DJ Shellheart, 27, is one of the most prominent DJ’s in the Bay Area. Recently she took the time to meet with CSUITEMUSIC for an interview about her childhood, personal life and how she became so successful as a DJ. Check out the interview below :
So first and foremost, how did you get interested in DJing?
No one in my fam played instruments or anything, but I’ve always been into music. My dad bought me turntables in high school and told me I should try DJing and i was like NO cause I was running track and I wanted to go to the Olympics. I never thought I’d be this big DJ. I moved to Sacramento one year, because I got a good job offer working with kids at like a group home and one day I was bored so I went to the Guitar Center and bought this thing I could connect my iPad to and play music. It's called a controller and it got me somewhere. That's where it really kicked off in Sac, Sac started my journey.
What was your first gig ever?
DJ Meli Mel, one of my friends/ one of the biggest DJs in Sacramento, gave me my first booking at a hookah bar. It was kind of hoodish and I wasn’t the best, but I had people dancing and enjoying themselves. Once I moved back from Sac, my DJing really kicked off.
You are poppin’! How did your career get to where it is today?
The artist I DJ for RBC Bugzy picked me up and had a lot of shows going on. It was so tight cause you never see a rapper have a female DJ. We were doing hella shows and then I started DJing for Rexx Life Raj, who I been knowing for like 13 years. This journey is crazy cause Bugzy took me to one of my first events and it was with Raj. Just DJing for him, my name got out more. I bought my own equipment- I bought speakers, a controller and everything. Then I started doing weddings and parties. When I moved back from Sac I was working in Emeryville at the recreation center and DJing on the side. But you know I took a leap of faith and stopped working at the rec in 2016. I stopped working cause I was like, this is not what I want to do.
Besides DJing, what else do you get into?
I'm a cupcake maker. I don't like cupcakes, but I love making them. People look at me like Shell cant cook, Shell can't do nothing but I’m a maker *laughs*. I also Netflix and chill with my girl… or I’m always in the club, always at an event. Phone calls are always the best, cause you can’t always be there. The I love yous… I’m lookin at that. I want to own a cupcake shop once my credit gets good *laughs.* I hang out with family and friends when I have time. If I'm in the mood, I’ll read. Being around Raj he reads a lot. I also listen to podcasts. Raj put me on so much when we were on tour and in the truck.
Now we are going to take it back so our readers have some background. What was your childhood like?
I was born in San Francisco and growing up was awesome. My dad raised me, I have three brothers and two step brothers, but they're all my brothers, I don't do the step. I'm the only girl. My mom passed when I was three and I don’t really remember her. It was dope being raised by a man, it taught me a lot and gave me a lot of heart. A lot of people tell the story they didn't have a dad but I had a dad, I didn't have a mom and it never really affected me, just gave me a hard shell. My dad did everything, kudos to my pops.
What are your goals for the future?
I'm going to be a traveling DJ in the air, the club doing everybody's events. I don't even have to be in the club, whoever needs me I'm there. I will fly to Florida to do a BBQ for you and your family. I don’t like to be stagnant and in the same place. I don’t want people to label me as a club DJ or a tour DJ. I just love seeing new people and seeing new places.
Random question, but what is your sign?! Usually I can tell, but with you it’s hard!
I’m a virgo. We have our off and on days, but we are the life of the party, the sunlight in the room. Wow that's deep, the sunlight in the room *laughs* fuck with me.
What obstacles have you faced being a DJ?
Me being a tomboy and being apart of the LGBT community and trying to be in a male dominated industry. It’s weird to see a gay person very respected by so many people in the music industry. One obstacle I do have that frustrates me is you have to be pretty to be booked now. Me not being girly is a real obstacle, because for me it’s an issue. Women have got booked before me and I’m like hey I’m good, I know my worth. But some clubs want that prettiness. It gets to me sometimes but not really, I do my own shit.
Also, People try to rip me off all the time and I’m so sick of it. At this point, I’m one of the biggest DJs in the bay, I’m not a rookie anymore. People try to offer me rates knowing I'm worth so much more. I’ve turned down a lot of gigs, because I know they wouldn’t do that to a big male DJ. One day people will respect me. You can’t come in thinking you’re gonna get what you want cause you're a female HELL NO its still competitive.
How is the demand for you? Do people try and book you a lot? What’s your main way to get gigs?
