Genre categories, ‘related artists’ and the narratives around music rarely do justice to the individuals and communities pushing musical movements forward. At the heart of every sound, album, track and mix are a network of influences, expressions and experiences which shape where that music comes from and why it has the impact it does.
Many institutions in the music industry are taking much-needed and long-awaited introspection into the ways artists are under-served by the industry around them & how Black artists’ huge contributions to music are downplayed, sidelined or exploited at their expense.
In our New Systems x Creator Stories series, Black creators take over the Mixcloud platform to shape the narrative around their sound, sharing their perspectives through a 1 hour audio piece and interview on their creative communities, influences, inspirations and vision. By giving creators a blank canvas to shape the conversation around their sound, we aim to help put more of a spotlight on the creators and communities pushing audio culture forward.
In Conversation With JADALAREIGN
NYC-based producer, DJ, events organiser & community mentor JADALAREIGN shares a 1 hour mix reflecting on 2020. Recorded in the Summer, the audio piece combines her own production with tracks from her wider creative community, for a deeply personal expression & celebration of resistance and healing from the perspective of Black creators & collectives in the underground electronic scene.
Listen to the mix & read her full interview below.
What was the inspiration / driving force behind your audio?
I recorded this mix during the summer of 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of the George Floyd murder. It aims to capture the current state of the world and its influence on black people, and, more specifically, black underground electronic music(ians).
Throughout the audio, you interweave tracks and samples with powerful vocals and speeches – touching on anti-blackness and white supremacy, gender, transphobia, the cost of living, erasure of histories, the idea of family and so much more. More than just a DJ set, the mix feels like an expression or statement of intent. What was it like putting together this audio and who were you making it for (or speaking to)?
In compiling the audio, I wanted to reflect this moment in history through the musical perspectives of artists within the underground community whom I respect like Devoye, Kareem Ali, Musclecars, Jamal Dixon, Ase Manual, Byron The Aquarius, AceMoMa, etc. This mix speaks to the demolition of old structures that oppress black, brown, queer and trans people.
How did putting this together compare to the kind of DJ mixes you usually record or the way you mix when you play out in a club? Were you imagining it in a club setting or was the direction motivated by lockdown?
I was very intentional about this particular mix; from the artists I featured, to the themes I included, to the energy maintained throughout the mix. In a typical club setting, my main goal is to keep people dancing, whereas, with this mix, I wanted the perspectives and the overall message to be the focus. I also wanted to capitalize on the shift in the way we consume art being in lockdown, having the headspace to better absorb the music and the message.
As a producer as well as a DJ, you include some of your own tracks in the mix, including ‘2B2S’ from a recent Haus of Altr compilation as well as ‘Floydian Slip’ from Chroma’s fundraising release. Do you feel a relationship between how you produce and how you DJ?
I had been learning how to produce and dabbling with making my own tracks for about a year prior to these releases, but hadn’t formally released any music up until quarantine. The combination of being in lockdown, having time to really sit down and work on music, and my mess of emotions and needing a way to channel them is how “Floydian Slip” and “2B2S” came to be. There’s a definite relationship between how I produce and how I DJ in that, in both scenarios I aim to channel what I’m feeling through the music.
Photo Credit: @dreadthephotographer
In this mix, and in ‘Floydian Slip’ for instance, you combine up-tempo almost irresistible dance beats with striking vocals on important themes. What does it mean to dance to tracks that call for social change?
Listening to this mix should feel empowering. The ongoing quest for social change brings forth such a range of emotions; it’s soothing and cathartic to experience this moment through the vibrations of music.
You’ve spoken before about the healing experience of being lost in music at a club. What’s it been like for you and your community not having access to those spaces during lockdown? Have you found other ways of recreating that healing?
It has definitely been a challenge for myself and my peers. Not only are we unable to earn a living the same way we used to, we’ve also had to sacrifice the healing connection of sharing space in the club and on the dancefloor. Many have tried to emulate that feeling throughout quarantine with virtual raves and Zoom parties, and it has been nice to share those moments, but nothing compares to that energetic exchange of being face to face. The upside, though, is that I’ve been able to spend a lot more time working on music and mixes; to be more intentional with my craft, cultivating messages, and creating musical imprints of these pivotal moments in history.
