Roots run deep with this Queen. Recently, Atlanta based Coalition DJ Roots Queen took me back to the early days of her career and where it all started. She was 13 and listening to late night radio shows on community radio and pirated stations and fell hard in love with hip hop. Artists like EPMD, 2 Pac, Biggie and NWA were her early influences thanks to underground show like Underground Railroad with Kenny K. He was Digital Underground’s DJ and Roots Queen would call in to the show and chop it up with him.
She started going to raves and then when she was 17 tragedy struck. Her father died suddenly in a car accident and she was left devastated. She started going to raves and after parties to escape the sadness and felt like she had family there. She explains “It was the one place I didn’t have to be sad and so that’s what I wanted to do when I wasn’t there, when I was at home is DJ so I could be in that place again…” and that is where it all began for her. It only took her about six months to learn how to make beats and mix and that helped heal her through her loss but also open her up to a world that would continue to make her fall in love for years to come. We recently got a few minutes to chat with Roots Queen and hear more about her story, more about her roots in reggae, who she is currently managing and how she’s come to be the top DJ on the east coast. Check it out.
GP: Moving through dealing with the loss of your father when did everything change for you?
RQ: When I moved to Atlanta and that scene started to fade, it started to get a new meaning for me when I really was just in a place in my life where I was searching for peace and meditation. I got really into dub reggae because of that and I started buying old dub reggae records and I was also into like dub music like trip hop. I was still playing vinyl back then and so that was more of like a meditative type thing. I realized that I wanted to do more hip hop stuff again and I started buying more records. I started getting booked for hip hop events and stuff and I moved back to Florida for like five months and a friend of mine had actually given me a bunch of 45s of dancehall so then I started playing dancehall and funk and rare groove. I was just really into buying records that’s really what it was.
GP: Was there an audience for that type of music then?
RQ: Yeah there was an audience for it! We were in Atlanta, so we were at MJQ that’s like a real famous club here. That was back when those silent parties were going on. Do you remember those?
GP: Yes girl. They are making a comeback. One just opened in Hollywood.
RQ: I would be DJing those kind of parties with like Max Glazer and Pete Rock and like Madlib so we were all kind of playin that stuff you know what I mean? Like really off-the-wall type stuff. I actually went on tour in 2005 with this group called Gorilla Funk Mob. House Shoes from Slum Village is actually a member of that band. I went on tour with their band and they did like a bunch of reggae, soul and funk and they wanted me to play my old dub reggae records. They were all scratchy and stuff and nobody really cared. So right after that I moved back to Florida for like 5 months just to get everything together. Two times I moved back to Florida for like five months when I was in my 20s.
GP: Were you trying to figure out where you wanted to be?
RQ: Both times there was a boy involved and so I decided I’m just gonna do me and not worry about this right now and then I moved back to Atlanta. Also around that time I was really good friends with Dinco D from Leaders of The New School and I toured with his DJ, which technically makes me a member of Native Tongues which is pretty awesome. I’m pretty tight with Jarobie, I knew Phife, Alamo from Brand Nubian. It’s crazy because when people go to New York and they’re all like “Ah yeah, you’re in Atlanta, do you know Roots Queen?” and they’re all like “Wow yeah.” I’ve even had somebody tell me that Kook Herc was asking about me. With all of those kinds of influences and being such a vinyl digger, I really wanted to become a turntabllist. But that kind of came later.
After that I just kind of really went heavy into dancehall and I had a bunch of CDs and I put my vinyl down because there were always turntables around, that was when CDs were really big. So I had to have vinyl and CDs and bring them both with me. This was right around the time that Serato was coming around and everything. That was kind of how I got popular was dancehall and that was how I joined Poison Dart which is an international sound that does like dub plates. Their parties are pretty awesome. If I was in Florida you know anytime I go back, I DJ parties with them and everything but I basically just rep the sound.
Right around that time that was when I met my ex-husband and had a baby. After that that was when I really got my Serato about my MacBook and I was like “you know what? Screw it. I just love DJing so much that I will play whatever, I don’t even care.” So I started plaing Big Sean and top 40 and I was like “I’ll just do whatever” and that was kind of how it all started being a club DJ.
I did that for a long time and 2013 that was when I really had the money to really get a studio together to really get down on my turntables and pay for lessons and I got pretty good, pretty quick. Now I have turntablist added to my skillset. Basically, I was like “how do I set myself apart from always other female DJs out here and I knew that that was the way to do it. People might think I’m like some stupid white girl or whatever it’s like the ones when they realize I can scratch it’s a completely different level of respect.
I’m really about mastering all of that shit. I want to do all of it. So around that time too I had learn how to produce in 2006 but I never had the equipment and that was another thing I did in my studio was started making beats and so I made a lot of experimental beats and I can make trap beats and hip hop beats and I can make anything. Right now I’m making a lot of dancehall beats for one of my reggae artist Dreggae.
He’s actually the reason how we met and why were so connected it is that is literally my brother. He is actually King Tubby’s grand nephew, he’s a godfather of dub reggae.
In 2013 I got scouted to be on a radio show For Desert Storm Radio for DJ Clue and that’s were Rude Girl Radio started and that I just started having a lot of celebrity guests. It’s such a dope concept you know. That was when I really got my whole look down. If you look up the term rude boy, rude girl it’s vintage but nowadays it’s a totally different style.
After about a year of doing Rude Girl Radio, Drumma Boy hit me up and wanted me to start a night called Merano Mondays at GMe. It was a good concept but from that point on when Dumma Boy could see what I could do he made me his DJ. Put me on his Drum Squad DJs and he really put me on. He got me my job at Silhouette and that was how I got into the Coalition. I had already met Roland they had already scouted me out to be as a Zaytoven’s DJ. There was a lot of crazy stuff going on in my life and I needed some support. It was like more support than the Drumsquad was really willing to give. They had properties they could rent and I needed to move so I basically signed a lease somewhere with somebody that owns property in the organization you know what I’m saying. That’s something that I really like about Zaytoven’s organization is it’s way more family oriented. We’e in church every Sunday.
Being in the coalition really put me around all of the rappers I know. I pretty much know every single rapper. I pretty much work with all the rappers that are up-and-coming before they happen. For instance, before Bankroll Fresh died, Cassius Jay produced his hit single “Hot Boy” and our DJ coalition is who broke it. I have a social responsibility to be an influencer. Twenty years from now if you’re in a position to support these young artists and make sure that they’re going in the right direction, even if you don’t like the music, you have to respect it. There’s a lot of sound and what kids these days want to hear and try to understand why they like it and help them make the best decision possible for business and for morals.
GP: So what do you have going on these days?
RQ: With Desert Storm basically I wasn’t really happy. I didn’t have as much control over the station like I wanted to, I only had control over one hour, one day a week. That was where I partnered up with Roland on Digital Dope and that’s why I am there, five days a week and I have a lot more control.
GP: How would somebody get their music on Rude Girl Radio?
RQ: Go on my website at DjRootsQueen.com and contact me on there. I have some sponsorship packages available.
GP: Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. You’re spirit is so bright and positive.
RQ: Thank you for having me.
DJ Roots Queen is clearly just getting started in her career and we are certainly looking forward to following her journey. Listen to her on Rude Girl Radio Monday thru Friday 4pm -5pm EST on DigitalDopeRadio.com. If you have a hot record, hit her up on social media or via her website above.