Insights, Snippets, and Scenes from DJ Reborn’s Sonic Journey 

As the youngest in a music loving family from Chicago, Miss Reborn can’t remember a time when she didn’t adore music. With a big brother collecting records and parents who frequented concerts Miss Reborn was surrounded by several sonic streams. Recalling a part in a poem that hit home Miss Reborn says “a line about being able to snuggle in between the notes of music and I can’t remember a time that wasn’t true for me…to see music as a refuge”. 

While a friend who DJ’d in highschool (DJ Heather) and record collecting throughout life kept Ms Reborn in the groove. It was in the Bay Area where she moved to, to study Black History, that she came across parties where DJs blended soulful classics, soul, hiphop, reggae, dancehall, house music and jazz soulfully in one night. 

Witnessing space being transformed with soulful sounds fascinated DJ Reborn and started a curiosity for mastering the craft of mixing records, crossing genres, fitting together varieties of taste,  and engaging crowds. 

Now DJ Reborn wields weaving techniques with the ease and experience of many multiple years. Testaments of her ability evident in her stories of spinning whole sets on only one working deck. Or of how a closing set for an art collector’s private party led to her touring with Lauryn Hill as her DJ. (Ask her about spinning the Grammy party twenty years prior!) From being the Sonic composer for multiple theater shows, to spinning opening sets for a beautiful range of artists spanning Metallica to John Legend. From building curriculums on educating others on Djing to building theater shows centering women Djs. 

Tune in to some snippets and insights from Ms. Reborn’s Sonic ride…

When and  how did you first fall in love with music? 

Like most people,I first fell in love with music as a kid. My family was heavy into music and there was always vinyl around.There is a 45 somewhere from when I was learning to write my name and I was practicing on the little sleeve. I’ve literally always had my hands on records lol. Music always moved me emotionally and mentally. I loved it in part because it was such a bonding , and connective thread with everyone in my household. My parents were into a lot of classic funk, soul, disco, r & b etc. My siblings were into the same thing with some variation. For instance, one of my brother’s who played piano had an Elton John phase that would not quit! I found lyrics, melodies and arrangements that felt like home for me, that clicked even though I didn’t have the life experience or maturity to understand the content. I remember loving certain ballads like Portuguese love by Teena Marie & Rick James or Star of the Story by Heatwave. The way I felt when I heard them was kind of magical for my young soul. 

Shed some light on your finding a deeper passion for music before djing, and after ?

 I have always been a music lover and the deeper passion for it just developed in part out of being a shy kid. Music is so easy to be with and as I got older it was such a reliable comrade and healer. Also, I lowkey always wanted to be a dancer so anything that made me dance was my shit.  My passion also grew because I realized that exploring music was an infinite world. I loved seeing how culture was shaped by it. Like hip hop or punk’s influence on fashion, art and said culture.

Were there songs and genres that cultivated a deeper relationship/ curiosity/ excitement ? (Ex…. my finding MfDoom rapping on Sade songs my mom played felt like finding a perfect combo of my life, hence a love and curiosity for a certain side of rap began ) 

Yes, I cultivated a deeper relationship with music when my Dad got a job in a Chicago suburb and we moved out of the city. I was in middle school and as much of a culture shock as it was, it also unlocked exposure to genres and styles of music that I may not have encountered. I was around a more diverse group of kids and that meant hearing and learning about alternative rock, new wave, punk etc. So as my musical knowledge expanded, I was excited to have a foundational and ongoing relationship with my soulful roots coupled with these genres that were new to me. I might be listening to The Cure one minute then Frankie Knuckles and Anita Baker or Prince the next

How do you like to envision the energy transference between you, the music, and the crowd during your sets ? (

I’ve always said the energy between me and the crowd is a relationship, a call and response, a communal ritual. It’s my honor and joyful responsibility to interact with as much presence and reverence as I’m able to in that moment. I love building bridges between genres, artitsts and songs that are unexpected and intriguing to an audience. An analogy that I often use is me being the pilot or driver. My job is to take folks on a ride/journey and make sure they get to the destination with ease. I aim to have an easy take off, reach an altitude of elation and then descend smoothly back through the clouds and land smoothly. I also like to employ the practice of what I call 3 for you, 2 for me. For every few songs I play that I know the crowd wants,I’ll play a couple that they may not know or that I think fit the vibe so that there is balance.   

