By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
"Who's that?" wonders the wicked wax vixen, a smile flickering at the edges of her pouty puss. "She looks like fun."
"That's my partner, Jett," I sigh, before turning back to the interview at hand. "And she's about as much fun as a perfumed ice pick to the kidneys."
It's cold outside, here in the lot behind the Brickhouse, and Lady Tribe is shivering a little despite having borrowed the coat of her sista selekta, DJ Miss Lisa, who's currently spinning house to what's essentially turned into a private party of sorts for the event-pimps at Subliminal Productions. It was billed as a Friday night "lingerie party" headlining Miss Lisa and LT, both hella-hot mixmistresses with national and international reps for spinning. And indeed, there have been plenty of bitches in bustiers runnin' about, much to the delight of the Jettster, as well as a nearly nekkid fan dance performance by local burlesque troupe Scandalesque. Too bad the brain trust at SP was charging $20 to $30 at the door for entry. (Jackson Street ain't Scottsdale, homies!) Otherwise, the draw would've been wall-to-wall.
Still, Lady Tribe rocked the house earlier with a bangin' hip-hop set that even got my fat ass up on the floor doin' my two-step. She was droppin' serious party tracks: Noreaga, Lil' Kim, Ying Yang Twins, Busta Rhymes, Ludacris, Petey Pablo, Sean Paul, and a buncha other crowd-pleasers.
"I'd rather play West Coast gangsta shit," the tiny, top-heavy turntablist tells me. "But sometimes as a DJ you have to play for the crowd. That's why it's a job and you get paid to do it."
I'd be impressed with DJ Lady Tribe even if I'd just met her for the first time. Not only has she been on the cover of Lowrider magazine, profiled by Fox 11 News in L.A., appeared on MTV, and had her likeness used for the mega-hit video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, she's also a member along with Remy Ma and La La of the notorious Murder Mamis crew, DJs to crowds of thousands coast-to-coast, and has a mix-tape DVD featuring video shout-outs from Nina Sky, Redman, Mobb Deep's Havoc, Suga Free, Lil' Jon, Ciara, and Chingy. If you're high on haterade and don't believe me, check her Web site at www.djladytribe.com and you'll see.
Yet I'm even more impressed because the last time we kicked it back in La-La Land, she wasn't the glamorous dub diva she is now. Then, she was a cute, skinny half-Japanese homegirl in a sweatshirt, minus the bolt-ons. But she already had a rep of a different kind -- as one of the most respected bomber/taggers in the graffiti world, running with two powerhouse crews of L.A. vandals called MSK and TKO, and getting her name up in spots that made the huevos of the hardest graff writers shrivel up like raisins. The cover of graff rag Big Time showed a legendary pic of her from behind, having jumped onto the front of a moving metro bus to spray-paint her name, just "Tribe" at that point.
All the greats of the graff game gave her props for style and fearlessness. And I got to see a little of both when I profiled her for a now-defunct L.A. publication, cruising the streets with her and her fellow writers Zes and Revok as they racked (read: "shoplifted") spray-paint cans from Home Depot and hit walls just a stone's throw away from the LAPD's Rampart cop shop. Her notoriety eventually made her target numero uno of the po-po's anti-graff squads, and after following her for months and raiding her house twice, the bulls finally shut her down.
"They took pictures of all of my tags, documenting over $200,000 in damage," explains LT. "They got me for felony vandalism, 10 counts. I was facing a year for each count. My lawyer was like, 'You're gonna get three years, at least.' But I got six months because I and two other guys who were with me took a deal. Then they gave me house arrest, because you have that option with a nonviolent crime."
Tribe was goin' loco holed up in her crib, until she pulled out an old set of turntables she'd been given when she was 14 and went to work. Half a year later, she emerged with skills, a new look, and a career on her hands. She admits having a rack on her like Vida Guerra gets her foot in the door, but beyond that, she has to earn respect, just like out on those streets.
"So are you totally out of graffiti now?" I ask her.
"I just do my legal walls," she replies. "And I paint on canvases. But that's it. I'm on my third graffiti felony now, and it's not worth losing my freedom. I love graffiti. If I didn't have a record, I'd still be doing it. I wouldn't be a DJ right now if I could still do graff. I cried when I knew I had to give up bombing. I was like, 'What am I going to do with my life?' But I'm a smart girl. I'm not going to go to jail for 10 years."