Vibe Exclusive: Vogue DJ Hesta Prynn Goes From Rhymes to Records
She's a feminist, a rapper, and a DJ - a whole new triple threat. Julie Potash, a.k.a. Hesta Prynn, has had quite a musical journey since her humble beginnings as the MC in the NYC-based band Northern State (basically a female version of the Beastie Boys). Her rhymes and style got her noticed by some of the top players in the industry, landing her tour appearances alongside Jay-Z, 30 Seconds to Mars, and Gym Class Heroes. Since then, she has laid down the mic and taken up some headphones, producing and spinning some of the hottest tracks. Her most recent EP "We Could Fall In Love," has even gained approval from the high-standard fashion industry, who had Julie DJ spin at the Vogue/Ford Fashion's Night Out after-party last week.
In all this excitement, VIBE got a chance to talk to Julie - who is also a reader and fan - about her transitioning career, unique influences in both music and style, and her dream collaboration today.
VIBE: You got your stage name from the novel “The Scarlet Letter.” How does that resonate with you?
Hesta Prynn: The reason I chose that name was that when my old band, Northern State, came up to me and asked me to join them, my reply, literally, was as long as they don’t call themselves something ultra-feminist like, Hesta Prynn, which was my joke on a feminist name but spoken in hip-hop language. And they were like, “That’s good, you’re made.” That was like a decade ago, and it still kind of stuck with me. I even have my bright red hair.
Vibe: Being a New York native, what are some are your favorite hangout spots in the city?
I really like a bar called Heathers in the East Village. There’s a jewelry store in Williamsburg called Catbird that I love. And then Questlove has a party at Brooklyn Bowl each week - he DJs every Thursday – so I go to that a lot. I toured with him for a year, and learned a lot from watching him. His knowledge of the hits in every genre over every decade is unbelievable.
You’re also a horror movie buff. What would you say are your top couple must-own thrillers? Have they ever influenced your music?
I really love horror movies from the 70s, including the Exorcist and Jaws. I also love Hostel with Eli Roth and The Others with Nicole Kidman. Last year, I worked with Clown from Slipknot, and we made a kind of a horror movie together. The director [Randy Scott Slavin], the one who does all my music videos, went out to Iowa with me to visit [Clown] and he took us to this crazy abandon farm. We were like these city kids in the middle of nowhere, and it was scary. As far as the music, I definitely like the dark stuff. I think when I put out a song, it comes off as a dance record that's more accessible and really fun - a great record to put on before you’re about to go out - but I there’s always a little bit of darkness. I’m a little bit off, and that’s a thing I’ve always been attracted to in everything that I do.
What message were you trying to get across in your recent EP “We Could Fall In Love?”
I wanted to write something about parallel lives. So the song is about if, for instance, when you meet someone and you're already in a relationship that you have a moment where you think if in another life you could have had a whole life together with this other person. That “what if” factor, where you can choose to change your destiny and the choices you make everyday could change your reality. I think that’s an interesting spiritual concept, but I wrote it in a fun way in this pop song.
VIBE: Having already a big rap/hip-hop background working with such icons as Questlove and the Beastie Boys, who would your dream collaboration be with in today’s music industry?
I really like Diplo and what he’s doing. I think the way he’s mixing music with hip-hop elements while bringing some pop influences is very exciting.
VIBE: How has hip-hop and EDM fused from your perspective?
I think the use of the Internet has made it so easy to be a fan of different genres. When it used to be where we had to buy records, you had to buy the whole record and it was a really big commitment. Now that we have the Internet where you can listen to the individual song, and its a lot more affordable. Then naturally creative people put it together, depending on their influences, to create these fusions. Now you have rappers rapping over dance songs, and it’s getting featured on the radio. I think it’s exciting and I love that, but now the question is “What’s next?” That’s what I really want to know.
VIBE: What was like playing at Fashion’s Night Out last Thursday?
It was great. I love DJing for a large audience, and making sure they have fun. It was cool because Anna Wintour was there for Vogue, and it was really exciting seeing her being followed around by all these people and photographers. Plus, it’s fun to dress up with a beautiful dress and amazing accessories. I take great pride in what I do, so it was great getting emails afterwards saying how much people loved the songs. I’ll play a hit they haven’t heard in 15 years, and bring that back into their lives - that there is a major success for me.
What are plans for 2013?
I’m going to DJ as much as I can, doing a lot of festivals and events. I’ll continue to make more music. The reaction to my latest EP has been great, and that has been really awesome and exciting. So I’ll keep writing and probably put something else out. Just continue brining the party as a DJ, which is what I love to do.