Forty-five minutes before slam poet Six is Nine calls “Alright,” by Kendrick Lamar, the song of 2015 — before the poet compares its ubiquity at protests with Shostakovich’s 1942 Leningrad symphony premiere and brings tears to my cheeks — DJ Keezy spins the song. “Alright” is sandwiched between other jams, hits that people have been pausing conversations to throw their hips to, but this one has always been special. Audience members, whether sitting or milling about, start to dance at the boom-bap breakdown.
I’m standing at the July Button Poetry Live show, my back to the bar, waiting for the show to start. I’m partly here for the poetry — where else do people so beautifully trust others to feel their pain? But I heard about the slam from DJ Keezy, a 25-year-old artist from North Minneapolis who spins the music before and during the show.
Nine hours before the poetry slam kicked off, Keezy met me at a coffee shop blocks from her house, currently on summer break from her job at a Minneapolis elementary school and excited for her next show, the Klituation‘s Mainroom debut.
The Klituation is DJ Keezy, Sophia Eris, BdotCroc, and Maria Isa, and they’ll play First Avenue’s Mainroom on Friday night. They’ve thrown three parties as the Lituation, hitting the Triple Rock Social Club and the 7th Street Entry. But Keezy has been working toward the Mainroom for ages.
She started her DJ career about three years ago, getting a boost from DJ Snuggles and landing gigs with fellow North Minneapolis lady BdotCroc. Once she played with Bdot and felt “that female energy on stage,” she told me, she couldn’t get enough; Keezy and Bdot now play regularly with each other. Keezy also plays and curates shows on her own, saying, “I’m a very big advocate of throwing shows with all-female line-ups, because it doesn’t happen that often. A lot of people know that if I’m throwing something, it’s going to be an all-female line-up.”
The name of her next show is a nod to that fact, a tongue-in-cheek celebration of femininity and women in the music scene. Maria Isa came up with the name, and Keezy said the crew will stick with “the Klituation” from now on. “It’s a little bit pushing it,” she said, laughing. “And you know, I’m totally fine with that.”
In addition to Eris, Isa, Bdot, and Keezy, a host of local all-stars will join the party on Friday, including DJ Shannon Blowtorch, Manchita, Sarah White, the Lioness, K.Raydio, Lady Midnight, and Alicia Steele. Keezy loves each one, she said, “as an artist and as a person […] It’s actually people that I kick it with.”
She has powerful ideas, actually hoping to take part of the group on the road. “My goal is to have more shows like this,” she said, “and travel, and hopefully throw this show in other places. At least [get to the point where] in Minneapolis it’s not a big deal anymore [to have an all-female line-up].
“The Klituation isn’t just for girls or women to come to,” she added. “I also want the guys to come out.” It’s all about supporting the artists in the community.
I first heard Keezy spin on The Current’s Saturday night Pride anthems show, which Shannon Blowtorch curated. I caught the “Flashing Lights” TWRK remix, which made me cheer in my car; a few songs later, a fantastic “Work” remix came on, and my sister smiled in the passenger seat.
— The Current (@TheCurrent) June 25, 2016
“I like to spin throwback music and ’90s music,” Keezy told me. “I think people like going out to dance parties and hearing stuff they would play on their own.” She added, “I think a lot of people wish they could hear ’90s music more often. And R&B and stuff they don’t hear when they go out.”
In addition to R&B, she loves funk and Motown, and she has a special spot for a certain artist. As she talked about her dreams, she put her elbow on the table, inadvertently showing off her first tattoo: Prince’s love symbol, colored in with purple. She got it about two weeks after Prince passed, she said, finally feeling something was important enough to put on her body. “Whenever I look at this,” Keezy shared, “I’m like, ‘Prince could do it. I gotta do it.'”
She does play Prince at the poetry slam, as well as Mariah’s “Fantasy,” Michael’s “The Way You Make Me Feel,” and Beyoncé’s “Formation.” She’s not on stage this time, instead holding down a computer off stage right. And she lets the performers have the spotlight; “I’m not the most talkative person,” she told me, “so I definitely speak through my music. I love being able to give the crowd the energy that they deserve.”