Photo by Nick Blu
Last Friday, Qween Beat’s inaugural Qweendom compilation hit the streets; 11 tracks from a who’s who of contemporary ballroom greats. The release runs the gamut of ballroom style, a mixture of hard-as-nails production, fierce vocals and a reverent sense of history that manifests itself in both subtle and literal ways. In that sense, no artist epitomizes Qweendom more than Byrell the Great and on “Bubble Drop”, a collaboration with Kassandra Ebony, WARREN B. and Princess Precious, and “Legendary Children”, the New York-based DJ effortlessly matches a distinctly modern production approach with classic sounds. Which is pretty much what Byrell has been doing since emerging as a producer a few years back, working extensively with the likes of MikeQ, Cakes Da Killa and Venus X to establish a position as one of ballroom’s rising production stars and most sought after DJs.
Specifically, Byrell is one of the top DJs in the kiki scene, a counterpart to the main ballroom scene that is younger and more oriented to fun, free flowing balls. Without making too many assumptions, Byrell’s production work often mirrors those characteristics and features samples from predictable sources like Masters at Work, Tronco Traxx and Beyonce, but also brings in Chedda da Connect, Nicki Minaj and Kanye West for a decidedly more modern sound. Byrell’s Astral Plane mix is, in his words, a “spell casting” of recent favorites, a Qweendom-heavy tour through modern ballroom with room for a collaboration with UNIIQU3 and inclusion of tracks by up-and-comers Capital K’aos, Quest?onmarc and TRICK$. We had a brief chat with Byrell over email and talked about the next step for Qween Beat, testing out Qweendom and his position, both internal and external, as one of the most in-demand ballroom/kiki DJs around. Hit the jump for our talk with Byrell and check below that for a track list we’re sure you’ll be repeatedly checking back on as you run through these 35 hi energy minutes.
Hi Byrell, how are you? Where are you answering these questions from?
I’m GREAT! Answering these questions pool side while on a much needed and deserved vacay with family.
How are you feeling about the response to Qweendom so far? Both from within the kiki/major scenes and from outside?
I love the response the Internet is giving it first and foremost. People who I never even knew listened to ballroom music been hitting us up and tagging us in post congratulating us as a team and I loved that! As far as ballroom and Kiki ballroom go, myself and MikeQ been playing this album for like 5 months prior to release at all the balls and vogue knights so they been going off to it vogueing down, walking runway, and just carrying! I think they were happy we finally released it so they could have at there leisure.
You’ve emerged as one of the most sought after ballroom producers and DJs over the past few years. Has that changed your approach when you sit down to start a track?
Yes and no. No because I wanna keep that hunger that helped me get here and remain humble. Yes because like those who came before me I want to create tracks that are timeless and can be played years even decades after. So my approach now is to have fun yet be innovative and different from the rest.
Your two contributions to Qweendom strike a nice balance between classic vogue sounds and the harder style that’s become popular in recent years. How do you see those two styles/movements interacting on the compilation in particular and in 2016 in general?
I think it was vital for us to have some feel of classic ballroom on Qweendom because old way/ new way is a style that won’t ever die out so we had to appeal to people that walk those categories. Now Bubble Drip a more harder dramatic track was very needed because the children are in love with that. To me, both styles came to a place where they won’t be leaving anytime soon.
Having waited years to release a project like Qweendom, where do you see Qween Beat going over the coming years? Is another compilation on the way? Individual projects?
I see nothing but greatness for QB in the future! Another compilation will soon come but yes it’s that time where individuals are working on their own projects. I think Qweendom was good place for a lot of the artist, especially me, to show the world their original productions then come with solo projects. Keep an eye on Qween Beat, this is like the rebirth in a sense.
Tell us a little about your Astral Plane mix. Is there a specific concept or idea behind it?
Spell casting per usual with some of my favorite tracks at the moment. Nothing more, nothing less.
1. URSLA FT. DIVOLI SVERE – LIKE THIS
2. CAPITAL KAOS – I WOKE UP LIKE PU$$Y
3. BYRELL THE GREAT – S033Y
4. GIANNI LEE & HI$TO – OCTANE
5. DRAKE – HYPE
6. LSDXOXO – FREESTYLE 4 REMIX
7. ABDU ALI – DID DAT (QUESTIONMARC RMX)
8. BEEK – NASTY
9. V KIM FT. DIVOLI SVERE – GOLD CHAINZ (KINGDOM RMX)
10. THUNDERBIRD JUICEBOX – IF YUNG METRO DONT
11. DAWN – GET IT HOW I GET IT (BYRELL THE GREAT RMX)
12. KOPPI X PRECIOUS – MANKO BACKBACK
13. QWEEN BEAT – QWEENDOM
14. QWEEN BEAT – QWEEN ROYALE
15. ASH B – STOP PLAYIN IN MY FACE
16. TR!CK$ – KEYS
17. AQUILES ORQUIDEA – YOUR BOOTY SMELLS LIKE P
18. WARREN B, KASSANDRA, SMERK – PARTY CYPH
19. BYRELL THE GREAT X UNIIQUE – WURK YA BAWDY
20. SNAPPY JIT FT. RAPPA – DROP DAT
21. MIKEQ X NA NGUZU – FINGERS UP RMX
22. BASSBEAR – GREASE MODE
23. AMEN – NO TIME (ASE MANUAL RMX)
24. KELELA – ALL THE WAY DOWN