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Getting Back in the DJ Booth: Jadaboo Interview – Billboard

Written by on 25/07/2022

As clubs have been reopening and shows have been resuming across the country after a year-and-a-half long COVID-19 pandemic pause on the live music industry, Billboard is asking club and touring DJs about their experience fading between spinning at home to performing back outside.

There’s a saying that goes something like, “You can’t always be in the mix, or else you’ll lose your flavor.” But for seasoned DJ Jadaboo, she’s spinning at almost every popping party, premiere and afterparty and spreading her signature flavor of feel-good, old school and new school hip-hop, R&B, funk and dance music from coast to coast.

After growing up seeing her loved ones involved in the music industry – her father was a producer and her high school sweetheart (now fiancé) is rapper Kyle – Jada wanted to find her way in, and also a way out of the dark period she experienced in her younger 20s. The Ventura, Calif. native’s “only escape” was DJ lessons her longtime mentor, DJ Rogue, gave her in exchange for a pack of beer and mixes she created in her bedroom. Fast forward to 2020, a video of Jada mixing SMV’s “Rain” into Travis Porter’s “Make It Rain” at home gave millions of people a much-needed, nostalgic escape during the pandemic.

But even though she’s now back to catching flights on a monthly basis for her gigs, Jada’s still mindful of how to properly recharge and not be too hard on herself as she continues growing into “a really respected and regarded DJ – regardless of gender,” she says.

Billboard caught up with Jadaboo about bonding with Diddy over their mutual love for Rick James, taking care of her mental health and getting any crowd hyped with some solid go-to transitions.

Pre-pandemic, where were you spinning usually?

I feel like I barely started to tiptoe my way into the corporate world [with] all of the big companies like HBO, Hulu, Amazon. I remember I was on Apple Music on the Travis Mills show one time. And I was at Sundance right before the pandemic happened. I was definitely really excited for my future like, “OK, I’m starting to make my way in this space, and they’re really liking me and the direction I’m going in, the music selection in these spaces.”

Corporate can be very much dry, but I feel like I bring a little flair to get all age types to be able to dance. That’s what I very much pride myself on, too. You could be 100 and I’m going to figure out a song that’s going to make you dance!

What music were you listening to a lot during quarantine?

Whenever I go through something super traumatic, I always block it out. And not DJing with people in the room and having to convert to online DJing was such a blessing and a curse at the same time. So when the pandemic happened, I feel like I was listening to like a lot of older music, things that made me reminiscent of why I am still inspired by music. I was listening to a lot of alternative rock – I was in my little emo phase – [and] a lot of Steve Lacy.

What I was doing was making a lot of my own playlists because me and my manager – she wasn’t my manager at the time, but she’s my booking manager now – have this nonprofit Chapters, and it was a binding of music and mental health. And I was making mental health playlists every month throughout the pandemic. It would just be really uplifting music from Lizzo to Andra Day to 2pac to Sister Sledge to Michael Jackson.

And I did that TikTok video that I literally did not think was going to do what it did. But “Rain” by SWV – that is the song of quarantine for me. It’s so random, but I did a music edit for TikTok because I always have these little random transitions in my head like, “Lemme film it.” And I did that one and it literally amassed probably over 10 million views on all platforms.

It’s so crazy, because I’ll DJ some of these events — like I did a Bel-Air event recently for the Emmy [FYC event], and a lot of the main characters came up to me and were like, “We know you from TikTok! And we just want to say that you really helped us through the quarantine with that edit. You’re like the quarantine DJ!” I still get told to this day about that SWV remix. I did an event for Issa Rae’s Rap Sh!t premiere, and there’s this one girl named DJ Hunnybee. She came up to me and was like, “Girl, you’re the reason why I got into DJing and making DJ videos, because I’d seen your video and I was just hella inspired.” I damn near almost cried.

How have your roots/upbringing shaped the music you like to listen to and play live?

