Where them girls at? The plight of being a woman outnumbered at shows

Schoolboy Q at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC

It was one of the hottest days Washington D.C. has seen in 2016, 8:30 p.m. and still registering almost 90 degrees. I bopped along V street with an extra bounce that seemed to accelerate with every step I took toward the 9:30 Club. Sporting a t-shirt from Kanye West’s 2014 Yeezus Tour, black jeans, and custom Adidas, I was particularly feeling myself – and a bright red lip tied the whole street style vibe together.

Schoolboy Q was the headliner that night, an artist I’ve followed since before his solo days when he formed the hip-hop collective Black Hippy (S/O to Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, and Kendrick Lamar!). I wasn’t an early fan, but when I first heard the group back in 2010 I was hooked. “Setbacks” was a strong start for Schoolboy Q as a solo artist and its follow-up, “Habits and Contradictions” was my favorite album of 2012. “Hands on the Wheel” is still one of my most played songs ever on iTunes. It was that perfect blend of sampling, production, and verbiage. It was immediate and euphoric. I couldn’t get enough of that track. His major label debut, “Oxymoron” maintained the same level of intensity as its predecessor. From “Los Awesome” to “Studio,” “What They Want” to “Man of the Year,” the album was track after track of pure production gold. And now, just two weeks ago, Schoolboy Q released his latest album “Blank Face LP” another critical success.

I had never seen the rapper perform live and I was downright giddy when I made it to the club and got into the absurdly long security line to enter 9:30.

“You can come right this way, honey,” a pleasant security woman said to me. “Oh no, that’s fine. I’d like to stay with my friend,” I replied. As soon as the words came out of my mouth I realized there were two lines: one for men and one for women. The security was particularly intense that night, perhaps as a result of the tragedies that seem to continue unfolding right in front of us on the evening news every day. Each attendee was frisked so thoroughly that it felt like going through TSA. So, I acquiesced. I waved good-bye to my friend and said “I’ll see you inside.”

My line had exactly zero people standing in it.

Once inside the venue I realized I had quite some time to kill before meeting up with my friend again. I walked around, scoping out the crowd and looking through the merchandise table, when I noticed something that honestly shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it did. I was one of maybe 50 women in a club with a capacity of 1,200.

Nothing makes me more indignant than listening to smug men try to argue that women have bad taste in music. There’s still so much latent sexism when it comes to this subject, to the point that women who are real fans find themselves having to defend their passion within their own music communities. If you can’t name a specific song from an album (and not just any album, oh no, you must be an expert in special releases as well) you are an impostor that must be exposed for the silly female fraud that you are. It’s insulting and it’s exhausting. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if I was at a show “because my boyfriend likes the band” I’d be a very rich woman.

I looked around the club and saw a wonderfully diverse crowd – black, white, Hispanic, young, old, hip, not-so-hip – but the gender gap was there, and it was the starkest I’d ever seen.

Schoolboy Q’s performance was fire emoji perfection. Because the show was a “pit stop” and not part of his official tour, he was very loose on stage and openly admitted to having no set list. He frequently engaged with the crowd, asking us what songs we wanted to hear, then going off on the mic. He also bantered with the audience and threw bottles of water into the sweaty, rapturous crowd. “None of y’all are gonna die tonight!” he joked with a big smile on his face. The crowd’s reaction to “Man of the Year” was without a doubt the most hype I’ve ever seen folks get at 9:30 and I was grinning like a moron when he came back out for an encore with “What They Want.”

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Maybe Schoolboy Q was too specific of a show to ponder the notion of underrepresentation of women at live music venues. He certainly hasn’t achieved Kendrick Lamar’s level of universal adoration, but hip-hop is no longer a genre exclusive to the male listener. I can’t help but wonder if part of the reason women hesitate to attend those shows is because they worry they will find themselves in my situation – vastly outnumbered by intoxicated men in a crowded semi-public place. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, particularly if you aren’t accustomed to the sweaty, cramped space-invading encroachment that is unavoidable at a place like the 9:30 club, when you see no female compatriots to latch onto should you start to feel unsafe. It makes perfect sense given the statistics surrounding sexual assault and bars. Approximately 25% of women will experience some form of sexual assault in their adolescence or early adulthood, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and about half of those crimes occur when the perp was under the influence of booze. When you start to dig into the statistics surrounding women’s safety, and the circumstances in which these awful crimes tend to unfold, it starts to make sense that perhaps women don’t feel entirely safe at concerts – particularly at smaller venues where alcohol is typically cheaper and there is less security. It may not even be a conscious connection. But rather years and years of gendered (and valid) paranoia.

