Offbeat magazine’s Best of the Beat awards are in just a couple weeks (January 31). And while I would like to see them expand their categories a bit (i.e., giving bounce artists and rappers their own separate categories, for one). I was also very excited to see some familiar names and faces on their list of nominees. I got a chance to talk this week with DJ Legatron Prime. Nominated for best DJ, she shared with me her passion for her work, thoughts on the state of the culture, and the art of pressing the right buttons.
What made you want to start DJ‘ing? Or I guess more importantly, once you started learning what made you continue with it and decide to pursue it?
I’ve always loved music. My mom used to play a game with me when we listened to the old school radio station. She used to quiz me on the names of songs and who the artists were. One of my friends had turntables and his apartment. One day out of curiosity I was just like let me see. He showed me some basics, and then I just went through different things. One by one my friends left the living room and came to his room, like that’s you? It was like a lightbulb went off. It made sense. I’ve always been a person if I want to do something, I’m really going to do it. So, I decided I’m going to make mixes and make mistakes. My transitions might be horrible at first, but I’m going to clean it up. I started making more creative friends in the city, and they really encouraged me to keep going with it.
I know you probably get asked this a lot, but DJ’ing is such a male-dominated field. What is it like being a woman in the field?
It has its pros and its cons. I’ve been blessed to have a good group of male DJs support my work and look out for me. The cons are that there is a lack of representation first and foremost. And it’s really hard to get past the stigma of being a woman and people thinking you’re not supposed to be doing this. You’re not supposed to be in the clubs. You’re not supposed to be a DJ because this is a man’s sport. And then if you’re attractive, they say, oh you’re only here because you’re cute. I bet you can’t DJ. You know at a point there was a trend all of the pretty girls were turning into DJs and they couldn’t actually DJ.
Oh, I do remember that trend!
I would be like, no, I really worked hard for this. Nobody gave it to me because I flashed a pretty smile and batted my eyelashes. I had to struggle and fight for it just like anybody else. They definitely count you out, but I’ve always been the kind of person, like no you’re going to see me. I’m working hard for this, and regardless if you think I can do it or not, I’m going to impress you. I’m going to show you why I am here. And then people start to believe a woman can DJ. You definitely get discriminated against as a woman, but you can also use it to your advantage. You can hire me just because you think I’m cute, but I can actually DJ. So jokes on you. You’re getting an actual professional.
What are your favorite parts of the controller?
I’m definitely the mixing and blending girl. I love mixing two songs together to make a new song. I’m self-taught, so I haven’t taught myself how to scratch yet. I’m getting there. I found the perfect formula for me where I can do it now on the controller or vinyl because those are two different feelings. The fader and mixing those are my things.
It’s interesting to me sometimes the things that women choose to mix together, it’s just different. It’s a different perspective on sound.
Women definitely have a different point of view on what sounds good. On what will work. Our ears, our perspectives, women definitely have something that the industry needs to make sure that music continues to progress.
I totally agree! Did you mention working on scratching?
Yes! Scratching is way more technical than people think about. You have to work with you right and your left hand separately. They come together, but they’re doing different things. It’s crazy. Your brain has to decipher that. It’s a challenge. That’s definitely something I want to accomplish. A lot of people that I look up to, they get to scratching and I’m like, man…I wish I could do that. I feel like if I can do that, it’s over it’s over with! I don’t work off to playlist every night I start with one song, like ok, so where am I taking everybody?
So you lean toward improvisation. I think that’s what’s up! How do you stay in the vibe that you intend to create even with everything that’s going on around you?
It is hard sometimes. You know people knocking all into you, asking you to play things, but you have to find your sweet spot and just stay there.
I always enjoy it when you can tell that the DJ has found their spot. That’s usually when the party goes up.How do you find that soft spot?
People. Crowd reaction. Being a DJ, you have to be able to read the crowd. When I finally think I’m getting somewhere, I like looking into the crowd — seeing people dancing. Switching songs and hearing, oh shit! People getting into it as much as I am. It’s a good feeling.
What are the signatures of a Legatron Prime set? And what kind of vibe are you trying to create on Saturday night at the Dragon’s Den?
90s music, old school. I was always a hip hop rap music girl. I loved Monie Love, Queen Latifah, Foxy, Rakim. I named my daughter after Rakim. The vibe for Saturday night is the house party. The kickback. But nobody’s standing on the wall being cool. Everybody’s dancing.
One thing that was cool about the 90s was that there were so many different and distinct women working at the same time. I’m excited to see that start to happen again. What do you do in your own work to foster that kind of environment?
I like to share my stage whenever I can. Like last week for my birthday, DJ JESS was there. I’ve done months in the past, where every Saturday, we featured a different female DJ. It’s important for me not to be the only one. If I can’t do something, I name women who can.
Yeah, I think name dropping is the least we can do for each other when we can. Typically what you see is one woman being pushed by a group of men. And if you’re not that woman then who refers you? So, we have to do that for one another. I think you’re right.
What’s exciting to you about entertainment culture in New Orleans right now? What are you looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to a lot of artists finally getting the shine that they deserve. I first started working with artists. Doing beat battles with the Soundclash. As a DJ, I can support myself here but artists have to also go elsewhere. I love going to open mics to see what’s going on. It’s important to support the artists. Of course, we love Wayne. We may not agree with everything he says, but we understand. I like $LEAZY EZ, Yellz, Luna Loxx, Demplz, Made Groceries, I love the whole Supreme Beings, Prosper Jones…I’m forgetting so many people!
There are a lot of good artists working right now. What are your goals for the upcoming year?
I want to do more experimenting with sounds outside of what I do on Saturday. Getting into production. Get my merch together. You know cute shit, like body suits.
Oh yes, now I love bodysuits!
I want to grow Primetime. I have some loyal people and I’m trying to grow that. Like pull up in the rain, it’s still going to be fun!
What is that about being a Black woman, a Black woman from New Orleans, working in the field that you do that motivates you to keep going?
Women from New Orleans we are very tenacious. We have the tenacity to overcome. And we’re hard too. I set my boundaries in that way. I’m not going to let you play on me. People respect that. Women from New Orleans are beautiful divine creatures with this beautiful history. It’s so deep-rooted in the culture. This is literally all of us. That’s kind of what keeps me going. You don’t have to be what they say you are. Or the stereotype they tried to push on you just because you have an accent!
Right, this is an accent!
Don’t let anybody tell you who you are. Because the more we let other people take who we are away from us, the culture will die even faster. Because we uphold a certain part of it too.