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."
"What do you think you learned from graffiti that's helped your success on the decks?" I inquire.
"Just that whole street mentality," she answers, as someone signals to her that it's time to sign some autographs. "If you don't have that, you're gonna be a sucker. You've got to get respect, show your skills, be from the right crew, and get your name out there. I also learned not to be scared. I learned a lot."
Back in the building, Jett's playing patty-cake with some lingerie models, so I stop by the big square bar in the middle of the building and conversate a bit with the Brickhouse Theater's current proprietor Roger Belfiore, who's taking a break from supervising the sound system. He relates that the Brickhouse now doubles as a restaurant called The Chop Shop, with a kitchen that serves lunch and dinner 'til closing. I compliment him on adding the grub, and in general on the spacious, almost East Coast feel of the 100-year-old, red-bricked structure.
"We're hopefully setting the standard for downtown's vibe," he states. "We want people to feel like they can come here and get a taste of different genres and different cultures that they don't normally experience."
"Yeah, you guys really switch things up," I comment. "Like, I see tomorrow night on your MySpace page that you've got some hardcore event going on, and then what's this deal with midget wrestling in April?"
"That's April 2, Rock 'n' Rumble Midget Wrestling," he tells me. "It's like midget wrestling meets Jackass. They staple things to each other's heads and throw trash cans at each other. Adult-film star Tera Heart will be hosting, and this L.A. band Cage 9 will be playing as well as some other local bands. Heineken's gonna be a sponsor, and they've given us tickets to Coachella to give away."
"Sweet," I intone, as the J-Unit approaches, having finished grinding on some squalie. "Did you hear, Jett -- midget wrestling?"
"Keep it in your pants, Kreme, I ain't touchin' your Tiny Tim," she spits. "And anyway, we don't have time. DJ Miss Lisa is off the decks. We should yap at her before she bounces."
We catch Miss Lisa outside for a brief confabulation, and I think the Jettster's about to trip on her tongue, she's so in awe of the San Diego-based siren. She wouldn't be the first. Aside from being world-renowned, having played in Asia, Africa, Latin America, you name it, DJ Miss Lisa is also an International Playboy Playmate, having appeared nude in an eight-page spread in the May 2005 international version of the venerable skin mag. I should also mention that the statuesque blonde, who is a registered nurse by day, has a new mix-tape CD coming out at the end of March called Guilty Pleasure, which you'll be able to cop at www.djmisslisa.com.
"So why International Playboy instead of the U.S. version?" I have to ask.
"The offer came up to do U.S. Playboy two years ago," she confesses. "I almost did it, but chickened out at the last minute. It would've been kinda weird for my nursing career. All the doctors and the paramedics would see it. But then the offer came through for the international version. I still get to be a Playmate, but if I have to hide it from anyone, like my dad, for example, it's a little easier."
"What was the sh-sh-shoot like?" sputters the Jettster, the wheels spinnin' in her noggin.
"It was an awesome experience," she enthuses. "It was in Mexico City, at this club called Hindu. So the theme was Hindu, with henna tattoos, bindi dots, and Buddhas. It was very artistic. But I was so nervous, I was doing tequila shots to calm me down."
"Kreme, we have to go on eBay and see if we can buy that!" demands Jett, grabbing my arm.
"Let's finish the interview first, shorty," I grumble at her, then turn back to Miss Lisa. "Obviously, you've had mad success in the DJ game, but you know there are people out there who don't think DJing is on a par with being a musician at all. What's your response to that?"
"It's like learning to play any instrument, like the guitar or the piano," asserts the effervescent shejay, crackin' a grin. "I guess some people have never tried it. It's not as easy as it looks. Once you get it down, it's super fun. But I suggest they try it first, then make an opinion."