SpeakerFoxxx: 'Atlanta Has Been Home My Whole Life'
She was born and raised in ATL, and now calls the Reynoldstown neighborhood home.
Photo by Fabian Fernandez
For Speakerfoxxx (aka Nilan), music has been an integral part of her life since she was playing piano and ukulele at age five and singing in the church choir. Cut to today, and she's a nationally respected DJ who's taken up residence locally at spots like the W Atlanta hotel and underground club El Bar to Insert Coin in Las Vegas and The Delano in Miami, and has DJed for the likes of Mike Will Made It, Three 6 Mafia's Gangsta Boo, and Rittz. Her mixtape with local artist Bosco, dubbed Girls in the Yard, drops April 11th. As far as Atlanta's bad bitches go, Speakerfoxxx reigns supreme.
How long have you been in Atlanta?
I was born in Atlanta, in Piedmont Hospital, and I've lived here my whole life except for one summer when I lived in Jamaica and did a teaching program. Atlanta has been home my whole life.
Is DJing your only hustle?
I'm actually a stylist-slash-musician, or stylist and DJ. I spend half my week at a salon cutting hair, I work at a really really nice Van Michael salon in Atlanta. For the other half, I'm a DJ. Monday through Wednesday are my studio days where I work on music projects and do admin stuff, anything music related is Monday through Wednesday. Thursday through Saturday I work at my salon. I usually DJ mostly on the weekends but throughout the week as well.
My favorite neighborhood in Atlanta is the one I live in, which is Reynoldstown. I was born in Brookhaven and I used to really love it, but that neighborhood has changed so much. I moved down to Little Five Points when I was in high school. Currently my two favorite neighborhoods are Reynoldstown and the west end area, because it's so industrial.
Where are you likely to be spotted around town?
I love ParkGrounds and Aurora for coffee. I pretty much only support local restaurants and coffeeshops. My favorite place to eat is Holeman and Finch, I love it there. It's this tiny place where they have the best burger in Atlanta. My favorite brunch place is Ria's Bluebird. That's the best place to have brunch. In Atlanta there's not very good shopping I'd say, so I do a lot of vintage and thrift store shopping. The thrift stores on the outskirts of the city are usually really good. Atlanta is pretty solid in awesome thrift stores, secondhand stuff and good jewelry—I buy a lot of my gold jewelry here. I haven't tried a lot of new restaurants in the past year because I've been dating cute Spanish boys that have been taking me to places on Buford Highway and off East Cobb Parkway. I didn't know this, but we have really great Puerto Rican and Brazilian food here too. I've been going to a lot of little divey spots that no one's ever heard of.
What about hidden gems?
I used to never tell anybody this because I didn't want it to blow up, but my favorite tacos are at El Progreso, which is this little carniceria y tienda off of Boulevard by the penitentiary. It's this little bodega and if you walk back to where the meat counter is they have a little food counter where you order tacos. I love the tacos there--they're like a dollar and so good. I also like El Taco Veloz on Cheshire Bridge, it's a drive-thru that has authentic Mexican corn tortillas. And there's a place called Umaido up in Doraville. That place is bangin'. They have the best ramen in Atlanta for sure. I would highly recommend that guy. It's worth the drive.
How have you seen ATL's DJ scene evolve since you starting spinning?
It's funny, I definitely think that when I first became a DJ, taking it seriously and playing gigs, I was like the rookie. I'd only been playing gigs for a year. It felt like it was a harder atmosphere to win acceptance in because Atlanta, to be 100-percent honest, has probably some of the best DJs in the world. There just aren't mediocre DJs in Atlanta, and we're blessed to have a number of very talented DJs that have done great things. I think coming up as a younger DJ, I just took it very seriously to earn the respect of my mentors and people I looked up to. I really studied it, and I knew being humble was a way to respect your elders. I started playing gigs in 2009, and I feel like the climate has changed, partly because of technology. When I first started DJing I had to save up to buy turntables and vinyl, and it was an expensive investment. Luckily—or unluckily—technology has made it so that anybody that has $400 can go buy a little controller and teach themselves.
On one hand it's cool because it's made it more accessible to people that probably wouldn't have gotten into it because maybe it was too expensive or whatever, but the downside is it's accessible to people who may not take it as seriously as some of us did growing up. They might not respect the craft as much. And for musicians, because of social media and the internet you don't have to get signed to a label for us to hear your music, we can just hear it on Soundcloud or YouTube. So, more people are accessible, but then there's also more bullshit out there. To put it bluntly.
How does Atlanta's crowd compare to other cities?
Obviously, my favorite thing as a DJ is for a crowd to go crazy and to really turn up. I love to just get the crowd turnt up all the way. There are some parties where people are trying to be cool, but in Atlanta, for the most part, nobody here is too cool to really turn up. Atlanta is the most interactive audience to play for, and I'm not just saying that 'cause I'm from here. I've found that the Southern states tend to be a little bit more OK to let go. It sucks when you know you're playing great music and people are just not really responding or are too cool to dance.
You've got a DJ friend in town for 24 hours who wants a feel for the city. Where do you take them?
During the day if they want to go shopping, I usually take them down to the Atlanta apparel mart where you can go buy yellow gold by the weight. Everybody who visits Atlanta usually wants to buy gold teeth or a grill or some nice jewelry so I take them jewelry shopping there. Then we'll probably go to Magic City during the day and have some wings. Then we'd leave Magic City and probably stop by a studio like Means Street Studios or Tree Sound Studios, just because Atlanta is known for their music studios because we have so much good music being made in ATL & its such a big part of the culture here. At night, I'd probably take them to see one of our DJ friends play. I'd probably drive them by Edgewood because there's usually something crazy going on there. I'd definitely take them by El Bar or The Sound Table also, then we'd go see a friend DJ, whoever was throwing a party.
Where do you tend to end up after midnight?
I love El Bar, The Sound Table and MJQ—that's the first club I ever went to. I also love going to strip clubs to hear music, so I'll go to Magic City, Blue Flame or Follies. Then there's also an after-hours [spot] called Car Wash, it's like open from 3 or 4 AM till the sun comes up, if we really wanted to go out. We'd go there or to Pho 24 and get some delicious food. Or Waffle House.
Read the entire VICE Guide to Atlanta here.