Interview with DJ TiffStarr
Interview by Rogue
Images courtesy of Still 1
I had the chance to link up with TiffStarr before she makes the trek back out to the west coast to get the run down on how she got started Djing, her love of dance, and what moves her as a DJ.
Ok, tell the people who you are and where you’re from
My name is Tiffany “TiffStarr” Cayetano. I’m originally from Southern California and I’ve been in NY for 9 years now. I actually met my husband here in NYC, dancing.
So what’s the story behind you meeting Oscar [B-Boy Oreo]?
I was here visiting a friend and we met at a breaking spot on 17th street. I went to go practice and that’s where we met. We met practicing, we chilled, and I thought I would never see him again when I left back to California. But this was during the Myspace days [laughs], so he ended up finding me [through Myspace] and messaged me; we started connecting through there. We chilled for a while, like back and forth. He would go to Cali, I’d come to New York. One of the times I came to New York, he asked me to officially be his girl. He wanted to move to California, and that was the plan for a while, until I was like “No no… I need a change.” So then I came to New York. We actually spent a year apart until we decided to make the move. I never thought by moving to New York I would end up finding my husband, getting pregnant, and starting a family here. That was all so. So-
Exactly. It was never part of my plan.
You mentioned practicing at a breaking spot. What got you started as a dancer?
I actually started dancing in high school with modern dance, so, you know, that’s my background. You know, usually, dancers start when they’re 3-6 years old, so I’m officially like a late bloomer. I started in high school my junior year by making the dance team and right after that, I started taking classes in LA, and then I moved to LA for a while. I was doing that until I came here.
What inspired you to take on dancing?
It really came from high school, from watching the dance team. I was also a cheerleader before that [laughs].
WHAT. Same here. What did you do on the squad?
REALLY?! [laughs] I was doing everything. I started out as a base and back, but eventually ended up being a flyer cause I was short and petite. I was really involved, doing cheer competitions and everything.
So you went from cheer competitions to dancing in LA. You came to New York and now you’ve taken on DJing.
What was it about DJing that sparked your interest?
My father. Back in the day, he was a DJ. He had this big afro and everything [laughs]. Not only that, but I was also always heavily into music because of him. We would always listen to music all the time. They called him “Freestyle.” He would spin funk, disco. Lot of oldies. Like, Average White Band is one of his favorite bands. All that [good] stuff.
It totally makes sense why you would want to pick up DJing.
Yeah, so I got tables and I was like “uhh.. alright.. What do I do now?” and I had a friend who was kind of teaching me, but not really. I ended up taking classes for it in 2012. It’s my 3rd year DJing. March 9th is my DJ anniversary. I actually have it on my calendar [laughs]
And you’ve been killing it since. I actually had the pleasure of rocking with you for your first Monthly Residency, Subtract The Wack. You were pregnant during that time.
Oh my god yes. I was at Juke Bar, with my sister. She’s actually my best friend, but I call her my sister. We were sitting at the bar; I was already pregnant trying to act NOT pregnant. It was during another friend’s party, and we were just catching up. I was bullshitting with the bartender, and I don’t remember how it came up for me to mention to him that I’m a DJ now. He was like “Really?” and brought the manager who was there. He asked me if I wanted to take a date and I took it.
What was the concept behind your event?
Basically, I didn’t want to play anything that I think is wack, like most music now. I wanted us to play stuff that WE enjoyed playing, you know?
Does your style of dance have an influence on what you play?
It does and it doesn’t. It does because I love to play the music I dance to, like breaks and classic hip hop. It doesn’t in the sense where I also like to think back to when I used to go to parties, not as a dancer. I like playing the stuff that makes people go “damn! I remember this song!” I’ve had people come up to me and I’m like, “Yes!” That’s exactly the reaction I wanted.
So, what did you listen to in high school at these parties?
Like 50 Cent “Magic Stick, Kia’s My “Neck, My Back,” Franchize Boys [laughs]. I guess my style is Throwbacks. I also like freestyle.
Where did “TiffStarr” Come from?
I was actually given that name by my brother in law. He’s part of BrooklynZoo Crew. He just started calling me TiffStarr and it just stuck with me ever since. When I went into DJing, I didn’t want to call myself something different.
How did you end up rocking with BrooklynZoo Crew?
Through my husband. Him and a few other guys came up with BrooklynZoo. The way we work is, when we chill with other people, and we click with other people, we practice and we vibe; that’s when we’re like, “ok, there’s potential in bringing somebody new into the crew,” you know? Like, our crew isn’t like “we dance together and that’s it.” We’re with each other, almost every day. Some of the crew members even work with each other. When anyone performs, we go support. We party together. We do everything together. When you see us together, there’s really nothing better.
How long have you been part of the crew?
Well, I’ve been in NY for 9 years, but obviously, I had to train first. You have to have potential to throw down to be in the crew. It’s been about 5 or 6 years.
You guys recently hosted the 10year anniversary for BrooklynZoo, Claim Your Respect at Friends & Lovers.
Yes! We had the first one at No Malice Palace. It’s a small venue, especially for a bunch of dancers, but the vibe was so great that everyone kept asking for another one. It happened to also be our 10year anniversary as BrooklynZoo, so we went into planning. I talked to Noms about it, and fortunate for us, he hooked it up and got us involved with Friends and Lovers. We kept the same DJs that we had in the first one and added DJ Noumenon to the line-up. We wanted to keep the same flow of the first one that we did. It was such a dope vibe. Everyone loved it and I think it had a lot to do with the venue, too. The venue is so underground, and it fit the event’s vibe so perfectly. We loved them.
Speaking of Love. You recently released a mix titled “L.O.V.E” What was the inspiration behind that project?
My daughter. I started thinking about this mix when I was pregnant, a few weeks before I had her. My family had flown in for the birth, so I was telling my mom and dad that I wanted to release this mix before she comes, but at 9 months pregnant, you’re just tired. So tired, on my feet, trying to push this mix out, so for a while I left it alone. I listened to it again and I got inspired to finish and release it. I went back and changed some tracks, downloaded new ones. In the end, it was all about her. It tells her the story about how Oscar and I fell in love and so many other little hints of her story. I wanted for her to be able to hear how we feel about her and to know how much we love her.
And now, you’re moving back to the West Coast.
Yeah but we plan to come back and visit, for sure. I actually have a DJ gig in July. I’m doing “The Ladies of Hip Hop.”
That’s really dope. How did you get involved with that event?
I was actually involved in it last year as well. I did the battle. It’s a 3-day event with classes, panelists, and then the last day is the Breaking Battle. It was my first battle back from my pregnancy. I had told my husband and my mom that my goal was to DJ this event.
And now you’re DJing the event.
Yeah it’s crazy, I’m really excited.
OK Imma just end it with quick questions, just say the first things that come to mind.
5 favorite Emcees.
Common, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Black Thought, Nas.
5 Favorite DJs.
DP-One, Noumenon, Dirty Digits, Esquire, and Rogue.
I’m done with you.
[laughs] You’re definitely on my list.
How can the people connect with you?
@DJTiffStarr on all social media and on my website www.djtiffstarr.com