Photo by Jake Martin
You’ve probably rocked with the party starter Ella Hussle at Sunday Service at The Delancey. Or maybe you let her treat your ears at the magical GURL series heating up Brooklyn. If you were lucky you caught her on tour with Bosco in select cities opening for Yuna last year. We caught up with Ella in Pittsburgh to talk dealing with tough crowds, 1st DJ opportunities in NYC, and more.
In 3 years that you’ve been in NYC what’s been the best experience you’d had in the city?
I think this year has been the best year for me because I went on tour with a friend of mine. She’s also a favorite artist of mine, Bosco, we opened up for Yuna. It was all women; Yuna’s sound person was a woman, so it was dope learning a whole different world going on tour. It was 21 days and we hit 15 cities. Bosco and Speakerfoxxx put an EP together but she had other work going on so I replaced her. We did east and west coast. Boston, Philly, Chicago, Seattle, California, Oregon, etc. That’s probably one of great experiences being out there.
Is it more difficult to DJ when you crowd isn’t dancing/interacting?
For me yeah because I feed off of people’s energy but it’s also a challenge because you’re like “oh they’re not dancing to this song” it’s like a multiple choice test. As a DJ you can always get the answer right [laughs] because you can switch it up and read the crowd. I play off energy. The more people that are hype off of the music the more I get into my set. If people are standing around, I have to assess and try to get them dancing. But in NYC, people think they’re too cool to dance.
Would you or have you DJ’d in a venue that has been strict about the tone it sets and restricted you to playing a certain style?
No, I haven’t but I’ve had other DJ’s tell me like my friend DJ 9AM, tell me she was only able to play Afro-Beat and Reggae and she wasn’t allowed to play hip hop. She’s an open format DJ and so am I. She’d have certain nights where she’d be like “I don’t feel like playing that the whole night.”
I’ve lost a gig because of another party and it cut off all gigs that played hip-hop even though I don’t necessarily just play hip-hop. I’ve never been booked for a gig and had someone tell me I could only play this certain type of music.
It happened with Sunday Service. When I went on tour, Sunday Service was at The Delancey. They used to have another party on Tuesdays, Toca Tuesdays, where all the old head DJ’s would spin like Pete Rock, Q-Tip, Stretch Armstrong, etc. When there was a let out, someone got stabbed and they shut it down until they calmed down then bring it back. That was back in May. It just sucks because one party fucked up or rather one person that attended the party did something so everyone else has to suffer the consequences. That’s happened a couple times elsewhere where a fight breaks out and not to bring up race but it is about race. If it’s someone that’s a minority they just assume something happened and y’all be playing hip-hop too so no hip-hop parties.
Listen to Ella’s “Submission Tape” below:
What DJ’s embraced you first in NYC and put you onto events and opportunities if any?
I would say Wicked Kids. I remember they were the first party I would go to on Thursdays called Watermelon and Pizza [laughs] and you would get free watermelon and pizza and I just started kicking it with them. And they put me on to The Flat and I DJ’d there. One of their DJ’s booked me a gig and it was my first one there. The first gig I did was terrible, I didn’t go on until 3Am and nobody was there. I didn’t get paid for it. I kind of put myself on thought because I reached out to people and built connections with them and asked them about venues. I would go to different venues like “what y’all doing?” The Delancy for a year and that was my first gig by myself. Wasn’t that good of a turn out and that’s when I got other DJ’s and turned it into Sunday Service.
In 2017 what would be an ideal residency and who would you bring along to participate?
If I did a residency it would definitely at Output. It’s in Brooklyn across from Kinfolk. Output is dope because it has different rooms but the main room has a wall and it’s just speakers. It reminds me of when they used to do DJ battle parties with walls of speakers in Jamaica. So, Output or House of Yes. That spot is fuckin crazy. It’s like a circus. Think of a circus and a Las Vegas casino put into a club. Output though is my dream as a DJ for a residency.
Is the club experience over? What kind of experience are you trying to bring for attendees?
I don’t necessarily DJ at clubs but I say it has to be an experience. I had a conversation with my home girl that I throw a party with and I said “something is missing.” Not all parties but definitely there are parties that stick out and you think what made it stick out? Was it the DJ or was it the overall experience? I think it’s the overall experience like everybody’s dancing, the lighting is right, people are vibing with each other and it’s all good positivity. It’s all about experience and the DJ is in charge of that because they’re curating all of the music. If there’s no DJ there’s no party. I definitely think it has to be an experience and the more parties I do and the more feedback I get and react to songs or how you drop the song, it definitely has to be an experience. DJ’ing is telling a story. It has to have a beginning, middle and end. What are you talking about when you’re DJ’ing.