This fierce, in-demand DJ is finally gearing upon to become an official New Yorker. Hailing from regions either dreadfully conservative or intergalactic (depending on who you ask), this beatmaster raised on the classics is one of the few people that you’d just as likely find spinning in HK as you would in BK. It’s DJ JCLLEF!
Thotyssey: Hello JCLEF! So I wanna hear all about Fuerza, the Brooklyn benefit for Puerto Rico at Secret Project Robot this past weekend! How did it go?
DJ JCLEF: Fuerza was such an incredible event! The energy everyone brought was amazing. You could really feel the love and sense of community in the room. I was honored to be a part of it.
I love that nightlife people all over the city are spearheading all of these benefits and fundraisers for causes these past several months. Every little bit helps, and spreading awareness is vital. And it’s empowering, under this worthless president and congress, to be able to do something useful, isn’t it?
Absolutely. There is a rich history of queer nightlife personalities being at the forefront of social and political change. I think it’s our responsibility to continue that tradition; to build and support our community, however we can.
Yes indeed. So I see that you are becoming one of the very few DJs to work literally all over the city these days: Hell’s Kitchen, Brooklyn, the West Village… do you have a favorite neighborhood audience?
Personally, I feel the most at home in Brooklyn. I don’t have a favorite neighborhood audience, though. Every party has its own feel. I love working all over. It keeps me on my toes and pushes me as an artist.
I know that a you’ve been planning on a move to Brooklyn soon.
I live in Philadelphia until the beginning of November, at which point I’m moving to Ridgewood.
Yay! Is Philly your native land?
No. I’ve lived here for two years.
Where we you from originally?
You and Bowie!
Has music always been a part of your life?
Yes. I grew up in a strict religious household and wasn’t allowed to listen to anything secular. Some of my first loves were Beethoven’s 3, 6 and 7, Tchaikovsky’s 4th and “Fantasia on a Theme by Tomas Tallis,” by Vaughn Williams, as well as just about anything in the Big Band genre.
When I finally discovered pop music, Tori Amos was my first love. My next favorites were probably Marilyn Manson, Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott.
I distinctly recall Sister Act 2 changing my life.
OMG, what is it about Sister Act 2 that made so many queer lives?
I think it told a story we could all relate to: being misunderstood, clashing with parents and teachers and finding the courage to be one’s self, with a positive outcome. And the music was fabulous. What queen doesn’t like a big show choir number?
When did your journey of gender transition begin?
It started way later in life. “Transgender” wasn’t in anyone’s vocabulary back then. It took me forever to wrap my head around being trans. Nothing ever felt right, but I didn’t know there was a solution until my late 20’s.
One day, I met an old friend for coffee, who had begun his transition. I’d never met another person in transition before then, but at that moment I knew what I had to do.
I feel that there are not a whole lot of trans men in NYC nightlife, DJing or otherwise.
There are a lot more of us than you think. I’ve met a lot of brothers in NYC nightlife. Far more than I’ve met anywhere else. Some of us are more out than others. I have never found a more supportive environment.
So, when did you begin DJing?
I started DJ’ing in 2012, in Albany. One day I volunteered to help out at a drag show. The rest is history.
Like I said earlier, it’s very rare to find a DJ who is just as comfortable playing Posh as they are playing Macri Park. Are you very adaptable with your setlist, or is dance music just universal?
My sets reflect the parties I play. I am always expanding my musical range.
You were spinning a monthly in Connecticut for awhile. That must have been nuts, commuting from Philly!
Nuts is a good way to describe it. Life has been a blur.
Well, soon you’ll be closer to Brooklyn. A drag show you DJ for down in that borough has gone through a few cast and venue changes, but right now we can find “The Most” at Macri Park on Friday nights at 8, starring Lady Havokk and Thee Suburbia! What’s it like mixing it up with those two?
I love saying “I’m doing The Most on Friday.” We all bring our own brand of extraness to the table. Suburbia is a creative genius and so much fun to work with. Lady Havokk isn’t afraid to push the envelope. We always have a fabulous time.
And you’re been DJing Sunday nights at Posh for a bit.
I’m actually not there on Sundays at this point, but I was filling in for Panos for two months. You can catch me there on Halloween from 6-11. I will be joining their weekly roster soon. I love Posh. You never know who is going to come in, and it’s always lit.
But first: Be Cute Halloween at Littlefield on Saturday! Tons of performers and DJs, including yourself! How epic shall this be?
I’m pretty sure words cannot describe. Horrorchata’s parties are so next level. If you haven’t been, this is definitely going to be one NOT to miss.
Do you have LEWKS prepared for all these Halloween kikis, or will you be going as Practical DJ Realness?
I’m going with DJ Realness this year. All my extra time and energy has been spent on preparing for my upcoming move.
OMG life as a Brooklyner is going to be everything, isn’t it?
Anything else planned for you?
I definitely have some things lined up, and a bunch of plans that are coming together. I’m so excited to collaborate with all these amazing artists.
Cardi B: yay or nay?
She’s definitely on my playlist. I also think there are other female hip hop artists that deserve the fan’s attention, such as Sharaya J and Leikeli47.
Final question! Requests for the DJ: welcomed, or STFU?
DJ’s take tips too! My song choices are my art. I am not a jukebox, but for the right price I will play your song. I can be open to requests, but I am not open to demands or phones being shoved in my face. If the request is for that one hit song, rest assured I will be playing it.
DJ JCLEF spins “The Most” at Macri Park on Fridays (8pm). Check Thotyssey’s calendar for JCLEF’s other scheduled gigs, and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, MixCloud and their website.