Amber Giles started out as an electronic promoter and deejay, but after ditching the labels in order to express herself without the confines of genre, the music maker known affectionately as Mija is solidifying her spot as a production force to pay attention to.
During Red Bull’s Culture Clash competition in Atlanta on Friday (Aug. 24), Mija, along with hip-hop producer Kenny Beats and their crew for the night’s festivities “Don’t Think,” were up against some musical heavyweights like trap producer Zaytoven, dancehall artist Kranium, Latin trap music maker Fuego and their respective crews. As the lone female producer on stage, Mija made sure to give the crowd at 787 Windsor a real show.
Before the show, Mija told VIBE she was hoping to “pull some strings” in terms of production to win over the judges and the crowd. While Kranium ended up taking home the winning trophy, Mija, Kenny Beats and Don’t Think, who wore Lucha Libre wrestling masks and sprayed the crowd with Super Soaker water guns during their sets, got the audience hype with their mind-blowing genre fusions, throwback tunes and snarky disses towards other crews.
“That’s basically what trap music is, just taking hip-hop and making it more electronic,” the Phoenix native says of how EDM and the hip-hop subculture can go hand in hand.
Mija, 26, started off as a singer and transitioned into an EDM music promoter-deejay role later on. She decided to take the production craft seriously around the age of 22, and hasn’t looked back since.
“I bought a new Macbook that had Ableton on it and I was like, ‘okay, I’m gonna do this,’” she says. “Then a month later, it was like, the first time I’d played at a festival and my career kind of picked up, so [that] was the moment.”
The most interesting aspect of Mija’s production approach is that she doesn’t confine herself to a genre. Instead, she follows the “f**k a genre” mentality, which has allowed her to work with and remix the tracks of multiple artists such as Diplo, Major Lazer and Lil Jon.
“No rules or rhymes, it’s just kinda whatever I’m feeling,” she says. “By bringing on the whole ‘f**k a genre’ mentality, it made me free as an artist to do what I want. ‘F**k a genre’ for me is like, I can do anything on any night. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re having fun.”
Even at Red Bull’s Culture Clash, Mija enlisted artists and personalities from multiple genres to perform on stage with her and Kenny Beats, like Atlanta-based artist KEY!, artist and comedian Zack Fox and rapper Rico Nasty. When asked what drew her to Rico, Mija said that she appreciates her free-wheeling approach to her music.
“She does whatever she feels, which is basically like me and Kenny’s whole thing,” she says with a smile. “Don’t think, just f**kin’ do it.” As for hip-hoppers she’s interested in working with sometime in the future, she’s set her sights on “Whip It” rapper Bia.
Production is one of the music disciplines where anyone is able to exercise their abilities. However, it remains a male-dominated front. Despite some of the realities of the game, Mija never really thinks about gender disparities—she wants her gifts to speak for themselves.
“I think that if I thought [about gender] all the time, I think it would hinder me,” she notes. “The whole male-female thing never occurred. But, I do think when I first put out music, I really wanted it to be mostly me putting it out on my own. I felt that was something I had to prove. I kind of regret that now because I don’t think that’s how good music is made.”
“Just be yourself 100 percent, and don’t try to please people because people can see through the bullsh*t,” she continues. “[People] only like you if you’re being yourself, and they’ll believe in you as much as you believe in yourself. Own yourself and be in the moment.”