It takes a special type of person to hold a crowd’s attention for any amount of time. Some may think a DJ is just a button pusher or an MC is just a hype man, but their role for any occasion can make or break an event or experience.
They are a special group among other music producers with just as much value as the artists. DJs and MCs are responsible for setting the tone and keeping the ones on and off the floor engaged and entertained. They are the curators and promoters of music and artists, and are often the ones who introduce you to the song that reminds you of your favorite memories.
Northwest Arkansas is the home of many DJs and MCs known for governing the vibe from local radio stations to SEC tournaments. Though this pool of producers and performers is dominated mostly with males, there are several inspiring ladies to be on the lookout for.
DJ Raquel is one of Arkansas’ very own, born and raised in Bryant. DJ Afrosia hails from the state as well, coming out of Fort Smith. DJ Girlfriend calls Memphis home while DJ Dribblz represents Pensacola, Fla. DJ D’Lite is from Seattle and DJ Susie Q and DJ Vlyn are from California, representing the West Coast.
Even though social gatherings and events declined during the pandemic, these DJs still maintain their aspirations to move the crowd with music whether it be virtually or at a socially-distanced event.
Every DJ is on their own journey with much to bring to NWA and wherever they go. It is important to recognize the ones on the rise now because they too have stories that can inspire the masses.
Here are the DJs and femcees to watch in NWA:
DJ Girlfriend has goals to fulfill a higher sense of purpose through her work. Coming from an artistically inclined family, her love for music and dance has yet to cease and has evolved from making playlists to making memories for crowds as she takes them on a journey.
DJ Girlfriend remembers being fascinated with DJs who appeared on Boiler Room. As her curiosity grew, so did the calling to DJ. She did her research and purchased equipment, but experienced imposter syndrome for about 18 months. However, an encouraging DJ friend noticed her at a work party and said she would be a good fit for a position available at a Bentonville radio station.
Amused and following her path, that is where she would gain more knowledge and support to grow into the DJ she is today. DJ Girlfriend describes her style as “eclectic, fun and funky” as she aims to promote a pro-dance atmosphere. DJing is more than playing music for her. As a Queer Black person, playing House music is “liberating” and a “reclamation” to who she is. It is also a time to educate listeners. DJ Girlfriend challenges the crowd while “sharing a very important piece of history” with them.
From hosting at local bars and venues to DJing across the state, DJ Girlfriend says it is “a duty to honor the people that paved the way for me.” Her ambition, awareness and level of discernment helps her navigate through the ecosystem she calls a party. Each party has a story, and DJ Girlfriend is going to make sure she tells it like it is.
As a 20-year old that’s been in the game for nearly a decade, DJ Raquel may be the region’s youngest DJ with the most experience. She even got to play at her own prom.
DJ Raquel is motivated by her musical family, especially her father. One of her first experiences DJing was for the Salt Bowl, a competition between two football teams in Saline County.
At 11 years old, her dad who was DJing the event asked her to play for a few minutes in his absence. Once Raquel decided to play what she wanted, the crowd loved her music, she says. As soon as her dad noticed, he planted the seed for her to start taking DJing more seriously.
With more than 100 shows and years of collaborating and performing under her belt, DJ Raquel aims to “make [her audience] forget” their troubles and help them feel exhilarated, free and overall hype. Even though she’s experienced in catering to various audiences, DJ Raquel says she feels like her mature and true self when she’s playing EDM, House, “gritty” and “hardcore” music.
As a student studying marketing at the University of Arkansas and as the co-executive vice president of marketing and media for Hill Records, the student-run label at the university, Raquel won’t only be making waves as a DJ in the area, but she’ll be attracting fresh musical talent that’s much needed in Northwest Arkansas.
Young and wise, Raquel knows “if you love something, just do it.” She wants to show others she belongs on stage just as much as the next person does. DJ Raquel also wants to see more Black women playing House music and says it’s important to change the narrative of what a DJ looks like.
“Black people are not monolith,” she says.
DJ Dribblz shares her love for music by playing it for others. Throughout her life, music has been a fine art — from being a drummer in a symphony band to teaching herself how to read music and play the keyboard.
“In my last life, I was a musician,” she says. “Music does something to me.”
Though basketball was a priority early on, she understands the incredible power of music that makes people move and feel good. From being the go-to playlist maker to the person making sure you’re enjoying the moment, DJing started off as a personal interest that has turned into opportunity after opportunity.
Motivated to find fulfillment through her work, she says DJing is something she can do all day without thinking about the time. Playing and producing music are activities she believes she can always grow in. One reason she DJs is for validation.
DJ Dribblz enjoys seeing people react to what she plays and is intuitive as she “listens to people’s energy.” As someone who enjoys 90’s to recent Hip-Hop and R&B, love songs and sing-alongs, feeling good, happy and positive are all very important to her and exactly how she wants the crowd to feel when they’re listening to her sounds.
