InspiHERed By spotlights phenomenal women in the Black queer community—everyone from artists to activists. Each month ELIXHER features someone whose personal journey and individual craft inspire us to dream bigger, laugh harder, and love deeper. This month ELIXHER spotlights Atlanta-based DJ Lynnee Denise, founder of WildSeed Cultural Group.
ELIXHER: Tell us a little about yourself.
LYNNEE: I’m a 38-year-old Capricorn and California born B-Girl who grew up on the Golden Era of Hip-Hop and after ’99, fell in love with house. I got my informal music degree from my parent’s Soul, Funk and Jazz records.
ELIXHER: Our introduction to your work was with your mix called “Emotional Migration.” Each of your mixes tries to bring about a specific feeling, like you’re very intentional about what you are putting together. Is that true?
LYNNEE: Absolutely, my mixes are inspired by wherever I am in my life at that moment. “Emotional Migration,” for example, was the first mix I made upon moving to Atlanta after a 6-year love affair with Brooklyn, NY. The migration south was also about knowing when to end a relationship. So the word migration in this particular mix serves as a metaphor for walking away from something when it’s time.
ELIXHER: What does music do for you?
LYNNEE: Music educates me and because one can never learn, hear, dance feel enough, it will always be there for me, shaping, moving, touching me. The story of music intrigues me. The origins of a sound/genre and its relationship to geographical location allows me to have an even deeper connection.
ELIXHER: When you are listening to a song for the first time, what are you listening for?
LYNNEE: Whether or not it moves me. I listen to the instrumentation or programming if its electronic music and if its a song with a vocalist, I listen to how the singer delivers the words over the music (phrasing). That’s what happens the first time I listen. By the time I get around the 100th time, I’ve listened to each instrument, the bells and tinkles behind the music and have totally dissected and analyzed the lyrics.
ELIXHER: You are the founder of WildSeed Cultural Group, whose mission is “Entertainment with a Thesis.” Can you tell us more about WildSeed?
LYNNEE: WildSeed was inspired by the literature of Octavia Butler. The themes she explored from race, to sexuality and gender to religion and her ability to weave all of those complex issues into a speculative story rooted in history was simply amazing. She inspired me to think differently about a interdisciplinary approach to music. WildSeed was a party established in San Francisco (2000) in response to the widespread cultural appropriation that was happening in the club scene. I felt like black music was represented where black people were not, especially black women. I started to combine other elements of culture into the party scene and was very intentional about everything from the language on the fliers to the guest DJs chosen to represent the WildSeed vibe.
Today as an artist and founder of WildSeed Cultural Group, I aim to produce work that validates and humanizes the varied experiences of those who come into contact with my creative process. I use technology and media to communicate my interests in ethnomusicology, the migration of cultural products, and identity. I curate events that uphold my vision and challenge existing paradigms of sound production and performance. In these events, I incorporate literature and music history, which are nontraditional elements in the club/party/music scene; and that is how my work became grounded in the statement, “entertainment with a thesis.”
ELIXHER: You have roots in Cali, New York, and Atlanta. How would say each has influenced who you are as a person and as a professional?
LYNNEE: Good question. Cali is where I learned that music would become my lifelong partner. The relationship I had with KDAY (one of America’s first rap stations) was the key to what defines my approach to music today. I would sit in front of the radio for hours, record different shows, listen to them later and either make up dances with friends to the music or write down all the lyrics to my favorite songs. I also bought my first pair of turntables (Technics 1200s), and started spinning in San Francisco in 1999 and so Cali is where I paid some of my early dues. I launched my very first party “WildSeed Wednesdays” in the Mission District.
New York is where I had my informal graduate schooling in music and culture. I went to every event, every conference, every symposium, every seminar, every workshop, every concert that spoke to me and that I could get my hands on. I was thoroughly baptized in the culture of high art, but also dug the energy of the average Brooklyn block (Bed Stuy). Something as simple as the summer block parties adjusted the lens on my worldview and changed my relationship with the African Diaspora. NYC was where I became a global citizen.
Atlanta is my home base now and a place I will always love. There is so much space and green and possibility here. I learned very quickly that the quiet of a city determines how creative I can be. In Atlanta, I have been extremely productive in terms of launching my podcast, producing events and producing scholarship on music and DJ culture. The support I’ve received from the cultural and educational institutions here has been validating on so many levels. Not to mention the women’s parties that I have residency at like Adah Duval’s LoveHer parties and Chitan Chadler’s Ladies at Play Parties. The women in Atlanta have been open to my sound and supportive of my work. Atlanta is the shit and even if I step away to play with other cities, Atlanta is where my home will be.
ELIXHER: You’re quite the scholar and traveler. You’ve spoken at conferences and colleges. You’ve taught classes. Traveled the world sharing your gift. What has been one of the most fulfilling experiences for you in academia?
LYNNEE: Doing my first performance paper at Spelman changed the game for me. With the help of Spelman’s Museum of Fine Art Curator of Education, Makeba Dixon, and the brilliant science fiction writer and Cosby Chair of the humanities I was able to connect my work to the late great Octavia Butler. The presentation was called Planet Rock: House Music, Techno and Afrofuturism and I felt like everything I had done prior to that had prepared me for that moment. It was quite possibly one of the best opportunities that I’ve had to tie everything that I do together. It was a living example of my organization’s tag line “Entertainment with a Thesis.”
ELIXHER: What makes you proud to be a part of the Black queer community?
LYNNEE: That we created house music and that James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry are two of our own. That gender is something that we comfortably bend, redefine and expand on. That we are gatekeepers and uniquely positioned to shake up shit in the world.
ELIXHER: What kind of healthy critique do you have about our community? What are some areas for growth?
LYNNEE: I feel like we are disconnected from the history of our artistic contribution to the overall culture of Black people. Is that a healthy critique? I find that in the party scene, we are more likely to respond to Top 40 than we are disco, house, soul and the funk that gave birth to people like Sylvester, Chic, Diana Ross and so many others who have been influenced by Black gay culture. I think we could also spend some more time figuring out how to create our own models of love, in my opinion, heterosexuals (I’m generalizing I know) have not proven themselves to be the leaders in healthy love relationships. I think loving a woman is radical, but what is more radical is loving her in a way that does not reflect some of the misogynistic and sexist messages we receive, internalize and present in relationships with each other.
ELIXHER: What is something most people wouldn’t know about you?
LYNNEE: I am a big old kid growing young everyday. I’m silly as hell, but also not a game. I’m a serious cook and eat relatively well, but I love to eat fast food at least once a year in the airport.
ELIXHER: So what’s next for DJ Lynnee Denise?
LYNNEE: I think I may be spending some time outside of America, to learn more about who I am. I would love to become an expatriate, just haven’t figured out where and for how long.
-Interview by Tia. N. Williams
Tia N. Williams is a graduate student at the University of Georgia pursuing her M.Ed in College Student Affairs Administration. Tia has developed a passion for empowering young people around social justice issues. She aspires to be a Dean of Students at a college or university in the future.