DJ LiKWUiD, the self-proclaimed DJ, emcee, and artivist was interviewed by RFB volunteer Samantha Ding at the Queens Hip-Hop Festival, September 28, 2018.
RFB: How did you get your stage name?
L: I got my stage name when I was 17 or 18 in chemistry class. I was thinking of ways to describe how I rap. When you think about water, it has various forms–if it’s cold it freezes, it’s ice. At room temperature, it’s liquid. And when it’s hot it evaporates, it’s moisture. It’s this component that has all these various forms but it’s still the same element, the same chemical. I feel like, as a rapper, that’s how I am with music. No matter how the song is structured or what the topic is about, I come with all these styles and forms. I used to be “likwuid stylez”, but I left the “stylez” and kept the “likwuid”. It’s just a way to express how I rap, how I do music.
RFB: You’re not just a rap artist–you’re also a DJ like you said, but you teach as well?
L: I wear a couple different hats. I teach at the Apollo Education program, as well as Boys and Girls Club. I also do one-off workshops as far as DJing, songwriting, and spoken word. It’s typically to use hip-hop as a way to empower the youth. I was a part of Oakland Bound, and all these different activities. School and mentorship is huge for me. You have your parents and your community, your family, but also the people that are in schools and community centers can be a huge influence on the kids. Sometimes you feel like you’re getting preached to by your parents, so you need that same advice from someone else who’s been there and a little bit older than you, but not as old as your parents. That’s why I feel like mentorship is always important. I’m also a music curator at aaptiv. And that’s just been a recent development. It’s so interesting when people talk about how the industry is changing. And when I say I’m a music curator, people ask, what is that?
RFB: When I think of that I think of someone who makes playlists for Spotify.
L: Exactly. That’s exactly what we do.
RFB: It seems like a fun job.
L: It is. It’s a blessing. And I do not take it for granted. It’s such a new industry, I’m very willing to learn more about curating, and music supervision, and other people in the industry.
RFB: It’s so interesting to me how much power companies like Spotify have. In terms of its curation of playlists like Rap Caviar. It’s a cyclical thing. They put what they deem to be an important new song on that playlist, and that song is going to get more plays and get more popular.
L: Absolutely. They’re becoming the gatekeepers. The reason why I made that comment in the panel about how the music industry doesn’t exist is because of platforms such as Spotify. Now they’re skipping over the label, and going directly to the artist. Being on one of those playlists is
just as significant if not more. Radio programming and music curation are in a very interesting place right now because when I get in the car I don’t listen to the radio. I put in my Bluetooth, and I’m on my phone. It’ll be interesting to see what Generation Z does, but with Millennials, we are becoming less and less attached to the analog way of doing things. We want to be mobile, in more ways than one.
RFB: I know whenever I’m looking at what’s new or what’s hot I open up one of those playlists, or what’s trending on YouTube.
L: That’s true in every genre. I have to pull myself out of it because I spend so much time looking through those playlists and looking for new songs for work. I have to make myself unplug and go look somewhere else. There has to be some other stuff out there.
RFB: It’s hard because they’re directly feeding you and it’s so easy to just take what they give you.
L: I have like six of those personal daily playlists they send you. Then they also have a Release Radar and a Discover Weekly. And now I saw an article about them wanting to do DNA testing to curate a personal playlist. It’s a whole other world happening with how we consume music, and I don’t foresee it going back, and I don’t know where it’s going now. Before, you would wait for your favorite DJ to come on and get your cassette and record it so you can listen to the songs later. It’s that type of excitement that’s just going to be fed to you now, unless you happen to hear something on TV or film. Shows like Atlanta or Insecure or even Orange is the New Black–the closing credit songs for OITNB of OITNB are always so on point. It excites me. But outside of that, there’s nothing.
RFB: What are your favorite places to DJ?
L: My favorite place to DJ is Silvana in Harlem. 116 Frederick Douglass, hands down. It feels like you’re in this speakeasy. It’s a coffee shop upstairs, but when you go downstairs, it’s a very different vibe. And people like to dance. I love to spin for people who like to dance. It’s very much a give-and-take, a call and response.
RFB: Do you usually stay uptown?
L: Normally I’m uptown. I typically have scaled down a lot of my DJ work for festivals or corporate events or weddings. But I do pop-ups here and there. I’ll go to Brooklyn once in awhile. But mostly Harlem is where I’m at. You can find me at Harlem.
RFB: From someone who lives in Brooklyn, that makes me sad.
L: But Brooklyn it’s where it’s at! You have all the fun stuff.
RFB: Who are you listening to nowadays?
L: I’m really liking Janelle Monae’s “Dirty Computer”. Everytime I listen to it, I find something new. Childish Gambino and the new stuff he’s been gradually putting out. Also, ambient music because it drowns out all the stuff that’s happening in the media nowadays.
DJ LiKWUiD participated in a “Women In Hip-Hop” Panel at this event. You can check her out at www.iamlikwuid.com and on Instagram @likwuid. Keep an eye out for her new album, EllaMaeFlossie, coming out soon.