Being from the West Coast and being Mexican and Black, I am very Chicana, so I grew up listening to a lot of oldies, a lot of low rider oldies, a little old school, a lot of G-funk and just funk in general. Rick James is my biggest inspiration, he’s my end all be all. And that’s all due to my family. I had six aunts growing up. I had one uncle – I think our age difference is like 10 or 13 years – and he grew up in the whole Nate Dogg and Warren G and all that, so I was really into that. And then my mom was really randomly into East Coast music. Her and my dad had a bond because of that, so that’s when I got into Bad Boy and Mary J. Blige and all of that type of East Coast music. It has been able to help me whatever region I go.

Did you perform at any virtual events during quarantine?

Sundance got me to DJ again. Eva Longoria reached out and she was like, “We loved you!” She had me DJ The Latinx House party that they do at Sundance. I was doing a lot of election gigs randomly or like a lot of political gigs and activism gigs. That was such a crazy time with everything that was going on – quarantine, George Floyd, the election. It was a really dark time.

With all of the events, private parties, festivals and such that you’ve been DJing at, how do you make time for yourself and protect your peace?

Not being so hard on myself. I think you just compare yourself in general to other people, like how they’re being productive, how they’re recharging or how it looks like for them when they’re taking care of their mental health. But I really learned to accept like — if I’m going to lay in bed till 2:00 p.m. or lay on the couch and watch an old movie that feels good to my soul, then I’m going to go do that. If I need to go work out, I’m going to go do that. If I need to clean and declutter my house, I’m going to do that.

And I think that when recommending taking care of yourself, it’s literally whatever works for you — and accepting that, because there’s no book or guidelines. That’s why when they give like, “five steps to take care of your mental health,” they’re just different recommendations. You don’t need to literally do those five steps. It’s just whatever works for you. So being able to accept, “OK, I’m a little tired today. I need to catch up on sleep.” Or not drinking at events – that’s a big thing too. When I’m working, I rarely drink at my gigs. I’ll probably have a couple of drinks, but maybe one or two. I’m not getting hammered at my gigs.

That’s a big topic no one talks about, too, in our industry — is how accessible the drinks are, and the free drinks. You have to be really, really, really, really, really, really, really cautious with that type of stuff, because the lack of sleep mixed in with being hungover will drive you insane. And there are nights where sometimes I don’t come home until 6:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m. And if I had drank, it’ll definitely affect me. I think it’s just being more aware and being more conscious.

You’ve helped Diddy celebrate his hosting gig at this year’s Billboard Music Awards as well as his Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2022 BET Awards while spinning at his after parties. What’s your favorite recent memory working one of those?

I just remember at Coachella, when I DJed his private after party, I had changed the song from “Before I Let Go” into this Rick James song that he really likes, and we bonded over it. When I played the song “Dance Wit’ Me,” he turned around so fast and looked at me and pointed and was like, “Yes! Yes!” Just being myself is getting me appreciated – me growing up on Rick James and being able to play it for one of my idols and him loving it and appreciating it.

The synchronicity of everything has been insane. I remember the girl was like, “Why did you change it?!” And he just looked at her and got on the mic, and this is literally what he said: “Yo, give it up for Jadaboo, because she’s literally been DJing for like six hours straight!” And that’s the thing that I pride myself on, and that I’m not ashamed to say: I could literally DJ for eight hours. That’s why I haven’t switched over to USBs, because I just love having everything on my laptop to be able to go for hours and hours.

And that’s the thing that changed about the pandemic, too: Before the pandemic, I was only doing one-hour sets. From doing only those hourlong sets to transitioning into three-to-four-hour sets, I was so used to slamming songs and getting in that momentum in an hour. I’ve had to learn to take my time, slow down, play that second verse. That’s been a big transition. But I’ve really been able to take people on a journey with having that time of like, “OK, I got a couple hours. We’re going to go here, we’re going to go there.” That’s my favorite part, is having that ample time to take people on a journey.

What was the first live music event after quarantine that you attended as a fan? 

Wizkid in Brooklyn last September. I was around hella people in Prospect Park. That was the most impactful one where I was like, “Oh my God, he’s amazing.”

What was the first live music event after quarantine that you performed at as a DJ?