We’ve come a long way since “On the Equality of the Sexes” but as I stood in that 1% of the crowd at Schoolboy Q, I realized we’ve got a long way to go.

This was the first in a series of essays about women and music.

Thank You, Mom.

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I talk about my mom, Tama so much that sometimes I wonder if it annoys people. Maybe not everyone wants to hear the glimmering nuggets of wisdom she shares with me when I face a crisis, both large and pitifully small. But she has a way of extracting the most important facts in any situation and reducing them to simple, powerful lessons. My roommate and I once joked that #TamaBearWise should always be trending on Twitter.

In my family, Mother’s Day doesn’t come around just once a year. My mom is the most important person in my life and I hope she wakes up every day knowing how loved she is. But just in case she wasn’t 110% sure, this is for her — and for every other amazing mom out there.

Thank you, mom.

Thank you for forcing me to do things I didn’t want to do because you knew I needed to experience them before I could reject them.

Thank you for teaching me the importance of empathy and the value of kindness.

Thank you for making me work for everything I thought I wanted, so that I learned the importance of delayed gratification — and that what we want is highly changeable.

Thank you for welcoming my friends into our home, and always making them feel like it was their home, too.

Thank you for letting me fail, so that I could learn how to pick myself up again.

Thank you for pushing me when I was too lazy, or scared, to push myself.

Thank you for helping me during my darkest moments.

Thank you for being two parents in one, when it’s hard enough to just be a mom.

Thank you for affirming that I can talk to you about anything, no matter how difficult and painful some of those conversations have been.

Thank you for laughing with me and at me, and letting me do the same.

Thank you for listening to hours and hours of petty life sagas, and always making me feel like every single one provided a valuable lesson to carry forward.

Thank you for comforting me during moments of heartbreak with your contagious positivity and for affirming, with gusto, “it’s his loss.”

Thank you for supporting the unstable career path I’ve chosen, and cheering me on in all of my endeavors like I’m running for President.

Thank you for not killing me when I told you about that tattoo.

Thank you for showing me how to be a lady boss and teaching me to always stand up for myself professionally.

Thank you for encouraging me to embrace my feminist leanings and teaching me that happiness comes from within.

Thank you for leading by example, and being the most inspiring example a young girl could ever hope for.

Thank you for loving me unconditionally for the person I am.

Most of all, mom, thank you for being you; because without you, I definitely wouldn’t be me.

Happy Mother’s Day. I love you.

If your mom is as awesome as Tama Bear, but you don’t know how to tell her that, please feel free to share this post to let her know how much you appreciate everything she’s done for you!

“Finding Cures. Saving Children.” St Jude Children’s Research Hospital and my family

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Photo Credit: Anthony Abraham

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has been near and dear to my family for as long as I can remember. My mom’s uncle, Dr. Edward Soma, served for 43 years as a St. Jude board member and was a huge influence on my mom eventually joining the board as well. I can still distinctly remember my mom taking off for Memphis every few months, despite having two young kids at home and a full-time job. Obviously my opinion is bias, but, to me, my mom is Superwoman — and I’m pretty sure that if you were to ask anyone who’s met her, they’d agree with me.

Growing up, I had an extraordinary fear of hospitals. Not simply a physical fear of the pain often associated with visits, but a deep emotional fear forged in the time spent at the bedside of a very sick dad. They were cold, harsh structures filled with the ghosts of memories I sometimes still wish I could forget. So, in the summer of 2011, when my mom told me that my brother and I would be accompanying her to visit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, I was terrified and nervous. I had no idea that visiting St. Jude was about to heal my long-held fear.

