Coco Supreme has an idea of how you should write her story after she's gone. She's only 23, but the Toronto-based DJ's already made significant strides as a trans woman of colour in a music scene that often feels as large as the city that supports it.
"I really want to be vain and want people to say she was so pretty, she was so smart, so funny, so cool, but I feel like I should say something more articulate," she tells THUMP with a laugh over the phone.
It's a refreshing response from a quickly rising selector in a Canadian metropolis that has been frequently critiqued for its inability to let loose. Born and raised in Buffalo, New York, Supreme cites crucial figures in Toronto's LGBTQ community like DJ Eloquenz, who introduced her to traditional DJing techniques before she settled into playing more left-field music. Despite the fact she only started performing professionally less than a year ago, she's already built up an impressive CV, supporting acts including Discwoman members DJ Haram and SHYBOI, and Yes Yes Y'all's Nino Brown. Next month, she'll be co-curating a Pride Toronto showcase, which she says is about creating "those sorts of spaces that people say exist for queer and trans people of colour in Toronto but don't actually."
Her approach to DJing is wildly kinetic and designed to have maximum reach: in a single set, she may drop a ballroom remix of Vybz Kartel, only to follow it up with "super experimental, weird club noise." Supreme's exclusive Sugar, Spice and Nothing Nice mix for THUMP replicates the same energy of her live performances, with super fast cuts punctuating loud basslines and drum patterns. Sped up vocals from R&B artists like NAO and more haunting melodies from underground artists like AH MER AU SU anchor the chaos. "For me it's about keeping people on their toes" she explains.
Listen to the mix below, and read our Q&A with Supreme to find out why she's one to watch in 2017.
What have been some of your strategies for breaking into the electronic scene in Toronto, which can sometimes feel a bit difficult to permeate?
Coco Supreme: I don't really do the whole branding and commodification of myself as an artist thing. I've mostly just been a SoundCloud thot. A lot of the reasons why I wanted to start doing music in the first place was to be able to share it with other people who were just as fed up with the nightlife scene here. I think that's the biggest thing for me. Just having a community of people that I trust and that support.
How have your experiences as a trans woman of colour informed your approach to DJing?
That's a big question. On the one hand I think that the holy trifecta of identities: trans, woman and person of colour are very pervasive now with the publicization of Janet Mock and Laverne Cox. I think it's an interesting time as someone who is starting out. Some people hear that and they are interested to some extent, and then other people see and they're like "Wow, what the fuck is that," and have expectations about me and the kind of music I'll play or the kind of crowd that I'll bring.
Do you feel like music scenes often hold artists from racialized and queer communities responsible for making political statements in their work and performances?
I think it's cool if it happens, but to put the onus on people to constantly be subversive or revolutionary can be really exhausting. I'm really about people just doing what they want to do, especially other trans women of colour, and other brown and black girls. Even just doing your own thing and putting it into the world, and providing for yourself is inherently subversive in some way.
It's interesting to look at the way history tells people's stories for them. The history of music and the narratives attached to a phase of disco or house music. That's something that I'm really interested in: how my story will be told after I'm gone. And not just my story, but the stories of people around me.
In the middle of a DJ set, what's your ideal moment?
I guess I don't really think about what I do as "moments." It's really easy to do things that are predictable and you know people will react in a very specific way too. For myself, whenever I leave the house, I don't really know what my day is going to be like. Even when I go out with friends, it's like, "Am I going to get kicked out of the washroom tonight?" "Is the bouncer going to ask for my legal name tonight?" I care more about the safety of the people that are there, rather than whether I'm going to drop this song and people are going to blow up.
Can you talk a bit about your mix for THUMP and what inspired some of your selections?
I started it off with an audio clip about Him from Powerpuff Girls, which I watched growing up, and Him was just this villain that was basically a scary trans woman. Going off that same vibe, I included club edits of Spice Girls and Britney Spears. That sort of stuff is fun for me to do because it's something that everyone knows the words to. It was what I grew up listening to as a kid who was being told to perform this young, South Asian masculinity.
Sugar, Spice and Nothing Nice Tracklist:
The Powerpuff Girls Intro
Lil Uzi Vert & 1127 – My Rule (Avbvrn Bootleg)
Kelela – Enemy (MA NGUZU Ironsoul Edit)
BASSBEAR!! – HOL UPPPP // BRB
Girl Unit – Queen B
Raziek – Lovin It
LAO – Xibalba (NEW FEAR Remix)
Gang Fatale – Limón (Kieran Loftus, Neans)
CHLO – Zigazig Ha
NGUZUNGUZU – Harp Bell (SVNTV MVERTE Bootleg)
Thast – Take A Pic
RETINA SET – So Seductive & Busy
Gillette – Short Dick Man
Mad Villains – Poppin'
Young Luxenberg & Ca$h Bandicoot – Jusswanna
NAO – Bad Blood (Austin Lebrón Remix)
davOmakesbeats – Somebody (feat. DDM & AH MER AH SU)
Schwarz – Hands
CHLO – Get It Shawty
Ca$h Bandicoot – IMMA
Tsvi – Parade
MikeQ & DJ Sliink – The Bitch (Retina Set Club Edit)
Suspect Bitch – Dnt Wanna
Cakes Da Killa – Get 2 Werk (Club Kween) (feat. Rye Rye)
BASSBEAR!! – Jumpman (BASSBEAR Refix)
STRICT FACE – Crew Montagem (Strict Face's Okeyszoke Expedition Remix)
Lead and mix photo by Renée Tran.
Melissa Vincent is on Twitter.