Boston DJ Dee Diggs is a force to be reckoned with. She says she has many personas, but especially loves embodying a young femme who loves to have a good time and lose herself to the music, all while showing people what the human experience has to offer. We caught up with her to hear what inspires her and drives her creative energy.
What inspired you to become a DJ?
Dee: I think it was a movie and a DJ friend of mine. I was studying abroad in France, in this town called Grenoble. It has this really cool underground scene. It’s like its own alternative mountain city, and there’s a lot of different art initiatives there. There’s lots of bars and clubs, and as a nightlife enthusiast, I try to scope out places to see where the locals are, and what the artist scene is like. I met a bunch of DJs and artists there, and started talking to them about what I was interested in. It was great talking to them about house music, because the way it’s been exported to Europe, you would think it was started there. My friend runs a record label in hish basement called Full Fridge Music, and I was talking to him a lot, and he said there aren’t enough women who are expressing their ideas in this way and [not enough of their peers] encouraging them to do so.
Then, I watched this beautiful French film called Eden, which is about the rise and fall of a DJ, and it really interested me as well. It made me feel like I could do the DJ life and not fail at it, and [I] was like yeah, I have my head on right. I can do this and not just spiral all the time.
I came back to Boston, where I was already doing college radio before,but now wanted to mix live on the air. [I] started exploring how to do that, which opened my eyes and sensibilities about music and music technology. Then after the radio station burned down, my friend started booking me to play at different venues around town.”
As a black female DJ, have you faced any stereotypes or hardships?
Dee: Thankfully, there’s a lot of social clout in supporting femme DJs right now. I feel like I came at the right time, because so many women have done all the foundational work before me, so my efforts are taken seriously. As I’ve grown into this art form, other women and other femmes have been stepping stones and guardian angels for me.
And in terms of stereotypes, people assume I’m not going to play the genres I play. They think I’m going to play hip hop, which I have no problem playing, but I can do so much more. Black music is so much more than just hip-hop.
What is your most important tool as an artist? Is there something you can’t live without when you are creating?
Dee: I guess the internet? I feel like when I’m digging for the story behind the music, and when I’m stuck and looking for references, you have to go back to the timeline for help. I love where my natural curiosity leads me. It’s so powerful to me that people in 1985 were jacking to this song I found yesterday, and here I am in what was supposed to be in the future, but is actually the apocalypse, dancing to the same track. I wouldn’t have that depth of understanding if I didn’t have the endless world of [the] internet to help put those clues together.
What do you think is an artist's role in society?
Dee: A DJ’s place is something I take very seriously. I do think you’re choosing to be a leader in the space that you’re inhabiting. You are leading people on to an experience, onto a sonic journey. It’s all about how aware you are of other people, how you treat people, and the example that you set. I’m really serious about the atmosphere and the vibe I bring or influence; I don’t just play songs. I’m standing up, asking everyone to trust me for these few moments: Give me your attention and curiosity. Take this journey with me.
When did you feel most vulnerable as an artist, and how did you maneuver through that difficulty?
Dee: Every time I play somewhere new, to be honest, [I feel vulnerable]. I am so blessed and grateful that I’ve been able to play in so many different spaces in Boston and New York, so far. There’s no better feeling than walking into a space I haven’t inhabited before, and zoning into the music. I have to trust myself and hope that people vibe to it. When I’m putting these ideas of elements and sounds together—that’s when I feel most at home, even in a strange booth experimenting with whatever mixer im playing on. I have so much fun and sometimes I forget about the time and people. When I look out into the crowd, I’m looking to sense how the energy is building.
What are you trying to communicate with your art?
Dee: It’s really important to me to keep digging for and playing the kinds of music that I love, because I feel like it’s all really connected to the black experience and black diaspora. That’s something that’s not really spoken about outwardly, and people don’t like to talk about it in that context, but that’s what it is; a soundtrack. This music is a story that was written for me to find; this is music made by other black weirdos that was made for me to find and share in the most interesting ways possible.
I think that I really want to remind people where it comes from and what it is, and that that’s the reason why so many people in the world resonate with it. I think it is very important to have the people who look like the ancestors and originators in these spaces sharing this music. I’m happy to share it and I want us to all love this music, but don’t deny the origin and don’t treat me like an outsider. I’m supposed to be here.
What creative medium would you like to pursue but haven’t already?
Dee: I definitely want to get my visuals game up, and figure out what I want to put out to share with the world visually. I have weird video ideas that I would love to bring to life. I want to have really pure moments of sonic ecstasy and be able to visually express that. I think that idea also influences how I do decor for events I curate as well.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Dee: Just do it—Nike! Honestly! I’m prone to creative hesitation and saying "I have to think this through and write this down" before I do it, and that’s somewhat of an excuse. What you need to do is figure out where to start, get up and just do it. Don’t be afraid of your own power.
What current projects/shows do you have coming up?
Dee: I have a few sets I’m going to play in New York City and Boston, which I’m really excited about. You can follow me on Instagram to see where.
I get a lot of my energy from live performances, so I can’t wait and always look forward to them. I’m also a bit of a chameleon as well, so sometimes I meet a new side of myself at a gig because the variables are different; my instincts play out in a slightly different way. I become the element of surprise.
By Jourdan W.