“You’re not going to believe this place when you see it, it’s unbelievable,” said my mom as we landed in Memphis, Tennessee. “The hospital is basically a mini city,” she added.

It was really important to my mom that my brother and I finally see the place where she had spent so much time and invested so much effort. After dropping off our bags at the hotel, we made our way over to the hospital. My mom had arranged for a summer researcher to give us a tour of the grounds, including the state-of-the-art labs and extensive social spaces. As soon as I set foot inside the hospital, I couldn’t believe what I saw. Everywhere I looked, I was greeted by chipper “hellos!” and beaming smiles. Tiny chairs lined brightly-colored waiting rooms and walls covered with beautiful works of art created by patients. Families sat at tables in the cafeteria together, laughing and playing. Doctors strolled the halls, chatting with patients and families, grabbing their morning coffee, greeting my brother and I as we walked by. It was unlike any hospital I had ever seen before.

It’s difficult to imagine that a place dedicated to treating children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases is filled with happiness, warmth, and, most importantly, relentless positivity. But that’s why St. Jude is so special. It all began 50 years ago with a promise Danny Thomas made to create a facility where research and compassion would work together to treat children; regardless of race, color, creed, or a family’s ability to pay. As you walk through the halls of this remarkable place, Danny Thomas’ words echo in the life-changing work happening at St. Jude every day: “No child should die in the dawn of life.”

For the sixth year in a row, my amazing mother Tama Zaydon will be participating in the Nautica South Beach Triathlon to raise money for St. Jude. She’ll be doing a half-mile swim, 19 mile bike, and 4 mile run. Way to put the rest of us to shame, mom! Though it’s not surprising considering the fact that her first successful fundraiser was at the age of five. Her passion for the St. Jude mission has consistently pushed her to keep returning to Memphis year after year, and her dedication to the hospital has been inspirational to watch. I know I speak for everyone in my family when I say that we are so proud of her.

So, this is where you come in, dear friends. Mama Bear has a fundraising goal of $5,000! Please give what you can to help her reach that mark. Scientific discoveries made at St. Jude have completely changed the way children with some of the most severe diseases are treated and cured. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since it opened in 1962. Plus, St. Jude freely shares medical breakthroughs with doctors and scientists worldwide in order to save thousands more sick children.

Whether you can give $200, $20, or $5, any amount will help support St. Jude’s lifesaving mission find cures and save children. So, forego that extra beer at the bar or bottomless brunch for the 100th time and instead donate that money to a truly amazing cause

It turns out my mom was right that day I landed in Memphis for the first time. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital really is an unbelievably special place. In this hospital, warmth conquers gloom; and hope always triumphs over fear.

Head to my mom’s page to donate and support St. Jude (and Mama Bear!).

Weekly Mix Vol. 32: Flume, Amtrac, Miguel, and more delicious tunes

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As the mounds of snow and ice slowly melted and DC returned to its mindful hum, there was plenty of time spent snuggling indoors during this week’s post-blizzard apocalypse to find some swell little tunes. Though sipping hot chocolate and watching the snow fall as you stare out the window is a great way to pass the time, I think I speak for everyone in the Northeast when I saw that a sense of cabin fever was REAL in the aftermath of winter storm Jonas.

With that in mind, this week’s mix is heavy on tracks that will make you wanna get up and bust a move, even if it’s just using your living room as your private dance floor. New original tracks from Flume and Amtrac are the standout songs this week, but peppered through the playlist are new offerings from Gryffin, Autograf, oshi, Miguel, and GTA.

Get at it!

Weekly Mix Vol. 31: From Flume to Future

Flume at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC. July 24, 2014.

Flume at the 9:30 Club in Washington DC. July 24, 2014.

The process of finding great new songs can feel pretty daunting at times, especially when a few weeks go by that feel void of anything worthy of sharing. Thankfully, that spell was broken during the past few days, when I discovered so many great new tunes that I actually felt compelled to post about a few of them individually. But, dear friends, I have not forgotten the weekly mix — though it may have seemed like I did, given, you know, my ghostly silence.

