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Turntable Talk with Summer Altice: Dj Jessica Who
  • July 25, 2012 : 13:07
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A confident, talented, gorgeous woman isn’t as hard to come by these days as she used to be. But to come across a DJ at the top of her game with all of those attributes…well, it’s extremely rare! She is not only talented, but she is a very humble, cool, down-to-earth chick. Oh, and she is a SKAM Artist, which is an agency that reps only the best in the world. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to DJ Jessica Who.

Summer Altice: When did you start deejaying?

Jessica Who: I started eight and a half years ago. I was really young, about to graduate high school.

Altice: What is your favorite style or format to play?

Who: I get really anxious when I’m told a gig is one type of music, like I can't play hip-hop, or it's only commercial house. I feel like I’ve molded my style based on being able to play things people aren't expecting, whether that is Motown or Merengue. That's where I have the most fun, which translates into the crowd having the most fun. In my opinion, “open format” has come to mean house and hip-hop, or as someone once brilliantly said when I asked the format of a club, “Drake-house.” So I guess I’d say my favorite style is anti-format. I love to play really feel-good, fun music, as silly as that may sound, anything that encapsulates that “best night ever” feeling for the crowd is my favorite. But if I had to be specific, I love to play old R&B, hip-hop, oldies, Motown, disco. Stuff you can't always play in a club setting.

Altice: What was your most fun gig recently?

Who: It would have to be between dragon-i in Hong Kong and Pangaea in Singapore. They go really crazy in Asia, and those two clubs both had really good vibes, which allowed me to do things a little differently and still have the crowd right there with me.

Altice: Do you feel the advances in technology have hurt or helped the DJ world?

Who: The dreaded question. I think moderation is the key here, as with most things. Most DJs I know have come to the collective decision that while it has made our lives easier and given us the ability to branch out and play a wider range of music in farther away places, it has also opened a Pandora’s box of people who see this as a way to skip all the important steps we took to get here.

I've only been deejaying for a short time in the grand scheme of things, but I did a lot of crappy gigs for no money in order to get where I am now. I think that's a huge part of it, and without that, you have no concept of the value of what you have, and no appreciation for the art of deejaying. I don't mean to sound like your dad with the “value of a dollar” speech, but it's true. Deejaying wasn't a springboard to instant fame when I started. It was a means to be creative and, if you were good at it, to use that gift to give other people a really fun time. That's still what it means for me.

I can only hope that some of the kids who start now with all this new technology are doing what I did, which was learn everything I could about how it started and the people that came before me to mold it into what it has become.

Altice: Do you ever find it hard to get respect as a female DJ?

Who: It's rare. If I do encounter some kind of prejudice based on that, I try not to take it personally. After all, I never considered myself a “female DJ,” seeing as I didn't have much of a choice in being female. I just consider myself a DJ.  But I'm aware the outside world is going to label you no matter how you see it. As can be expected with all the new technology and advent of the DJ-as-superstar, a lot of the people who have hopped on board the DJ wagon are female. I feel that just like any other new DJs who may not be truly committed, there are a lot of women who may give serious female DJs a bad name.

I've learned to make it into a game to prove people wrong.

I can feel it sometimes when I walk into a new place and start setting up, the resident DJs or staff or crowd will be thinking, “Oh god, a female DJ.  This is going to suck,” and in all honesty I don't blame them. They've probably had bad experiences. I just start playing and hope that they are pleasantly surprised when they realize I do take it seriously, at which point I can distance myself from any negative stereotypes.

At this point in my career, I feel like I’ve worked pretty hard. I've been given support and respect from people I’ve looked up to for years, and that has meant more to me than anything anyone could say about me based on being female.

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