It’s been a long time coming and I may get some pushback, but right now, women are certainly running things in a major way. From Stacey Abrams impressively making a claim to become Joe Biden’s running mate to BIND London designing fashion for Black women of all hair types to four Black artists occupying the top two spots on the Billboard Hot 100 — Black Queen Energy is live and in full effect for 2020.

In all honesty, I sincerely hope that this vibe continues deep into the 21st century, as more and more women creatives deserve their just due for their hard work and effort. The music game is still patriarchal in nature and with the listeners tastes expanding past male-dominated 90’s hip-hop and R&B sounds, it is only right to celebrate the talents of these soul controllers of the 1’s-and-2’s who not only make the party rock but put us on to the next-next generation of artists who’ll shape the sounds to come. 

With that in mind, ESSENCE is proud to laud the work of these DJs who might not yet be household names, but they are definitely right up there with the best doing it now. Here’s a list of 10 spin doctors you need to know and cannot afford to be clueless about.

1. Niara Sterling

Image: Niara Sterling

If Niara Sterling’s name sounds familiar it’s because the popular New York City DJ is ringing bells from East to West. After outgrowing her native stomping grounds in the DMV, Sterling relocated to Brooklyn where she got into DJ-ing as a full-time career. She hit the ground running with her own radio show, Nature of a Sista, on Balamii Radio, which focused on new and classic deep music cuts.

Her residency at House of Yes is a must-attend event, while her party series PERK (co-created with DJ JADALAREIGN), is known as an all-city, eclectic dance party that mixes live instrumentation with soul, funk, R&B, and rap—and embodies a next-level vibe not to miss. Add to the resume that her professionality and reputation as a choice selector has enabled her to serve as a musical director for Maségo, Talib Kweli, and Alxndr London, and Niara Sterling is one to add to your calendar whenever she hits your city.

2. DJ 9AM

Image: DJ 9AM

Quarantine is hard for us all, but for live performers such as DJ 9AM, it could be damn-near debilitating. Also known as Angel Monique, this sound controller is easily recognized as one of the “best party DJs” in New York City. From her “4 Lovers Only” party at SOBs to her Breakfast with 9AM podcast, this Las Vegas-to-Uptown Harlem resident has jams in her stash that’ll make you sweat all day and night. 

A student of the legendary DJ Scratch, DJ 9AM can go from BBD to TLC to B2K to TDE and still keep bodies moving in unison. Her crowd control and confidence have endeared her to audiophiles who live for hearing deep cuts in a live setting, while her no-frills attitude keeps those with fragile egos at bay. All in all, once venues begin to reopen and travel is less of a hassle, DJ 9AM is a name that should appear upon more marquees in a city near you.

3. DJ EDICA+

Image: DJ EDICA+ / Photo credit: Jarele Taylor, @Black_Jeezuz

There is a Guyanese proverb that expresses EDICA+’s musical style succinctly: “All cassava get same skin but all nah taste same way.” Simply put, though DJs may all put out good music, EDICA+ is different in her own unique way. A Corpus Christi, Texas original, EDICA+ creates otherworldly, intoxicating, and flavorful sounds from around the world.

With successful stints at parties such as ElectroBounce and cultural gatherings like SXSW and #NotAnother90sParty, EDICA+ also hosts and curates her own radio show, Dub & Effection, which airs exclusively on Playground Radio in Brooklyn, New York. For lovers of Caribbean, Latin, Indian and African riddims, then EDICA+ is one to know and subscribe to. But don’t take my word for it, instead: “Nah tek yuh mattie eye fuh see.”

4. TIFF MCFIERCE

Image: Tiff McFierce

When you’re known around the country as “the first Black woman resident DJ at Madison Square Garden,” how could you ever think to be second in anything else? For Tiff McFierce, this is a question that never (if ever) gets asked of her because she is extremely superb in what she does. With a healthy fanbase, McFierce’s music and playlists also live at the intersection of wellness and everyday life

A trained dancer since the age of six, McFierce uses her vast encyclopedic knowledge of music and her refined charisma to connect with crowds ready to groove and have a good time. As an accomplished DJ—who you should add to your own playlists—her association with the “World’s Most Famous Arena” and her “Look IN vs. Lookin’” series enables her to show audiophiles that happiness isn’t just an outward show, but it is a feeling that lies within.

5. DJ DIAMOND KUTS

Image: DJ Diamond Kuts

Tina Dunham has accomplished some pretty impressive things that if you don’t know, you should know. She’s spun for then-President Barack Obama, worked with fellow music maven Nicki Minaj, and carved a space for herself as an undisputed queen of sound in Philadelphia and beyond. Her remixes have certified her as an official tastemaker, plus she was the first woman to get a coveted slot on Philly’s WSUL Power 99.

