When was the last time you attended a function and weren’t harassed by men? More than likely, you are drawing a blanks to answer that. Women need a place to let their hair down, especially with all that’s been happening against women in America. Powerhouse artist, DJ OHSO, has created an environment to do just that.
Bounce Dat is an experience designed to create a safe space for women, femmes and queer people. She created the event to allow people to truly be themselves without aggressive men, cat calling and unwanted advances.
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21Ninety had the opportunity to sit down with the DJ to discuss her vision for the event series. Read as DJ OHSO opens up about her experiences dating multiple men and all of the lessons she learned throughout.
Zayna Allen: Can you explain the very first moment you decided to create this? What was that process like?
DJ OHSO: I’m a little disappointed in myself because it took so long for me to do it, but I conceptualized the party in 2016. When I was ready to start trying to put it together, I got in my own way. I was new to Atlanta still. I felt like people weren’t gonna come out. I didn’t end up starting it until 2019 and first one I did was in March.
The reason I even thought about the party essentially was that I was getting booked for a lot of events. Most of them were very male dominated. So I was like, man, where are the parties where people just all dance and girls can feel comfortable partying without men just coming up to you, hitting on you, touching you, whatever? Then I started to think of different things that I would imagine at this party. I think being a DJ was super helpful too, because from behind the booth I get to see how people react to certain types of music. I get to see the beginning and end of throwing events and what it takes to accomplish something like a Bounce Dat.
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ZA: I love that. It’s so beautiful to see your vision actually come to life. I’m sure even that moment for you was crazy. When you had your first event and you saw that it was a success, what was that moment like afterwards? When you came home, took your makeup off, laid in bed, how was that for you? What was going through your mind?
OHSO: I remember throughout it, there just was so much love, especially when it was time for my set. I was so nervous about playing because I had been so focused on just getting everything together for the party that I didn’t know if I was ready to DJ it. A lot of these people came out because they wanted to support what I’m working on so I was like, let me just let me just play, let’s see what happens. Everyone was cheering me on at the end of my set, it was such a good time.
After everything was done, I got home and was like, oh, wow. That really happened. I saw it -that one thing that I’ve been so afraid to do- I finally saw it through and it was an absolute success. It made me realize that once you just start, it builds momentum for yourself. I think me just starting was something that allowed me to realize that whenever you have an idea, put your all into executing that idea.
ZA: You mentioned that people were excited about your set. So I do wanna ask about your journey as a DJ. What has your journey been like in regards to DJing as a woman and how has that helped your growth with Bounce Dat?
OHSO: When I started it was around 2012 and at that time it was just me making an executive decision to follow this thing that I’m really passionate about. But when I was younger, I saw a DJ for the first time. I went home to my mom and was like, oh my God, I saw this guy, he’s a DJ, really wanna try it. My mom was against it. In my household, I was the oldest and it was kind of like my parents sacrificed their lives to, to give us a better one.
So at that time I’m just like, maybe my mom’s right. Not realizing that she’s only thinking from a place of like what she understands and she doesn’t know that women can DJ. She wasn’t even thinking that women could do a lot of the male dominated things. That actually had become something that I was striving to make sure to overcome. In school I would play sports and when I would play scrimmage games, guys wouldn’t take me seriously. It was like every time that I would run into a situation where something was male dominated, I took it personal [laughs].
So in doing that, when I finally discovered DJing, I was like, oh wow, this is the same scenario. I’m coming into this world where there was probably only like 20 girl DJs at the time. I told myself I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, but I’m just going to take this leap of faith and see where it takes me. I tried to go to school for my parents, it didn’t really work out. I was working jobs, but I wasn’t passionate about them. DJing officially is the only job I have never quit in my entire life. It was something I felt so connected to.
That was 2012 and I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know how to network, I didn’t know anything about business. Over the years, I started to kind of pick up different aspects. Maybe I need to build a website, maybe I need to get a logo done, create merchandise. I learned more about social media and marketing because I noticed that that was growing my following. All of those things are pretty much what helped me just develop myself as the DJ I am today and why it allowed me to feel confident to create my own party series in the city and create a movement. I just want everyone to be safe and go out and have like a good time and feel liberated and uninhibited. It’s hard to do that when you don’t have people that care about protecting people in those spaces.
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ZA: What influenced you to want to have these safe spaces for women? Was there something that you saw while you were DJing, like women being harassed by men?
OHSO: Just from being a woman and having to deal with my experiences of being in nightclub. It was always annoying to want to go out with my girls and there’s men that I’m not even in remotely interested in just that keep persisting and sometimes it can be a little aggressive like when they grab you a little hard, I hate that. So over the years it was like, damn, this shit sucks. It sucks that like women have to worry about getting roofied at clubs and we just always have to have be on guard, especially Black women. I think that’s why it became really important for me to create something that women can feel safe to go to.
ZA: We know men can be very sensitive and I know that men can only get in Bounce Dat if they’re invited or escorted by women. So have you had any backlash from men that are interested in going and can’t attend?
OHSO: A thousand percent, from the very beginning too. There was a dude who I had known to be abusive to women. I hadn’t seen or heard of him for, for years, he wasn’t even a thought until one day. The person that he’s dating now came to the party one time and she DMed me asking for him to come with her. I just said I haven’t had good experiences with him and, and people that I know haven’t either, so I don’t feel comfortable with him attending. So he started going in on Twitter and Instagram talking about how it’s a lesbian party. Then one day he said he’ll run into me in person and I’m like, is this man try to threaten me because he can’t can’t come to a party? Like what’s wrong with him?
I remember when I took the party on a five city popup tour and in New York, the guys that were coming without a date were trying to find girls to just get in with. When they got in they were shouting and being aggressive. We had to get on the mic tell security to get these people.
That’s the type of backlash I get. There’s also been brands that were trying to work with us and eventually felt like it was considered discrimination to prevent men from coming. What do you want me to do? You want me to make an exception because you’re give me some money to put your name on everything. No, not doing that.
ZA: Bounce Dat came back this month after two year hiatus. In what ways is it back and better than ever this year?
OHSO: We scaled up in terms of size. The space is bigger and it’s a venue that’s well respected in the city. The goal is to continue to scale up and create different experiences aside from just it being like a party at a nightclub.
I would love to do like a yacht party over the summer. Then eventually start booking talent. I think it would be cool to get some girls to come perform for us. Like Rubi Rose or a Latto, or even like some throwback artists like a Trina. I also thought it would be cool to take the party on tour, but I also thought it would be even cooler if Bounce Dat becomes the opening act on a tour. That’s something I’m looking to manifest because imagine opening up for like a Cardi or a Lizzo, we would turn the crowd up, it would be crazy. I want to try to manifest that at some point.
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