My dms are crazy. People just send me messages like “how much do you charge?,” not even a ‘Hi, how you doing’. I need to get a little more professional, but it’s hard when you're working by yourself. People reach out to me and I throw my own stuff. When it’s somewhere I really like and I want to DJ at I’m going to reach out to them. I know almost every DJ, well a lot of djs who do parties and cool events I want to be involved with. I want love, I want everyone to be involved and work together. Like why can’t we all just DJ? We’re all playing the same shit, why can't we all just have fun and get drunk together? Why can't we all have fun, fuck it, I be down to work man.
What do you consider the most successful event you threw?
I think all my events are successful, but every year I do a toy drive called Holiday Heart Bash. It’s a party but you have to bring a toy to get in. For the past three years I’ve been donating my toys to Children's Hospital and they have drop offs so I take them there. I always have a lot of toys. My first toy drive hella people came, the last one fewer people came but I still had hella toys. I let all my friends DJ when I have my event, because I’m always running everything by myself. I just want people to have fun. I’m not trying to be cocky, but I don't remember a party where nobody was dancing. People know me I'm off the roof, I'm energetic, and I don't charge a lot so it’s just like pull up. I have food for you, I got drinks for you, just pull up, and everybody leaves happy. People are hitting me up about my random day partys I throw. It’s gonna be dope, it’s gonna be fun. Shout out to New Parish!
We would love to know more about your experiences growing up! What kind of kid were you at school?
Schoolwise I was a kid that just wanted to play basketball and kickball, but I got through it. I went to Berkeley High, one of the best four years of my life. B high was the shit, that's my one. Not a school person, but I went to Laney for two years and was running track from 2008- 2010 and half of 2011. The track coaches were like come here because Laney had the fastest female track team. But I was like this is not for me, I don’t want to do this anymore. It was coo, it was aight. I never said I wouldn't go back, I would love to go back, i just gotta get my mind and money right. If I go back though I would want to be an EMT. I feel good saving people and I get sad when I see someone deceased. I'm just interested in that. Both my brothers are EMTs, and one has his credentials to be an EMT but does fire fighting shit and they love it.
In general, where do you see yourself five years from now?
Right now I’m all over the place still, but I have a vision for what I want to do. I want to know I’m not gonna get played. I want people to know I’m here and I want to be comfortable, but never get too comfy.
I want to get my EMT cert if it works out, like what if DJing doesn’t work out? Five years from now I don’t want to be sitting in the bay area waiting to get booked. I don’t want to be 32 wishing I did certain things. I don’t want to say I want to take a break from DJing, I want to know my life will be okay. I want to have credit, a nice house and to know I have that payroll rolling. I have a dream and I’m living in it right now.
Do you plan on living in California forever, or do you desire to relocate one day?
Na I don’t want to stay in the bay. It’ll always be home and I’ve put my footprint out here and did my thang, but sometimes it's time to venture off and challenge yourself again. When I’m at the point when I can walk into the club and any bar for free, I did my duty.
By the way, we love your dreads! What made you decide get them and how long have you had them?
Getting dreads was a big step for me. My Dad is Rastafarian Jamaican and he told me to get dreads. People said Shell you too beautiful for dreads, and the first year I wore my hood and now look how long my dreads are. I’ve had them for a year and five months. Damnnnn so in a year I’m gonna be out here *starts hitting the shmoney dance and gets excited.*
Who do you consider your favorite artists?
Raj, Bugzy and AllBlack, my artists who I DJ for. I fuck with Lil’ baby, he's from ATL and he's the hottest to me right now. Mozzy is also tight to me. He takes me to a whole nother dimension. That artist right there WOAH.
What are some upcoming events you have planned?
This month I have my party, graduation parties, Pride. The first time I did Pride DJ William Stokes gave me an opportunity to have a fifteen min set. Now I’ve been asked to DJ this year. I am trying to get more into the gay community. They been hitting me up, because they feel like she’s with us.
What advice do you have for aspiring DJs out there?
Choose wisely. This is not easy- we make it look fun, but it’s stressful. If you’re serious about being a DJ, be that DJ. It’s always room for improvement and room to learn. If you really want to pursue being a DJ make sure this is what you want.
That’s all the questions I have! Is there anything else you wanted to add for our readers?
Thank you to everybody that believes in me, and thank you everybody who sleeps on me. Thank you for the love! For real though, that’s me right there. Just thank you. I’m blessed.
Michaela P. Shelton is Managing Editor of CSUITEMUSIC.com
Read more from Michaela at Darealmichaela1.com