How New Orleans’ ‘Queen of Rare Groove’ DJ Soul Sister gives back with vinyl

In an age when disc jockeys tote their musical choices on a MacBook for their sets, Soul Sister spins 100 percent from vinyl records.

by Mary Staes
December 17, 2018

One visit to DJ Soul Sister’s website and the first words that pop up are “Queen of Rare Groove.”

Soul Sister is rare, indeed. In an age when disc jockeys tote their musical choices on a MacBook for their sets, Soul Sister spins 100 percent from vinyl records.

DJ Soul Sister performs during a benefit concert for the Make it Right Foundation at the House of Blues in 2015. (Photo by Josh Brasted/WireImage)

The first time I felt the groove was at a Prince celebration she threw shortly after his death in 2016. I can’t remember anyone standing still, and I danced enough that night that I met the steps goal I had on my Apple Watch for the entire week in just three hours. Every year after, the “Prince party” has been a ritual, and if I miss out, I feel it in my bones.

Once a year, she has a holiday crate dig at Domino Records, where people can meet her in person and talk about music, exchange stories and ideas, and share. But the party also has a purpose; attendees are asked to bring books for Louisiana Books 2 Prisoners from their wish list. Those who do are entered in a raffle for concert tickets or gift certificates.

DJ Soul Sister sat down to talk about what sharing the music means to her, and why her groove is so unique.

You spin all vinyl, and lately, there’s been a resurgence in vinyl records. Everyone wants a record player now and it went from being this old thing to being the cool thing to do. How do you feel about that?

“I think it’s cool for people to do what they want to do! For me, it’s never been a style or fad, it’s just what I do. I just like vinyl, but I’m not a vinyl snob. I just tend to find a lot more of the things I like on wax. And the things I enjoy on wax, they’re not available digitally. So I have to go looking for them, otherwise, I’ll never find them.”

Did it turn into a necessity instead of a choice?

“Not a necessity. I mean, the way you framed it makes it sound like I’m looking for records for DJ’ing. I’m never looking for records for DJ’ing. I’m only looking for records that make me happy, and then those are the records that wind up going in my set. I never play a set thinking, “Oh, what does someone else like?’ or ‘Oh, what is a song that people like that I don’t like?’ I never play a song that I don’t like, never ever, never ever. So when I’m looking for things, it’s always for me to enjoy in my house, and then if I feel the feeling, then I’ll bring it out.”

How’d you get into DJ’ing?

“Well, that’s a long story but basically, I call myself a crate digger first. So, since I was little, I was always looking for soulful music that I love. Then I started, to make a very long story short, I started my show on WWOZ, so that is one of the ways I share my music, and then I started live DJ’ing and the original disco mix, which entails mixing and blending records, and that is a way I share music. I also present lectures and talks related to music topics so that’s another way I share music. So, it’s never just been about a DJ, it’s always been about sharing music in various different ways. Now, I’m in grad school for musicology and writing my thesis will be another way to share music topics that I believe in.”

Knowing that you share music that makes you happy, that comes from the heart, how do you feel when people come up to you and say that they love your show?

Well, it makes me feel very happy. I started throwing parties because I wanted to see the kind of parties happen that I didn’t see happening. The kind of parties I wanted to be at, those are the kind of parties I throw. So, when someone says that it makes me feel like I’m not the only one.

How did you get involved with Louisiana Books 2 Prisoners?

“So this is the 12th annual one of my holiday crate digs that I present at Domino Sound because it’s my favorite record store. It was always a holiday crate dig. Where people can come, shop for records, ask me questions, we can chat about music, and I play music that’s 100 percent from the store’s stock. So I don’t bring anything from home. Then if someone hears it as it’s playing, and they’re like, ‘I want it!’, then they can buy it and it’s fun. So that has always been what it was. So for the 10th anniversary, I wanted to include giving back in some way. So, we’ve had various recipients. We’ve had Big Class, which is now 826 New Orleans (a program that supports young writers). This year, Louisiana Books 2 Prisoners came across my radar and I said I wanted them to be the recipient of my holiday drive.

How does it feel to know that you’re helping them?

“I mean honestly, I’ve been blessed to do what I like to do so giving back in some way is not even a question. It’s like, what more can I do? That’s why the Prince annual party that I do is what it is. After he passed away and you started seeing all these different ways that he was giving that no one knew when he was alive, out of nowhere! I always wanted to do a party just to give back, where 100 percent of the proceeds go to the organization. So my holiday crate dig is one of those ways.”

