July Edition - "Ladies First" Featuring Sade, Twelve45, Kayper, and Vashtie.
Written by Noms - a guy
Are you surprised this wasn't written by Rogue or by another woman? Are you confused as to why a man is writing about an event that showcases all women? Or are you thinking that I was forced to do this in order to gain bonus points with the talented women on this line up and their community? Here's the deal, I chose to write this for the simple fact that we, us men, need to step up and show more support and respect for the women in this community and NOT for reasons of making us look better or heroic. Dead that shit. Step up and mean it. At the end of the day, regardless of gender, WE ARE DJs. Period.
I have been working in this industry for quite some time and I have always noticed that these special line ups generally happen during Fashion Week or Women's History Month/International Women's Day, which is March by the way for the heads that are reading this. Sometimes I'll see the occasional all women line up here and there, but it's usually a one off event. Maybe it's my own ignorance that I don't see more of it or maybe it's an ongoing problem in the DJ community. In my own opinion, I believe it's both and most importantly, these line ups shouldn't be happening ONLY during "special times of the year".
This industry and community has been run and dominated by men for as long as I can remember. While I was coming up, there were very few, and I mean very few women in the DJ community that were given respect and spotlight for their talents, well at least in the Hip-Hop community. For the most part, the only times you saw any women being represented in the culture was usually done with the "typical half-naked video chick" rubbing all over some rapper. I can only imagine what artists like Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Monie Love had to go through while they were coming up.
DJs like the Legendary Jazzy Joyce and Spinderella were really the only house hold names, well in my house, that were known and even at that it was a rarity to hear about them on a constant basis. They fought to break the stereotypes surrounding women during this era. As the years progressed, we began to see more and more women breaking into the scene to show that "girls can hang with the guys". DJs like Kuttin' Kandi (her '98 US Finals routine was nuts), Pam the Funktress, Tyra from Saigon, and Killa Jewel, to name a few, started making their mark on the battle scene as well. But again, it was extremely limited.
You might be thinking at this point, "what about the Electronic Dance Music scene? Weren't there a lot of women in that DJ community?" Yes and no. Yes, there were women who were fighting to gain respect and recognition for their accomplishments and contributions to the DJ scene, but once again, it was very limited. When comparing the number of known Hip-Hop DJs to Electronic Music DJs, the Electronic DJs definitely out numbered the Hip-Hop DJs, but the total number of DJs from BOTH scenes were extremely outnumbered by men overall. While there was some progress being made, it still wasn't enough.
All in all, the industry and community has had this dark cloud hanging over it's head in terms of the important role women play in the DJ scene. From my perspective, I've seen some very talented women go above and beyond to attract attention just to get a solid booking and fair pay. Without getting too deep into it or controversial, I think it's ridiculous that a woman has to lower her standards, drop her morals, or "show some skin" in order to be seen for her skill set. Think about it. As men, we don't have to do any of that shit. Our skill set, for the most part, is always seen first. I personally have NEVER had to submit a head shot, or any other images showing what I look like in order to get a booking. Why is it different with women?
Just to be clear, I'm not saying that women shouldn't be comfortable in their own skin, dress a certain way, or find her own way of expressing herself. Not saying that at all. I'm a firm believer and supporter of what works for you and what you find comfortable for you. If you choose to dress a certain way and you're all about it, dope, I got your back 100%. I just find it disheartening that in many situations, a woman might have to meet what's deemed "acceptable" by a man in order to get an opportunity in this industry. I've worked in this industry long enough and have heard promoters and venue owners make comments about how they want their, and I quote, "female djs to look". I've been in meetings where the powers that be have made comments about "she needs to show more skin or cleavage". I've even seen DJs get turned away from opportunities that they were more than qualified for because they didn't "fit the aesthetic mold" of what the client wanted. I've even took it upon myself to ask why and have been told, "she's not sexy enough". Really?
How is it that a woman can post a video or picture of her killin' it on a set, and only receive a handful of likes and comments, but then some mediocre at best DJ posts a pic or video standing behind a setup in the "Christ Air Pose", half naked, doing absolutely nothing, and get a shit ton of likes and comments and even worse...major bookings? What kind of shit is that? Sex sells you say, but I say bullshit. Why can't we see their skill set for what it truly is?
There's something about a woman immersed in the DJ culture that I find to be mesmerizing. It's how they play that really stands out for me. There is an attention to detail that I find most men either over look or just don't care to be conscious of. There's a grace and style that women posses that translates into their performances. I'm not saying men don't have this, I'm just saying it's different and it's much more common with women than men.
So why did we do this? Well it's actually very simple. A few months back, Rogue and I were talking about guests for the next couple of BKTIs and we both had this moment were we were like, "we need to get more women as guests". We started writing out a list of DJs that we felt fit the vibe of the party and that we had contacts to. As we started getting further down the line, we started to notice that there wasn't THAT many DJs to pick from. To be honest, it was kind of fucked up. We're looking at this list of handful of DJs and I go, "there has to be more than this". So we started brainstorming on how we could draw attention to this in hopes that more women would step forward and let us know that THEY ARE HERE and ready to play. What's the best way to do it? Do it when no one is expecting it. Do it outside of those "typical events or days". Book DJs that have a strong connection with their community and represent change in this industry. We're not saying that these are the ONLY ONES, but this line up should blow the doors open and let others know, we're here and we're dope. Let's get it.
For all the men that are actually reading this, take a moment and let this soak in. We're over due for showing our support and we can't sit on the sidelines anymore. Think what you will about this post and my reasons for writing it, but I assure you that you're missing out some really talented women that can sling some fucking records. For the men that have been down since day one, I salute you and the support you're giving these queens. Keep going and lead by example.
Lastly, this is NOT a one off for us. We're actually going to roll out a special series within Brooklyn Took It to showcase women in this industry. As of now, we're hoping to run this every 3 months. If you are interested in rockin' with us, please send your demo and press kit to firstname.lastname@example.org.