Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Deeply Rooted: My Exclusive Interview w/ DJ Jena

"Hip hop used to be so thick in the air
When it was there you ain't even need a kick and a snare
It could have been finger snaps and hand claps
But nowadays it feels a little different when a man raps" - Nostalgia by Marco Polo feat. Masta Ace

A lot has changed since hip hop's inception. It was born to the ears of some or perhaps for others, experienced through its most concrete establishment in the 90s - what we now often refer to as "The Golden Era".  What we may forget though, is that while hip hop was at its prime during that period, it took off from numerous musical genres that came before it.  We might dispense of the sounds that we hear today, but at one point or another, our sounds may have been viewed as the demise of another.  Thank goodness pioneering artists took the liberty of integrating the past with what was their present at the time, but how many of us actually knew the science behind it?  From the get-go, how many of us actually understood where they were coming from?  And if we had done our homework, then why did we seem to treat it like hip hop's best kept secret? 

With all these questions running through my mind, it was as if my brain had stopped in its tracks when I learned about "Deeply Rooted" from top lady DJ and event co-presenter DJ Jena.  This weekly gathering, which happens every Monday at Limbo, The Fort is definitely not your usual hangout nor your usual playlist.  It's not at a club, but rather a lounge and you won't hear today's top40s, but instead the top decades' worth of music from hip hop, soul, funk, and Rn'B.

I wanted to learn more so that I could share more.  See, if knowledge is power, then I felt that I would be more forceful in getting heads to attend if given ready information.  Therefore, I found that the best way to garner the truest insights on this was to go directly to its roots (pun intended).  Read on to see the exchange I had with DJ Jena about this immense project, her views on music and life, and more :

MJS: Your new event is called Deeply Rooted. So where do your roots lie?

DJJ: That's a very deep question. I could probably write a book on where my roots really "lie". But keeping it simple, I feel like my roots lie in what we see every day. Realness. Day to day life. Everyday people. Emotion. Me. You. Him and Her. Not necessarily past. Just now. Even tree roots were just now once. 

MJS: How important is it to remember your roots? Or to learn about the roots of our music?

DJJ: It's absolutely essential. Music, to me, is all about emotion. Emotions let you know what's right and what's wrong. So, how important is to learn about the roots of your emotions? How important is it to learn about the roots of what's right and wrong?

MJS: Our peers will definitely feel you on your movement, but lets talk about how a whole other generation has come after ours. Given that you've done other gigs and played music that they can relate to, would you like to reach out to them too and raise awareness for their benefit?

DJJ: It's so funny how you think about things like this, girl.  This topic - the whole 'nother generation that you speak of - has been on my mind. Recently, I was enlightened with the truth that I am part of that older generation that says things like, "This new shit - how do you even dance to this?". It was humbling. I felt OLD. Don't you remember saying the same thing? I'm still trying to come to terms with this. Getting back to raising awareness of what "our" generation considers "real music", just go with with it and ALWAYS be open-minded. Most likely, this "next generation" will someday, come full circle, as we did, start really bobbing their heads and realize, "So this is what those older cats were talking about."

I love your questions.

MJS: Music is constantly evolving - the BPMs are speeding up, the elements are changing; how do you feel about this?

DJJ: Let it be. As much as my mind tells me I hate it, we just have to let it be. Gotta remember - these are the "popular" songs. The "pop" songs. They're trends. There does exist relevant, current hip hop artists that keep their music mellow. But I see it as, Fuck it. Let's see where this fast shit takes us. Let it be.

MJS: Growing up, our music had the tendency to be a culture shock for our parents, but then we also had heads like Pete Rock and Jazzy Jeff that pioneered throwbacks. They took the roots and flipped it. Being that you're also a producer, how do you think the sound and vibe of a track can now combine old school/new school hip-hop?

DJJ: Damn. These questions are awesome. You must make music :P

This touches me. I've thought of how. I've heard it in my head. Just need time in a studio. It's possible. It sounds nice.

MJS: You've referred to Deeply Rooted as your "baby". Literally though, how has becoming a mother changed your perspective on your life and your craft? 

DJJ: Astonishingly, my wise father-in-law always told me, "this generation lives for the next." I want to teach my daughter that she can live her dreams. And the very best I can do is through example.

MJS: If you could time travel, what particular music-related moment in your life would you revisit. Why?

DJJ: The 90s. I'd feel comfortable there. So comfortable that I would tell them that I was from 2011 and they hella messed their shit up. Haha

MJS: It's still a male-dominated industry. Being a female, is it an advantage or disadvantage?

DJJ: Advantage. It is what it is.

MJS: What can you tell other ladies interested in following in your footsteps?

DJJ: Handle yourself well. Practice. Remain a fan. And not a groupie.

MJS: Finally, give us a run-down on what to expect out of Deeply Rooted and how its different from the usual hangout, playlists, etc.

DJJ: Expect a lot of passionate music and real life people who feel passionate towards it. It's different because you just don't hear this type of music anymore. Not in a bar or club, at least. DJ Crismyx and I play new stuff, too. But it all falls under Passion. And if I don't see you there, it just wasn't meant to be. [f]

Photo credit to H Studio, Harley Tiu
Styling: Reena Rae

For inquiries or concerns about the Deeply Rooted event, you can get in touch with DJ Jena through the following sites:

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