CRY$CROSS - Brooklyn's Techno Queen
Hi Crystal, where are you from?
I’m from Long Island, by way of Brooklyn; Africa by way of my ancestors. My dad is from Nigeria, and my moms side of the family is from Barbados. I'm a kid of immigrants, as most of us are. My mom grew up in Brooklyn, Brownsville to be exact, until she moved to Long Island in the 70s, and met my dad, who moved to America in the 90s. I was born there and have lived there ever since! Even though I grew up there, it's not really a place that I call home. I feel as though my roots have been in Brooklyn since before I was born.
When did you start djing and why?
I started dj'ing in 2016, but I didn't consider myself to be a "DJ". I didn't even have my own equipment! I would just hop on some friends sets at local bars, play some songs here or there, then let them take over. It came very naturally to me. I've been playing music since 2012; I played the flute and piano back in middle and high school. In summer 2016, I played my first gig at Max Fish in LES. It was one of my frequent spots back then. My set wasn't all that good, and I was super nervous the entire time, but it was the start of something magical. In winter 2017, I bought my own equipment because I had stopped going out as much, due to a breakups, sadness, boredom, financial hardship etc. I started making mixes for fun, and because I literally had nothing else to do on the weekends (remember, I lived in Long Island). I eventually gained the confidence to post them on soundcloud (after countless hours of messing up). I received overflowing amounts of positive feedback from friends, family and internet strangers. It was all very unexpected, and it reassured me that people really liked what I was doing, even though I didn't think it was all that good. I started playing at my friends events, local parties, and small bars etc, but it wasn't until 2018 when I moved back to Brooklyn that I met tons of other talented djs; femme, masc, GNC, NB, trans etc. I learned the tools, techniques, and equipment that I wasn't exposed to back in Long Island. I found a dj community with Halfmoon early 2019, and I've been playing, learning and growing even more since then. As a small femme dj fish in a HUGE pond of male djs, I recognize the position that I'm in; that I represent other femme djs and have the opportunity hold it down for the future of djs who come after me. So I take it upon myself to bring the heat wherever I go, I am an aries after all. It’s especially important for black women in general to do whatever they want. We've been told what to do for way too long. It’s 2019 and we need to be making orders, PERIODT.
Photography by @guarionex_jr
By being a Dj, sometimes people tend to forget that the music you play at your sets is not necessarily the "only" thing you listen to or that represent your path and background as a musician. Who are your biggest inspirations and what is your morning go-to track?
My mom and my uncle are my biggest music inspirations. My uncle used to make cd's for my mom to listen to in the car, and mom is a HUGE house head, and roller skater to this day. She plays literally nothing but house music, with the occasional jazz track here and there. They're both from the Motown Era, an era where some of the best black music was ever created. They introduced me to all of the music that I love and listen to when I'm not in the club. I owe my extensive knowledge of music to them. My go-to morning track is definitely Way to the Show by Solange. She gives me the strength I need to make it through my days. Honestly, the entire album is a seamless morning track. So brilliantly formatted and created. She really gets me. What a force.
Name some of your favorite venues to Dj in New York:
WOW, this is a hard question because I haven't played at nearly half of the venues in New York/BK. There are SO many. I did play at the Elsewhere Loft for the first time last month, and it was ICONIC. What a trippy night. I played at this small gay bar in LES called Club Cumming a few times. I get to control the music, lights, fog machine, and disco balls. That spot ALWAYS goes UP. Moodring is always a fun local spot to play at; I love the elevated stage and the ravey strobe lights, and the fact that I see all of my friends there on any night. I JUST played at Jupiter Disco earlier this week with some friends; it's a super cute intimate spot with a banging sound system, really close to Elsewhere. I might be playing there more often ;) I got a few big parties coming up at some new venues so these answers might change in the next week or so!
As a woman of color and an artist, what do you think is lacking in today's music industry and what positive progress has been made lately?
As a WOC artist, I fail to see lineups where there are multiple WOC artists present. The industry is lacking inclusivity when it comes to women. Here’s an example: if there's a party flyer with 5 djs on the bill, four of them would be men, leaving one spot for a woman. Sometimes there are two, but the ratio is normally 4:1. I don't think one woman on a lineup is enough, especially when there are hundreds, even thousands of women djs in New York who won't get booked simply because they're women. We live in a male dominated world, especially when it comes to the music industry. We're equally as talented, and more hardworking than men in so many ways. Why don't the lineups reflect that? We often get chosen last or barely at all. I applaud platforms like Sistaspin, Discwoman, and Halfmoon for highlighting those women because they want to, not because they have to. I think everyone, men and women, who book djs should keep that thought in mind when they're creating a line-up. I’ve also realized that most men don’t support women as much as they support each other, which is why I make it a point to support all my femme, queer, nb and gnc dj’s. We’re all we got! Much love <3 Listen to Cry$ CroSS Mixtape here