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DJ Zita: Where My Ladies At?
Welcome to WireTap's Monthly DJ Series!
What does your activism sound like? At WireTap, we believe strongly in the power of art and activism to bring people together. Over the years we've committed ourselves to covering a wide array of new, politically engaged artists, from our long running series on the All-Ages Movement Project, to our election-inspired Vote Hip-Hop contest. Now we're taking it a step further by bringing you exclusive monthly mixtapes and interviews from DJs whose music reflects their ideals -- and it's free.
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Jamilah King, and Your WireTap Crew
During the day, Maritez Apigo makes a living as an English teacher at a Bay Area high school. By night, she trades in her textbooks for turntables and transforms into DJ Zita, one of the Bay Area's most prolific DJs. Since 2002, she's played gigs across the globe, from Hawaii to New York to Japan, with her own blend of hip-hop, funk and soul classics. Last year she started Everlasting Bay Area Sistah Sound (B.A.S.S.), the Bay Area's only all-female DJ and production crew. We caught up with DJ Zita to talk about her music and inspirations.
How did you get into DJ'ing?
I was always a lover of music, and I grew up listening to hip-hop, reggae, funk, soul, house and rock. I grew up collecting cassette tapes, then CDs, spending hours in music stores even though I was broke. I also enjoyed sharing music; I used to record songs of the radio and make mixtapes for my friends. In 1999, I asked several DJ friends of mine to break down the technical aspect of DJ'ing to me. I picked it up instantly and I still remember some of the first few songs I mixed -- [one] was a Lauryn Hill a cappella over an instrumental. After that, I started building a vinyl collection, and spent hours and hours both on my turntables and diggin' for vinyl. I started to gig in Hawaii in 2002, then in S.F. when I moved back here in 2004.
Where did you grow up and how did it shape you?
Growing up in L.A., I still have memories of chillin' at BBQ's with Snoop or Dr. Dre pumpin' in the background. 2002 to 2004 mark my years living in beautiful Hawaii and my breakout into the DJ scene as a founding member of the "Sisters in Sound" crew. I've been back in the Bay since and this is where I've been building my roots in the DJ scene.
Why was it important for you to start Everlasting B.A.S.S.?
Two years ago, I was discouraged by the fact that I was DJ'ing either as the only woman on an otherwise all-male bill, or DJ'ing with a line-up of all women at an event promoted by men. I realized that the only reason this was possible is because women DJs in the Bay did not have solidarity. We few women were all doing our own thing, and I feel that we needed to come together in sisterhood. These disappointing realities are my inspirations for starting B.A.S.S., short for "Bay Area Sistah Sound."
I hand picked two dope veteran Bay Area lady DJs -- Pam the Funkstress and DJ Neta -- to join me on my mission to create the only female-DJ'd and female-promoted event in the Bay. They were down. We three, along with my marketing interns, gave birth to my brainchild, B.A.S.S., as "The Bay's Premier Lady DJ Crew," spinning hip-hop, funk, soul, reggae and dancehall. "Everlasting Bass" is the name of our event -- a play on our crew name and also a title of Rodney-O and Joe Cooley's song. Pam and I are still holding it down while DJ Neta takes time out to have a baby girl (future B.A.S.S. member).
I intended for B.A.S.S. to create a foundation from which women can self-produce and promote music and club events. Such events could support and feature up-and-coming lady DJs, bring in local and worldwide women as headliners and provide a space for strong sisters on the mic and the dance floor to share our talents. In one year, B.A.S.S. has accomplished that, and we've still got a ways to go.
What songs or artists helped politicize you?
Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill, MC Lyte, Erykah Badu, Common and Mos Def.
What political issues are most important to you? Why?
Feminism or gender equality is perhaps most important to me because being a woman in a male-dominated game is a hustle. From club owners/managers to DJs to hip-hop itself, I'm working in a industry that is largely run by men. When you take a glimpse of the big picture, you see men in the highest positions of power running the clubs, running hip-hop, running our country. Hip-hop and the club industry's portrayals of women are also largely negative. I believe that what I represent is a strong, positive female-of-color force in the game of DJ'ing, promoting and hip-hop.
How do you bridge your art and activism?
My track selection speaks volumes: everything from choosing just the right songs to go on this mix CD, Where My Ladies At?, to spinning the breaks that hip-hop sampled, to consciously deciding which artists to spin and not spin. My identity alone as a woman of color DJ, promoter and founder of B.A.S.S. speaks for itself. I don't know of any other woman in the Bay that has come this far for the DJ sisterhood.
For more, check out DJ Zita on the web:
Jamilah King is the associate editor of WireTap.