Doorknockers Exclusive Interview

Monday, April 13, 2009
Doorknockers Mixtape, Vol. 5

by Kristia

Doorknockers Mixtape Vol. 5 features two Bay-bred sistas that I have immense respect for, DJ Zita and EyeASage. DJ Zita is a Bay staple, with an established following, weekly and monthly events. She’s also founder of Bay Area Sistah Sound – one of the hip hop nation’ s few female-run club parties. She’s filled dancefloors from Manila, Honolulu, New York, Sactown, LA, SD and the Bay. Honestly I been dreamin of this collab forever…

WHERE MY LADIES AT? A Tribute to the Queens of True School Hip Hop
Doorknockers Mixtape, Vol. 5
by DJ Zita

And if you want more, check her other classic mixes (otherwise known as instant party makers). Of course, a mini-interview between DJ Zita and I:

Kristia: Zita, when did you start DJing?
DJ Zita: 1999 til infinity.

K: How long have you been DJing professionally?
Z: Since 2002 as a founding member of the “Sisters in Sound” crew in Honolulu, Hawaii.

K: Along with Pam the Funkstress you created Everlasting B.A.S.S. an all-female DJ party, that features female performers, crews, and the flyest Bay-made giveaways. It feels so good to be up in that space. How long did it take you to make that happen? As a kid, it was a dream of mine to find hip hop scenes that were run by women and that were safe spaces for us…
Z: Two years ago, I was discouraged by the fact that I was DJing either as the only woman on an otherwise all-male bill, or DJing with a line-up of all women at an event promoted by men. I realized that the only reason this was possible is because women DJs in the Bay did not have solidarity. We few women were all doing our own thing, and I feel that we needed to come together in sisterhood. These disappointing realities are my inspirations for starting B.A.S.S., short for “Bay Area Sistah Sound.”

I hand picked 2 dope veteran Bay Area lady DJs – Pam the Funkstress and DJ Neta – to join me on my mission to create the only female-DJed and female-promoted event in the Bay. They were down. Us 3, along with my marketing interns, gave birth to my brainchild, B.A.S.S., as The Bay’s Premier Lady DJ Crew, spinning hip hop, funk, soul, reggae, and dancehall. “Everlasting Bass” is the name of our event–a play on our crew name and also a title of Rodney-O and Joe Cooley’s song. Pam and I are still holding it down while DJ Neta takes time out to have a baby girl (future B.A.S.S. member).

We’ve been throwing down every 1st Saturday first at Milk, then at 330 Ritch, where we always had a woman guest DJ or live performer join us, such as DJ Shortee and The Conscious Daughters. March 7, 2009 marked our 1 Year Anniversary when I had a whole line-up of short sets by 10 of the Bay Area’s flyest lady DJs! Currently I’m looking to move Everlasting Bass to a new venue, so get on our email list to stay updated on where and when that will be:

I intended for B.A.S.S. to create a foundation from which women can self-produce and promote music and club events. Such events could support and feature up-and-coming lady DJs, bring in local and worldwide women as headliners, and provide a space for strong sisters on the mic and the dancefloor to share our talents. In one year, B.A.S.S. has accomplished that, and we’ve still got a ways to go.

K: It’s a beautiful thing. Congratulations to all of you. I gotta ask, has it been a hard sell to clubs? Did they doubt your abilities…or did they figure instead that you’d bring in hella women, thus bring the men?
The people at both spots did not doubt us. I had already promoted an event at Milk before I started B.A.S.S. called “Do My Ladies Run This M*tha F@#ka?!” where I brought in live performers Aima the Dreamer and the Rhapsodistas, plus DJs Neta and Lady Sha (K: DJ Lady Sha did Doorknockers Mixtape Vol. 4 by the way!) It was a very successful and fun event. When I proposed a B.A.S.S. monthly, the owner was supportive about bringing the B.A.S.S crew on. Our first night there we hit capacity and had a line down the sidewalk.

To get into 330 Ritch, I have much respect for my brother and ally, DJ Sake One (K: Sake1 did the first Doorknockers Mix ever!). He already started PST there, and he put in a good word to the owners for us to move “Everlasting Bass” there. At that time, they were in need of a promoter on those Saturdays and asked us to start ASAP. Currently, I am looking to find a venue that is right for us… supportive of our mission/concept as the only women DJ-ed and promoted event in the Bay creating a quality event, and not just looking at the numbers made at the bar. It is a challenge in this city with so much competition and greed. The majority of bar/club owners and managers are men, so we are seeking out our allies.

