In a male dominated industry, its often over looked when a woman is able to take a whole scene by storm. Even more rare, is a woman DJ to not only excite a scene but unify it. DJ Bri Mafia (DJ and curator of the weekly “4TheDMV” Playlist) is exactly that. Although born in Delaware, she became a staple in the DMV as someone who leads the culture–rather than just following it. In my interview with Bri, the one thing I felt while talking to her was the care. That is, the care of a black woman taking responsibility for leading and directing the people around her–a feeling we can say is all too familiar.
We spoke for some time on the DMV music scene and how one can traverse in an ever-changing environment. However, each answer boiled down to the same idea each time, “local then global.” That’s a simple saying to some, but to Bri? It’s a plan of action. Being a Baltimore-based creative myself, I was eager to speak to Bri Mafia and see what I could learn from my neighbor from a few exits away.
ON: “4TheDMV” went from a casual playlist curated by yourself to a show series that has the same artists featured doing live performances-since progression is the name of the game-what is the next step for your Brand how do you plan on attacking the new year?
BM: I feel like the next step for me is touring. I have had a lot of people reach out to me asking how much it would cost to bring DMV artists to other places to perform. However, I have a residency at OnleVibez in College Park, Maryland. So, I’m open to suggestions for how the brand should move forward, but for right now I’m more focused on my local endeavors and the people here.
We then continued to talk about future endeavors such as touring and potential collaborations but it was clear that Bri’s focus was in her own neighborhood and the people around her; truly embodying her “local then global” slogan.
ON: With the world in such unsavory circumstances, since May, you have dropped over 10 mixes -while featuring over 150 artists. As a fellow artist, I immediately think “What is keeping this person on track?” Could you describe your creative process during the last few months? Do you think that the isolation helped you hone your craft?
BM: Being alone definitely helped. I took a lot of notes from people I’ve worked with before quarantine and put into my own platform BrewzN’Viewz. I feel like when you’re a creative and you see people around you providing creative outlets you think, “wow, what would I do in that position?” So, I think I used the time to really put my brand and my platform out there for people to see. So, I think my creative process was taking notes and figuring out how to make things better.
She further detailed her desire to provide a platform that benefits up and coming musicians. This stems from her experiences with platforms that take advantage of artists. She then explained the song submission process with “4theDMV” and her views on acknowledging individualism in music.
ON: Music as a whole-relies on tastemakers such as yourself and other DJ’s to present the sonic direction of the culture. Is there a criteria when it comes to your playlist curations-how do you go about choosing what sounds represent the DMV?
BM: So, this all started when I did a (virtual) show streamed in California and I had the idea to play the music that I thought sounded good and I released it on Soundcloud under the name “4theDMV.” A little bit of time passed and I noticed that radio stations weren’t representing local artists as well as they could have. So, I decided to drop another “4theDMV” playlist. I reached out on social media and asked any artist in the DMV to submit music that they just released or were trying to promote and that day I received over 1,000 songs. From there, one by one, I listened to each song and found a place for it in my mix by the date it was sent to me. So, now I choose a (random) song, find the BPM and start my mix from there.
“I noticed that radio stations weren’t representing local artists as well as they could have. So, I decided to drop another ‘4theDMV’ playlist.”
— DJ Bri Mafia
The feeling that I got while discussing inclusivity with Bri was one that was unfamiliar to me. Few actually include everyone in their endeavors to represent a sound. I was surprised to find that instead of a predetermined idea, she instead lets the music submitted to her guide the direction of the sound.
ON: It’s no secret that Baltimore, although buzzing with talent, is often excluded in the “DMV music scene” debate. Would you care to comment on that and what you do to include the Baltimore sound in the bigger picture?
BM: What some people may not actually know is I’m from Delaware and not the DMV so, I don’t see Baltimore as a remote place. So, the concept of Baltimore being “foreign” is odd to me. I come from a place that had three counties so, it was easy for me to start travelling and see how things operate in other areas. As a black woman, it makes it easier for me to understand how similar we actually are. So, I look at it as an advantage that I am not from here and I don’t exclude anyone. My advice to all artists is to “Widen your horizons.”
As a Baltimore artist myself, it is easy to forget that some of the disagreements that we may have in our own communities are not seen by the world. After talking to Bri Mafia, I was able to see that we are in fact one unified scene. One huge sound made from many different but valued voices. This love and inclusion of Baltimore is apparent in “4theDMV” playlist.
ON: You’ve gone from local act to local community Pillar in the DMV music scene. Though some may say it was over night, a more-educated eye can see the work and effort you put in for your spot–especially in a male dominated field. What do you do as a female artist to get over the certain disadvantages you may face to make sure you stand out and are respected among your peers?
BM: I focus on highlighting the talent instead of what you can bring the table. For the first few years of DJing, I didn’t use all social media; I chose the “word of mouth” approach expecting my talent to speak for itself instead of empty likes and views. I focus on being genuine. I’m the same in-person or wherever you meet me and that plan of action works for me. I come places and I show love organically and people remember that. Its not about who you are its about what you do.
She further explained her want for legitimate relationships in the music scene and the negatives to using anything but talent to traverse such a sticky industry. Male or female, the point still remains that when you think of Bri Mafia, you think of quality before you think of anything else.
Its clear to see that Bri Mafia’s current priority is developing the artists around her. Whether small or big, she’s ensuring that a budding artist has an easily accessible platform. I admire her focus and dedication to helping local artists and including them in her grand scheme of success. Authenticity is a concept lost by many artists in the music industry. From working and talking to with Bri, “authentic” and “dedicated” are the two words I can use to describe her.