he female Hip-Hop head appears to resemble the Black man at first glace: an endangered species. However, upon deeper analysis and sincere study, its apparent that they are flourishing in some ways, while languishing in others. DJ Chela may not be a household name, but the spin-doctor seeks to change that notion and marshal in an alternative image to the Hip-Hop female. The Durham, North Carolina resident has been an activist for several years and melded that into her musical platform. Coupled with her naturally striking looks, DJ Chela may just forever change the female Hip-Hopper and get them off that damn endangered species list.
AllHipHop.com: Explain to the people who DJ Chela is for those that might not know.
DJ Chela: Im a DJ based out of Durham, North Carolina. I run with the Murda Mamis and Justos Mixtape All-Stars. Im your average girl that cooks, cleans, plots to overthrow the system, and DJs. Im the New Girl Order remember that! Its coming.
AllHipHop.com: How long have you been DJing, and what sort of DJ would you consider yourself?
DJ Chela: Im a mix DJ, a party rocker, I do mixtapes, live shows, Im in radio and been in a couple battles. So I have experience in a few areas, but my main focus is mixtapes, clubs and radio. Ive been DJing seriously for almost four years now. Beyond that, I work as an organizer, an activist, a revolutionary - to use music as a soundtrack for the struggle and success of the Hip-Hop community and all oppressed peoples.
AllHipHop.com: From what Ive seen, you mix a fair amount of consciousness and commentary in your mixtapes. What makes you take that approach to music?
DJ Chela: My folks are a definite inspiration to metheyre visionary people and get things done. I lived in Nicaragua for a couple of years when I was growing up, and it opened up my eyes to live amongst such extreme poverty and then watch the United States coverage of what was going on. Then I learned that the Contras were funded in part by crack cocaine the CIA brought into South Central LA in the 80s, and seeing that direct link between US imperialism abroad and racism and oppression at home was powerful. I feel like I have no other option but to stand for what I see to be the truth in my own way, and right now its through music. Having a message in music is a lot similar to having a conversation with somebodywhen youre done talking about something, what are you going to do about it? But when you look at mainstream rap right now, we can see how influential these messages can be in society. So its kind of backwards thinking, but if we take the lead from politicians, the army, corporations and everyone thats using Hip-Hop to push their agenda, we can see that it is possible to influence people through music.
AllHipHop.com: As a woman in Hip-Hop, how do you feel about the blatant misogyny and can you offer any solutions?
DJ Chela: Misogyny is definitely a complex issue, and there are a lot of levels that need to be addressed to see a real change. As long as women in the workplace are getting 75 cents per every dollar that a man earns, the scale is already tipped. What I see as missing in the Hip-Hop industry is more female artists, DJs, and executives to really have their say in whats hot. Female MCs are almost always promoted poorly, and that denies a womans voice from the beginning. Regardless, women are doing their thing every day, who are strong, focused, and work together, and we need to amplify that movement to really set an example and be interruptive of whats going on.
AllHipHop.com: You have a radio show and act as the urban music director at WXDU, Duke Universitys radio station. What is your take on the alleged rape of a North Carolina Central University student and part-time stripper?
DJ Chela: Man, this has been a big past few weeks for Durham. The whole alleged rape has raised a lot of issues in our community. Ive been hearing a lot of people saying that its not a race thing, and I think that there is a fear on both sides, black and white, that this could spear some kind of race war. I feel like we cant really make that call if it was racially motivated or not, but from what Ive heard about the story, the lacrosse team was yelling racial slurs at the woman and other people on the block that night. White men have been raping black women since the foundation of this country; its as American as apple pie. The DNA evidence didnt implicate any of the players, but that doesnt really mean anything, because they could have been wearing condoms. Whatever happens, I just hope the truth comes to light.
AllHipHop.com: How about the media? It seems like they act suggest she deserved it for being a stripper and they certainly dont mention that shes a student and mother with equal frequency as her night job.
DJ Chela: The media stressed that she was a mother and a student that worked at night because of her schedule and hadnt been stripping for very long, so I dont know, maybe weve been looking at different sources. I had a conversation on my radio show though, where my guests were putting the blame on her for what happened, saying that she shouldnt have been stripping in the first place. I feel like that argument doesnt have a place in this discussion, because theres no circumstance under which rape is excusable. Her story is commona woman stripping to pay tuition and support her family. I know Jesse Jackson recently said that his coalition would pay for her college tuition, even if the case ruled that she had fabricated her story. He is taking the initiative to help lessen the burden on her so she can focus on her studies and not have to do that type of work, which will be good after what shes been through so she can get back to her life.
AllHipHop.com: Moving along, how would you explain the Hip-Hop in North Carolina?
DJ Chela: They call North Carolina the Middle Eastnot just cause its a war zone--where it is, right in the middle of the East Coast, theres musical influence from up top as well as the Dirty South. You hear a mixture of a lot of styles. There are a lot of hot producers and MCs out herethe scene is really strong. The local shows out here get a lot of support. It can be trife at times, like any local scene I guess, but its definitely a lot of fun and theres a lot of talent here.
AllHipHop.com: Most people only know about emcees like Little Brother and Petey Pablo, but who are some of the underground rappers that the rest of the world should know about from your homestate?
DJ Chela: Jozeemo out of East Durham is that dude, hes an amazing storyteller, and hes got a huge following. Shelly B is a big artist out here, shes got crazy talent. Kaze is a beast. K-Hill is amazing. J Bully moved back here not too long ago, he won The Source Battles back in the day. Hes sick. Twip sings, raps, produces, and hes started a whole movement, the new funk, its crazy. P Wonda and Othaz Records are on their grind heavy. Seven, Mr. F**k the Police brings it. There are so many cats out here to look for.
AllHipHop.com: How is a company going to properly tap into North Carolinas talent? I personally feel its a hotbed of talent.
DJ Chela: I definitely agree with you. I think an important move for a label that signs an North Carolina artist is to promote the artist hard in the Carolinas, so that people here are familiar with them and their movement. That hometown support is crucial, not just for the artist but also the community, because people will have something in common and someone that represents them. That makes the scene hotter, people want to come here, and more artists get exposure.
AllHipHop.com: Have you started to produce? I say that because I heard a few remixes that melded Biggie and Lil Kim verses into a new song.
DJ Chela: Ive been doing some blends and leaking them out, and other DJs have been rocking them, which is cool. I do some turntable productionbasically scratching and sampling and layering things on top of each other. Im not producing beatsyet. I have a few tracks up for download at myspace.com/djchela.
AllHipHop.com: What is the New Girl order and how did you come to be a member of the Murda Mamis?
DJ Chela: I joined up with the Murda Mamis about a year ago. I had crossed paths a few times with Remy, First Lady El and Lazy K, and I had a lot of respect for the movement. Justo Faison of the Mixtape Awards cosigned for me with First Lady El last year, and it was a go. Those are my girls, the movement is crazy. The New Girl Order is a movement I started that asks the question, What will be possible when women have an undeniable and respected voice in Hip-Hop and society as a whole? I think sometimes we focus on the obstacles we face and not the end result, and thats why we dont get to where we need to be.
AllHipHop.com: Whats next for DJ Chela?
DJ Chela: I will be moving up top this summer, so I will be based out of New York City soon. Look out for new mixtapes! Ive been on a Lauryn Hill-type leave of absence from the mixtape game for a few months, and Im sorry to keep yall waiting so long. That new mixtape, High Treason hosted by the soldier, M1 is out now. If you think DJs dont cut and scratch no more, and Hip-Hop doesnt stand for anything these days, go pick it up, and enjoy yourself! Thanks AllHipHop.com one love.