Music and Art In Your Backyard

DJ Nina Sol

My name is Nina Sol. I was born in D.C. but my parents moved to San Diego, CA when I was a baby. I grew up singing, dancing, and always listening to music. I used to record mix tapes from the radio and when I discovered Napster, that opened up music from all over the world. I continued making mixes for friends I made mixes for every occasion! The quintessential party mix, the “i will survive” post-break-up mix, “New Life” a mix for the birth of my niece, the curation process has always been my favorite part of DJ-ing. 

I moved to San Francisco in 2004 and in 2006 I moved into a house full of DJs, that was my first introduction to turntables. I started hitting up everyone I knew for their old records and it pretty much grew from there. The first party I threw was at 222 Club in San Francisco called Jazz Cats, with good friend Chika, it was a party paying tribute to the jazz greats that held late night jam sessions in what used to be the Blackhawk Jazz Club in the 50s and 60s. We start with traditional jazz and progress into “jazzy” music of all kinds to reinvigorated those jazz spirits.  

I am blessed to balance two careers, economic development/impact investing by day, and DJ-ing by night. Both keep me inspired and connected to the things I love: music and empowering my community!

The biggest influences were probably my parents, they both love music, and my afro-latina roots included a plethora of rhythms and aesthetics that have contributed to my sound. Most of my soul, jazz, and funk records came from my parents collection. I can also remember dancing to samba/salsa/merengue at family parties at an early age and that has all influenced my sound today.

From a DJ perspective, DJs Jazzy Jeff, Rich Medina, and DJ Spinna were early influencers to the vibe I wanted to create. Always playful and skillfully weaving in a wide variety of genres and sounds, and without loosing anyone on the dance floor. I could dance to any of these guys for hours, I decided I wanted to be that kind of DJ. As I have moved deeper into dance music, my influences there are Karizma and Patrick Wilson hands down. They are INCREDIBLE! They bring b-boy elements into house music and keep it deep, soulful and interesting the entire night. Other influences are DJ’s Dedan, Geology, Wazir, P Soul, and Rob Rhythm for helping to lay the foundation of dance culture. Other influences include DJ Cecil, Cali, Orefu Negro & hey*love of the People party for the vibe they have built in Oakland, 

There are many more I could name, I listen to a ton of music everyday DJs everyday and seek inspiration from all over the world. I have learned that finding that dope record is important but the way someone plays that record is where the skill comes in, that can completely change.

My purpose is to deliver a soulful, dance experience that is unexpected and familiar, and takes people on a musical journey into the unknown.  I love making that emotional connection with the audience, making them dance, if only for that night, forget the stresses of life, and feel connected to one another. Every gig for me is different but its always sol-ful! I love when people ask about the music I am playing because it gives more exposure to the artists and I love and want to support. I aim to balance the artists that have influenced me as a young person (Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson, Fela, etc.) and the artists that are pushing genre limits currently. I think like a dancer when I DJ, and play what I would want to hear and feel on the dance floor.

I am fresh off of playing a few parties in Brooklyn this past weekend with DJ’s I really respect. I loved the eclectic-ness (is that a word?) and openness of the crowd, that was really fresh. My best shows reflect the energy from the crowd, when we are in tune, its magical. Earlier this year I had the honor of DJ-ing alongside one of my heroes Patrick Wilson at a party called Elements, that was certainly a treat. We attracted the best dancers in the Bay, with the baby powder for the dance floor in tow!

The challenges are part of the fun. How to keep people dancing while maintaining integrity. Radio is no longer a resource for discovering new music, a good DJ plays unfamiliar records in a familiar way and keeps them dancing, that is my aim, a fun challenge. And like anything else, it requires practice and hustle. No one is going to hand you anything. You gotta be creative, dig for those epic records, network and vibe with your audience, and of course practice! 

For Marvin Gaye’s birthday last year, I recorded a mix of Marvin Gaye songs, samples, remixes, edits, and had a lot of fun making it. It allowed me to mix different genres and show the range of influence his music has had into the past and present. It was a homage to a legend who led with love, and trying to capture the evolution of his sound, his activist spirit, passion, and untimely death was a incredible process.