Uncontainable joy: Kilopatrah Jones’ authentic expression is exhilarating dancefloors

today30/11/2023 9

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How was your summer?

Child, it’s been my busiest summer ever! I moved to Brooklyn from Long Island because I was always commuting 3-4 hours back and forth daily & was like, you know what, let’s drop some roots. I’m always here, so let’s do it. So far it’s been a really big ride. Also, I got to travel to so many new places this summer. I played in Detroit [at the infamous Club Toilet party held over Movement weekend] and played in Denver with Jada [JADALAREIGN]. I went to Berlin and met so many different new people and experienced so much new culture…I’m a born and raised New Yorker so I was like, wow! There was a big culture shock, but it has been truly life changing. I feel like it’s given me a lot of perspective and a lot more growth as an artist. I feel really inspired.

Was that your first time in Berlin?

Yes, that was my first international trip, other than Haiti. I was in awe. I was trying to figure out how to ride the S-Bahn, the food, sparkling water versus still water…Germans really love their sparkling water! I was with Stella Snacks, an amazing house DJ from France but she lives in Berlin, and she’s also a singer and plays in a band. I met her last year when she came over to play with Jada at Nowadays, and musically we synced up so beautifully. She’s truly my twin flame. She’s just a ball of energy and we reflect each other really well. During her visit she was like “Oh, you should come over to Berlin.” and I was like, “Stop playing, I’ll do it!” She responded, “No, I’m serious!”

I had a great time. I got some crazy records. I went to Bikini Wax, Audio-In, as well as a couple of different other recommendations. I went to Refuge [Worldwide], visited some friends who were in the city and danced my heart out at some beautiful clubs. Lastly, of course, you know I had to go to Berghain!

I mean, when in Rome! What did you think?

I loved it. I went there Friday, Saturday and Sunday and every night I felt I got such a different flavour. I had a phenomenal time. The music was great, the speaker system left me breathless, but the dancers were the biggest thing. Also learning about the history of the building and how seriously they take the [club] culture there, right down to the architecture. In Berlin it’s very intentional and it shows. It was pretty jarring coming from New York where the nightlife community is still dealing with the effects of the Giuliani era and a lot of spaces are getting shut down due to gentrification and high rent.

Read this next: Black expression: Dee Diggs is reclaiming house music

I saw your post where you describe Dee Diggs as a mentor. How did that relationship come about?

Jada was running a Skillshare workshop series that I went to around 2016 or 2017 and Dee was teaching a CDJs class. At that point, I was just using a controller and I was like, oh my god, CDJs, they’re very intimidating, I need to be in this class. I was already a big fan of Dee’s, but after that lesson I asked if she could maybe give me a couple of private sessions. Back then, they had three-hour Skillshare sessions on Saturday mornings at Newtown Radio so I would go there literally every Saturday and text Dee and just be like, “Hey, wanna play again? I got some new tracks.” And through that we bonded and I feel very lucky because I honestly feel like without Dee and Jada I wouldn’t be in the same position as a DJ. I really look to them as inspiration to keep going not only as a DJ, but also as a woman of color in the industry. I’m constantly asking them, “Hey, what do you think about this situation?” I just feel really blessed to follow in their footsteps.

Was that the first time you had tried to DJ, in those workshops?

Honestly, no. I grew up in a very strict, religious family, and I’m Haitian, so it was pretty much you’ve got to be a nurse, a doctor or an engineer. Music was something I could do as a hobby, but nothing was supposed to distract me from my education. In college, I got kicked out of school because I ran out of grant money and was like, let’s start DJing just to see if I can make enough money to pay for a semester or two for school. I was totally lying to myself just to give myself the freedom to finally play. That was seven years ago, but that was my catalyst for taking DJing seriously. And I loved it so much I just never went back to school.

When did you first come across house music?

I was always a dancer growing up. I was on multiple after school dance teams and got into breakdancing around 16-17. That led me to take Kid Glyde [of Dynamic Rockers] classes for breakdancing. During cooldowns after class was where I heard house music for the first time; I used to Shazam tracks and be like, “What’s that? This sounds amazing, I need more!” Then I started going out with those same dancers and sneaking into clubs like Pacha and Sullivan Room around 2011. Ninety-nine per cent of the time I was one of the youngest people there. I didn’t really care to drink or do drugs, I was just there to get down, learn new moves and listen to new music. I’d jump in my little car and go to Jersey, the Bronx and Uptown [Manhattan] just to hear different sounds.

What inspired you to want to take up DJing yourself?

Around 2015, I had a couple of dancer friends who were DJs and we’d always hang out, play and discuss house music. They said to me, “You have a gift, you should take DJing seriously.” So I started digging deeper into Discogs and some music forums and I learned about The Sound Factory, Limelight and Paradise Garage. These same friends brought me to a Paradise Garage reunion where Louie Vega and Kevin Hedge were playing. The OG house dancers were there, the dance cyphers, the baby powder…getting to see original house culture in real life made a huge impact on me.

After this, I started practicing DJing every day after school with a friend and I started following them around to clubs. This was around the time I ran out of grant money for school so I just stopped going and would practice DJing instead. My Mom was so upset when she found out. She kicked me out, I was homeless for a little while there. Thankfully, I had friends who let me crash on their couches while I worked on my craft. Around the same time, a close friend who taught me a lot passed away and I was like, I just have to go all in on this. It was a really hard time, but it made me hungry. My family still doesn’t really approve of the DJing, but now I have a chosen family of people who love and support me, and I pour their love and support back into my music. It’s been a tough journey so far but I can’t imagine life without music so in my mind, it’s been worth it.

Written by: Tim Hopkins

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