DJ Carisma Interview

December 22, 2014


“Anything you can do I can do better. I can do anything better than you.” We’re all familiar with the song that started with Annie Get Your Gun, but for some like DJ Carisma, it has become a life goal. The California native is only 25 and has the credentials of a seasoned veteran--first and only female DJ at Power 106, 2014’s Female DJ of the Year at the Global Spin Awards, and co-founder of the strongest outlet for new artists on the west coast, Young California. We spoke to her about her fight to gain respect as a girl in the music industry and her upcoming album that will hopefully bring back the flavor of DJ hosted projects.

First of all, congrats on winning Best Female DJ at the Global Spin Awards.

Thank you. Appreciate that.

Was that a goal of yours or it just happened?

Definitely set out to achieve being nominated for any of the awards. That was a big honor. I plan to get plenty more. I don’t wanna stop.


"I’ve been through it all--the sleaziest bars to the top nightclubs. It’s all about paying your dues."


Before the Global Spin Awards even existed, you were DJing at churches and house parties on some makeshift setups, including trash cans. What was your jankiest setup?

(laughs) Yeah, back in the day. I’d say the washers and driers and trash cans upside down was probably the jankiest but I’ve been to some ghetto clubs where I’ll be DJing and go internal mode all night because nothing works. I’ve been through it all--the sleaziest bars to the top nightclubs. It’s all about paying your dues.

You’ve been fascinated with radio at young age and even made your own mixtapes to sell at school. What do you think birthed that fascination?

I don’t know. I’ve always been really drawn to radio, especially ‘90s radio in L.A. We had 92.3 The Beat and Power 106. The jocks at the time were epic. I never thought I’d be on the radio. I knew I loved the radio and being about new music. Back then you couldn’t just get everything by downloading it. You literally had to wait till they played something hot and new. I’d always be ready with my tape cassette and hit that record button when they dropped world premieres. I would take it to high school and use it for all of our sporting functions and things like that.

Then when you went to Brown Institute, you realized you wanted to be a DJ and not so much a radio personality. Why the switch?

I felt like I had a young personality voice. I was more fascinated with the music side of things and becoming an actual DJ. In L.A. more than other markets it’s possible [to become a DJ]. I knew that it was possible so I was more into breaking new music and becoming a mixer instead of just being someone who was a jock and talked. When I came back from Brown Institute, I saved up all my money and bought a used set of turntables. The guy I bought them from gave me four crates of vinyl. That’s how it started.

You’ve broken a lot of records and new artists on the radio, especially with DJ Amen and Young California. I saw that you added some new DJs to the crew. What was your criteria for adding new DJs?

This is the first time, recently, two weeks ago, that we actually added more DJs since the start of it three years ago. The first round was all radio DJs from every market throughout California-from Sacramento all the way down to San Diego. The second round we wanted to bring in more of the tastemaker DJs, that aren’t necessarily on the radio but they have massive buzz in the streets or doing big things with their careers--like DJ for Iggy Azalea or DJ for August Alsina. We added DJ Mustard. They all wanted to be a part of it and we were honored.

What about criteria for new artists that you want to introduce to the world?

We look at their work ethic, music most importantly, and if they have some kind of movement behind it. Most of the records that broke like “You’re A Jerk,” “Teach Me How To Dougie,” “Cat Daddy”--these were all huge movements in the teenage high school community. These songs were undeniable. Every school from the Valley to Orange County, these kids knew about them and they weren’t even getting played on the radio. You would play it at a high school dance and the whole school would lose their minds. Big street movements like YG, you couldn’t deny it. He’s like the Too $hort of L.A. Once we see that they got some of the steps going, we come in like we were like that middle ground between radio and street artists. For a while, in West Coast music, you said someone was from the West Coast and nobody was paying attention. “Oh, they’re West Coast? Gangster Rap.” “Oh, they’re unsigned? Not even a chance.” We started in 2012 and now it’s 2014 and kids break online now. We, as radio, have to pay attention to it.

Me and Yesi were just talking about it on air. We’re so frustrated that YG didn’t get nominated for the Grammys for Best Rap Album of the Year. It’s ridiculous! You need people who aren’t scared to stand up to the powers. Me being a girl, I have a lot of passion for what I do, I wasn’t afraid to stand up to my bosses at work and be like, “Yo, there’s so much more going on.” We have the power to change someone’s life. I want to be one of the people leading the pack. I’m trying to get through all the fufu, frilly, fireworks they’re using to cover it all up.

Where does this passion to help others come from?

