Lala The DJ is here to defy all boundaries in music, cementing her name as a powerful female DJ and producer who refuses to settle for anything less than great. Born in the Middle East, raised in the Bay Area, but now calling Los Angeles home, Lala is a music-lover down to the core, with the ability to shut down stages around the world from an Atlanta strip club to a Gay Pride Parade event to corporate events to even serving as Vory’s official tour DJ.
Having the rare opportunity to open for celebrities such as Doja Cat, Future, and Nipsey Hussle, Lala now shifts her focus into her main passion to date: producing. In fact, only 2% of producers in the music industry are female, and Lala demands attention when she walks in the room. Growing up playing musical instruments such as violin, piano, guitar, and even dabbling in Garageband as a teenager, Lala now channels those talents into formulating her own beats.
Additionally, Lala is excited as ever to be managing and DJing a female-owned strip club in Los Angeles, slated to open sometime this summer. Flaunt caught up with Lala in downtown Los Angeles to discuss how she got her start in music, learning how to produce, being persistent, studio essentials, opening for the likes of Cardi B and Doja Cat, her favorite artists, becoming Vory’s tour DJ, goals, and more!
You used to work behind the scenes in music, what were your jobs?
My first ever music industry job, I worked at the Bay Area hip hop station. I worked at 94.9 and 106.1 when I was 16 or 17 years old, so like 7+ years ago. I was a kid, so obviously it was like intern vibes. But I went to college for something completely different, because you grow up being told that you can't make money in music.
Talk about going the producer route, how did that start?
I’d been playing around with it on and off. I started doing that before I was ever a DJ. Living in San Francisco and being 18, 19, 20, before Instagram was a huge thing, I was thinking like, “okay so I have these beats, but what do I do with them now?” I didn't know people in music like that, only the radio station where I worked. I thought, “Okay I guess I'll be a DJ,” because you could do that in any city. Then last year, I came back to producing because I had time with the pandemic.
How does it feel being a female producer? She said 2% of producers are female.
I would think it’s even fewer, because 2% means 1 out of 50 are women. It's funny because if you think about what producing is, why would a man be better at it? Are they more creative? They have more rhythm? I don’t see why women can’t be as good, or better.
How did you learn?
A well-known producer taught me how to DJ. He started getting booked to do DJ gigs, I said “oh I thought you were a producer?” He said “oh it’s really similar, this is how you do it.” I’d watch over his shoulder like “oh that’s easy.” I still have this video in my phone from 2015, looking over his shoulder in Vegas.
What program was he using?
He was DJing on Serato, and I thought “oh, that looks easy.” Then I tried and it wasn't easy at all, at first. [laughs] In terms of producing, I heard that all the best use FL Studio (Fruity Loops), and on YouTube, there's so many tutorials. That's really where I learned the basics. And I learned from collabing with people, watching people work. I still learn new shit all the time.
Any placements that you're proud of?
I have some coming that I can't speak on, but they're billboard charting artists. They’re big artists who I’m literally a fan of, I'm excited. By the end of this year or next year, they should be out.
I feel like as a producer, you're literally waiting.
All you do is wait, and meanwhile you have to keep working, going to like 10 sessions a week. There's barely any money until the actual song comes out. You have the beats, and the cuts—you’ll be in the studio and someone like Tjay, Migos, some big artist will record on your beat. But will that song ever see the light of day? Will I ever even have it in my phone? It's just feels so all or nothing. It's not for the weak. Fun though, it's a fun process.
3 things you need in the studio at all times?
Water. (laughs) And I need a good temperature, the vibes have to be right for me. If it's too hot or too cold, I can't do it. And then, many producers don't care who's around. For me personally, if I'm cooking up from scratch making a new beat, I can't have too many people in there. I'll even put on headphones to focus and zone out. If someone I’m close to is there, that's fine. But if I don't know these people and it’s like 10 of them... especially me being a girl, people look at me like “there's no way you do this yourself.” It feels like people are watching me, waiting for me to fail. Maybe I'm putting words in their mouths. People don’t always say negative shit, but people be hating. [laughs]
Nah, that’s in your head!
I will say that as a woman, I've been embraced a good amount. It piques a lot of people’s curiosity, like “wait, you really do this? You really made this beat?" Yeah, I did. They'll think it's dope. A lot of people are really nice about it. Being a girl, I actually get more opportunities than I would if I was a guy, in some instances. I get invitations to sessions that I don’t always feel that I would get if I was male, so I use that to my advantage and just put my best, most professional foot out there.
Talk about the EP you're executive producing for Winter Blanco.
Winter Blanco got her start in reality TV but most people don’t know she’s a fire music artist. She’s in the middle of a situation preventing her from releasing new music, but she’ll be able to finally drop soon. When she put out an album over 2 years ago, it reached #15 on the R&B charts. She does well with anything she puts out, her fanbase is crazy. They’re in the middle of the lawsuit and as soon as it's over, we're going to drop an EP. Her fans message me and her everyday: “when’s the music coming?” I could play you some songs, they're fire.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
Roddy, he's amazing. Especially live, or acoustic. Ariana Grande is my all-time favorite. Then Vory’s my favorite artist of course.
How did you guys tap in?
