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“‘Hey baby, have you heard the new Snoop album?’” said the record-store employee to Kristina Gray—better known as DJ Kitty La Rock—as she dug through the crates recently. Gray adds, “I wanted to say to him, ‘Something tells me that you don’t talk to your other patrons that way.’”
Gray, 22, is a member of the First Ladies DJ Collective—local DJs who’ve formed an all-female alliance within the male-dominated world of spinning, where being called “baby,” “sweetie,” or “honey” is all too often an occupational hazard.
Dina Passman—who spins as DJ ladyplastik—founded the collective in September 2002 after participating in an all-woman DJ showcase at Ladyfest DC last August. She assembled the group mostly through word of mouth; many of the DJs were already familiar with one another’s work. From there, agreeing on a mission statement—to bring together distaff DJs from a broad range of genres to share knowledge and resources—was easy.
Figuring out what to call themselves proved to be more difficult: Better Than You, Susan B. Scratchin’, Big Ovaries, and XX were among the suggested names. “I figured out that XX was referring to chromosomes and not porn,” says First Lady DJ Christine Moritz, 28. “But we decided to steer clear anyway.”
The Ladies’ current endeavor is Girl Friday, a monthly Black Cat dance night that the collective has put on since November. Typically, four or five of the women take turns spinning for the club’s notoriously tough audience. “We’ve gotten a typical rock crowd where everyone stands around with their arms crossed until midnight,” says Gray. “But we’re there to make you dance!”
The collective is currently looking to round out its membership with hiphop, drum ‘n’ bass, two-step, and garage DJs, but not everyone is eager to join the ranks. “It’s a double-edged sword,” says Gray. “A lot of DJs want to be known as just a DJ, not necessarily a woman DJ. Not everyone wants to coalesce where the sole thing bringing us together is gender.” Moritz agrees: “Women DJs are often regarded as a novelty. People think that we’re not serious about the music.”
Individual First Ladies are involved in their own projects, of course—Moritz hosts the Variety Is the Spice of Life radio show on the University of Maryland’s WMUC; Passman is a regular contributor at Spilt Milk, a dance night at Dupont Circle’s Red—but the group hopes to continue Girl Friday and is looking into the possibility of a regular radio broadcast. Also on the agenda are group record-buying excursions that aim to demystify the process for newer DJs.
For her part, Gray is confident that the Ladies are on fertile ground. “D.C. has a strong DJ scene period, and there are more women DJs here, proportionately, than in a lot of other cities,” she says. “You can’t go everywhere and find a club or a party where a woman is spinning.” —Sarah Godfrey
Arthur Loves Plastic, Kitty La Rock, dj lil’e, and Suzy Cyclone spin at 10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31, at the Black Cat, 1811 14th Street NW. For more information, call (202) 667-7960.