How do you like to appreciate music when you’re on the other side of the decks/speakers ? How has this developed or evolved over time ? 

 I love hearing other DJs do their thing and getting to dance with everyone. It thrills me to witness how they set build, transition and tell a story. It’s tough sometimes because us DJs have very well trained ears and that means we hear every detail of a set. So if a transition is even a hair off,we feel it. And it’s no judgement because it happens to all of us sometimes but it’s a curse of knowing sound in that way.

Could you expand upon parallels you’ve noticed or ways influences pass between your practice as an Educator, Activist and Sonic Healer ? Has blending, weaving, and manipulating music lent itself in some way to other aspects of life when it comes to curating, selecting, timing? 

It’s a bit hard to explain but the parallels between the different ways that I work in each capacity of my sound arts practice constantly intersect. The most consistent way I notice and lean into is the reality of the profound spiritual and energetic nature of them all. Meaning I’m deeply passionate about studying music, history, politics and spirituality. I’m very clear that I’m a vessel for all of the work and when I approach any idea, gig, teaching or political engagement remembering that curiosity, community, love and liberation are the goal then I trust that the mix will be good, the class will be good, I will communicate what’s most important as a conduit. I’ve repeatedly said DJing is spirit work and I stand ten toes down on that.

Has composing soundscapes in the theater and curating mixtapes of audio tracks and sound snippets widened your view of crafting with music ? (Building anticipation for a scene in a play gave you ideas for similar moves during a set ?) 

Yes! Working in theater was so unexpected as a DJ but now that it’s been a consistent part of how I utilize the craft, it’s expanded my approach and skills exponentially. It’s built my courage to take risks and improvise even more during regular DJ sets because of how much layering is required for theatrical sonic landscapes.

 You’ve spoken a lot about “healing work through choices…spiritual release…being a vessel and channeling things you enjoy”. Can you speak to this in juxtaposition to the general club culture and how this is more soulful ? Your thoughts on why ?

 I touched on some of this in a previous response above but what I’ll add is that general club culture is fine but I think folks feel the difference when a DJ is intentional and caring with how they spin. That doesn’t mean it’s chill or boring. It can be lit af with people going up and the energy on 1000. All because that DJ cares enough to tap into their courage while reading the crowd and aiming to elevate everyone in the room to the highest frequency. That requires the DJ to trust their voice and the crowd has to trust the journey.

Tell us about your legendary party Ubiquita. 

Ubiquita was an amazing era of growth and community in NYC nightlife. It was the brainchild of Kim Knox and she had the extraordinary vision to feature an all Women DJ residency line up and also incorporate live performances between DJ sets. This was ahead of its time in the early 2000s. She and Deshawn Ward Maxwell were at the helm of bringing us all together.

It was a super eclectic,inclusive crowd of dancers,other DJs and artists. 

Every Thursday was a sanctuary for everyone that came to the Lower east side to gather and release on that dance floor. I’m grateful for the experience and the relationships that were cultivated during that time. I think it was a blueprint and inspiration for many parties after.

Reborn is grateful for a career that has allowed her to apply her Sonic skills to the arts, education, activism, politics and more. Realizing that while the world hangs on by threads it is integral that we let out the tensions, anxieties, madness and griefs we absorb. As Sonic Conductor she takes seriously the spiritual release and healing work afforded from doing her craft intentionally and is always thinking of ways to make it more thoughtful, transcendent and memorable. 

Make moves to bless yourself with the musical medicine that is a DJ Reborn set. Tune in. Release 

Gathered and Composed by Chris O