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Interview: DJ Leah V on growing up on hip-hop, nightlife acceptance in Boston, and her new monthly party, Karate

 

Photo by Guarionex Rodriguez Jr

Leah V is the best around, & no stranger to starting kickass parties around Boston. Her latest venture is Karate at O Sushi in Harvard Square — a no holds barred approach of the clandestine & mainstream. In advance of tomorrow’s launch, we took it back to her beginnings, asking her about her upbringing around music, how she got into DJing, & what Karate has in store to kick Boston nightlife right in the face.

Fire up her mix and let’s get it started…
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Georgette Bibber: Is it true you learned how to cue up Technics at 6-years-old? Also, I’m interested in the influence of your family on your career as a DJ & producer; what records were constantly playing in the background & what genres did you discover on your own?

 

Leah V: It’s hard to believe that something like cueing up a record could be difficult for anyone, but witnessing this first hand as a DJ instructor… it blows my mind. Yes, I was listening to vinyl as a young’n, the only tape player we had was in the car, so it was all records. My dad’s collection was everything from jazz to classic rock. My mom was always into r&b, Motown and disco. Growing up, I heard sounds from Led Zep, Frank Sinatra, Anita Baker, Chaka Khan, Diana Ross, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Grover Washington Jr., Marvin Gaye …all over the map.

I think the first genre of music I can remember being moved by is hip-hop. I started out listening to a lot of the MCs that were being played on the radio and slowly started to pick up on underground, west coast, and southern styles of rap. When I was 12 I stood in line at the Strawberries on Memorial Drive for the drop of Wu-Tang Forever, and after that I started getting deep into it. A year later I got my first pair of turntables and started my own collection of vinyl.

Your vinyl collection started fairly early & you definitely hustled by carrying crates. What was it like traveling to & from gigs back when you first began?

 
 

I would either transport my crates in my 1992 Mercedes 190e — no AC, rear-wheel drive, only two windows rolled down. But it had a sunroof, four wheels, and a tape deck that could hold up to six cassettes, so obviously I was ballin’ out of control. When that option wasn’t on the table, I’d load up four crates on to the Fung-Wah, and drag one of my friends, or whoever I was dating at the time, to NYC to help me carry them on the subway and to the venue. my arms burn just thinking about that.

At what moment in time did you feel totally immersed & accepted into the Boston nightlife scene?

Am I, though??? I don’t feel like I have got to a level of full acceptance, I don’t even know if I’m fully immersed… yet. There’s still a lot of clubs I haven’t played at yet, and one of my goals for 2014 is to tackle that.

Boston still remains a very conditional city when it comes to the guidelines of booking female DJs. I feel that I get a ton of respect from my peers, and I’m truly humbled by that, especially since I idolize some of the people I work with.

 
 

The Good Life has played a huge role in taking me to the next level in this city. I owe a lot to Knife, Peter [Fiumara], and the staff over there. They get it. And straight up, if Frank White didn’t guide me around the scene my first couple years fully immersed in DJing here, I’m not sure id be where I’m at today.

So… to answer this, I think I still have a lot of show and prove to do.

Zuesdays! @ ZUZU has been a longstanding LGBT night (5 years running), do you still revel in the vibes?

Absolutely. I’m so proud of this project. It’s been with me for so long and we’ve seen so many good things come from it. People come out in a foot of snow just to dance for a few hours with Justin (blk.adonis) and I. It’s incredible what we’ve created; we’ve made a new platform for LBGT events where we welcome all walks of life.

 
 

We’ve made a space that everyone, straight, queer, trans — whoever you are — you can come party and see ACCEPTANCE, not just “tolerance,” in practice. Unity through music.

What’s the deal with your new ninja friendly thang in Cambridge called KARATE? Featuring a Nintendo tournament, looks like it’s game over for the competition. I heard one can expect a pu-pu platter of awesome.

IT’S A JUDO CHOP FOR THE SENSES.

It’s a no cover, open-format party. Late night menu (20% off) provided by the chefs at O Sushi Restaurant & Bar. Expect an awesome guest DJ each month (fourth Saturdays), a Nintendo tourney in which the winner gets some complimentary drinkies — signup is at 10:30, first come first serve.

 
 

Basically, I wanted to do a weekend party that mixes both underground and more mainstream genres, introducing new sounds to the ears of people who maybe have never been out to a ZUESDAY. I called it Karate because there are ninjas out there with NO PLACE TO DANCE. And that’s just a travesty.

Are you taking your productions & remixes into a new level of concentration for 2014?

You can definitely expect a lot of original projects dropping in ’14. The first of which will be a remix project called “50 Scent” — six classic joints from Fitty, remixed by yours truly. That drops on March 1. I’m hoping to put new material out once every couple months.

There’s also a dirty rumor that a couple of my tracks are being blessed by the homie, Moe Pope. But I’ve already said too much.

 
 

>>>>> Quick round.

(D)isco: Love
(O)dd: Vascular (that word is disgusting)
(W)ant: Coffee (I’m on a detox cleanse)
(O)ldie: Bullies of the block
(R)est: When I’m dead
(K)unty: blk.adonis <3

PAPERPANDA PRESENTS KARATE, WITH DJs LEAH V + IAN DIVER :: Saturday, February 22 @ O Sushi Restaurant & Bar, 1 Eliot St., Cambridge :: 10:30 p.m., 21-plus, FREE :: facebook event page

Karate Flyer