Alternative vision: Listen to an essential playlist from LA party crew Hood Rave
Crack Magazine is marking Pride season with a series of specialist mixes and playlists dedicated to LGBTQ+ club nights and promoters. From the iconic parties of bygone eras through to the emerging events breaking through in 2022, we’ll be highlighting the sounds of these parties and the artists that shape them.
When Kumi James – the DJ, producer and multidisciplinary artist otherwise known as BAE BAE – launched Hood Rave in 2020, she was responding to the world around her. An LA native with a deep-set affinity for seductive music, particularly hip-hop, R&B and pacy club sounds, she wanted to experience the styles she loved in a comfortable and liberating environment that centred the city’s Black queer community. For too long, she explains, she and those around her felt tokenised while attending other club nights in the city. She also wanted to create something that gave back to the community: through jobs roles and collaborations with local crews and vendors, as well as through its very existence.
These days, Hood Rave is helmed by James and “longtime co-conspirator” DJ Kita. Together, the pair have thrown a number of events and invited artists such as Crystallmess, River Moon and Tati au Miel along for the ride.
For our Pride audio series, James walk us through the musical world of Hood Rave and supplies an exclusive Buy Music Club playlist filled with “ass-shaking music” and rap-driven dance music. This one lands ahead of Hood Rave’s next outing this weekend, on 3 September. Find out more below.
© Sam Lee
What is Hood Rave and when did it start?
The first edition of Hood Rave took place in February 2020. This was pre-Covid, and at a barbershop in South Central LA. I was inspired to launch the event because [it didn’t feel as if] the Black queer community in LA had a very established scene at the time – most event spaces felt tokenising. Also, some of my favourite Black femme, queer DJs would visit LA and need a place to spin. So I began the party at Earl’s Barbershop. Later, after a long hiatus during the pandemic, Hood Rave re-launched in November 2021 at a car garage in the same area. This time, I teamed up with my long-time co-conspirator DJ Kita, who is also a South Central native.
What happened next?
Hood Rave quickly became a hotspot for people looking to find alternative club sounds, ranging from house, rap, Jersey club and ballroom to gabber, R&B and techno.
Are these the genres you’re best known for?
The event is open format. We’ve had DJs such as Crystallmess, Tati au Miel, HALF QUEEN, Black Noi$e, Lil Zé (Oakland), cry$cross, baby.com, and River Moon play. They’ve spun everything from house and techno to Baltimore club, club edits, ballroom, gabber, footwork, jungle – plus more shit I can’t even categorise. It’s important to me that Hood Rave is a space to challenge the status quo of what “Black music” is in the mainstream. Sets can go from dark and vengeful to light and happy to gangster AF. It really depends on the DJ. The Hood Rave crowd is amazing because they’re down for anything they can vibe to.
BAE BAE © Sam Lee
How has Hood Rave grown and changed in the time since its launch?
What began as a 75-person barbershop party has swelled to a regular crowd of over 600 people. The party moves from between secret underground car garages in South Central and nearby areas. Many folks in and outside of LA come to Hood Rave to have fun in a primarily Black and beautiful environment.
What was that first party like?
It was hot, sweaty, and packed in that barbershop; people were twerking on barber chairs and it was its own kind of beautiful. I loved it most of all because we flipped a conventionally Black, straight and male space into something Black and queer. Some of my favourite local DJs played: Erika Kayne, Terrell Brooke, and Naygod. I just remember everyone going off to the gabber Tati au Miel played. I was stressed because of getting logistics together – as I often am – but was relieved when most of the folks leaving told me how good of a time they had. After six years of throwing parties in LA, it felt like I struck a nerve.
Who is involved in the event?
Hood Rave employs folks from the local Black and Indigenous queer community in most of its roles, from our production team to our safety monitors. We collaborate with Tee Marie’s ‘Rave Safe’ crew to help provide fentanyl strips and other harm reduction tools for safer partying. We work with Khalil, a local food vendor from Leimert Park. My parents, Kita and I usually do most of the equipment pickups around the city. It’s a real communal effort.
© Sam Lee
"Hood Rave is about dancing to the sounds of a Black queer future"
Where does your love of dance music and nightlife come from?
My love of dance music probably first emerged because my mom wouldn’t let me and my sister listen to hip-hop music because she thought it was too explicit – she’s an immigrant from Central America. All my mom let us listen to was Madonna’s album Like A Virgin – ha! So that must have inspired my love for dance music. Even though I was forbidden from listening to hip-hop, I still snuck and listened to it in elementary school on my Walkman, and hid in the closet listening to the radio. I think the fact that it was taboo in my house made it way more exciting for me. I also fell deeply in love with R&B, which is why I make so many R&B club edits.
Describe Hood Rave in three words?
Joyful, ratchet and community.
What is the queer clubbing scene like in LA, and has it always been this way – in your experience?
LA’s aboveground events are typically LGBT and white-centred. Venues want to typically take all of the money you make at the bar, or charge a high rental fee for use of their space. This means promoters often only make enough to cover DJs fees. Also, everything legally closes at 2am. This is why we took to the underground to have more freedom in creating space for queer Black folks and femmes. Working like this allows us to reimagine what the world might look like if an alternative vision of Blackness was at the forefront.
© Sam Lee
Tell us a little about the tracks and artists you’ve chosen for your playlist?
The tracks I selected encompass a wide-range of Black queer and Black club music. Some of it – like DJ Technics’ Baltimore Club anthem Pop Your Puzzi – has been made into a queer anthem at our party. Ass-shaking music is key on the playlist, but also dance music with rap elements like Thast, Blu Bone, and Flexulant. I included some of my favorite queer producers including KAYY DRiZZ, Zvrra, Shy One, Jlin, and recent Beyoncé Renaissance collaborators Kevin JZ Prodigy and Mike Q. The influence of Black queer producers is not limited to vogue – it’s expansive and includes Jersey and Baltimore club, techno, house, footwork and hybrid dance genres. Hood Rave is about dancing to the sounds of a Black queer future, and the songs on this playlist represent our impulse to blacken, queer, and reappropriate Black electronic music.
What are your plans for the future?
The next party we’re throwing is a day rave at a former church. Again, the point is to reinterpret spaces and create alternative queer Black worlds. We plan to continue growing in a sustainable way and throw the parties more regularly. We’re working on hiring more folks in the community to be a part of our production and organisational team. I am hoping this has longterm positive effects on our community in more ways than one.
© Sam Lee