When did you start djing and why?
I started Dj'ing in 2015 when I was 17 years old, I had spent an entire summer doing hair so I could afford proper equipment like a new Mac and a controller. Before that I had been making these really, really, shitty and choppy mixes on SoundCloud. The kind with no transitions.. where the current song just stops and the next one starts immediately... a playlist basically. Regardless of the lack of skill or hardware, people always loved my song choices and the [sub]genres of music I was exposing them to, I think that's what set me apart from other DJ's in my community at the time. Cancers are said to be super moody and passive, something I think I can agree with to some extent because I realized early on that I found a way to mask my many moods with music. Even something as simple as posting Lil Wayne's "I'm Single" as my status when MySpace was poppin'... clearly somebody had me fucked up, ya know? Music is cathartic, introspective, and it's even more intense on the decks. Connecting a song with my emotions in that moment or with a moment passed is like a sonic diary entry, but taking it a step further and collaging those emotions and energies into something coherent and decipherable is a therapy session. The freedom to process and express creatively was something adolescent me desperately needed and is still being cultivated to this day. How would you describe the sound of your sets?
Honestly, my sets sound however I'm feeling, it's very impulsive. I could start a set raging because I'm remembering the interaction I had with a rude ass Uber driver a couple hours before and then make my way to some tracks with heavy percussion and blend it with Afro-beat melodies because the thought of my family back home in Nigeria pulled me out of that negative space. The sound of my sets evolves as my thoughts and emotions do which is why each and every show is a unique experience.
Who are your biggest music influences?
I have so many influences, but if I had to say my BIGGEST... hmm.. Awilo Longomba and Fela Kuti to start. Both of my parents are Nigerian immigrants so for a large chunk of my life I didn't listen to [mainstream] American music. I didn't hear my first Jay-Z track till 5th grade when I got an MP3 player for Christmas that I loaded my big brothers music on without his permission. I think hearing Highlife, Soukous, and the native music of my father's village throughout my childhood made beat matching easy for me to grasp. When I produce or make an edit I start with the percussion, African music is very percussion based and I love using my hands as an instrument. Artists like Kelis, Nicki Minaj, M.I.A., and Gwen Stefani are major influences for me as well, they would get on a track and say whatever they wanted as loud as they wanted, as many times as they wanted. Their music felt like a ritualistic chant or a protest at times. Aside from shaping my approach to music as a whole - Each of these artists are so important to music for so many reasons and have shaped the landscape in so many ways. Tell us more about your project Chiamaka.Studio:
CHIAMAKA.STUDIO represents my studio space - really my bedroom - and acts as a virtual archive of physical, digital and audio works by me, Jessica Udeh. I launched the studio site because I wanted a place for all of my creative projects and endeavors to live. I do so many different things, exhibition curation, consulting, collaging, cinematography, etc, etc, ETC and I refused to accept that I was supposed to only pursue one. CHIAMAKA.STUDIO is me carving out a space where I can share my work authentically and connect with my supporters directly and organically. Each time somebody clicks my site it's as if they're doing a private studio visit/walkthrough.
As an artist and a woman of color, what do you think is lacking in the music industry?
What's lacking is self-awareness. A lot of people don't even possess a realistic or sane perspective of their own character, motives, or desires. That's what's most scary about operating in this space as an artist and a Black woman, you meet so many people who haven't even met their own demons yet. That's what's missing, conscious knowledge of our own feelings - and therapists! I feel like labels should provide artists with therapists for free. You're already draining these artists of their creative juices, if you want to keep making money off of them you might as well make sure they're healthy enough for you to do so. It's the very least they could do. What are your favorite venues to Dj in New York?
My favorite venues to DJ in New York? Hmmm I really enjoyed playing at Baby's All Right for one of AfroPunk's AfterDark parties last year, and Bossa Nova Civic Club, Like That Records has booked me there a couple times and it's always a blast! Elsewhere is another venue I like a lot, I played there for the first time in July for Half Moon BK and I'm already itching to be back. Listen to Jessicunt Mixtape here