In May, Spotify unveiled the new Frequency program, a global initiative to celebrate Black music, culture, and creativity. The program reflects Spotify’s commitment to fostering racial justice and equity while also amplifying underrepresented voices. Part of Frequency's mission is to not only be a hub for Black music, but also to show early support of developing artists, and to showcase the influence of Black culture across subgenres which might not typically be seen by the masses. That's where the program's regional Ripple Effect playlist series comes into play.
Ripple Effect's U.S. regional playlists launched in late July, starting with six regions: Ripple Effect: Texas, curated by DJ Cee Watts; Ripple Effect PNW, covering the Pacific Northwest, curated by Kween Kay$h; Ripple Effect: Midwest, curated by EvryBdyHateMelo; Ripple Effect: Bay to LA, curated by Red Corvette; and Ripple Effect: New England, curated by Where's Nasty; and Ripple Effect: DMV.
The Ripple Effect playlist is curated by Frequency's Music Editor, Domo Wells, a DJ who is native to Prince George's County (PG), Maryland, just outside of Washington DC. Over the past few weeks, Domo's curation of Ripple Effect: DMV (the area including Washington, DC; Maryland; and Virginia) has been a hot topic of discussion in her home region, especially as billboards shining a light on DMV artists have gone up around DC. In a recent conversation, Domo spoke about her role on the Frequency team, what she hopes Ripple Effect will do for underrepresented regions like her home area, and why this initiative is crucial for artists that don't come from major markets.
The DMV term may have started as a catchall for the entirety of DC, Maryland, and Virginia, but for more than a decade now, what most in the area consider the DMV is DC and its surrounding suburbs — which leaves a lot of areas out. The Ripple Effect: DMV playlist, however, does go outside of just the DC area. Can you talk about your decision to take that approach?
I think just being in this industry and realizing that oftentimes the people who make the plays may overlook regional nuances. It was important for us to highlight the breadth of artists and music from across these regions, not just what people hear on the radio, and streaming playlists are perfect for showing that diversity of sounds and scenes. There are a lot of opportunities that come to the DMV specifically, and it cuts out a lot of people if we don't widen what we consider to be included. It doesn't make sense. And as much as I understand the cultural nuances of what it means to be from Baltimore city versus PG, Uptown versus Southside DC, or Northern Virginia (NoVA) versus Norfolk, we're still part of the same tri-state area with overlapping influences. There are more similarities than differences, so to me it's just much smarter to move together and make impact that way instead of remaining divided. That doesn't serve anyone who wants to win.
What does it mean for you to be in the position to help artists in this way?
For me it means a lot, because being from a place that I think has been overlooked for so long, I get what that feels like — at least better than a person who's from a place that typically gets attention. It feels like I'm doing my job, but my mission has always been to be a conduit and someone that helps people get through the door when they usually wouldn't have been able to in this timeline. Maybe it would have taken them a bit longer.
I'm grateful to be at Spotify with an amazing team; especially Fran Tamakloe, Kimmy Summers, Mjeema Pickett, Sydney Lopes, and Ryan Chapell. We recognize the weight and the responsibility, and that's why we have to lay our hands on every piece of everything. Frequency launched in May, so we've been phasing in pieces over time. I think in the next six to nine months people will fully understand the comprehensive campaign. We hope to replicate what we're doing in the DMV in more locations in the near future.
If there is one, what would you say is the sound or musical style that's most characteristic of the region?
From city to city it's a little different. In the DC area there's the off-beat DMV flow that I'm not mad at. I think we're still seeing how much ability that sound has to become mainstream. Baltimore's sound has so much diversity, but I think their accent is their sound. As much as people give Baltimore shit for their accent, I love it because nothing else sounds like it. You know it as soon as you hear it.
What emerging artists in the area are you most excited about right now?
There are too many to name. In Maryland, I'm really loving the young women rising up out of Baltimore city. Miss Kam, Baby Kahlo, and Deetranada are a few favorites. I saw Kam perform recently at the Grl Pwr Haus show in Baltimore, and she killed it. I also love Ty Fontaine, Mannywellz, Butch Dawson, and Bandhunta Izzy from Maryland. Out of DC, you have Yung Kayo, No Savage, and Kamauu who are really killing it. And out of VA, Young Crazy, Babyxsosa, and Saekyi are a few faves.
A young kid that I just got tapped into is a guy named Joony. Brent Faiyaz has been supporting him a lot. And that's what I love to see: an established artist pulling up a young artist like that. Shy Glizzy has done that with Savage. Wale with ADÉ and Flex Kartel. And now Pusha [T] with Leeto, Shaolinn, and Whynotduce.
