There are no short cuts to being great. You have to practice your craft. You have to practice your craft. You have to practice your craft. (Yes, I typed that 3 times on purpose.) DJ Shorty Wop is a great example of someone reaping the benefits of years on the grind. She’s done just about everything you can do as a professional DJ. She’s done the party scene, mixtapes and radio but she’s also ventured out into retail, brand marketing with Adidas, and let’s not forget touring the world with Estelle as her official DJ. DJ Shorty Wop is proof that, even in a male dominated industry, skills are what matter most.
In the interview below, DJ Shorty Wop shares her story and some sound, practical advice to aspiring DJs. But before you get into that, check out the promo video that we shot with DJ Shorty Wop at the Dreaming Building.
CC: Please introduce yourself for those who don’t know.
SW: They call me DJ Shorty Wop. I’m from Brooklyn originally, now I live in Jersey and I do a lot of work in Philly.
CC: You’re doing a lot of work. So tell me how you went from that little girl in Brooklyn to “DJ Shorty Wop?”
SW: It started out when I was a baby. I had an older cousin who had turntables. And I remember visiting my cousin’s house and seeing the turntables setup and being so fascinated. So I think that’s where it was initially instilled in me that this DJ stuff is cool. So fast-forward a little bit, growing up in Brooklyn, I’m 12 and listening to Hot 97. I hear Lady’s Night with Jazzy Joyce and Cocoa Chanel on the radio, both cutting it up, both very technically skilled female DJs. I remembered thinking, “They’re better than the boys! They’re better than the boys!” So I was like, wow, I can really do this. I can actually be a DJ and be good and be respected by everybody else just because I’m nice and I love music!
So my parents eventually got me a little $500 starter kit for Christmas and I just started practicing and trying to build my record collection. So my first records were like disco records passed down from my family because I couldn’t afford to buy records. At that time records were like $5 – $10 for just one. I didn’t have no money, I was only 12 years old! I was trying to save up my lunch money lol.
So once I moved to Jersey a few years later, my first job was at a record store and I was the DJ at the record store. They had some crispy 1200s! My turntables were cool but they weren’t 1200s. So you know working at the record store gave me a chance to practice my craft and build my record collection. So that’s when everybody started knowing me as a DJ. And I’m living in Jersey and Brooklyn was far but Philly was close by so I went to Philly and just started spinning college parties and networking.
My first job in Philly was at Villa in the gallery. I used to have to park in the parking lot, put my records on a dolly and push it through the mall and do my thing for 5 hours. After that, I started DJn with Ubiq and the sneaker release parties with SetFree. And then for Guess and Adidas and just continued to build my retail experience. And I liked it because it was different from being a club DJ or a radio DJ because there’s no pressure and you get to really get into the music.
After putting in work in Philly, doing retail, I decided to work on my craft a little more so one Summer, I enrolled in the Scratch Academy in New York. I met a lot of great influential people there and Grand Wizard Theodore was one of the teachers. He taught me how to scratch the right way because I was scratching all wrong. So he took me under his wing and showed me how to be creative. He showed me how to challenge myself as an artist.
Then I just continued to network and people started becoming interested in what I was doing. And that led to me going on tour with Estelle. Shout out to DJ Aktive and Beverly Bonds who hooked that up. I got a chance to travel the world, which was something that was never really on my mind. But I never set any limits on my goals. People always like to say the sky is the limit but how can the sky be the limit when there are footprints on the moon?
CC: You’ve been able to draw revenue from DJn from a lot of different sources. You’ve done retail, parties, events, tours, etc. What advice do you have for other DJs who struggle with getting consistent checks?
SW: Build your brand. You have to set yourself apart from everybody else. That brand is basically you and your talent and you have to offer something that nobody else has. You have to bring something to the table that you can’t just get from every run-of-the-mill DJ. I know what my brand is about. You have to figure out what you do that’s different from everybody else and translate that into your art. Then people are going to come to you because of what you have.
CC: What are some things a DJ should never do?
SW: Don’t be biting nobody else’s set man! Lol. If you go out and listen to other DJs to get motivation and inspiration, that’s cool, but don’t go out biting other people’s sets. That’s not being creative. And don’t burn bridges. The same people you see going up are going to be the same people you see coming down.
CC: Any last words?
SW: To all the aspiring DJs out there…don’t give up. It’s going to get hard especially if you put your all into it. You might feel like you’re not getting your all in return but just focus on your craft, love what you do and don’t stop.
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(Posted by Garron Gibbs)