Pam the Funkstress started DJ’ing in 1988 and later became part of legendary Bay Area hip hop group The Coup. DJ’ing solo, she can be found rocking Bay Area clubs with non-pretentious DJ sets laced with 90s hip-hop classics.
She spoke with SF Station in a phone interview. Don’t miss her March 26th at Madrone Art Bar alongside DJ BackSide for an all-female party.
SF Station (SFS): The Coup is a pretty legendary group from the Bay Area. Since you roll solo now, what is something you miss about being part of a group?
Pam the Funkstress (PF): I kind of miss touring, going to different tours and cities, and being able to really get down with the group that spreads the word, and gets that word across, and also being the only female DJ in a male dominated group. The only one I could think of at the time was Coco Channelle from Kings of Swing. Then it was me, Pam the Funkstress with The Coup.
SFS: Did you get a lot of flack for that?
PF: No it was well received. First of all, I wanted to be with an all female group because that’s when Salt-N-Pepa first came out, and I wanted to be that West coast Spinderella. But I could never really find any females to be as serious as I was.
Boots (from The Coup) found me at some kind of showcase, and he immediately brought me on board, and asked if I wanted to do some cuts and go on tour. He was very serious and adamant, and I took upon that because he was speaking something positive. And I, being a female, I could not be behind someone disrespecting a female and me behind them representing like, ‘Yeah!’ I really enjoyed how he approached me and what he stands for.
SFS: Since you are a pioneer in the female DJ scene, share with us some of your thoughts on its evolution.
PF: When I first started, there weren’t very many female DJs; you could count them on one hand. But now, since I’ve been in the game since ’94, I’ve noticed they’re everywhere. Some are DJs that want to be DJs, but some are really good that can hold their own.
SFS: You represent what it means to be a positive role model, so what do you think of girls these days solely DJing just off their looks?
PF: That’s really burns my hide. A promoter will hire a female by their looks as opposed to their skill. I don’t represent where I go out and DJ with a bikini top on and move the fader from side to side and jump up and down like I did something. I actually put hard work into what I do, and I give 100 percent. I’m very hard on myself. People don’t understand that anybody can DJ, but not everyone is a DJ. You have to know how to work a crowd and when to play certain things. Sometimes when people open for me, they want to sabotage me.
SFS: Sabotage? Really?
PF: But it doesn’t matter, because I usually get hired [to DJ] at midnight and I come in, and I go in on the party. The DJ ahead of me plays all the songs I’m supposed to play, because they figure, “Ok she’s gonna show me up so I’ll play all the hot stuff.”
I don’t get mad, I just come out and say, ‘Ok he’s playing that song, no problem.’ I start out with one song and I come back around and play the same song and make the crowd react differently.
SFS: You’ll be playing an all-female party with DJ BackSide at Madrone. What do you think this party represents?
PF: This will be my first time DJing at Madrone and I’m looking forward to creating a sound. I’ve always been a closer DJ, but I want to be that DJ to come into a club and set the tone. And I want to be able to play songs we don’t hear on the radio. What I’m looking to create is my own sound. We want you to come into Madrone and enjoy good music.
We’ll play things that you want to hear. I’m into 90s hip hop; I don’t think there were better years. From then on, there was nothing like it — A Tribe Called Quest, Digital Underground, or any of the Bay Area music we had. What happened to Brandy? My first record was Debbie Deb. Let’s play some Gangstarr, let’s play some Roots, old DMX, Keith Murray; just stuff that you don’t hear all the time.
SFS: For some girl that wants to break into the DJ scene, what’s one piece of advice you can give?
PF: Be yourself. Create your own style. Create your own sound. When I first started, I used to see people I want to be like, but then I realized I wasn’t happy. So I said Pam the Funkstress is Pam the Funkstress.
SFS: And not wear a skimpy bikini top to a club.
PF: (Laughs) No, you won’t catch me in that anytime soon.
Pam the Funkstress will be playing with DJ BackSide at Madrone on March 26th. The party is $5.
Tags: Boots Riley, DJ, Hip Hop, Pam the Funkstress, The Coup