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#YoungCalifornia Featured DJ: DJ Umami

featuredumamiNext up on #YoungCalifornia’s featured DJ is DJ Umami from the Bay Area! Make sure you hit the jump to learn about how she became a DJ, her biggest influences, how she got her name, her favorite part of being a DJ, her favorite tracks from the West Coast and a whole lot more! Read more…

Where are you from and how did you become a DJ?
– I’m a Bay Area native, born and raised in East Side San Jose. I’ve lived all over the Bay Area through my formative years, and currently stay in Oakland. My neighbor growing up had turntables, and I would often be at his house watching him scratch, and sometimes trying for myself, (and apically failing). 

In my early 20s I got a pair of 1200s, and the homie Cutso was patient enough to show me some fundamentals. I worked as a door girl and always jocked DJ sets, asked hella questions, and would go home and practice. Playing records was more therapeutic to me than anything else. My intention was not to become a DJ, but maybe have a few party tricks up my sleeve, maybe make a mixtape for personal use. One day, I got a put on at a party I would regularly work the door for in SF, and the rest is history.


What is the significance of your DJ name? How did you get it?
– The first flyer I was on had me listed as “Ieanna,” my government name. I didn’t even really think of coming up with one, because again, I didn’t think I would be taken seriously. The DJ homies Cutso & Goldenchyld wanted to name me “Lady Whirlwind.” Not that it was a terrible idea, but it was a terrible idea and I’m glad I listened to my gut. A chef homie told me the meaning of Umami one night while having a conversation about cheese. It means the fifth flavor. He said, “when you think of a food with umami, it’ll make you salivate a little.”  I thought it was unique since it was my first time hearing about it. Turns out, it’s not. Hahaha! In any case, I thought it could be applied to music and was fun to say “ooooh mami.” 

Who are your top 5 biggest influences?
– This one is tough and might change depending on the phase of the moon. I’m a huge Erykah Badu fan, she like sings the soundtrack to my life I feel like. Same goes with Stevie Wonder. I could put any of their albums on any day and it would make me hella happy. So they get one and two.

Then I would go with:

J-Dilla – He’s produced so much music that I love so much, and was so ahead of his time that I feel like producers are barely catching up now after 11 years of his passing.
Craze – He’s so nasty on the turntables and I aspire to be like him one day.
Pam The Funkstress -How many DJs do you know can scratch with their titties? Exactly.

I wish I could add more.Lots of OG DJs in The Bay are huge influences and I’m lucky to call my big brothers and sisters. Most are a phone call or text away and are always willing to help or give constructive feedback, or send over a track with a quickness. 

What is your favorite part about being a DJ?
– There are so many things that I love about DJing. Especially how it’s my job to stay connected with music. But I love how my role as a woman in this male dominated field has inspired other women. So many times after my set, women come up to me and thank me or give props or love. I sometimes get love from females in the DM with ‘thank yous’ and whatnot. I didn’t know getting into this that I would end up in a role that empowers other women.

I grew up a tomboy, playing sports with the boys at lunch and recess.  I once was the only girl in entire flag football league. Geeking out with my homeboys over Hip Hop records and swooning over hip hop cyphers in high school. So it never phased or intimidated me as an adult when I would be the only woman in a room full of men. Fast forward to today, often being the only woman in an all-male lineup, I think it’s refreshing for other women to see. Especially in a club setting where men basically rule and women are there to just be gawked at. 


What are some of your favorite tracks coming out of the West Coast right now?– This is another one that always changes. Out of the west coast, I’m HELLA feeling the new Vince Staples album Big Fish Theory. I honestly can’t decide on which track is my favorite, since the whole album has been on heavy rotation since it’s release.  Terrace Martin’s album Sounds of Crenshaw, I dig the tracks, “Intentions” and “Funny How Time Flies.”

Kali Uchis is from Colombia but I’m pretty sure she lives in LA now.. does that count?  If so, “Tyrant” and “Ridin Round” are my joints. Anderson Paak’s Malibu and Venice are two of my favorite albums with hella fire on both of them. Of course Kendrick’s Damn. I would say “Element” is my favorite because it gets me all gassed up. Also “Fear” because I swear that song is written about me and my kids.  There is so much more. I feel like this year is spawning another dope era of Hip Hop and R&B similar to the Golden Era that made me fall in love with music to begin with. 

What’s the one thing aside from music that you love the most?
-Family is definitely number one, always. Music and food come in at a tie for second place. 

Where can people learn more about you?
T/IG @djumami

Come say hi at Parliament fist Saturdays in Oakland.

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