DJ Backside reps for the ladies and the hyphy movement worldwide
A WEEK before Christmas, east Oakland's DJ Backside packed up her crate, mixer and headphones and flew to Stuttgart, Germany. Her mission? Bring the "hyphy" sound of the Bay Area to the local Brunhildes and Dieters. A promoter surfed her MySpace site (myspace.com/djbackside), hit her up for two gigs and off she went. When she touched down, she saw clubbers were already savvy to the high-energy hip-hop indigenous to the Bay Area. She even saw one kid wearing a Mac Dre T-shirt.
"Were they understanding of what 'Hyphy' was? I'm not sure. Were they moving? Yes. Were they staying there on the dance floor? Yes," says Backside. "It's going to be very easy to break [hyphy music] nationwide and worldwide because it's so danceable. You don't have to 'get it.' It's like 'We're going down, we're acting crazy, we're drinking, we're smoking.'"
Since 2003, Backside has documented the Bay Area sound through a steady release of mixtapes. She puts out a different mix every season (Winter Inferno is the newest) of the hottest slaps. Her Got Bay? series (hosted by local luminaries like San Quinn, E-40 and Turf Talk) is now on its fourth edition and has spread "hyphy" internationally. Earlier Backside mixes have spotlighted Keak Da Sneak, Beeda Weeda, Young Six, Champaign Campaign and the beef between 50 Cent and the Game.
Her late-night Hot Spot shift on 106 KMEL (Saturday mornings from 2 to 4am) hits the most musically attuned listeners: those just getting out of the clubs and heading for afterparties, diners and booty calls. She gets instant feedback on what the audience is hungry for through call-ins, in-studio guests and trial and error.
Backside's skill on the crossfader extends to her ability to rock the microphone, a lost expertise among too-cool DJs who want the records to do the talking. Backside energetically coaxes ladies to the dance floor, engages call and response, shouts out friends and makes everyone in the crowd feel like a VIP.
Backside's "around the way" style flies against the trend of female DJs who spin in negligees or topless to compensate for the fact they are functionally illiterate between the ones and twos. She's reluctantly spun at parties where fliers have advertised half-naked girls as attractant.
"I don't agree with it, but I understand it because it's a business," Backside says. "I'm not really sure if it's going to go away anytime soon. I don't know. It's frustrating, man. It's almost something numb to me because I see it so much, which is not a good thing."
By extension, Backside admits some of the ribald records that glorify misogyny and counterintuitive behavior do get under her skin sometimes, but it's not her job to censor the music that paying customers want to hear. Her job is to rock the party.
"The DJ shouldn't get caught up in what they play," she says. "Sometimes I feel like you have to look at what you're doing as strictly a job. It is something that is having an effect on people. It's your job to play what they like, and if they want to hear 'Ain't No Fun (If My Homies Can't Have None)' or 'Freak-a-Leak'—I have to play it.
"Those songs have those connotations," she admits. "The music we're putting out there is affecting the youth and people in the clubs, but it's not my job to parent people, to be people's mothers and fathers and tell them what's right and wrong."
DJ Backside will soon release a fourth edition of Got Bay? She's planning an O.G. edition of Got Bay? with classic bay cuts hosted by Too Short. This Friday at Johnny V's, Backside appears with the Mamas, Cyco Eva and other guests for an evening celebrating women in hip-hop. Expect a safe space for women to get hyphy, crunk, feminine or all of the above. It's their choice.
"The music industry is so male dominated," Backside says. "In the DJ world, and for guys in general, it's very important to see a female out there repping on the mic, spinning records and in control of the crowd. If it's not there, they'll think one doesn't exist."