OK, it's been a while, but the DC9er mixtape series is officially back in action. We're resurrecting the weekly DJ profile with a Q&A and mixtape from Dallas' '90s hip-hop enthusiast, DJ Sissy Ross. Check out her Q&A and original mix below.
How long have you been DJing? A little over two-and-a-half years.
How did you get your start? An old, close friend of mine, Big J, offered to teach me one day and I took him up on the offer. He showed me many YouTube [videos] of his late partner, DJ Frantic, who was in a hip-hop group with him called the Clever Monkeys. From then on, I wanted to become a turntablist.
What was your first gig like? I was kind of nervous but I used all of my own equipment to make sure I'd be as comfortable as possible. It was at a house party for my friend's birthday. I don't remember messing up though, and I'm pretty sure everyone enjoyed the music.
Who/what are some of your biggest influences, musical or otherwise? Any turntablist is impressive to me. People call it a dying art form but if you're going to play an instrument you might as well learn to get the most use that you can out of it. As far as the people who've pushed me to become where I am: Tape Mastah Steph (Stephan Gaulon), because he's always been there for me. He's watched me grow, pushed me to record mixtapes, taught me a bit of turntablism, and is always down to come jam out with me when I want a partner for a gig. Basically my coach. The Good Life Crew out of Austin has given me most of my out-of-town gig opportunities, including SXSW. I started working with them in August, 2011 and they've only opened more doors for me since. Phooka (Chris Clayborn) is a Dallas legend when it comes to scratching. He gave me my very first weekly event and believed in me when no one else would. And D Teknics (David Flores) has given me the exposure to work with big name hip-hop artists I've been listening to for years, such as Abstract Rude, Awol One and DJ Rob Swift. Many times during our weekly (Hip-Hop Humpday), I'd sit there in awe thinking, "I can't wait 'til I'm that good." These are the people that give me a meaning and worth to what I'm pursuing.
Which DJs do you follow? Do you have a favorite? That list could go on forever! Some of them off the top of my head are Cut Chemist, Babu, Kid Koala, Birdy Nam Nam, RJD2 and Mark Farina for his Mushroom Jazz compilations. There's way too many amazing DJs out there, though, to pick a favorite.
What's your favorite genre of music, both to play and to listen to? 1990s hip-hop, which is also referred to as "the golden era," is my favorite to play. Most of the hip-hop tracks I play have meaningful lyrics that have touched me in some way or another, backed up by jazzy beats. I grew up listening to jazz music and try to incorporate it into my track selection as much as possible.
How do you decide what songs you're going to play? If it's a one-time event that I've been booked for, I will arrange a set of music that I find most fitting. If it's a weekly that I'm doing, I arrange a large set of music at the very beginning and add new songs over time.
How much preparation goes into putting a set together? It all depends on how long the set is. If it's short it'll only take 10 to 30 minutes to put it together. If longer, usually an hour. I periodically gather new music, which can take up to six hours at a time, depending on the amount of songs I need.
What are your main objectives when it comes to playing music? Are you looking to entertain the crowd, educate them, or something different altogether? I want to feel a music connection with them. I like playing older hip-hop because people who were listening to it during that time often get very excited when they hear a song they haven't heard in a while. I also like playing acid jazz and downtempo music a lot because it reaches out to a larger age range.
What can someone expect when they come to see/hear you play? Old school hip-hop or acid jazz/downtempo/lounge type music, and a little bit of house every now and then.
What kind of equipment do you use? Two Technic 1200s, an Allen & Heath Xone 22 mixer (although you will nine times out of ten find me playing on a Vestax) and a Serato SL1 (for the convenience of having all of my tunes at the tips of my fingers).
Requests. Love 'em or hate 'em? HATE 'em! If I do have the song and it's within the genre I'm currently spinning, I will play it. I'd be willing to look for other songs by that artist if I didn't have that particular song, but if it's not even in the same style of music that I'm there to play, I will have to decline. We don't all necessarily have every song in the world with us, and it also makes many of us feel like a jukebox. We aren't machines; we are artists, there to paint a canvas and we didn't ask anyone else to choose which colors we're using. I don't care how much the money is, if I have to play music that I don't enjoy playing, it sucks the passion out of what I'm doing. For me, it's all about the passion. I have friends here in Dallas that have been booked around the globe and built fame for themselves by simply sticking to what they love. But when you look at the money aspect, there are some [people] who are trying to live off of DJing. When big bucks are offered, many will often take the gig and play whatever is necessary to cater to the crowd they're hired to. Examples are special event DJs, mobile DJs, club/bottle service DJs and top 40 DJs. These types are more commonly expected to take requests. No matter if you're doing it for the money or not, I think one request every DJ has heard, and probably hates the most is, "Can you play something I/we can dance to?"
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If you could play a gig anywhere, with any other DJ/music act, with whom would you play and where? A gigantic music festival in Europe that would include artists like A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Brand Nubian, Jurassic 5, Pete Rock & CL Smooth and many more along that same style.
What sets you apart from other DJs in Dallas/Denton/Fort Worth? I'm one of the only girls that I know of who's out at local bars and venues, playing old school, true school and underground hip-hop on a regular basis. I have yet to meet another one and if she's out there somewhere, LETS DO SOME SHOWS, GIRL! I love playing with other girls but my genres set me apart from them since they're mainly focused on the EDM scene.
When/where will you be playing next? As for right now, I'm playing every Thursday night from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. at Deep Ellum's newest spot, Swallow Lounge, along with my pal Tape Mastah Steph. We play a variety of jazz, acid jazz, downtempo, funk, groove, instrumentals and more.
What can Dallas expect to see from you in 2012? More improvement. I am constantly learning and the biggest way I can give back to my audience is to continuously strive to be the best that I can be.