than cancelled gigs or flights; people are worried about their finances for the most part. Thats how real it is out here, some can’t afford to put all of their focus on health and safety right now because they could potentially be homeless in a month or two- its a scary thing to acknowledge. Rent, food, car payments, etc. unfortunately don’t get cancelled, so yes, people are stressing. While most, including myself, plan take care of ourselves and use what resources we have to get by for the next few months, we don’t know everyones situation, some are worse off than others. Let’s not judge and act like someone can just go find another job overnight. Who’s to say right now is a even a good time for someone to find a job? With all the club, bar, school, and business closures, it might be a while before companies start hosting interviews again- we truly have no way of knowing right now. Stop the judging, stop the shit talking, and think about something positive you can bring to this dark situation.

Speaking of positive, in the midst of the madness, we thankfully have also witnessed solidarity and community focused ideas being created, that is exactly what we need more of; positivity and creativity. Many clubs and DJ’s have already started putting together live DJ streams from home or empty clubs, giving viewers the option to donate if they wish. Mix series are being created, producers are jumping back into the studio, and many are putting up merchandise for sale in hopes of collecting funds to stay afloat as we sit in limbo. All of that said, not all is lost, yet. If you’re having anxiety about rent don’t be afraid to reach out to your landlord to see if there’s anything you can work out; you never know, people might be willing to be a little more generous given the state of things. I plan to not give up, and I hope those reading this do not either. If you need to take a break from social media, DO IT. Social media causes so much unnecessary stress and  anxiety that the only way to truly avoid it sometimes is to log off. Read a book, do some yoga, write in your journal, record a mix, talk of the phone, etc. We still have plenty of options for creativity within the courtesy of our own homes- lets not forget that. And while we all may be physically quarantined with no clubs, large gatherings, or festivals, the music remains. Music can never be contained, and for that I smile.

Take care or yourselves out there.

Californian Epiphanies.

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 ❤