When did you start DJing? When I was about 12 or 13, I used to break dance and that introduced me to the DJing world because it was all, like, old-school stuff. I asked my dad to get turntables and stuff, but he always said it was too much. When I got the money to get my own, I did. I've only been DJing for about two years. I got (my turntables) on my 21st birthday.
What music did you used to break dance to ? I used to dance to "Planet Rock" (by Afrika Bambaataa and) The Sugarhill Gang. The first song I learned how to breakdance to (was "Let's Get Married" by Jagged Edge). I love music, and I love going to parties and stuff. I just felt, like . . . they should play this song or this song. I just graduated from (California University of Pennsylvania in May). I would always bring my own CD of songs that I chose, and they would always work at parties.
Did you dance in any local groups? I was in a local group (called the Little Rascals). When I was in middle school, I used to go to (William Penn Senior High School) . . . like, once a week to breakdance with the older kids.
Do you think York has a big hip-hop scene? You definitely can find little hip-hop groups, either artists (or) dancing. There's even a little, like, group of DJs that, like, all communicate with each other. So, (there's) good networking out here.
Where do you spin in the area? I DJed a lot at my school. I also DJed at a club in Pittsburgh. I've DJed at Cobblestones a couple times, and I also DJ downtown at Showoff Saturdays.
Was it hard to break into the scene? Someone who really mentored me here is DJ Knowledge. He really helped me out with getting gigs. I actually met up with Ecko (of Xclusive Music) first. He helped with everything. He's the one (who) introduced me to Knowledge (and) helped me get promotional mix tapes together to help promote myself and get my name out there. I really appreciate it because . . . most of the gigs that I did (were) up at my school. I came down and just introduced myself to Ecko a year ago. He said, "a lot of people try to, you know, say that they're into something, but really never follow through it." I guess he could just really tell that I really love to DJ.
Do you hope to use any local artists on your mixtapes? I've got a mixtape that I'm trying to put out. I just finished it. It's called "Hip-Hop and R&B Bumpin' Headz Part II." I've got Phene on there and a new guy coming up. His name is Kwame Katana. Some people see other people as, like, competition, and I see it as just a way of networking to get bigger.
Where do you record your mixtapes? I just hooked up all of my stuff at my own house. I get all new upcoming songs and contact local artists. I record, like, 80 minutes straight. If I mess up at all, I've got to start over. It usually takes me, like, three hours. But then, once I'm done editing stuff, it probably takes me a good 10 hours to get it completely done. I work, like, full-time during the week, so that I dedicate my weekends to DJing.
How was the Showoff Saturdays gig? It was good. It was my first, like, big club experience. They've got a booth up at the top, so it felt really cool. (Promoter Harry Colón) said since he rotates his DJs, he is going to have me in there once a month.
Do you think being a female DJ sets you apart? I know, like, growing up, people always said that being a female was a disadvantage, but I see it so much as an advantage nowadays. I am one of the only female DJs in Central Pennsylvania, but the thing is that I don't want to just live off of that. I don't want to be good for a girl. I want to be good as a DJ.
Do think it's a little harder to earn people's respect? I believe it's all about dedication. Whoever talks to me about DJing can just tell that I love it so much. It's all about how much heart you've got in it. At first, if . . . I approach somebody (and say I'm a DJ) they won't believe me, but once I prove it, I think they have extra respect for me compared to anybody else. Once you talk (to other DJs) about techniques and they know you know what you're talking about, they show you so much respect. There are very few DJs that still go off of record turntables. That's how they used to do it in the old-school (days) and that's how I'm still doing it, where a lot of people go digital.
- ERIN McCRACKEN, FLIPSIDE STAFF
If you go
Hear DJ Exel spin July 17 at Showoff Saturdays at Evolution, above the Bourbon Street Saloon, 25 W. Market St., York.