A Woman’s Place is Putting Bass in Your Face
Women in music face sexism — duh. But that doesn’t have to stop you from being a superstar
This past September, Spinnin’ Records offered this photoshopped image to let us know where they think female DJs belong:
Their “joking” caption for the photo? “Pioneer finally made a CD-J for women.” (A CD-J is a CD turntable.) Hilarious.
But the joke is on them, because the music industry is full of up and coming lady DJs and producers. From killer DJ duo The Jane Doze, to hip-hop diva Pri the Honeydark to critically acclaimed MC Genesis Be the music scene is ripe for female takeover. I sat down with the three of them and got their insights on how to succeed in this male-dominated industry as women. While sexism in the music industry is not news, the way these amazing women have responded certainly is. Let ‘em learn ya.
The Jane Doze (Claire and Jen)
The Jane Doze didn’t miss a beat in responding to Spinnin’ Records’ foolishness on their blog and on Buzzfeed with a hilarious post that listed their favorite “recipes,” including Mash-Up Potatoes (“once smooth, upload it to Soundcloud and watch it go to #1 on Hype Machine”). Later that week, the pair got picked up by SPIN Artist’s Agency, agents to Armin Van Buurin, P. Diddy and Nicki Minaj. The Jane Doze’s mashup potatoes make everyone hungry — as of today, the pair have 27,971 Facebook likes and fans around the world. I spoke with The Jane Doze’s Claire and Jen about how they went from having dudes try to school them to teaching the class.
Music’s an extremely white, male space. That’s the facts.
— Jen from the Jane Doze
Claire: When we started, we called ourselves the Jane Doze to play on the idea of anonymity — we were two women trying to make it in EDM [electronic dance music], which is primarily a boy’s club, and we didn’t want to be stigmatized so we made ourselves anonymous, sending out tapes and playing shows behind the decks covered up — we didn’t put any pictures of ourselves anywhere.
Jen: People still write about us saying he or him, thinking that we’re guys.
Now that their audiences know they are women, they’re pretty pumped.
Jen: In the beginning, a male DJ would come into the booth and just unplug our gear — complete lack of respect. Now, we’re often booked because we are women.
However, there are still challenges to being women DJs at a party.
Jen: As our aesthetic is put out there, we are careful not to be over-sexualized. We’re not going to go DJ in a bikini. But I tend to be on the mic, and jump into the crowd — I let people reach up and sing. At a particular show, each time I walked by a male in the front row he slapped my ass. When I walked by a 5th time, he grabbed my crotch. I don’t know how many male DJ’s experience that thing, where men think they can do whatever they want, and treat your body like property.
That’s why Claire and Jen do what they can to support other women in music, so it will be less of a struggle for future generations.
Claire: We’re really trying to spearhead a community, motivating younger girls to start spinning. And any female that’s written us an email, thanking us, we always write back something really personal. But it’s going to take a lot more of us to change the culture.
Jen: We’ve noticed among DJ’s, it’s kind of taken us back to the high school days. Women are catty, boys are collaborative. But that’s because there’s only one spot at the table for one woman to be successful. If someone else is at the top, and then another crew comes along, they feel threatened instead of wanting to turn around and help them out.What would resolve this? If we had more women at the table, period.
Want to learn how to spin? Take a class with Dubspot’s DJ Reborn or Scratch Academy’s DJ Hapa (who spends his summers teaching teen girls to spin at DJ Tina T’s Camp Spin-off!) or just watch some YouTube videos and wreck some 99-cent bin records in your living room.
Rising star MC Genesis Be has me wrecked with her monster new single, Tampons and Tylenol. There, she celebrates women’s ability to make the speakers bleed, get their pockets so bloated and flow so hard that they need a tampon. In the most scream-able line of the track, Genesis blasts:
I don’t like to waste time, no need for a ROLEX; rather spend my money on some Tylenol & KOTEX.
How did Genesis get the confidence to write sick lines like that? By facing down male MCs in Mississippi, surviving Hurricane Katrina and then attending one of the most prestigious music production programs in the country, the Clive Davis Institute at New York University (NYU).
Genesis: Being a young female MC on the gritty underground rap circuit in Mississippi pretty much made me immune to rejection by the time I was a young adult — being a female who could consistently rip guys apart in a battle contributed to my initial local buzz as well as my confidence in my craft.
However, nothing prepared her for the next-level grind of New York.
Genesis: There’s pressure to be thin, to be sexy, to allow other writers to write your flows, all types of pressures ultimately geared to make as much money as possible off of you. I’ve developed a great sense for people who are about bullshit — I can thank my time in New York for that sixth sense.
I come from a unique experience because I was introduced to the music industry in NYC via an educational institution so there was already a level of professionalism while meeting new contacts. Education is important because it empowers you to have more control when seeking new opportunities and furthering your career. I would tell young women to know your shit and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you need to know. The more knowledge the better. Also, compromise as little as possible and hold tight to your vision. If you don’t have a solid vision and road plan to your dreams, someone else is going to create that vision for you… And take you on a detour.
Pri the Honeydark
I was blessed to meet Pri the Honeydark at producer Ebonie Smith’s conference, Gender: Amplified, an annual gathering of women in music production at Barnard College. As founder of the Female Producer’s Association, Pri the HoneyDark has invested her time, money and network in the empowerment of women in music with projects such as The Anomolies: a hip-hop crew that broke gender, race and national boundaries. She shared how the women in her crew support each other.
Pri: We all perform music together, but we are also like siblings, with a history that spans almost 2 decades — family situations, medical situations, life-changing events are all shared between us. One of the members Helixx C. and I are both moms, so our children also grew up within our network.
Pri also literally has the skills to pay the bills, with talent in music, photography, carpentry, hair, interior & visual design, graphic art and many other arenas. She shared that being a member of the Anomolies inspired her to learn how to produce records herself, without having to depend on “flaky individuals,” and how that led to the Female Producers Association.
Pri: I believe having an arsenal of skills under your belt is very important. A lot of what I learned musically was through a network of individuals already in the field and willing to show me the ropes. The Female Producers Association was based on this: I wanted to create a hub for creative women world-wide to network and solve the creative problems they each may share.
Connecting women with other creative women sharing the same goal breeds a culture of pride and productivity unlike any other.
It also helps to narrow down a lot of the “unwelcome” attention we, as women, tend to deal with in this industry on a daily basis from some of our male counterparts.
Now it’s up to you.
Now it’s time to rock out. I know I’ve been inspired — I’ve already joined the Female Producers Association, and am writing my first song in over ten years. Let’s make the speakers bleed!