Growing up with two very artistic parents, one a drummer and singer of his own band and the other a singer, dancer, and modern dancer, it was only natural for Apryl Reign to venture into the world of music. Her interest in DJ’ing was sparked at a young age and later turned into a reality after learning from multiple DJ’s in college, including her husband. Now, DJ Apryl Reign is attributing to today's young talent, teaching them the artistry and entrepreneurship of DJ’ing at Elementz, an urban arts center in Over-The-Rhine and finding her own sound. Here’s her story…
Tell us a little bit about you and your background…
My first attempt to DJ was when I was 9 years old. My brother and I attempted to scratch one of our children’s records. Unfortunately, We broke the turntable and got grounded, but it didn’t squelch my desire to want to scratch and play records. On my 12th birthday, I had two DJ’s spin at my party and pretty much sat by the dj booth just watching them. It was later when I got to college at Central State, that I decided to seriously pursue it with the caveat of wanting to pursue music production simultaneously. I’ve been DJ’ing for about 20 years now, but have recently decided to heavily pursue production and only teach DJ’ing. No parties. Monotony has taken a toll on creativity as well as family life (twin 3 yr old daughters).
How did you get involved with Elementz?
Before Elementz came into existence, I met one of the founders Gavin Leonard through a panel on Hip Hop held at Miami University, we discussed his ideas and how I could help. When it came to fruition, I no longer wanted to stand on the sidelines, I believed that this was the best I could use my talents to contribute to my community.
As an instructor at Elementz, what’s your mission, why do you do it?
On the surface, to give students an opportunity to earn a second income, but on a deeper level, to build confidence in themselves and push them to different levels of learning and mastery. I really like to teach and could do it without pay, I delight when the lightbulb goes off for students and to see them grow and do well out in the community overall, not just with DJ’ing.
What all do you teach in your classes?
I teach scratching and mixing on Serato Scratch Live on turntables as well as a DJ controller using Serato DJ. I also teach an intermediate class on deejaying showmanship (DJ competition style).
As a woman in music, do you feel that your gender has ever hindered your path? Do you feel that you have to work harder to get your voice heard?
It’s a love hate relationship..sometimes if feels good when they say “female DJ” and you’re one of few. Other times it’s annoying, like, stop saying I’m a female DJ and just say I’m a DJ! I’ve never felt hindered, but I have felt as if I’m not being taken as seriously...until they here me and that changes quickly, haha.
What women in music (or behind the music) do you admire?
On the DJ front, I like DJ Shortee, and Killa Jewel. Music production, really digging Tokimonsta right now. And to be honest, Beyonce not mainly because of her music but because of power and control that she has and how she uses that to her advantage. Also Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, and India Arie.
What tip would you give to young women or just anyone who wants to get into DJ’ing?
Don’t lose yourself to the money aspect. It’s very easy to go down that road and lose yourself in the process. This is why I’m stepping back as we speak…
Why are you stepping back?
I recently decided to take an extended "break" from doing parties and shows and just focus on teaching at Elementz and enhancing my skills in music production. When I originally started out deejaying, I wanted to produce like the nationally known DJs that I looked up to at the time like DJ Premier and Pete Rock. Although I did produce music, including a female duo group that I'm in; Mahogany Reign, I realized that I got into a rut of doing parties mainly for money not for the enjoyment. And I was playing the same songs over and over. Aside from the parties I used to do with a DJ group called Selectas Choice, I just didn't enjoy deejaying as much. I was tired. Not to mention having twin girls, a husband, working full time and teaching at Elementz. I’m stretched to say the least. That's one thing about gigging moms is finding that balance to do everything and still find time to be great on stage. It's definitely a challenge. I was loosing my creative spirit.
In December, I broke my ankle and pretty much lost a good chunk of my independence. Couldn't drive, couldn't help with my girls and a round the house like I used to. Gave me a lot of time to think and reflect. I realized through conversations with my hip hop friends, husband and even a through a dream, that I was wasting time on something I didn't enjoy. So I'm pursuing the genre of electronic music that I've always enjoyed and will create my own sound in the process. Deep/soulful/techno house music and nu disco is my starting point. I'm setting out to study that as well as audio engineering to make sure it's of good sounding quality. Once I've created my own originals and remixes, I'll return to deejaying and do shows around the world where people pay to hear me play my music. That's my goal.
What would you like to see more of in the Cincinnati music scene?
More future beats and house (EDM) scene. Admittedly, I haven’t been out lately to support due to family, but when I do in the future, I’d love to come out and support it!
March is Women’s History Month, in celebration, CincyMusic.com will be featuring important women behind the music scene in Cincinnati. Cincinnati is the home of so many amazing women within the music industry. These women include; a Venue Owner, a well known DJ, Educators, the First Lady of Cincinnati Music, an Assistant Program Director, Writers, Photographers, and a beloved fan.
Stay tuned to CincyMusic.com for our Features on these talented women this month!