I think it’s something that’s been a part of me since I was a kid. I loved being at school like, “Oh, you ain’t heard this? I know you ain’t heard this. I’m the only one with this.” And also, me being a female and no one giving me a chance. I really had to work hard to get where I’m at. Once I started putting in work and certain people saw what I was doing like E-Man at Power 106 and was like, “Let’s take it a little further.” For the most part, I had to do it on my own. I know how that feels and I want to be the one that gives people chances.

I know there weren’t many female DJs to have as role models. Who were there DJs that you looked up to and wanted to follow in their footsteps?

I looked up to the Funk Flex’s to the Jazzy Jeff’s to all the great L.A. Power DJs like the Holla Boyz.

Have you ever considered working with labels to give these artists a chance?

I mean the labels blow me up (laughs). They’re trying to pick my brain all the time. I feel that Young California is not far away from becoming our own label. These labels are like radio. They’re extremely behind. Nowadays, it’s more about singles. Albums don’t sell like they used to. Labels would allow someone like Young California to do all the work and they try to come in once everything is popping. I don’t trip on labels but I respect them. I have a feeling we’re really changing the way music is going to be distributed and talent is going to be found.

In the midst of a radio show, finding new artists, hosting mixtapes, your family must hate you for not having any free time!

(laughs) I’m so passionate so I don’t sleep too much. As long as I get my two, three, four hours of sleep I’m good. I have a three year old daughter so I definitely manage my time well.

I can’t forget that you also have a comic book out!

When I was a really little kid, my first passion was drawing. I wanted to be a cartoonist. I didn’t want to get into DJing until junior high/high school. I would always draw myself so I hired an artist one day and we came up with it. I’m just a creative person so I’m always thinking of ideas. We made a comic book and I want to take it to the next level. Probably in 2015, you’re gonna see that evolve. I would love to have a cartoon on Nickelodeon with a little DJ girl superhero who saves different planets on musical adventures. I love kids.

That would also get kids into DJing at a younger age, right?

And they could relate to it with all of the technology.


"It’s harder to do a great R&B record."


Let’s get into this album. Back in the day when DJ Clue and Kay Slay put out albums, they would get a lot of respect and sell well. But now, a compilation tape with a DJ doesn’t perform so well. Do you think that trend will affect this album or does it not even enter your mind?

I agree. I feel like it kinda got watered down. Once Serato hit, everyone was a DJ. I feel my album will stand out, first of all, because it’s who I am and what I’ve done. And me being a female, no female has ever done this. And second of all, it’s the kind of music that I’m putting out. I’m not just taking the easy route and putting four rappers on a beat for every song. I went the R&B route. It’s harder to do a great R&B record than it is to just get YG and Iamsu! with one verse each.

I’ve heard you speak about the four kinds of a DJ and your wanting to be all of them. Do you have a different mindset when you approach each?

It’s a little different. There’s a regular club DJ. All they do is parties and clubs. Then you have a radio DJ who is more about programming and record breaking. Then you have tour DJs, which is a whole ‘nother artform in itself because you’re a backup tool to the artist. Then you have a turntablist--a cutter, a scratcher, who does all the tricks. I try to be all four but you gotta learn when to do one, read crowds, and that comes with the years of what I’ve done.

Already at 25, I would say it’s impossible not to admit that you’ve achieved your goal of proving that you’re just as good as the guys. Are there any other long term goals that you have?

My goals upgrade every three or four years. I’ve been chalking them up and as I get to that next plateau, I learn new things about the business. Therefore I create new goals. Of course, the #1, most important thing is this album. I’m trying to get myself a platinum plaque on the wall and a hit single on the radio, nationally. Once that happens, hopefully we get a second single that takes off. Who knows what can lead from there? I definitely want more airtime on Power... I want more power at Power. I want to be able to play records without having to go through all the guys and getting their approval. I want them to be able to trust me and do my thing.

Last Call

1. What is your favorite movie of all time?Above The Rim

2. As a young DJ, who was the one DJ you looked up to?Jazzy Jeff

3. As a DJ, what's your biggest pet peeve?Serato… combined with the internet is the easy access to become a DJ nowadays. No one puts in the work anymore. They don’t have to carry crates and hunt for music like we did. A lot of the younger DJs feel entitled.

4. What is your current DJ set up at home?Two 1200’s and a 62 Rane.

5. What's your favorite record of all time?Common-I Used To Love H.E.R.

You can catch DJ Carisma on Power 106 in Los Angeles Friday at 10am-12pm and Saturday at 12am-2am. For those not in Los Angeles, you can listen to her MixShow program online Monday & Tuesday at 9pm. All times PST. She's also on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Stay up to date on new west coast talent on Young California. You can also check out her bio and more at Digital DJ Pool.

Bryan Hahn will never doubt a girl's skills on the 1's and 2's ever. Not like he did before anyway. He's on Twitter: @notupstate.