If you've ever felt alienated by the mainstream club scene or disillusioned with the hegemony of house and techno, there's rarely been a better time to be living in New York City. Even as corporate venues and towering condo buildings continue to force the shuttering of DIY spaces, there's a thriving group of loosely connected scenes in the underground that provide an outlet for producers and DJs who operate off the beaten path.
Parties like Papi Juice, Shock Value, and Fake Accent, as well as crews like KUNQ and Discwoman, foreground the work of queer and trans people of color—offering events and spaces centered on inclusivity and mutual respect. These parties—not coincidentally—also happen to be among the most sonically adventurous shows in the city too, the sorts of places where it makes sense to hear shattered dancehall, Eurodance remixes, rap hits, East coast club music, and harsh noise all in the span of one disorienting night.
One of the people making spaces like this possible is Tygapaw, the Jamaican-born and Brooklyn-based DJ and producer who throws the Fake Accent shows. Last year, she told THUMP that she founded the party as a way to "make a new space to be among like-minded people, regardless of race, gender, sexuality," to create a community where people are free to be themselves, both as people and also as DJs. The installments that I've been to feel unpretentious and fun—you're more likely to hear a t.A.T.u. remix than a techno white label—while still emphasizing musical adventurousness. Both as a DJ and a promoter, Tygapaw seems to favor experimentation, smashing together unexpected styles with the aim of opening you up to new sounds—and making you dance too. Today, she's sharing the latest THUMP mix, which she says is a way of channelling her "life and struggle."
If you like what you hear, this whole scene will be on display at an upcoming Red Bull Music Academy show called A Bed-Stuy Function. On May 7, Tygapaw will play alongside features Shock Value's Juliana Huxtable, KUNQ's FXWRK and stud1nt, and the resident DJs at Papi Juice.
THUMP: How are we meant to enjoy the mix? What's the perfect setting?
Anywhere, anytime, any place. It's meant for you to really listen and to connect and to move your waistline, if you feel like it.
Is synesthesia a real thing and if so, what color is this mix?
I believe every musician is born with the ability to see sounds, it just sometimes takes a mushroom trip to unlock your mutant abilities. This mix is every color of the rainbow.
Was there any specific concept to the mix?
My mixes are sonic representations of my life and my struggle. I'm always telling a story with my mixes. If you are really paying attention you'll find out. That's if you care, and if you don't then my mixes won't do much for you. But if you have an open heart and open mind, you'll get the most out of it.
Do you have a favorite moment on the mix?
Usually the edits I do for my mixes are my favorite parts. But this is the first time I'm putting Grace in this mix, so I would have to say the intro and my Madonna "Frozen" edit, but I usually have a sweet spot in my mixes where I usually start to go off with some serious club edits, in this mix that starts at 18:00 mark.
Can you tell me a bit about the Grace Jones interview that opens the mix, what drew you to that clip?
That Grace Jones interview strikes a very direct chord with me for obvious reasons. But for those folks who it's not so obvious, I'm Jamaican, I'm queer, I'm a woman, and I'm an artist. When I was growing up in Jamaica, I didn't know who Grace Jones was because there is no trace of her in Jamaican culture, and that is so fucking devastating. When I heard about her in my teens, it was from my mother when people told her she looked like Grace Jones she would take it as an insult, and I asked her why, and she said Grace Jones is ugly. Now this is my culture for you, when a woman is dark-skinned, striking, masculine and feminine all at once, and has a powerful presence people will do everything in their power to make them feel like we are not worth the air we breathe.
That's been most of my reality growing up in Jamaica, and once I came out it seems to be happening all over again, except I'm in a different country, but the language directed at me is still the same. These past few months have been incredibly difficult on a personal level, so whenever I am feeling like there is literally nothing but hate being directed at me because of how I look, I put this interview on and I listen to the woman that made it possible for me to keep existing in this world. Her words provide comfort in knowing that she has walked the path I'm currently walking and she's still here and she's fucking GRACE JONES! From one baddie/goodie to the next: Grace, call me! Let's work!
Both in this mix and in the times I've seen you play, you gravitate toward heaviness or density. What draws you to those sorts of sounds? Is there ever room in a Tygapaw set for a straightforward house track?
My reality draws me to those sounds. I'm constantly trying to represent my feelings, thoughts and emotions and literally all the emotional pain I've had to endure most of my life through sounds, since music is literally the one thing that is saving me from hopelessness. Cause the world is pretty fucked, and music provides so much comfort and healing for me. And no shade, but why would I want to do what everybody else is doing? There's definitely no room in my life for basic shit, so hope that answers your question. Now a GQOM track I can fuck with, cause that is some real sounds coming from a very real place, a very raw place. That I can relate to.
This RBMA party is highlighting a loose scene centered in Bed-Stuy that Fake Accent is a crucial part of. You've lived in New York a long time, is there anything about this particular group of parties and people that feels especially exciting to you?
With my 15 years of living in New York, I've spent three of those years so far being out. When I first started Fake Accent, I didn't know of where to go to meet people like myself. Then a friend of mine invited me to a Papi Juice party three years ago, and it changed everything for me. It was my first full experience of qtpoc nightlife, and I just didn't look back. Now it's always a constant struggle because these spaces can give off a particular energy that might be off putting to some people, but the realness cannot be denied.
But tbh, with everything with me it always boils down to the music, so I could care less who is in the space flexing. What always matters the most is the music, and when I met the members of KUNQ and heard the music they were making, it was game over! This music is the fucking truth! And then inject this music into a dark moody club setting, and you cannot get me to leave that club! That's what has kept me in NYC underground, the sounds that are pumping out those fucking speakers and the waves coming from dem subwoofers. This club music.
How does Fake Accent fit into the current ecosystem of the New York underground? What do you strive to provide with your parties that no one else does?
We don't fit in at all, and that's what makes us different. It's difficult to talk about because there's just so much bullying and strong arming in the NYC underground happening right now and it's creating an environment that basically impossible to thrive in. I do not subscribe to that fuckery. And that's why I strive to provide a nurturing environment within a club setting where you feel like you have a place there, and you feel like you belong, and you can arrive alone but leave having made a handful of new friends. This happens at every single Fake Accent party and I'm extremely proud to be able to provide that space for all the qtpoc who struggle with social anxiety and find that other places might just be on too much of an exclusive vibe where toxicity just seems to be the running theme. We just aim to create the most comforting space possible for the people who need it the most. For all the sensitive souls like myself.