Anything else you want to add about your holiday crate dig?

“This year was the biggest one. I also really want to acknowledge that I’ve gotten donations for those who bring those who bring gifts for the drive. Every single year, Winners Circle and BUKU have donated tickets and I got a pair of tickets from the House of Blues for the George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic show, which I’m opening one of the two performances. And then Matt with Domino Sound here donates a hefty gift certificate. I’m just lucky that people give me stuff and that way I can inspire other people to give so we can all give back.”

Domino Sound Record Shack
Getting there
2557 Bayou Rd, New Orleans, LA 70119, USA
Hours
Mon 12–6pm
Tue Closed
Wed-Thu 12–6pm
Fri 12–7:30pm
Sat-Sun 12–6pm
More Info

Mary Staes is Digital Content Lead for Very Local. She works with our freelancers and crafts content for our social media platforms and website. Before Very Local, she worked with CBS affiliate WWL-TV as a web producer and weekend assignment editor for about 4 years. She has also handled broadcast coverage for 160 Marine Reserve training facilities while she served as an active duty Marine. As a native New Orleanian, she takes being "very local" to heart. She loves being intertwined with the culture and figuring out how there are less than two degrees of separation between us all, whether...

More Local Stories

Top 407: the best hot dogs in Orlando

We tried Chicago Dogs, Spicy Chili Dogs, Buffalo Dogs, Reuben Dogs, and more across the Orlando area to find the best hot diggity dogs.

A guide to must-do summer events in New Orleans

Now that we’re back outside, let’s take a look at the events to do in New Orleans for the summer.

What’s On the Menu?: Greenville Food Trucks

What’s On The Menu Greenville is serving up barbecue, Latin, vegan and Thai food from mobile kitchens on wheels. Find out what’s cooking inside these fantastic Greenville food trucks.

Eat Play Stay Orlando: Sanford

On this episode of Eat Play Stay Orlando explore what’s new in the Northern part of town. Sanford has a plethora of breweries, bars, and delicious dining options to choose from.

Hometown Tragedy: The Pike County Massacre

On this episode of Hometown Tragedy: Missing in Milwaukee, we’ll explore what happened to Jerica Banks, her children, and how it impacted their community.

Six New Orleans parks that are perfect locations to celebrate 4th of July

Head to one of these six New Orleans parks to celebrate Independence Day in the city.

Cheap Date Orlando: Punk Rock & Pooches

Two Orlando couples shop vintage, search for the perfect slice, visit a post-apocalyptic saloon, and take the stage on blind dates in Orlando.

Fit and Fab: Free summer workouts in Boston

Cover photo courtesy Getty Images Looking to get fit for the summer? Still wary of COVID-19 or just looking for some sunshine while you sweat? Here are some Boston free summer workouts across the city so you can keep moving all season long! Seaport Sweat May 2 to Sept. 29 Boston’s biggest free workout series…

What’s On the Menu?: Farm-to-table

The farm-to-table movement brings locally grown foods to your plate. Not only will enjoying farm-to-table meals allow you to indulge in fresh, nutritional, seasonal dishes, but farm-to-table dining helps the environment and supports the local economy.  Check out these delicious farm-to-table restaurants in Greenville, South Carolina on the latest episode of What’s On the Menu?. …

A guide to some of the best Black-owned brunch spots in NOLA

Gather the crew together, make those reservations, and celebrate all things Black at brunch. 

black owned brunch spots new orleans 14 parishes

A guide to some of the best Black-owned brunch spots in NOLA

Gather the crew together, make those reservations, and celebrate all things Black at brunch. 

Chef Dee Lavigne expands the only Black-owned cooking school in New Orleans

Deelightful Roux School of Cooking is the only African American-owned cooking school taught by a New Orleans native, and her class is a guide to New Orleans’ food culture.

drive-in movie theaters near Pittsburgh

Guide to drive-in movie theaters near Pittsburgh

Road-trip idea: Get out of the house and under the stars. Here are six drive-in movie theaters you can visit all summer long.

Brunchfaced: 14 Parishes brings Jamaican flavors Uptown

One word: rummosa. From the oxtail and eggs to the jerk chicken and waffles, you’ll feel like you’re on vacation at brunch.