Not bad for someone from West Oak Lane, right? Aside from being a part of the number one radio station in Philly, she continues to celebrate for all women mixers as she routinely shouts out influences like Jazzy Joyce, Beverly Bond, and DJ Cocoa Chanelle whenever she can. The daughter of hip-hop pioneer Grand Tone (Korner Boyz) is not satisfied with being a local DJ, which is why her style and music have taken her around the world in a major way.

6. YOUNG WAVY FOX

Image: Young Wavy Fox / Photo credit: Ali Garber, Time Out

Born to flex, Young Wavy Fox stands out whenever she enters a room. The Bronx-based DJ, also known as Kaysy Gotay, is known for her riot-inducing parties across New York City, where everyone (and anyone) is dancing too hard to her prescribed mix of Afro-trance, reggaeton, funk, hip-hop, and R&B deliciousness. With places such as The Mercer Kitchen, Beatstro, Miznon at Chelsea Market, and Pianos on her resume, it goes as no secret that if you want to have a good time then all you have to do is ride the wave.

Speaking of such things, Young Wavy Fox is not just satisfied with being one of the nightlife’s best DJs, she also created a ladieswear brand called Wavy Fox. The recently launched label hopes to expand into other areas of clothing but offers up first—much like her parties—an edgy and sensual number for women of all shapes and sizes to express their crazy-sexy-cool vibes. If you’re in need of a pleasurable getaway, then circle your calendar whenever you seed Young Wavy Fox on the bill.

7. JADALAREIGN

Image: JADALAREIGN

Gentrification has heavily impacted the landscape not only for women and queer DJs of color across the U.S. but also in terms of the music they play. For Jada Lorraine, more commonly known by her moniker JADALAREIGN, she doesn’t let such boundaries stop her from emphasizing the importance of community and education. As co-founder of PERK, a party series she runs with DJ Niara Sterling, JADALAREIGN’s eclectic selections of high energy dance music sends movers-and-shakers into a frenzy.

On the other end, her music-based educational series, Skillshare, prioritizes women, queer, and non-binary people of color through workshops and discussions. Participants are able to learn and gain experience in audio production, the music business, and DJing. It is with that effort that JADALAREIGN exemplifies a positive aura in her performance and her music curation.

8. ANGEL & DREN

Image: Angel & Dren

Cool kid points aside, Angel & Dren have spun their way into some of the best soirees from state to state. From becoming the official mix-masters at New York Women’s Fashion Week to curating the sounds for D-Nice’s Femme It Forward takeover, the popular duo use their Rihanna-imbued inspiration to keep their sounds active (through A+D Radio) and engaging while traveling and meeting people at new places is severely limited. Don’t let too much time go by without checking out these two wonderful creatives. 

9. JULIANA HUXTABLE

Image: Juliana Huxtable

The year 1987 blessed us with the presence of Juliana Huxtable, an incredibly gifted DJ, writer, and co-founder of the New York-based nightlife project Shock Value. A multidisciplinary artist, this Texas original uses her own brand of “conditioning” to explore a number of projects such as the body, history, and text. Her work has been seen at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the New Museum, and Reena Spaulings Fine Art, which you should try and see if still available. Huxtable has also collaborated with renowned producer SOPHIE under the name Analemma, where the duo released two tracks on a compilation for Nina Kraviz’s record label Trip.

Before social distancing guidelines placed us far apart, the notoriously busy Juliana Huxtable had selective DJ sets in Berghain, Berlin (Mannequin Records Night), and in Brooklyn and Queens with the famous faces such as Asian Doll and Katie Got Bandz. Personally, one of my favorite new mixes from Juliana Huxtable is this one from DJMag, which finds her delivering all the positively charged, rave-inspired techno sounds that showcase her unpredictable DJing style.

10. JASMINE SOLANO

Image: Jasmine Solano

From creating and touring worldwide as half of the DJ party duo Electric Punanny to being a former MTV host of the series, Scratch the Surface, Jasmine Solano dons many hats and rocks them all to the beat of her own tempo. In addition to that, she has been a steady music influencer across multiple media platforms. As one-half of Electric Punanny, the DJ tandem she formed with MeLo-X, Solano performs a range of sounds from the Caribbean to alternative R&B to funk to hip-hop with relative ease and major success.

Also a political activist, Solano uses her art to express revolutionary ideas such as “Unity in Color,” a photography/community series created in 2017 to promote women’s rights around the world. For audiophiles with places beginning to reopen, but are hesitant to get right back out there — Jasmine Solano is the perfect sound controller for those who love curated playlists and innovative experiences.

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