K: What has the general public opinion been of B.A.S.S.? Did you get haters?
Z: The response has been overwhelmingly supportive: many men DJs want to spin at our event, we always have a massive response for our guest list with people looking forward to it, and I’ve had several women hit me up asking for an opportunity to perform. In our first year of B.A.S.S., our following keeps growing and I was even able to book a few big names, like DJ Shortee.

K:What have been some of your biggest challenges as a DJ, promoter, and graphic designer in this music industry, who also happens to be a beautiful woman of color? What advice would you give to younger women who are struggling to get in?
Z: There are only a handful of us women promoters in the Bay. Promoting is a totally different ballgame than DJing. Most DJs do not promote, and it requires a whole set of marketing skills totally unrelated to the art of DJing.

The best advice I can offer the future women DJs is: Your sound and your skills must come first. It is definitely a hustle here in the Bay where there are so many DJs, and in that hustle, it doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female. The fact that you’re a woman does matter and it has its challenges. At the same time, it makes you unique, and you can use it to your advantage in a male-dominated DJ/promoter world.

Even though being a woman in this DJ world is something I’m proud of, there have been situations when it has been a struggle. I’ve been disrespected, belittled, and doubted before because I am a woman DJ. There have been times when I roll into a club with a man who is helping me carry my records, and everyone is surprised to find that I am the DJ, not him.

As women in the music industry, especially hip hop, we have to be careful in choosing what clothes to wear, how we carry ourselves, and what we say. Our image is everything. We choose how we are going to present and promote ourselves. I could take my clothes off for photo shoots or DJ wearing a bikini to represent a negative image that the majority of women in hip hop represents, like Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, (and Rihanna even,) but I choose not to. Those images perpetuate the sexism and misogynistic exploitation against women. Just like Queen Latifah says in her rap for “U.N.I.T.Y.” included on this mix, “Every time I hear a brother call a girl a bitch or a ho, trying to make a sister feel low, you know all of that gots to go.” I think it’s important for young women coming up to know that your talent should shine first and foremost. That alone will get you far. So make sure your skills are on point and you will earn respect in the game. Since there are so few of us, we represent all women when we DJ.

K: So true. We are always representing other people whether or not we want to. It must feel so good to roll with other strong women too – it’s the unity that always keeps us going. I was surprised to learn you’re a full-time teacher too. Most DJs I know who have less regular events than you still do it full-time, how do you do it all?
Z: I must confess that I am a workaholic. After being a teacher until 3pm, I’m on my DJ/promoter hustle. I also don’t have any kids, so that allows me the time to hold down 2 careers at once. B.A.S.S. is my “baby.”

K: What subject do you teach by the way and what grade?
Z: Currently I’m teaching 10th grade college-prep English and 9-12th English Language Development (to students who speak other languages).

K: How does DJing and hip hop in general build in to your teaching approach?
Z: I think that DJing helps me connect with some of my students. DJing and teaching are still two distinct parts of my life and I approach differently, yet I have a need for both to stay balanced.

K: Awhile back your home was burglarized and you lost a lot of personal belongings. Has this had any lasting effect on your outlook, your relationship to objects, or your DJing?
Z: As horrible an experience that was, they didn’t touch any of our vinyl. When Dmadness (my Golden Soundscapes crew-partner and husband) and I were replacing our DJ equipment, we decided to upgrade to the new RANE 57 mixer. (I used to have a 56.) This mixer has Serato built in it. I was probably one of the last DJs in the Bay to go digital (just in February). Before the burglary, I didn’t have plans to go digital and most of my colleagues knew me as DJ Zita, who spins strictly vinyl. I still have mixed feeling about it; it has it’s been both a convenience and a headache at the same time. I think DJ Premier sums it up beautifully when he says: “With Rane’s Serato, there’s a lot of microwave DJ’s out there with MP3’s. But Serato is, to me, something you have to earn. I’m like ‘have you dug in the crates? Do you have at least 2,000 records? Did you ever have to carry all your speakers and crates to a gig?’ If you have, then you can graduate to Serato. Here’s your medal.” I started my DJ career as a digger of vinyl, and I will always continue that.

K: Yeah, I noticed you with hella crates the first time I saw you. I think a similar perspective can be applied to our relationship with technology in general. Last but not the least, the question I always ask our guests…
Z: Complete the following sentences:
The most attractive men in hip hop…
respect women.
The most attractive women in hip hop…are the strong, independent, creative mamas.