At Harlow's on a recent evening, Miss Kendra French sat down to discuss the state of women in spinning. The 30-something talent balances a day job and personal life with the dedication to pursue her creative and musical goals. French, who has blond locks and a glittering smile, explored and mastered underground house music from the beginning of the local scene.
The DJ matriarch has perfected her technique over the past six years. She continually challenges herself to create new and better mixes, from trance to trip-hop, and she holds the title of the first female DJ in Sacramento who actively played out in clubs.
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Her beginning experiences playing out were a mixture of excitement and challenge. The excitement was personal and musical--a milestone for her and the art form. The challenge was all public: Some welcomed her with open arms; others thought she should stay on the dance floor. “I had to work a lot harder when I played my music. Yeah, a lot harder,” she said. “Study it more.” This, in the end, inspired French to become a masterful DJ.
French began spinning at the beginning of the turntable-music wave in Sacramento, when “house” meant the place where the party was, not grooves, breaks or beats. She said many people simply gave her a hard time for being a woman in the genre--generally critiquing her appearance on the scene without considering her ability. “It was very challenging,” she said. “I felt like they gave me a hard time about things, like how much I got paid, what time I played, you know, blah blah.” French faced non-supportive attitudes from the audience, promoters and other DJs--a majority of which, at the time, were men. “People thought I didn’t know what I was doing, ’cause I am female,” she said. “I am supposed to be out there dancing, not behind the decks. There was a lot of competition with the guys, attitude-wise.”
In the end, French’s talent and creative output won. She became a successful resident DJ at The Rage, and she’s still playing out today at venues such as Ink in Midtown and at private parties. French’s success was not entirely self-made; her boyfriend at the time aided her in perfecting her technique and in landing those first gigs.