Music Mondays: DJ Kryptk

DJ Kryptk is a DJ based in the DC area, and has played a number of high-profile events. Her focus on activism and community, coupled with her excellent DJing, makes her one to watch. Read on for our conversation, and listen to her playlist below. 

You're active in the DC music scene, but you're politically active as well, having played at events such as the White House for the Trans Community Briefing Session. What inspires you to use music as a form of activism? Are there specific causes that you're especially passionate about? 

I was asked to perform at that event by Lourdes Ashley Hunter of TWOCC (Trans Women of Color Collective), who was a key organizer of the briefing. A few other performers were  Shi-Queeta-Lee, who gave the first ever drag performance at the White House and Venus Selenite, a DC based writer that shared some of her poetry. I never would have thought I'd witness that and also be able to play Migos for all to enjoy. 

Music has a way of opening us up to an emotional depth that is unlike any other. Often the stories that communities I love have to tell are present in the music, between methodical and meaningful rhythm. At its core, music is a scientific means of portraying and documenting human emotions and experiences.  If music and creativity can help us retrieve our past and be optimistic about our future, why not indulge?

Some of my first DJ gigs were in support of local social justice organizations, such as Empower DC. Those communities were loving enough to take a chance on me. I particularly support with either my time or money causes, organizations and businesses that promote autonomy and leadership for Black people and people of Color. A respectful cohabitation with the environment and the resources it continuously provides is at the center of how I view leadership and autonomy.

Do you find that living in DC makes creative communities inherently political due to your physical proximity to the US Government? Why or why not? 

I don't think it's possible for me to exist neutrally in any space because both I'm queer and Black.  I'd venture to say I'm not alone in that thinking. I also don't want to be neutral.

There is actually a powerful artistic foundation that exists quite harmoniously with political organizing in D.C. For example, Go-Go, the music native to the city and largely credited to Chuck Brown, originated in the 1970's and coincided with a increased pride in Blackness and self love. Go-Go has a West African influence and also Blues and Jazz undertones that speak to the lived experiences of Black people in the United States. Go-Go performances easily drew thousands of people and from these crowds, people were able to organize efforts to connect people to employment opportunities, art programs for youth and a sense of fellowship across neighborhoods. 

Art, music and creativity can serve as a vessel of replenishing our minds and bodies while we each contribute to a greater good in our respective ways. That feels pretty political in any realm or geotag. 

What first drew you to DJing? 

I began DJing without the intention of doing so by being placed on a bill through a friend and learning the basics on the spot. I now joke that DJing sought me out. Music allows me to share parts of myself without using words or blundering through intense social interactions.  I have a musical background from years of arts programs, but I had forgotten about that part of myself. DJing feels like a small personal renaissance.  It also reminds me of the days we'd burn CDs filled with carefully curated songs for our crushes. Rather or not the mixtape got sent or the feelings were reciprocated, for a brief moment, our feelings and thoughts became a sincere gift to another.

As a DJ, what do you hope to achieve in 2017? 

I'm launching and participating in a few residences this year, which is an important landmark for me. I'll be announcing those very soon. There is a validity in having a home away of home, of sorts. I also will continue planning events that highlight artists and venues that I value, particularly in D.C. and Baltimore through meaningful collaborations.  This year I will continue to build discipline in my craft and over my body. I'm sure this shocks no one, but DJs can live some pretty hectic and unhealthy lives - A delicate balance of allowing for rewards and being my own best caretaker is my tactic to thrive.  

Do you have any advice to women hoping to start DJing? 

1. Be diligent in learning the ins-and-outs of how your equipment works. The ability to troubleshoot technical issues has helped me feel more independent and confident in my craft. It also helps avoid any bloopers that later could damage costly equipment. 

2. Value yourself and your gifts. Don't feel bad for asking for compensation and being willing to turn down opportunities if people are not willing to pay you for your labor. The idea of "working for free to get your foot in the door" just doesn't work for everyone, especially in these hard times. If someone can't offer you money, perhaps negotiate a barter like access to a venue to host your own event later. Not every opportunity is a good one, so learn be discriminating if your intuition feels unsettled.

3. Strive for excellence and dignity, not perfection. The latter will always leave you lacking. 

Follow DJ Kryptk on Facebook and Twitter, and catch her DJ set at The Coven on February 11th.