I've known him for about 4 years, when he was with Capitol [Records]. I was DJing an event and one of his managers heard me and thought I was good. He asked if I’ve heard of Vory, told me he’s looking for a DJ. Vory likes an all-female team, because he’s really good about putting women on. And it’s amazing because It's rare for a man to do that. So then I go to meet him at his house—he’s a real artist, very closed off and to himself. One of those people where if you're going to meet up with him, he doesn't want you to bring other people. He doesn't want strangers around. I went and kicked it with him 3 different times, I could tell he was just feeling me out, before he said "okay, you’re cool. Now you got the job." I guess I passed the test. [laughs]
So you saw his journey with Meek Mill and Dreamchasers?
Yeah, I already guessed they would picked him up. I really like him with Meek, Vory has such a passionate flair but he can rap too. They mesh so well, it’s a perfect fit.
What else are you working on that you're excited about?
One of my DJ friends, DJ Fergy and I, have always DJed strip clubs around Los Angeles. Now, she’s working on a situation where we can run our own strip club, it's going to be all women staffed: all women DJs, managers, waitresses, everything. I'm excited, LA needs a night life revamp.
How was it being chosen as one of the few women curators for Tidal's Curated By series?
Honestly, years ago when I wasn't qualified for the opportunities I wanted, I’d scout the people in charge and email and message them first, and ask for the opportunity. Oftentimes, I’d get ignored. Other times, they'd reply and say I wasn't qualified. I reached out to Tidal back in like 2018 and they essentially told me I wasn’t ready yet. Out of nowhere this past November, they reached out to me like, "We followed your journey, we see you doing dope things. We want you to curate a playlist." It wasn't the same person I reached out to, but I'm guessing me initiating is how I got on their radar. The playlist itself is dope—you pick a theme and you pick the songs. Mine is an international theme, it's some of every genre from over a dozen countries, but mostly Hip Hop.
What's your favorite genre?
My favorite is Hip Hop, R&B. My favorite artist other than Vory and Roddy is Lil Baby. And EST Gee, He has no bad songs.
What's your favorite song by him?
He has so many, especially if you like to drive fast and blast your music. [laughs]
Favorite songs to drop in a set?
It depends the type of event it is If I'm doing a Hip Hop strip club, 42 Dugg. You can't go wrong with 42 Dugg. You can't go wrong with Sada Baby, Icewear Vezzo, really trap shit. Street music, which I prefer to regular club music. A regular club, you'll hear Drake and Chris Brown, which is cool but I like hard shit. Drill shit like Lil Durk. Brooklyn has a fire wave going on now too.
How was it opening for Cardi B?
I opened for Cardi before I really knew what I was doing, in 2017. I got on this festival lineup in Miami after “Bodak Yellow” had dropped. She wasn't quite a global superstar yet, but obviously I was still nervous. It was the first time I’d been flown somewhere to DJ. It was a year into my DJing, it felt so official. I met her backstage. It wasn't a huge festival lineup like Rolling Loud, but it was a pretty good amount of people. She was headlining. I went on 3rd out of 8 acts, I was nervous but it was lit. I learned a lot. That’s before I realized if you're playing in Miami, you gotta curate it differently than if you're playing in LA. Regionally, you know?
What do they like out there?
When you’re opening, you think you should play the most lit song out but they want to hear their local shit. For instance, if today you're playing in LA, BLXST would get the people going. In the Midwest, it wouldn't. They wanted to hear their local shit, which I wasn't caught up on. You learn things as you go. [laughs]
That's tight, what about Doja Cat?
I opened up for her at a Halloween event in San Francisco, it was amazing. She always kills it live. I remember being inspired because that stage and that audience was pretty small, maybe under 1000 people. I remember thinking this crowd is small, so I didn't feel that energetic when I first hit the stage but I did my job and it went well. I saw her go on and the way she killed it, you'd think it was the Grammys, despite it being a small crowd. I remember thinking “Damn, you really gotta go hard no matter who’s here."
Talk about your journalism roots.
I basically became a journalist because writing comes naturally to me. When I first moved to LA, I didn't know anybody or know the scene. So I decided to get into events, I'll cover them and be a journalist, I made that my strategy. DJing and journalism are really similar in this way, where they both tell a story. It's presenting a story from start to finish. I saw this quote where someone compared music making to journalism, how it's really similar. When you DJ something, it's an experience. You can't just look at 3 minutes of a set. From start to finish, you're curating a whole story for the audience.
Do you have any goals for yourself?
Other than production placements, I have a few—I DJ a lot for brands like Nike and YSL, but I’d love to move into a more fashion circuit. Right now I travel to play at tentpole events around the US, like the Super Bowl, All-Star, or Rolling Loud, but I’d love to go international like Paris or Milan for Fashion Week. Like to go there and DJ for Versace or some fashion house, huge shit like that. That's a huge goal of mine.
For production, I'm not one of those people who strives for a Grammy or accolades. I just want to be a part of music history—Growing up, I’d be 5 years old watching all the classic artists like Michael Jackson, Billie Holiday, Jennifer Lopez, etc.. and it seemed like such a far away world. Now I go to the studio and see Whitney Houston plaques on the wall, and think, “wow I'm really in this. Younger me would never believe it.” Grammys are cool, but I want to be a part of albums that stand the test of time. It doesn't even have to be someone like Drake—I just want to create, and cement myself in music history in some capacity.