"Our job is to make sure that we respect it [Hip-Hop], we keep it respectable, keep the integrity and to teach what we knew and what we learned about it." - DJ Spinderella
DJ Spinderella is known for her incredible dexterity on the turntables, showmanship, and dedication to her craft as both one third of the Grammy winning Hip-Hip trio Salt-n-Pepa and in her own solo career. She is regarded as one of the pioneering women on the wheels of steel.
Photo provided by DJ Spinderella.
| Excerpts from Q&A
Who were the musicians that you drew your inspiration from while you were DJ'ing, while you were making music, while you were on the road?
Spinderella: …My favorite DJs altogether would be Jam Master Jay because he’s like my blueprint…he was the one I would look at back then and just be really impressed by how he would back the group up and be the cornerstone of Run DMC. And Salt-N-Pepa was kind of fashioned after Run-DMC... We have Jazzy Jeff who is just one of the ultimate DJs and he goes way back. Every time I see him I’m just amazed by his work and his work ethic and how he continues to pioneer the whole DJ world—from his sets to the art, the technique…And then of my last favorite DJs, DJ Scratch—he’s probably one of the most gifted DJs on the planet. I got a few chances to work with him. He’s probably like your favorite DJ’s favorite DJ. And he’s worked with many of the great DJs by helping them put together routines, things like that…and there’s many more I’ve watched and I’m pretty much impressed with, but those would be the top three.
Can you see your influence in the careers of DJs who have followed you?
Spinderella: People tell me that I’ve influenced them, and you know, I would let someone else answer that to a degree. But I do see [my influence] from the standpoint of the woman or the female DJ. I would have to say back then - like 20 plus years ago - when Salt-N-Pepa was doing this in front of crowds, the technology wasn’t what it was so you would actually have to go to a Salt-N-Pepa show to see the magic. And a lot of females would see that—and males—but a lot of women would come up to me and tell me I’ve inspired them to start DJing—this was a global thing. Just the turn-tableism that I had put out back in those days, those who saw from the videos to the stage shows I hear that I was an inspiration, and you know I can agree with that but I’ll let someone else tell it.
I’m sure somebody out here is saying that.
Spinderella: I’ve heard it a few times and it makes me really proud, and I need a lot the women out there to know that, you know, I’m not the first woman DJ. There were plenty out there doing it but it was a rare thing for a woman to do…there were women that were pressing the tables as early as ’75 from what I read. You know I guess it would have been amazing to see, but if you didn’t witness it—most people who saw female DJs they said they saw me in the later half of the '80s.
Was there a particular moment or experience when you knew that you were part of a historic moment? Was there a moment when you realized that this was even bigger than the music you were helping to create or the shows you were performing in—that people were not only buying in, but absorbing and adding to the culture and helping it grow?
Spin: It’s hard to really say when but I did see the change. I saw it literally change I would say somewhere in the 90’s—you know that’s a whole decade [laughs]. It’s kind of hard to pinpoint. It happens in stages because people really appreciate you and your artform as time passes and generations change. Each generation that comes up that has gotten a chance to witness it [Hip-Hop] or be privy to it will basically be influenced by it and that word would get back to me. I’m the humble type, that’s how I grew up. That’s my foundation. I would hear it and it would not sink in when they would say things like, “You’re a legend.” It took a long time for that to register…but it’s your walk, it’s what you do. And my walk is making sure the foundation is set and the culture is elevated. It’s really hard to pinpoint a specific time but I can see how every generation began to appreciate what I did more.
How do you see Hip-Hop, with technological help, evolving after these 40 years?
Spinderella: The sky’s the limit as long as the legendary artists who helped bring it to this level and laid the bricks maintain a standard and would have those who are under, coming up, look at that standard and raise the bar. So it can go even farther than that. Our job is to make sure that we respect it, we keep it respectable, keep the integrity and to teach what we knew and what we learned about it. Because let’s be honest, if Hip-Hop wasn’t here, what would everyone be doing? Sports, drugs, you know the nursing industry, I mean entertainment, acting, law—what would everyone be doing? And this is a great voice for the youth. That was the purpose of it. So it’s an interesting thing to see that it has come 40 years because back then the number one question journalists would ask would be, “So what are you going to be doing when this whole fad is over?” And it was like “Uhh, I don’t know.” That was the answer then and I guess we didn’t even see that part, didn’t see it being over, and so it went to 40 years and thank God people are eating and making a glorious living off of it. So I can’t say where [it will go] but I know that the bar has been raised and it can keep going.
I would certainly hope so, because a lot of us are going to be out of work if it doesn’t.
Spinderella: You can pick up a trade! It would be smart to pick up a trade or do something on the side just in case [laughs]. But, you know, back then when we were getting asked that question there was nothing else that we saw that we wanted to do.