Where would Atlanta Hip Hop be without the city’s DJs? The individuals behind the turntables have as much control over the tunes emanating from A-Town as the artists themselves. And many of those songs' first break comes from providing the soundtrack to one of the Dirty South’s favorite pastimes - frequenting strip clubs.
While the culture is still mostly dominated by male deejays, the ladies are controlling the sounds in the adult entertainment establishments as well. Speakerfoxxx is one Atlanta native that feels she was born to DJ in the gentleman nightspots. In fact, one of her earliest regular gigs was spinning records at Stilettos.
“People end up at the strip club even after they go out. It’s just part of our culture. It’s part of Atlanta. A lot of artists hang out in strip clubs,” Speakerfoxxx informs AllHipHop.com. “It’s definitely where I go to hear new music first. As a DJ, I like going there to hear what records are trying to be broken. They get broken in the strip club before they go to radio.”
Speakerfoxxx's appreciation for her hometown’s love of diamond dancing should not put the entertainer in a box. The woman also known as Nilan has expanded her brand to include performing at numerous festivals nationwide, releasing mix projects, and participating in Shade 45’s The Aphilliates: Streetz Iz Watchin radio program with DJ Drama, Don Cannon, and Trendsetter Sense.
Her career also includes stints serving as a tour deejay with Yelawolf, Rittz, and Three 6 Mafia. It was her connection with one Three 6 member in particular which led to a close personal friendship. Speakerfoxxx began DJing for Gangsta Boo, and she also united the Memphis rapstress with producers Sinjin Hawke, Brodinski, SpaceGhostPurrp, and BeatKing.
“We met at one of Yelawolf’s shows in New York. Honestly, it was like we just loved each other right away,” says Speakerfoxxx about joining with Gangsta Boo. “She needed a DJ. I thought she was the sh*t. I still think she’s the sh*t. She’s always been a woman in the industry I’ve looked up to. I have always respected her huge discography of music. She is still the hardest female rapper making music. She is definitely the hardest out there.”
That opinion is not just based on the special link between the two Southerners. Hip Hop seeps through Speakerfoxxx’s core as an artist. She discovered Atlanta rap pioneers Kilo Ali and Raheem The Dream from listening to the radio as a child, and she can quickly rattle off Mia X and La Chat as some of her favorite rappers.
Hip Hop is an important part of Speakerfoxxx’s presentation, but she actually began her journey in music as a singer in the church choir. Middle school introduced Nilan to the flute and guitar. By high school, she formed and played in several Jazz and Punk Rock bands. A young Foxxx then began hitting the music scene around town, but eventually her on stage interests shifted.
“There was a point where I kind of got sick of going to see bands. I started going out to clubs around 16 or 17,” explains Speakerfoxxx. “I started being influenced by DJs in high school. I took an interest in seeing DJs over seeing bands live.”
Speakerfoxxx bought her first set of turntables at 20 and started DJing at a local pool hall. Not long after embracing the wheels of steel, Ian Ford and DJ Diabase inspired her to take those skills more seriously. The opportunities to DJ at several ATL hotspots soon opened up.
The W Atlanta hotel tapped her to cover the Midtown and Buckhead locations, and for the past five years Speakerfoxxx has had a weekly residency at the El Bar. In January, she celebrated her half-decade anniversary at the locale with an appearance by production legend Mannie Fresh.
“I just found the El Bar to be really cool. My artist friends get it. It’s cheap. It’s kind of like a secret, underground club,” states The Academy affiliate. “Celebrities and musicians come in there and feel comfortable. My underground artist friends come in there. Regular folks come in there. DJs love it. It doesn’t discriminate in any way. Not everyone wants to go to a strip club or a bottle service club all the time.”
Speakerfoxxx can be seen every Friday at the trendy lounge located on Ponce de Leon Ave. The award-winning DJ has upcoming shows at Art Basel Miami and a monthly series with Philadelphia’s Dirty South Joe on the horizon as well.
Besides crisscrossing the country, Speakerfoxxx has taken time to partner with Hoodrich Keem for the Noisey/Vice sponsored HOODWITCH mix. She has also released her own mixtapes like Dopegirl Anthems,Skin, and Skin II: The Art Of Letting Go. The creation of the next installment in the Skin series is underway.
“When I’m working on a mixtape or project, I create a crate and start selecting music. I’ve already created a crate for Skin III,” she reveals. “Anytime I hear something that resonates - something that’s a beautiful, nostalgic, soul sound - whether it’s an old or new track, I throw it in that crate. So when it comes time for me to make another Skin mix, I’ve already started working on it along the way.”
Speakerfoxxx’s mixes incorporate tracks from lyrical rappers, Pop performers, R&B crooners, EDM artists, and of course Atlanta’s Trap stars. Even while endorsing an eclectic range of musical styles, the former tattoo apprentice, painter, and photographer still upholds the sound she refers to as the ATL’s birthright.
“I think art periods go through changes. If you looked at what Picasso was doing and you said just Cubism is art, that would be incorrect. Because you leave out the Abstract movement, Surrealism, all this rich stuff. Graffiti art and street art are movements that are really in right now. But that doesn’t define art. That’s just a piece of the whole,” says Speakerfoxxx in defense of the current dominating Trap campaign.
She adds, “If you look at our [Atlanta's] history, we went from Raheem The Dream to Kilo Ali. Then we went from Kilo to DJ Smurf and that whole sound. Then we got Goodie Mob and OutKast. None of that sh*t sounds like Trap music. Then we come into the Snap era with D4L and Dem Franchize Boyz. Then we have Gucci Mane and Jeezy. And then we go to where we are now.”
In Speakerfoxxx’s eyes, Atlanta Hip Hop is heading on a new course led in part by diverse acts such as Miloh Smith, Abra, Bosco, ManMan Savage, 21 Savage, Key!, Swag Hollywood, Nebu Kiniza, WDNG Crshrs, Scotty ATL, EarthGang, and Raury.
“You’ll have a movement for 10, 20, or 100 years. It’s like the Dark Ages for example,” suggests Speakerfoxxx. “But after the Dark Ages, then what happened? The Renaissance era arrived which celebrated beauty, light, and art. This is just a period within a cycle, and each period is instrumental, beautiful, and important.”
Read other installments of AllHipHop’s #ATLRiseUp series here.
Stream Speakerfoxxx's catalog of mixtapes at mixcloud.com.
All photos courtesy of Speakerfoxxx