Tag Archives: Qween Beat

quest?onmarc - michael cox

Photo by Michael Cox

Part of MikeQ’s scene leading Qween Beat collective, New York’s Quest?onmarc has emerged over the past year as one of the ballroom world’s most enigmatic voices, emerging occasionally for haunted club transmissions and high energy, classic-meets-contemporary DJ sets. Punchy kick patterns and snappy snare arrangements meet cerebral synth work on efforts like “Starshower Ha” and “Penance”, tracks that balance off-kilter menace with linear club functionality to great effect. It’s a sound foregrounded in runway functionality, involving the full range of ballroom samples, but with an ear to sounds outside of the direct ballroom lineage, whether they be Jersey and Bmore Club or the feedback loop sounds of European crews like Gang Fatale, Night Slugs or Nervous Horizon. That approach is most apparent in Quest?onmarc mixes and DJ sets, a rampant inclusivity that effortlessly matches the greats ballroom producers of our time with a huge collection of up-and-coming artists from the tri-state area and beyond. Unreleased Byrell The Great tunes bump up against new material from DJ Haram, Lao, Schwarz and Toxe in an intoxticating deluge of rhythm, collage-style production techniques and unrelenting forward momentum.

Astral Plane Mix 134 — our final entry of the year — is no different, an insatiably fun 75 minute blast with the potential to move the most jaded listeners. Unreleased material from Rizzla, Byrell The Great, Ash B., JX Cannon and MikeQ & DJ Fade collides with anthemic efforts from Helix, TD_Nasty, Kush Jones, Angel X and DJ J Heat, the result a brilliant confluence of ballroom, club and footwork’s most vital ideas. Raw, punchy drums form the backbone of Quest?onmarc’s work, but the mix is polished and tracks are blended together in a seamless manner more likely to be found in a techno set. Of course, there’s still plenty of bombast, but Quest?onmarc’s approach to DJing tends to put the whole of the session above individual tracks. Without an official release out yet, Quest?onmarc is still a relatively unknown entity and 2017 is going to be an intriguing year for this multifaceted artist. Hit the jump for the full track list and be sure to check out fellow Qween Beat member Byrell The Great’s Astral Plane Mix from August.

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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.

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In the words of Goddollars, co-founder of Los Angeles polysexual disco A Club Called Rhonda, “we’re currently experiencing a total mainstreaming of dance music in America.” Fewer and fewer LGBT and minority stakeholders control clubs and record labels, while the festival circuit has effectively sublimated dance music’s distinctly black, gay heritage into something more palatable for the $2000 Coachella ticket buying masses. Immerse yourself in Divoli S’vere‘s music for a few minutes though and you’d be hard-pressed to agree with the above statement. Raised in New York and presently residing in Atlanta, the dancer, producer, DJ, vocalist and graphic designer has become one of the mostly hotly tipped artists in the New York-centric ballroom/vogue realm, although he would attest that he’s “not in the scene.” And while Divoli did come up as a dancer, his production acumen has more in common with Brick Bandit originals Tim Dolla and DJ Tameil than the slower, more linear form of music oft-played at balls (for a quick rundown of contemporary ballroom lingo and history, see here).

Divoli grew up in the mixtape rap and dubstep era of American music after all and it’s readily apparent in his music and DJing, which is often comprised of manic quick chops and an un-compromising ferocity. Ckuntinomksz”, now four volumes deep, is Divoli’s free mixtape series and sounds like the meeting of DJ Mustard, late-1990s Dance Mania and a mutant extrapolation of Masters at Work. The mixes have a strong pop sensibility and often include contemporary rap and R&B, but Divoli’s slinky, licentious vocal work generally dominates both his single and mixtape work. His laugh, often utilized as a producer tag, has become ubiquitous in Fade 2 Mind mixes over the past few years and Divoli has become one of the most sought after vocalists in the greater ballroom world. MikeQ, the F2M representative and ballroom ambassador, certainly noticed and snapped Divoli up for his Qween Beat imprint and the two collaborate often.

With the “mainstreaming” (read: whitening) of America’s dance culture in mind, Divoli S’vere and Qween Beat rise above the bullshit, not only because of their superior musical aesthetic, but because of the all-inclusive, collaborative, open-source and DIY ethos they bring into what they do. The production, vocals, visual design and dissemination are all doen in-house and all done right. You don’t need to be able to afford bottle service to enjoy, produce or play out ballroom, but you do need to understand its roots and respect its musical and dance form. Without further ado, Divoli ran through 26 manic tracks in just over half an hour in his Astral Plane mix. You’ll hear plenty of the holy trinity, Beyonce, Britney and Rihanna, as well as unreleased bits from various Qween Beats artists. After all, anyone can enjoy ballroom music, but don’t expect your duck walk to be described as ckunt unless you really bring it.

Side note: the art work was devised as a collaboration between our team and Divoli : )

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Jay R Neutron

MikeQ’s Qween Beat outfit has been an influential East Coast force since its inception in 2005, but despite its reputation as a ballroom/vogue icon, the label only has a handful of official releases to its name. Along with Beek and Divoli S’Vere, Jay R Neutron is one of the key cogs in the Qween Beat machine, installing his Baltimore sensibilities into the traditional ballroom sound. Earlier today, Jay R let loose “The Bey Mix”, a nearly hour long mix comprised of ecstatic Beyonce edits. As if one or two think break laden, “ha” sampling Beyonce edits wasn’t enough, Jay R went full marathon on us, chopping up the full album into a complexly constructed club dominatrix. No download at this point, but this listener wouldn’t mind a few of these edits seeing the light of day as individual units.