Inspired by “the desire to connect musical dots,” Constellations is a local party and crew developed by DJs *heyLove, Nina Sol, and Wonway Posibul that intertwines musical selections and star signs. Every month, the Constellations party pays tribute to artists born under the current celestial sphere, creating an eclectic atmosphere where you can hear everything from Afrobeat to house to rap.
We got a chance to ask members *heyLove and Nina Sol via e-mail about their musical history, storytelling through DJing, and the upcoming Prince and Michael Jackson party.
Constellations: Gemini Edition with guest DJ Trackademicks takes place tonight [6/8] at Starline Social Club and catch the Constellations crew again spinning this Saturday [6/10] for Soul Slam SF XII: Prince & MJ at Mezzanine.
SF Weekly: Give us a brief history of how you got into DJing.
Nina Sol: I grew up listening to soul, jazz, funk, punk, folk, Brazilian, and Latin music. I have always been obsessed with music and creating mixtapes and playlists for every occasion. I pretty much slept through junior high because I would stay up all night listening to the radio — and it only got worse with time. In college, I became a student of hip-hop and discovered soulful house and Afro and broken beat sounds. Shortly after I moved to S.F., I lived in a house full of DJs and finally had access to equipment and a platform to share the music I loved.
heyLove*: As a human, my mission is to spread love and happiness. One of my first encounters of absolute love and happiness was dancing and singing with my father as kid. I love the way music hit my mind, body, and soul and I knew I wanted to share this feeling with others. Growing up during the ‘80s and ‘90s, I geeked out on primarily hip-hop, R&B, soul, funk, jazz, reggae, and rock. In the ‘00s, my love for music expanded and house, AfroBeat, and electronic genres were added to my musical collection. Knowing a mission of mine in life was to spread love through music, I decided to start throwing music events. Folks I hung out with while curating events were like, ‘Your music collection and knowledge is so vast you should be DJ.’ Then I got my opportunity in 2007 at a party called thePeople I helped create in Oakland, and since then, I have continued to spread love through music in my community to this day.
SFW: What was your first gig ever like?
NS: Oh, it was horrible. Those poor people’s ears! My homie, Kyle Maple, let me take over his Tuesday nights at Skylark in the Mission. I was playing all vinyl back then. I’m pretty sure there were plenty of trainwrecks, but despite the flaws, the music was good, and from there I started getting more gigs.
HL: I helped conceptualize and create a party called thePeople nine years ago in Oakland with DJs Cecil, Cali, BeBrown aka Orfeu Negro, and host Amy Nabong. ThePeople is dedicated to redefining nightlife by providing a soulful and eclectic experience through the cultivation of music, art, dance, fashion, cuisine, and community. It started at the Oasis where we had two rooms and I played hip-hop, soul, funk, reggae, house, and other universal rhythms in the small front room. We had Carlos Mena as our special guest DJ in the main room. I remember being super nervous because at that time I didn’t have my own equipment to practice on. So my first gig was really the first time I ever mixed and my blends were definitely not smooth. Here we are nine years later and thePeople is still going strong and is currently at the New Parish.
SFW: Tell us the story behind how the Constellations crew got together.
NS: I originally reached out to Wonway and heyLove to start a weekly Thursday night party we called The Corner. The party ran its course, but the chemistry between us was undeniable. When the opportunity to move to Starline Social Club came, we were hanging out at Melissa’s house when the idea to throw a party based on artists born under each zodiac sign just took off. We started researching our favorite artists, and the artists they sampled or were sampled by across many different genres which created this eclectic vibe that is always fresh and a little unexpected.
SFW: What inspired the name?
Both: The name was inspired by the desire to connect musical dots. Not just playing a Prince record but also a Larry Graham record because of his influence on Prince. We seriously nerd out every month, digging for obscure covers, remixes, b-sides, and every month our roster of artists grows.
SFW: What’s your most fond memory with your Constellations crew thus far?
NS: Oh, man, we have had so many good ones, from guest DJs, such as Rich Medina to Mark de Clive Lowe and Ge Ology, but I think my favorite was last June (Gemini season) when we invited DJ Rashida (Prince’s former DJ) to spin. She was very hesitant to do the gig at first, because Prince had just passed and it was still a massive shock, but ultimately she was inspired by the concept and excited to play many of her favorite Gemini artists including Tupac, Andre 3000, and Notorious BIG.
SFW: What’s a typical Constellations party like?
Both: We have the best crowd. Dancers, music heads, DJs, no matter the size of the crowd, we always have great receptivity. Our photographer Bryon Malik captures the crowd beautifully. Our lovely host, Blush Dara, does a slideshow of the artists we are honoring and we always have a ton of birthdays. The back room of Starline is this magical basement space but with an amazing chandelier and our homie and sound guy Jamieson always has it bumpin!
SFW: How much of your own beliefs in cosmic forces/zodiac signs influence your DJ style?
HL: I believe being a Gemini/Cancer definitely influences my DJ style. According to The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need by Jonna Martine Woolfolk, “Gemini is lively, energetic, versatile, and intellectual, lives primarily in the mind than the emotions, and is extremely adaptable to new situations.” and “Cancer is receptive, sensitive, and imaginative, sympathetic, kind, and emotional, and possesses an active, shrewd, and intuitive mind.” As a DJ, I play from the heart and soul speaking to my mind. These Gemini/Cancer traits apply to the way I perform, listen to music, select songs, read crowds, and create vibes/atmosphere, taking folks on a harmonious journey mind, body, and soul.
NS: As a Cancer, I am very intuitive and also moody — so no telling what sound you might get. I can guarantee it will never be the same experience.
SFW: Who is your preferred artist that shares your star sign?
HL: I am on the cusp of Gemini and Cancer. Gemini would be Prince, Cancer is M.I.A.
NS: Solange! I really respect her artistry and evolution. I’ve been playing her music for years, and its dope to see all the acclaim A Seat at the Table is getting.
SFW: A couple of months ago, you released the Star Map Sessions mix. Is Volume II coming out anytime soon?
B: We had so much fun recording the first one, so there will most definitely be another one in the works sometime this summer.
SFW: The crew will be playing Soul Slam this Saturday. What are your favorite Michael Jackson or Prince songs?
NS: “Baby Be Mine” and “17 Days,” hands down.
HL: Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” The production makes everyone unite on the dancefloor and the lyrics of love are passionately poetic. Prince’s “7.” — the production and lyrics on this track are profound and take you to a spiritual realm. It truly hits your heart and crown chakras.
SFW: Both artists were poets and storytellers. Do you think DJs can do the same with their sets?
NS: I truly view DJs as storytellers. It is so much more than digging for old records, it is relaying history, tradition, and culture through the music and connecting back to the current experience. I do research for every set I prepare and am very conscious of the messages I am spreading. And, like any good story, there should be context setting, build-up, climax, and call-and-response with the audience. Prince and Michael were also perfectionists when it came to their sound, they both inspire me to keep mastering the DJ craft and always dig a little deeper.
HL: Music can take you to a variety of times, places, moods, and atmospheres. DJs have access to an unlimited world of many musical genres and can definitely tell many stories, touch hearts, move souls, and take people on a journey with all kinds of rhythms and lyrics. DJs are artists and their DJ sets are their expressions, poems, stories, and paintings.