Always looking for a good reggae dancehall party in the DMV area, my internet search introduced me to someone new.
For the uninitiated, dancehall is a type of reggae that is known for risqué lyrics, hype beats, and energetic, often sexually-charged dance moves. Needless to say, dancehall reggae or the current dance moves to say the least is a young person’s domain. If you can’t move fast enough, relate to the lyrics or at least vibe to the beat, you can’t fit in. Popular dancehall artists (comparative to U.S. rappers with quick, witty lyricism) get their start in Jamaica but local area dee-jays are whom the Caribbean community living abroad depend upon to bring the sound of the island to their neighborhoods.
Today is January 12, 2013 and I am sitting with the owner and creator of his own sound system, Kiala Kilo Vibes Flexx.
Me: What is the name of your sound system, Kiala?
Me: The first party I went to of yours was at the Calvert House in Riverdale, MD on November 17, 2012. The sound was fantastic and I saw moves in the crowd that require a good dee-jay and a very young, limber audience. It was like being at Passa Passa in Tivoli Gardens circa 2006. Tell me about your crowd. They’re so hype.
[Don't believe me, check out this footage advertising one of Vybez Flexx's parties in 2012.
Kilo Vibes: Lol...They are a culturally diverse young crowd of Caribbean-Americans, Africans and Americans who live in the area.
Me: What’s your target age group?
Kilo Vibes: From teenagers to the early twenties college crowd.
Me: How did you first start your sound?
Kilo Vibes: I was dee-jaying solo as Vibes Flexx when I met some teenagers in the community who wanted to start dee-jaying. Some helped with the engineering. Others wanted to do promotion. But we came together to help each other out.
Me: How did you market your sound to different venues?
Kilo Vibes: I had the vision to have teen Caribbean parties. Everything available to young people back in 2007 was go-gos and if you were of Caribbean heritage and under age 18 there was nowhere for you to go. I was surfing MySpace (at home injured the summer of 2007) and saw that in New York teen parties were being held for the Caribbean community and I decided to make that option available here.
Me: Innovative! That seems like a daunting endeavor to be the only sound system and so young to make these parties available #1 in the suburbs where most parents, teachers and guardians probably wouldn’t seem to be so open to their children attending dances…am I right?
Kilo Vibes: Well, the parents were already letting their kids go to go-gos and we still pull the teenagers because we have a good record of holding violence-free parties. We just had a 5-year anniversary and we have outlasted a lot of the all-age go-gos.
Me: Tell me about 2007. Tell me about when you first started playing.
Kilo Vibes: My first spot was the Beltsville Boys and Girls Club. Rented it and we did 4 or 5 different parties there.
Me: How did you get the word out that your parties were being held?
Kilo Vibes: Me and my crew, we went to schools with flyers and handed them out after school and spread the word via My Space.
Me: And that’s how you got your following?
Kilo Vibes: Yes, target marketing and promotion. Teens would also ask that we perform at their school events, like homecomings, proms, spring dances. We’ve played at a lot of high schools including High Point, Northwestern, Bladensburg, Eleanor Roosevelt, School Without Walls, Suitland, Parkdale, Northwood, Blair, Bowie.
Me: Wow that’s very impressive. My little high school in D.C. never offered sponsored dances like that. So although you’re still catering to that market, when I discovered your existence, you were doing major venues that everyone could attend?
Kilo Vibes: Yes. The one you went to was an 18 and up, college event. The high school kids who started partying with us in 2007 grew up. That same crowd started to frequent the 18 and up events in 2012. They were very well received. We did about six 18 and over events last year.
Me: The one I went to was a lot of fun.
When I was attempting to do a little research on you, I found that you studied Media Management at Bowie State University? Can you tell me about the fundamentals of that program and how it’s prepared you for your current career?
Kilo Vibes: What I learned there in terms of marketing, video editing, TV production, and communications prepared me for dee-jaying, creating an attractive package for my target audience, presentation and marketing.
Me: Very cool. I asked because a lot of entertainers are not formally educated in the field and I personally find it important to express the advantages of formal education.
Kilo Vibes: I thought education was important because despite the fun, it’s still a business. I have an associate’s degree in business as well. It’s important to always look at what you make versus what you spend. I learned to make flyers in school too which is vital to this business and I do all those myself.
Me: Absolutely. That’s awesome. So tell me what your sound is doing now specifically, dates and venues.
Me: Tell me what Trio stands for again.
Kilo Vibes: $3 to get in, $3 drink specials, and we started with 3 deejays but now we have 4. After only two months, college nights are doing really well.
Kilo Vibes: Yes, it’s always packed. [He smiles broadly.] Nice lounge right next to the Howard Theater.
Me: Okay what else?
Kilo Vibes: We’re doing a Valentine’s Day College Caribbean Party in Baltimore called Love and Dancehall, February 14th. It will be at the Caribbean Paradise, 1818 N. Charles St. Baltimore, MD. It’s close to Morgan State off MLK.
Me: Anywhere else?
And we have a lot of things planned for more school events, baby showers, charity events, birthday parties, and fashion shows.
Me: The Aquarian humanitarian in me always is interested in hearing about your charity events. I remember back around Christmas you guys did a “toys for tots” thing right?
Kilo Vibes: Oh yeah that was Nov. 30th. It was held in memory of a friend of ours who passed away, Tamara Johnson, and we plan on making it an annual event. We send the toys back to her home town in Jamaica.
Me: Awwww, sorry for your loss but that’s wonderful. You know how many poor kids grow up without toys?
Kilo Vibes: Yeah. We don’t take money for admission just toys.
Me: So you don’t make money at all on those nights then?
Kilo Vibes: No, we don’t make money.
Me: Anymore charity events in the near future?
Me: This is the first time in the interview that you mentioned a fellow dee-jay. I see Maga’s name alongside yours on a lot of your flyers. Would you like to shout out other people?
DJ Maga On the Ones and Twos
My crew includes Maga, Philo Flexx, Bigga Flexx, Staxx Flexx, Chin Flexx, Bush, Fresh, Wave and Gizzle.
Me: So these people…?
Kilo Vibes: Set up and promote. That’s basically the whole Vybez Flexx crew right there.
Me: I know you’re near Howard so you’re pulling the Howard student population. Any more colleges you’re good with?
Kilo Vibes: Bowie State University, University of Maryland, Montgomery College, PG Community College, George Washington University, Catholic and Trinity.
And there you have it ladies and gentlemen, an inside scoop into the dancehall underground for the DMV’s teeny boppers and college kids. Having gone to one of these parties myself, I can attest to the fact that all I saw was wholesome fun, dancing, laughing, picture taking. There was no smoking of any kind and everyone looked happy. Everyone was strictly carded so underage drinking was carefully monitored.
Kilo Vibes and I didn’t part ways formally. I screamed to the man sitting across from us and asked him to take a quick pic of us together and then we talked a little while longer about school, parties and him getting these flyers to me on time.