This week’s collection of tunes spans the genre scheme quite a bit. The obvious choice to kick things off is Flume’s amazing new track “Never Be Like You” featuring Kai. If you’re a Flume fan, you’ll smile as soon as the track opens; Harley Edward Streten’s unique production work is instantly recognizable. The richly layered collaboration is exactly what fans have come to expect from the Australian producer and it’s glorious to blast in your headphones walking to work (verified by yours truly).

From there, things get deep with a new track from Eats Everything and a fantastic remix from Ben Pearce. Then serious house vibes take over; Lane 8, “Midnight”; Oliver Heldens & Throttle, “Waiting”; EDX, “Missing”; and Manilla Killa, “All That’s Left. Given my love for RAC, I couldn’t let the week go by without throwing his newest remix into the playlist. Though his “Beautiful Heartbeat” re-work isn’t his best effort, it’s still better than the majority of remixes out there, because the dude just knows what he’s doing.

Finally, things wrap up with two hip hop tracks: “Yamborghini High” and “Wicked.” The former is an A$AP Mob track dedicated to A$AP Yams, who passed away just a little over a year ago. It doesn’t feature any of the psychedelic elements that made A$AP Rocky’s last album, “At. Long. Last. A$AP.”,  so interesting, but he does rap about one of my favorite things: “Yeah, I wake up late, ” Rocky raps, “Yeah, I’m out of shape/ Yeah, I’m eatin’ crêpes.” Looks like he and I have something in common after all. “Wicked” is featured on Future’s latest mixtape “Purple Reign.” The track was produced by Metro Boomin and  Southside. It’s dark and moody, like coming out of a haze after a house party that spiraled out of control. It certainly won’t be everybody’s idea of a great hip hop song, but it’s one of my favorites off “Purple Reign,” which you should really do yourself a favor and download in full here.

Happy listening!

If you’re working on MLK Day, cheer up! There’s a new Kanye track to make everything better

Last week I wrote about Kanye West’s incredible single “Real Friends” and Erykah Badu’s badass remix of the track. Like all Kanye fans, I was disappointed when Friday Jan. 15 came and went without a new drop — but thankfully Yeezy hasn’t forgotten us, he was just a little delayed in granting our wish.

This morning Kanye uploaded the full version of “No More Parties in L.A.” featuring Kendrick Lamar, produced by Madlib. This marks the first time Kanye and Kendrick have ever appeared on a track together and it doesn’t disappoint.

Kendrick may have garnered all the critical acclaim in 2015 for his flawless album “To Pimp a Butterfly,” but on “No More Parties in L.A.” Kanye proves he can easily keep up with the best rapper in the game.

Kanye’s new album “Swish” drops Feb. 11.

What’s better than new Kanye? Nothing. But this Erykah Badu remix comes damn close

Though plenty of people might disagree with me, I believe Kanye Wast is the greatest artist putting out new music today. From ambitious projects like “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” to turn-up anthems like “All Day” and sweet ballads like “FourFiveSeconds,” he’s proved himself to be as fearless as he is talented — completely ignoring the boundaries of familiarity. Nothing he does is redundant and it’s certainly never boring. He may be a complete ego-maniac, but he’s earned those bragging rights.

So when Yeezy put out a new track last Friday, his fan base (myself included) went completely batty. “Real Friends & No More Parties in LA” is stunning. It’s actually two songs in one; the former features Ty Dolla $ign, the latter features Kendrick Lamar. I heard the first leak and just left the song playing on repeat, too afraid to refresh the page for fear it would be taken down (which it was). Thankfully the forces of the internet are very powerful when it comes to disseminating a Kanye leak, and the song kept popping up somewhere new every time it was taken down. Eventually Ye put it up himself on Soundcloud and everybody breathed a collective sigh of relief and satisfaction.