SaadiQ at The Highlight Room. Nothing was going on in 2021 when outdoor bars were open. Highlight Room was one of the first to really come back, and it’s in Hollywood and it’s a more clubby environment. I was so f–king excited just to be back in a space with people and DJing that I definitely came with that killer mindset of “I’m going to f–king crush this.” I want people to know who I am and my talent. One of Puff’s assistants at the time was there, and he was doing Club Love. And his team asked me to do one of the Club Loves, but it fell through. Then Juneteenth came about, and they were like, “Alright, here’s your shot.”

His assistant had vouched to the whole team like, “No, she’s dope. She was at Highlight Room, she’s sick.” I went and crushed that set as well. My manager Tawnia, she works really closely with Puff’s team. And after that day, she was like, “Yo, this makes sense for us to work together.” She’s my best friend [and] has a huge, huge, huge part in my relationship with Puff. She was in that space with all of Puff’s team and had been vouching for me like, “Yo, you need to hire her.”

Are there any songs you were listening to/spinning at home that you were excited to play for a live audience?

I was listening to WUNNA and Don Toliver a lot. And Dark Lane Demo Tapes by Drake, that was a good one. High Off Life [by] Future. I was excited to play Gunna outside, and definitely Don Toliver. He definitely works in R&B party spaces for sure. I would do “No Idea” a cappella into “Sensual Seduction” by Snoop Dogg. That was really fun, I really liked that one.

Did you have any worries that certain songs or albums might be considered “too old” because it came out during the pandemic?

No, ‘cause the songs that connect are the songs that are going to connect forever. Like right now, “F.N.F.” [by Hitkidd & GloRilla] is for sure the song of the summer.

I was going to ask you what your song of the summer was for this year!

That’s definitely going to be played every summer for a while. I’d be really surprised if it doesn’t become a forever song, because that’s the reaction it’s getting today. That’s one of the things that gets girls really going – and guys, too, they want to sing it! That’s the whole point. Women DJs are so unappreciative of the ability they have to get girls dancing. You need girls dancing at the parties. I’m sorry, f–k the guys. You need the girls dancing, because then the guys are going to be more inclined to say, “Oh, this party’s lit. I’m gonna stay.” And promoters are going to spend more money.

What are some of the newer songs or albums that you’ve been hyped to play?

PinkPantheress’ album, I was really hyped when that dropped. Steve Lacy, that’s all I’m listening to right now, his album is so good. Of course, everyone was hyped for Ye to drop. I think it’s been a really good time for music. Everyone is just throwing things at the wall in the best way possible, and people are really putting themselves out there artistically and being very vulnerable, which is a renaissance. Hence, Beyoncé.

What are you looking forward to during your future sets/Where do you wanna perform next?

I really want to go overseas. I’ve never DJed in London. I’ve randomly DJed in Japan. I really want to take this s–t worldwide.

You and your fiancé Kyle are both incredibly active in the music biz. Which songs have to be playing at your wedding?

Bobby Caldwell, “Open Your Eyes.” That’s either the first dance or the song I’m walking down the aisle too. And “Paranoid” by Kanye West, I think that has to be my first dance song.

On Instagram, you posted a transition from T-Pain’s “I’m Sprung” to Too $hort’s “Blow the Whistle” saying, “This one goes up at any location.” What’s another go-to transition that you get hyped to play?

I do “Killing Me Softly” into “Return of the Mack,” which is random, but if you hear it, it goes, “Woah/ Woah-oah-ah-ah-ah uh, uh/ La-la-la, la, la, la/ Woah, la.” And then when she’s about to say, “Woah,” “Return of the Mack” goes, “Oh” and everyone stops and turns and is just like, “What?” Because you’re saying “Oh,” but then another song comes in. I’m always trying to do wordplay. I did Megan Thee Stallion’s “Hot Girl” into Missy Elliott’s “I’m Really Hot” into “I Need a Hot Girl” by Big Tymers. That was a popularized one, a lot of people figured that one out.

Check out Jadaboo’s playlist for Billboard below.

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