Photo credits: Alexis Brown & Kenny Rodriguez
With your workshop series SKILLSHARE and your recent In Session producer camp, you support and create spaces for women, nonbinary, gender-nonconforming & trans people of color in the music industry. What do you feel is the importance of mentorship in what you do?
Through my work with SKILLSHARE and In Session, I advocate for women, nonbinary and trans people of color to have access to knowledge, resources, and community within the music industry. Mentorship is so important because these demographics are severely underrepresented; and I attribute that mostly to lack of access. Black and brown women and queers have had such a tremendous impact on music throughout history and deserve the opportunity and the space to learn, cultivate their artistry, and extend that legacy.
Thinking about projects and collectives you’re involved with – from SKILLSHARE and In Session to your releases on Haus of Altr & Chroma – would you say there’s a movement happening in NYC underground music right now? How would you describe it?
I do feel that there’s a creative renaissance happening in the underground in NYC and it’s been really refreshing to witness, and be a part of. I would describe it as a spectrum of black and brown greatness, from all corners of all scenes, with women and queer people at the forefront, unifying to reclaim (electronic) music.
Creators in many major cities have experienced serious obstacles recently in the form of venue closures, lack of support and inequality of access when it comes to putting on nights and making music. How would you describe the state of nightlife before lockdown in NYC and what are some challenges or opportunities you see for your creative community moving forward?
Prior to the pandemic, NYC nightlife was thriving, as it always has. However, the underground was in a particularly good place; with venues like Mood Ring, Bossa Nova Civic Club, H0L0, Heaven or Las Vegas, etc. being accessible, to both the party producer and the party goer. COVID has completely obliterated that dynamic, from venue closures, to forcing venues to operate exclusively outdoors and at limited capacity, to huge pay cuts which make it impossible to live off income as a DJ. Not to mention, there’s little financial support for freelancers and nightlife workers from our government, which will end altogether at the end of 2020. Nightlife is in such a fickle place right now, that I honestly can’t say what will happen in the coming months.
Who are some creators you’d like to spotlight?
I want to highlight creators who’ve shown up for the community immensely throughout the pandemic.
Discakes is a NYC based multi-dimensional platform that resists and breaks boundaries through community care, love, and radical self expression. Their mission, since the onset of the COVID crisis, is to “create the kind of network where individuals rely on each other instead of the state to live their lives.” They began a mutual aid fund for immigrants living in NYC negatively affected by the COVID crisis. They collaborated with Sol Sips to provide meals for for jail support and protestors after the George Floyd murder. They also regularly raise funds to support trans POC in need.
Photo credits: @shairacnyc, @_robmazz & @eclectic.nomad
Sol Sips is a Black-owned plant based restaurant founded by Francesca Chaney. Amidst the pandemic, Sol Sips started a nourishment initiative called Black Supper, wherein they provided Black people within the community with free hot meals. Most recently, Sol Sips has launched the EBT for Hot Food Fund. They have pledged $5k towards 333 free meal vouchers for people who receive EBT/Snap (governmental benefits).
Ethel’s Club is a Black-owned social and wellness club designed to celebrate people of color, based in Brooklyn, NY. At the start of the pandemic, they brought their community online, creating a virtual space for community members to stay connected. In the past six or so months, they’ve offered so many resources to community members, including free healing sessions for the black community, frequent wellness tips, and a range of workshops to keep people creatively engaged while at home.
This one is especially close to my heart as it was created during the pandemic by a good friend of mine, DJ Lita. Basement Tapes is an audio and visual experience that features the most talented DJs and producers in the underground dance music scene in NYC. It’s produced entirely in Lita’s home studio in her basement that I’ve had the joy of watching her build from scratch. It features original visualizers synthesized by Lita and her team Anthony and Starr.
What’s coming up from yourself and creators in your community we should look out for?
Look out for more educational initiatives, more mutual aid, more collaborative projects, more music, more art, and an eventual united and thriving community. We won’t take this hit lying down.
Follow JADALAREIGN, SKILLSHARE and IN SESSION on Instagram
Photos and video courtesy of JADALAREIGN, Discakes, Sol Sips, Ethel’s Club & Basement Tapes