Now that we’ve all had time to listen to the original roughly 1,000 times, it’s of course natural for remixes to start pouring in. But only one of those remixes is worthy of attention because it comes from the one and only Erykah Badu. This morning she released “Trill Friends” on her official Soundcloud page, an intriguing rework of Kanye’s latest effort.

It pales in comparison to the original, but it IS Erykah Badu, so I’m gonna go ahead and posit that this is the best remix we’re gonna get.

On the bright side, Kanye’s new album “Swish” is set for release Feb. 11. Bless up.

Eric Prydz does it again with a new track ahead of his album release, “Opus”

If you’ve followed this blog at all previously, you know by now that I fan girl for Eric Prydz, hard. He’s one of my all-time favorite producers who has managed to keep his music fresh, fun, and, most importantly, insulated from the bullshit associated with dance music these days. So when a genius like Prydz teams up with an equally talented producer like Rob Swire, you know to expect something special.

“Breathe” delivers just that, foregoing some of the qualities from Prydz’s anthemic house catalogue in favor of nostalgic, retro vibes. The track is a welcome experiment from these two stellar producers, and I can’t wait to see what else Prydz has to show us when “Opus” drops on Feb. 5.

In other exciting Prydz news, Epic 4.0 is returning this year! Here are the tour dates if you’re interested in buying tickets:

Feb. 12, 13, and 14 — New York City

Feb. 19 and 20 — Los Angeles

Feb. 26 and 27 — San Francisco

 

A new Disciples track just dropped and it’s this week’s must-listen tune

When I first started this blog, I spent a lot of time clicking through artists’ pages on Soundcloud and Hype Machine looking for the freshest tracks every day. But after a while, I realized that sometimes random chance really is the best tool.

I stumbled across this new Disciples track as I let my Soundcloud homepage play through while sitting as my desk. If the name sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve heard Calvin Harris’ massive track “How Deep is Your Love,” a collaborative effort with Disciples.

Before you shake your head at me for mentioning such a pop crossover song, hear me out! Disciples’ new track, “Flawless” sounds nothing at all like the catchy Harris-associated radio hit — though, unfortunately, I can pretty much guarantee Gigi Hadid won’t be starring in a music video for this track, if one is ever released.

“Flawless” is all about the dope bassline and it keeps the house grooves flowing throughout. It’s production is, as the title suggests, flawless. It’s chill enough to bump in the background while you’re working, but would work equally well on a dance floor somewhere after 2 a.m.

The London Trio’s new three-track EP “The Following” arrives Oct. 24!

If you like “Flawless,” check out their track “Mastermind” which was released last month:

Weekly Mix Vol. 30: Big Summer Tracks featuring Deorro, Amtrak, and More

RL Grime at 9:30 Club, Washington DC. Not pertinent to this post, but…I really like this pic.

This week’s mix is all about big summer feel good tunes. So let’s jump right into the good stuff…

Deorro’s track with Erin McCarley is a dreamy song that would still fit right in at all the biggest festival stages, plus don’t we all just want “someone to love”? Yeah, we kinda do. It’s the kind of song you might be embarrassed to sing out loud, but you’ll definitely vibe to in your shower/car/kitchen. Do you remember Cedric Gervais‘ monster remix of “Summertime Sadness” back in 2013? Well, he’s done it again. It won’t take over the world like his Lana Del Rey remix, but this rework of ODESZA’s “Say My Name” is musical perfection!

From there, sail into two dope tracks from Madeaux and Blonde. Producer extraordinaire AMTRAC also released a new track last week, another splendidly crafted piece called “Hold On” (it’s been played A LOT on my SoundCloud account in the past 5 days). Obviously no weekly playlist is complete without a future house track — Tom Budin’s “Sizzle” fills that slot this week. Things wrap up with tracks from Raving George, Felix Cartal, Sailors, and more.

Since I haven’t posted a full-length set in a while, I’m also including this absolutely FIRE 45-minute mix for all the fellow trap heads out there. The notoriously mysterious DJ/Producer UZ released this Tuesday afternoon and ohhhhhh man. It’s filled with some of the best trap tracks out there right now and, as always, his execution is flawless.

Happy listening!