If you are one of the many drum and bass lovers out there, let’s hope that you have been paying attention to all the write ups and mentions of the name EQ50. This community is a collection of powerhouse womxn in D&B [Legends: Dj Flight, Mantra, Sweetpea, Alley Cat, MC Chikaboo & vocalist Jenna G] that came together in 2018; aiming to work towards fairer representation within drum and bass. Although challenging at times, there’s no denying the fact that these womxn have stirred the pot of d&b’s gender inequality issue; dating back to that epic moment in 2018 where Mantra shined a spotlight on some disturbing facts about the severe lack of representation across club and festival circuits.
Fast forward to the last quarter of 2020 and we find that the collective has launched their EQ50 mentorship program. It’s been a busy two years of general planning, hosting workshops, raising gender equality awareness and maintaining their own artistic endeavours, but that hasn’t slowed anyone in the collective down. To the contrary, with all of their industry powers combined, they continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the world of drum and bass.
Aside from everything else the collective is working on this mentorship program is something that is almost like their baby: It’s meant to be nourished and grow into something much bigger and better for all that have felt underrepresented within the scene. Six lucky (Well, not lucky, just talented and very driven) womxn have been picked to be a part of a 12-month program that involves being mentored by both EQ50 and the labels that chose them. V Recordings, Function Records, Critical Music, Shogun Audio and Ram Records are the labels that have joined our epic collective in taking steps towards bringing more diversity to drum and bass in general.
Having spoken to the EQ50 heads, mentees and label folk, we’ve been able to do an update on how things have started off for everyone involved. This mentorship is just the beginning for these budding artists; as well as for future djs, producers, emcees and vocalists within drum and bass!
When asked about how it felt to have their vision and goal accomplished, EQ50’s Sweetpea responded by saying: “More than anything: very proud and a relief.” The crew had worked tirelessly for over a year to get the collective properly launched. Time had seemingly not been on their side until it was just right. Sweetpea mentioned how she believes everything happens when it’s meant to. She followed that statement by expressing how nice it was to see the number of messages come rolling in in support of what the ladies were doing and putting together; offering to contribute their own skills to the community and even asking advice about how to start their own mentorship. In turn, EQ50’s Mantra, mentioned how troubled she was by the fact that there are so many womxn producers out there who have yet to release anything. Excited, yet admittedly overwhelmed by the sheer number of applicants, Mantra and the EQ50 crew were made well aware of how much this mentorship is needed today. It’s about making real change and positive movements. Considering how much work these ladies have put in, there’s no doubt that they will encourage others to be a part of the ripple effect that they’ve hoped to create. The collective looks forward to expanding the program and working with even more labels once they get properly into the groove of the current program.
There’s also no denying the excitement felt by each of the selected artists upon receiving news that they’d officially been chosen for the program (Out of HUNDREDS of applications). Function Records mentee Charla Green was in such disbelief that she had to have someone else read the email for her to be sure she’d actually been picked! This confirmation assured her that she was headed in the right direction, having worked very hard to get to where she is today. Others, like Ram’s Mandidextrous, jumped right up out of their seat and kept bouncing around the room completely elated with the news. Both Athena and Anikonik received the news while in bed, so as you can imagine, they didn’t get much sleep that night due to their excitement! The importance of creating a safe space like this for underrepresented artists, whether starting out as a new and budding producer/dj, or taking their years of experience and applying it to further their careers, is undeniable. Individual creativity, their passionate drive and building something new from their prior experiences are what most of the chosen mentees feel are their strengths. Being able to grow and develop by simply being yourself as well as being able to take and apply constructive criticism are some of the other important attributes highlighted by the mentees. By channeling these factors these artists will be sure to excel in their music and overall journey.
Their individual journeys are likely to excel in beautiful ways considering the labels that are on board with the program. Amy Jayne of Shogun Audio is now working freelance as an Artist & Label Consultant for Shogun, Elevate and other labels/artists. Prior to the EQ50 program Amy had already been mentoring a woman on Elevate Records, helping her to develop and move forward with her musical career. Having recently stepped down as Shogun label manager, she still aims to continue working with the new label managers and pushing initiatives like EQ50 in the future. When asked if they had ever considered mentoring before EQ50, Ram Records informed us of the fact that they mentor and nurture many of the artists that are new to the label as it is. V Recordings is keen to continue working with Nia Archives should all go well during this first year. They are working on building a solid relationship with her, bringing her on board and getting her acquainted with some of the label’s established artists. Responses such as these are a sure fire sign that helping others has been on people’s minds for some time now. Let’s hope the inclusivity increases from here on out.
For V Recordings, Nia Archives’ work simply stood out among other submissions. Her versatility and unique form of presentation had a number of people at the label intrigued, solidifying her place as V’s first mentee. Charla Green of Function Records has long loved and respected what the label does. She feels the label has an authentic love for the music and is excited to have been chosen by Digital and those who work for the label. Critical’s mentee, Spectral, is very much looking forward to increasing her work rate and consistency in production as she is still quite new to the industry. Critical clearly sees the potential to take Spectral and her work to the next level. We asked Shogun what they felt made Athena stand out most and Amy Jayne responded by saying: “When we received the demos we were instantly captivated by Athena’s production and knew her sound would fit perfectly on the label. The second process was an interview and it was clear straight away that she had an amazing amount of passion and drive. Listening to her talk confidently about her processes and how she was self-taught was pretty inspiring!” RAM Records chose their artists based on their drive, determination, professionalism & production skills. Both Anikonik and Mandidextrous feel that RAM has been a major influence and are honored to have been taken under the wings of this pioneering label. They respect and love that RAM has consistently released a wealth of talent and unique artists. Mandidextrous has been blown away by the label’s sonic diversity over the years. Anikonik loves the fact that the label has taken part in creating lasting change for other artists to come.
The first few weeks of this program have proven to be very exciting for everyone involved. Moving forward it’s clear that communities like EQ50 are a valuable asset in today’s scene. Proper representation, no matter your gender, race, (dis)ability or sexual orientation is something that has become more of a focus within the music industry. We still have quite a ways to go, but even the smallest step taken is productive and positive for the next generation of drum and bass.
Words by Sofi Mari