What songs out of the area have been on your regular rotation recently?
It's hard because I have so many but, I've had this new Brent Faiyaz with Drake on rotation heavy.
What are some things you hope that the Ripple Effect series accomplishes in the long run?
I hope Ripple Effect becomes the breeding ground for emerging artists to be seen at the regional level. But I think for these artists, I want it to be a place where people know they're gonna find out what's going on around our way, in these cities. And ultimately amplify these artists and help them find their fan bases so they can break out beyond it.
Also this is not just about the DMV. This is the starting point. Our hope is that this does so well that when we go to amplify the next region, be it Texas, The Bay Area, or anywhere else, they'll see the work we've started in the DMV and want to embrace it.
MEET THE CURATORS
*Introducing the five curators who are highlighting Black music in Texas, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, California, and New England. Learn more about their backgrounds and read about their approach to local music and curation in their own words. *
Kween Kay$h – Ripple Effect: PNW (Pacific Northwest)
Kween Kay$h, a queer black femme DJ hailing from Seattle, Washington, grew up falling in love with harmonies, rhythms, and tempos. Starting her music career as a singer with a heavy gospel and R&B background, her deep love for music later launched her into creating her own radio show and ultimately taking on a new venture DJing. Kween Kay$h has had the pleasure of DJing for some of Seattle and Portland's most memorable events, opening for artists like Burna Boy and Leikeli47 and DJing Upstream Festival and Bumbershoot Festival with artists like Solange.
“When curating my playlist, I make sure to do my research and stay tapped in. A lot of the time my music digging leads to even discovering new artists in the PNW. I love to make sure that my playlist gives the energy as though people were hearing my live set in person. I want the flow and energy to be there with each song.
My desire is to make sure that the music in Washington and Oregon is represented in the right way. All genres and subgenres within this region are important, and I want to assure that each artist that you need to hear is amplified properly. Representation is necessary.”
EvryBdyHateMelo – Ripple Effect: Midwest
Melo, better known by “EvryBdyHateMelo,” was born and raised on Chicago's South Side. Chicago being a music hub, it was embedded in his roots from the beginning: everything from watching his dad make mixtapes on his tape deck growing up, to playing in one of Chicago's most prestigious bands, to spinning some of Chicago's biggest parties. It's safe to say music is in Melo's DNA.
“Biggest misconception about music from my region is that it's all super thugged out. We got a lot of artists and singers that are coming with some hard music and talking about things that aren't typically usual from the main music from the Midwest ... To be a Ripple Effect curator is dope to me because I can shine a brighter light on what my region has to offer.”
Red Corvette – Ripple Effect: Bay to LA
Red Corvette is a San Francisco, California native, COO and co-founder of Women Sound Off, and the founder of Black Biz Bay Area. As one of the Bay Area's top DJs, she has more than seven years of experience and has played across festivals, nightclubs, tours, branded events, and much more. Red Corvette has rocked everything from Trillectro and Electric Forest to some of Cali's and NYC's most popular night clubs and bars.
“California music has no distinct names, just pure vibes and finessin'. But most would say the Bay signature sound is 'hyphy' and Los Angeles is 'gangsta rap.' Hyphy is what I was raised on, and I have so many lit memories from the hyphy movement. Folks need to make sure they put some respect on the Bay.”
Where's Nasty – Ripple Effect: New England
Jason Almeida, professionally known as Where's Nasty, is a Cape Verdean-American DJ and multimedia event producer from Providence, Rhode Island. In 2012, Where's Nasty co-founded Stay Silent, an agency and creative platform that focuses on producing events, content, design, marketing, and products. As a DJ, he has traveled internationally, playing notable events and festivals including Art Basel Miami, D'ussePalooza, One Day Only Festival, 40oz Bounce, A3C Festival, SXSW, Pow!Wow! Worcester, and the Atlantic Music Expo.
“I wouldn't say that New England has a specific sound, but we [do] have a wide variety of influences because of all of the different cultures and communities that exist in the region. A true New England party touches hip hop, R&B, reggae, afrobeats, Cape Verdean music, Haitian music, dembow, reggaeton, bachata, and so much more.
When I'm curating a playlist, I try to approach it as if I were making a DJ mix — what flows together, what sets the tone, and what people need to know. Only heat, no filler.”
DJ Cee Watts – Ripple Effect: Texas
DJ Cee Watts is an open-format DJ based out of Houston, Texas. Originally from New Orleans, Watts is known for her party-style DJing. In addition to taking over Houston's club nightlife, she has DJed for her city's local radio station and has appeared at Essence Music Fest, Rolling Loud Festival, SXSW, and many large local festivals in her home state of Texas.