Her Moment in Live Music: An interview with DJ Jadaboo
Jada just may be the unnamed queen of LA nightlife. . .
If you’re in the know when it comes to music, you’ve likely listened to one of DJ Jadaboo’s viral TikToks or seen Diddy hype her at one of his infamous parties or caught her on Instagram spinning for Kehlani. And whether it’s her nods to nostalgia, her one-of-a-kind transitions, or even her eye-catching good looks, I’m certain you agree that DJ Jadaboo is what’s on-trend for this moment in live music.
During our discussion, Jada sat in her sunlit LA apartment, bare-faced and effortlessly beautiful. It seemed extraordinarily evident that she has that specific inspirational and enviable coolness that makes many celebrities undeniably special. Perhaps that alone indicates that her stardom was inevitable. But as she regaled me with stories from early in her career, it seemed her perseverance and dedication to remaining a student of her craft is the underlying current that will create longevity for her success. When I asked her to take us back to her first DJ performance, she giggled and said, “I have this funny story, and I think it’s a testament for anyone trying to start something new and failing the first time.” She continued to explain that she had been practicing endlessly on the controller she had set up in her bedroom, but when she arrived at the venue (to which she’d invited all her friends) “thinking everything was going to be easy,” there was only a soundboard available. The then-aspiring DJ hadn’t yet learned how to operate a soundboard, and so her anticipated ‘first performance’ was postponed. But rather than getting discouraged, Jada got to work. She studied, she learned, and she broadened her horizons. The following Halloween, she DJed a friend’s house party, igniting the crowd with favorite tracks from their younger days, something she is still known for. “Those earlier sets really solidified my kind of flavor: bringing throwbacks in the mix of contemporary music,” she said as she concluded the story with a sentimental smile and calm sense of pride.
While TikTok may have skyrocketed this young, female DJ to the highest internet heights, her long history with the music industry and depth of knowledge are what has made her a celebrity pick and household name. The daughter of a music producer, Jada grew up with a front row seat to life in the industry. Though exposure played a role, taste can’t be taught, and Jada has it. She loves Rick James as well as historic California-born artists like Warren G and finds ways to incorporate music of eras past into her modern-day playlists. She’s even drawn to this type of revivalist-style sound for her personal playlists, accrediting Beyonce for bringing back Funk in her recently released album, Renaissance, which is one of Jada’s current favorites. Additionally, she explores international music, noting that UK artists are making tracks that are “just so cool and so different from what Americans are doing” and leaning into Amapiano – or African dance music. I was personally struck by her range of taste and awareness, which far exceeds what I have found to be typical for a nightlife DJ (though Jada, in general, is much more). But these are the exact factors that made her Diddy’s new go-to girl.
“My favorite moments are when it’s the end of the night and Diddy is still there, dancing, and having the time of his life. ”
Now, I assume you’ve heard the story, but just in case, I’ll summarize: Jada DJed for six straight hours at one of Diddy’s parties, and when she smoothly added a Rick James song into the mix, she landed a spot in his heart (and his bookings) for life. She remarked that DJing with Diddy is “an extremely collaborative vibe. He’s a producer. He knows transitions.” Diddy sometimes has a musical direction he wants to follow – be it songs he loves or even his personal catalog, Jada explained, but he trusts her to lead his party crowd on the journey. Though Jada spoke about these experiences with a consistently even keel, I must admit that my heart fluttered for her: how exciting to have both trust and collaboration from an icon in your industry.
Not to mention, Jada just may be the unnamed queen of LA nightlife. She has a residency with 143 Worldwide and has headlined at The Highlight Room where she enjoys “clubby R&B vibes.” In her free time, you may find her at Everyday People or eating at Alta Adams. But regardless of where she lands, she is game for a long day out on the town. “I think that [Angelenos] are just early birds, and I know that makes us kind of laughable to other countries and other states because they’re partying until 4 am or 6 am, and we’re just not like that. We get in really early because we love to just lounge and keep it going all day. There’s beauty in that.”
While I can continue to fan girl or heavily relate, I’ll let Jada lay the rest out, herself, because storytelling – whether in the form of music or another medium – is essentially what this starlet does best.
Who is you biggest musical influence of all time?
There’s a range of different artists that have been such a big influence on my life. I really think about time, like the eighties and the nineties and the early 2000s, those big pivotal moments in life and in music that have shaped my influences. So it’s hard to pin it down to just one artist. But I do love Rick James. He originated Funk, in my opinion. Without Rick James, we wouldn’t have Prince, and we wouldn’t have the crossover of black artists being able to appeal to different types of cultures in our world. I feel like Funk music is really important.
Who are your favorite musical artists today?
I love Renaissance, Beyonce’s new album. There are so many songs I really resonate with. She samples Teena Marie on ‘Cuff It,’ and Teena is one of my biggest influences as well – her voice is just amazing. I can hear the influences of Funk bands I grew up with in this album.
