The breakthrough Jamaican DJ delivers a gloves-off techno session.
SHYBOI doesn't do "chill." Whether she's playing dancehall or techno, the common denominator is the intensity level, which rarely dips below a nine. The Jamaican DJ, producer and video artist is a core member of Brooklyn's Discwoman collective alongside artists like Ciel, DJ Haram, Volvox and Umfang. She's also a former member of KUNQ, the confrontational crew of queer DJs we profiled back in 2016. Her sets are bewildering and unpredictable, and while she rose to prominence in the no-rules hybrid club scene, she's also recently started to dominate the techno world.
That outsider perspective is what makes her take on 4/4 feel fresh. As you'll hear in her RA podcast, she surfs a wide stylistic range without going overboard on the eclecticism. "I can still play East Coast club or soca in a techno setting because those genres are in conversation with each other," she says. "The spirit of hybridity is still there." That open-mindedness enables her to share a lineup with Helena Hauff one night (like she did in Sheffield this past Friday), then Juliana Huxtable a few weeks later (as she will in Milan on March 30th). When she's not DJing, she's usually juggling any number of video art, performance and documentary projects, and the conceptual aspect of that work often bleeds into her music.
What have you been up to recently?
I've been working on a couple of projects. False Witness and I have been producing under the moniker FALSEBOI. I'm in post-production for a short documentary I made while back in Jamaica during PRIDE/Emancipendence week in August. Mostly I'm just getting organized and trying to improve my setup and overall workflow.
How and where was the mix recorded?
This was recorded in my bedroom in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. I've been waking up at 3 AM most nights in the past few months and staying up until 6, then waking back up at 7:30 or 8 to properly start my day. So this was recorded during those very manic hours.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
I've been thinking about love and loss and how moments of euphoria can happen during those two very different states. It's mental gymnastics and a physical work out
You're on your first-ever EU tour right now. What were the impressions you got from Frankfurt and London?
Previous stints I've just been in and out—three days in and then I'm back in New York kinda thing. It's great to capture a feel of these cities and the people making all of this crazy shit happen. Frankfurt was very fun, it was my first time in the city and it's definitely a different vibe from Berlin. The Nancy Nancy & Palmoil crew were fantastic to chill and play with at Robert Johnson. Everyone delivered a fantastic and very different set, it all just kind of worked. It felt tight-knit and intimate. London, for me, on a cultural level is beautiful to be in. I've only been here a couple of days, but the Find Me In The Dark x Discwoman party at Corsica was euphoric.
When we heard from you as part of the KUNQ feature in 2016, you were critical of the techno scene. Now you seem to have found your own way into it. How did that happen?
Not too long after that interview, my computer crashed and then my USBs wound up missing after my set at PS1 Warm Up. So the majority of my music collection was in the afterlife, because I didn't backup my data. However, on my external hard drive I had a few of these rave/2000s Jersey club/breakbeat/Belgian techno tracks from the late '90s that I'd just listen to at home. It was kind of a moment to restructure what I was doing and an opportunity to play divergent genres in a different space. I can still play East Coast club or soca in a techno setting because those genres are in conversation with each other. The spirit of "hybridity" is still there.
The techno scene in Brooklyn is also getting a bit looser, slowly less homogenous, experimentation is being encouraged, people want to be pushed (gently) and being a part of that energy is fun. I still don't think I'm capable of the patient party logic that happens with extended marathon sets. I'm Jamaican—we're sprinters. But you know, we'll see. I'm definitely still critical, as I am of everything I'm a part of, but I have a greater appreciation for promoters and organizers and artists on the forefront trying to challenge the current conception of what and who is viewed as valid in the scene.
When you're not DJing you also make video and performance art. Can you tell us about some of your current projects?
I'm currently in post-production for a documentary I directed while back in Jamaica, called Out an' Bad. It's anchored by the events surrounding Jamaica's Pride celebrations while providing a different narrative of how queer Jamaicans in Jamaica create spaces for themselves to live their lives on their own terms.
You've been involved with Discwoman for the better part of a year now. Can you talk about the role they play in the scene?
You know how it's hard to look at something when you're inside of it? I didn't realize how wide of an expanse Discwoman had, especially globally. They're constantly setting and questioning standards for women and gender non-conforming artists within the industry.
What's next for you?
Working on tracks, staging performances, making collectible objects, burning down Babylon. Jah willing.
Photo credit: Sarah Muehlbauer