SPIN CITY: FEMALE DJs SOUND OFF
By Teryl Warren
While the bouncer may be the biggest body in a club, by far, the most powerful person in the place is the DJ. With a swift hand and undeniable skill, the DJ is a masterful puppeteer – moving the crowd, setting the tone and elevating the party people to exactly where they want to go.
The battles to win respect from partygoers, from their male peers and even their equal pay from club owners, are just a few of the challenges that female DJs face on a regular basis. But, as two of LA.’s hottest female DJs recently told us – their love of music and its power to break down traditional barriers somehow make all the BS worth it.
Petite in stature and delicate in feature, DJ Raichous (pronounced like “righteous”) has been spinning since the age of fifteen.
Inspired, early on, by the likes of DJ Qbert and the Invisibl Skratch Piklz from San Francisco and the Beat Junkies out of LA, the San Diego native – whose real name is Rachelle Chua – was drawn into magnetism and progressiveness of hip hop as an art form, as well as the innovation of “turntablism.”
“DJ Symphony from the Beat Junkies and DJ Kuttin Kandi from 5th Platoon were two women that I really looked up to as battle DJs, Raichous shared. “They were both highly skilled and making unprecedented moves in the culture. Although they were surrounded by males, they were never too intimidated to represent their skill with confidence.”
For her part, DJ Shy – born Karen Jin Beck – embarked on her DJ career through laughter, at Hollywood’s famed Laugh Factory comedy club.
“While attending USC as a full-time grad student, I worked part time at the Laugh Factory. Sunday nights were called Chocolate Sundaes – which was the only night during the week where they had music and a DJ,” she said. “I was a band geek in high school playing piano, clarinet, baritone and tenor saxophones and I viewed the turntables as another instrument and was immediately drawn to it. Eventually, the owner let me DJ.”
DJ Shy’s turn at the Lauch Factory included spinning for comedy giants like Damon and Marlon Wayans, Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle, to name a few. And she has gone on to break many barriers in the male-dominated industry of DJing. Arguably one of the most skilled and respected female mixers in the world, DJ Shy was the first and only female mixer at the number one radio station in America, 102.7 KIIS-FM in Los Angeles, a Clear Channel station with 2.6 million listeners each week which features Ryan Seacrest as its morning host.
Yet, despite amassing a list of credits unparalleled by many men, both Shy and DJ Raichous have regularly been forced to confront gender bias.
“Being a female, I constantly face challenges as a DJ,” Shy told us. “People would check out my equipment or look at the song on my record to see if I’m actually spinning. They think I’m “lip syncing” to a pre-made mix. I have to prove my talent by throwing in some scratches here and there, taking requests, etc.”
Raichous quickly echoed DJ Shy’s sentiments.
“Initially, when people heard that I was a DJ, they either gave me too much credit for just being a girl before even hearing me, or they were skeptical as to how good I could actually be,” DJ Raichous told us. “Then when I hopped on the decks and flexed some skill, both of those preconceptions went right out the window!”
With the advent of new technology and the greater accessibility that it affords, both DJ Shy and DJ Raichous seem optimistic about the opportunities for more female DJs to take center stage.
“There are advantages as well as disadvantages to technology,” DJ Shy said. “I love the fact that we can access mp3s instead of carrying heavy crates of records. On the other hand, I don’t like software that automatically mix for you. I feel it takes out the skill and limits your creativity.”
“Technology has definitely made DJ’ing more accessible to more people because the commitment of accumulating a library of music on vinyl no longer exists,” Raichous said. “There are more things possible today than ever before and it’s really up to the DJ or performer to utilize new technology in a beneficial way while still paying proper respect to the art form of DJ’ing.”
And while their plans for the future may differ – DJ Shy has plans to develop her forthcoming book Beauty and the Beats into a screenplay, while Raichous is opting for a career in medicine – both DJ Shy and DJ Raichous expect music to continue playing a major part in their lives. Music, as they shared, is, essentially, life itself.
“Music is very important to me not only professionally, but also spiritually,” Shy said. It’s therapy for the soul.”
“It’s universal because, in a sense, it has no language barrier,” DJ Raichous elaborated. “A love song in Spanish will still speak to a non-Spanish speaker’s heart and soul. Music moves us, inspires us, and unites us.”
For more information about DJ Shy, please visit: www.dj-shy.com
For more information about DJ Raichous, please visit: djraichous.blogspot.com