I really like Pink Panthers. I really like a lot of the UK artists right now. I appreciate Afrobeats: Wizkid and Burna Boy. I’m really loving a lot of dance music right now, even Amapianoa – Africa’s house music. Steve Lacy. Lil Uzi – I’m always captivated by anything he puts out.
You bonded with Diddy over mixing in Rick James to your 6-hour set, what is your favorite moment from that encounter?
My favorite moments with Diddy are more of an overall feeling: getting to be myself and typically choose my own direction with where the music is going to go, and him having so much trust in my taste. And, I also can’t forget, that some of my favorite moments are when it’s the end of the night and Diddy is still there, dancing, and having the time of his life. I think it’s so iconic, and I’m so amazingly grateful that I’m able to play for him. He’s known as a legend in this party world. He knows transitions. He knows the ins and outs. He’s a producer.
He’s very critical too. I remember one of the first times I DJed for him, he was like, “the treble is a little too high,” and I was like wow, he’s really technical. But he was also always super respectful. And if he asks to run a song next or go in a specific direction, it’s an extremely collaborative vibe.
What is one thing you learned about music from Diddy himself?
He’s really strengthened my skill with reading the room when it comes to being a DJ, really take into consideration the client and the surroundings. But at the same time he has encouraged me to not be afraid to take risks – like playing a song the crowd may not necessarily know, but he knows it, and he’s the client. There’s been a lot of moments, too, where he has reassured me to be myself. As cliché as that sounds, it’s so important. Club music can often have a similar set list, but he’s really helped me cultivate and cement the idea that I can do my own thing and not do those typical sets.
I just did a gig with Ciroc in New York, and Ciroc let me know that the direction of the music they wanted was ‘Club Love.’ I knew exactly what that meant, from both Diddy and my own taste that I now know we share: it’s throwbacks, it’s romance, it’s R&B. He’s really reassured me that it’s okay to be myself.
“Kehlani, my fiancé Kyle, and I. . . we were just all LA kids trying to make it in the music industry. ”
Just this Summer you DJed an event for Kehlani – how did that come about? What was that experience like?
I’ve known Kehlani since 2014/2015. Kehlani, my fiancé Kyle, and I. . . we were just all LA kids trying to make it in the music industry. They have collaborated and have many songs together. We’ve been friends and seen each other grow in our own careers. So, I did her album release party for Blue Water Road in April and she was there, and I don’t think she’d heard me DJ too many times before. She was like, “Oh, whoa!” And she had me back for another event. It’s a comfortable setting, and I love working with friends. It’s like, I know you, so I know what you like and what to play for you.
What is your favorite event you’ve Djed?
I don’t always know that those moments are happening while they’re happening. It’s always surprising after the fact. My gigs with 143 Worldwide, the gigs with Diddy – every single time I’m blown away and think I can’t believe this is my life. I think in particular there was this one gig in New York with Selection on a boat, and it got so crazy that the security guard came up to me and was like, “You gotta change your direction. You gotta change your whole set right now. This is getting too crazy.” And it made me so mad that I got on the mic and basically told the security guards to go F themselves. And I’m really not like that, I’m very calm. But when I’m on stage and in my element, it can be different. Leaving the stage, I was definitely scared. I would apologize now, but it was so fun and wild. Selection doesn’t even attract a confrontational type of person, so it all ended okay.
“There are different parties in every different community here in LA. . . There’s always something to do. ”
What is your favorite LA nightlife location to DJ?
143 Worldwide is really special – every Friday, last Friday of the month. If you’re looking for sweaty, Y2K R&B music. . . that’s IT, that’s your vibe. They’ve really got something with the Asian community and all minority cultures, every browned-skinned person is at 143, and it’s so cool. I love how that party is geared towards fun and brown people of all different shades. If we’re getting boujie, I like Saadiq at The Highlight Room. It’s a clubby event but it’s all R&B music, which I really appreciate. There’s so many things in LA: Everyday People, Ice Cream Sundays. I can’t wait to start my own party one day. I want to make it a staple.
What makes LA nightlife unique/different from other cities?
We’re day partiers! I think that [Angelenos] are just early birds, and I know that makes us kind of laughable to other countries and other states because they’re partying until 4 am or 6 am, and we’re just not like that. We get in really early because we love to just lounge and keep it going all day. There’s beauty in that.
I also think that the diversity in LA is a factor. There are different parties in every different community here in LA – Silverlake, Downtown. You can find a poppin’ party in every community. There’s always something to do.
When you’re not DJing, how do you spend a night out?
I love finding new restaurants. I think a favorite right now is Alta Adams. I’m a sucker for a margarita so you’ll probably see me at Javier’s at least once a month.
If you were successful beyond your wildest dreams, what would life look like?
Very similar but on a more elevated level. I really want my own show, I want to create my own music, and I want to be touring the world more. It would involve a lot more travel and creating more awareness in the community – giving back, and teaching women how to DJ. I think I have a lot of offer in terms of my opinion on music. I think often men are the ones giving their opinions, and I think there needs to be a change with that.