After the turbulent year many had in 2020, she describes this moment in her career as “just the beginning.” From birthday parties to school dances, Dribblz holds down the floor with the community in mind. DJ Dribblez says being a woman in this field is somewhat pushing the envelope, but she feels deserving of having “a seat at the table.” Known formerly for her collegiate basketball skills, Dribblz is dreaming big on her pursuit to dribble beats.
Open to being a music worker in all avenues, she says “if you want to do something, you find a way to do it.” Her dream to sell out Madison Square Garden is something we definitely hope to see.
“My name is DJ D’Lite, what’s going on tonight!”
At 26 years old, D’Lite is a ball of energy ready to make you dance. Since she was 11 years old, she’s been producing music and playing guitar knowing the key is to entertain.
DJing has been a longtime hobby of hers that she turned into a business in 2018. DJing came naturally because people gravitate to her taste in music, she says. Even though DJing can be intimidating and challenging, especially for women, she’s looking to be a pioneer for a different type of DJ. She describes herself as a gamer and a geeky person that saw DJing as the perfect combination between computer science and music.
Referring to the DJ controller as a machine, DJ D’Lite says it is “a huge step for women to pursue a career in audio engineering.” Her IT and audio technician background is a part of her style and she owns it. She notes how music helps you understand a person and DJing to her is “a changing step for society.”
A lover of electro, EDM, 90’s music & Hip-Hop, DJ D’Lite recalls being asked “do you want to be the sound guy or the performer?” She loves being engaged with the crowd, making eye contact to make sure they are all taken care of by her set. Understanding that DJing takes practice, DJ D’Lite feels rewarded because she gets “paid to have a good time.”
Being a first-generation Hmong-American, she didn’t think this was possible for her. DJ D’Lite saw the career had big opportunities and feels very thankful and blessed. From car shows to volleyball tournaments to weddings, she says the best feeling ever is “being a part of a day someone will always remember.” Throughout the pandemic DJ D’Lite says she’s been touching up her skills, picked up playing the electric guitar and is taking time to get better.
Aspiring to be a DJ that moves people and a generation, DJ D’Lite loves being a host. She is loving life and says “every gig is a gain for me.”
DJ SUSIE Q
DJ Susie Q is yet another who was called to move a crowd with her musical taste and personality. A work Christmas party changed her perception and life, she says. At the end of the event, she was approached by a fellow female DJ who asked, “how would you like to get paid to party?”
This was partially because Susie kept whispering songs into her ear and the recruiting DJ could tell that she and everyone else attending was having a great time because of it. Originally hesitant to the craft, it would take a series of events that would cause Susie to loop back to her now mentor to play the role she always unofficially played: the one that gets everyone dancing.
DJ Susie Q remembers her first event being a father-daughter dance at a country club where she shadowed her mentor and quickly learned “sometimes we have to do the things we want to do so we can get to do the things we love.”
As a lover of electronic music and a person who listens to everything but country, DJ Susie Q accepts the responsibility of doing one’s research and having what she calls “DJ etiquette.” Susie’s knack for creating a vibe as a DJ motivates her to mold her personality to be who her crowd wants her to be so they can have a great experience.
And it’s not just about the vibe for her, it’s about the visuals too. With corporate ties and sets at festivals and local events like Bikes, Blues & BBQ and the Slaughter Pen Jam, Susie understands DJing takes practice and is a rewarding investment.
As a LatinX woman in her field, DJ Susie Q says her main goal is to inspire someone. She believes it’s important “having a space for ladies in this game.” That space is not something she always had. She once had a booked event cancelled because the client was looking for a male DJ. Shrugging the story off with little concern, her main message is “if I can do it, anybody can!”
DJ AFROSIA J
One of Arkansas’ most well-known DJs who represents the ladies gracefully is Afrosia J. Many of the talented DJs and femcees aforementioned admire Afrosia for her tenacity in the game as well as her kindness to support other DJs. Her experience being a college radio host and music festival promoter led her to pursue a passionate career centered around curating vibes in the Northwest Arkansas area.
As a DJ, femcee, and content producer, Afrosia is a salient name in the community as she is often present at a variety of your favorite local events. From the skating rink and nights at C4 to NWA’s Fashion Week and her own YouTube and Instagram pages, her ambitious creativity is evident. Her groovy and wide-ranging style is definitely adored in NWA.
DJ Vlyn rocks the crowd for fun and is enjoying it most as a hobby right now. She loves to “work the muscle” as she favors drum and bass, turbo and techno music.
Producer and vibe setter, Vlyn with her eccentric style will add several bounces to your life and bring you in her zone. Enjoy her work on Soundcloud or at West & Watson on Friday nights.