By Patrick Bukasa
Jess Cross is a DJ who fell in love with soulful funk music and vinyl records, which later developed into an appreciation for vinyl cover art. Her passion for music and her journey on an exploration of self have lead her to the Mother City where she has begun to make a name for herself as a DJ, photographer and printmaker.
Without going into much detail about how there are not many female DJ’s in comparison to men, let’s state the obvious by saying it up front. Although this is a significant point to make, this article is about so much more than just that. Jess Cross, also known as Cross //\\ Colours is making a name for herself as a DJ through the use of visual art, intimate settings and expressing jazz, soul and funk as the roots of Hip Hop.
A few years ago as a university student in Washington DC, Cross //\\ Colours stumbled upon a collection of soul funk vinyl records. Not only did she love the music, but the artwork on the vinyl covers too. From that day she began putting up the covers on her bedroom walls. This appreciation has remained with her since and now she documents vinyl cover art through photography. Her work as a photographer has given her the opportunity to showcase her images through various exhibitions in the city and this eventually lead to her starting a career as a DJ.
Cross initially began her journey as Cross //\\ Colours to raise funds for her artistic workshops. She started running a series of events called Vinyl Digz which she began with fellow DJ and best friend Pierre-Estienne, who she says taught her all the ins and outs of being a DJ. The first of these events were held in November of 2011, and she has successfully held eight more of these events in different venues.
The idea behind the event was also inspired by a desire to present an all vinyl event that was not genre specific and also allowed different vinyl record collectors to play their music at the gig. This would also encourage people to come with an open mind and create a space where people can be themselves. Through the success of the Vinyl Digz events, Cross has also been invited to play at many other events.
With a growing reputation as a musician, photographer and printmaker, Cross is now actively combining all these art forms to promote the music she loves and her visual arts. Through her photography and print making, Cross//\\Colours communicates her love for the music of the artist on display, the music of the times and the history of the era. She believes that jazz, soul and funk are the original forms of Hip Hop and would like to educate people about the roots of the music we all know and love today. She also believes that through the use of cover art she can set herself apart from other DJ’s and offer something different.
Her interest in music is so much more than just a superficial appreciation of the sounds you hear. Through visual arts, Cross communicates the need to appreciate music beyond its audible level, proving that music is so much more than just a medium to celebrate and party to while out on a Saturday or Friday night. She has even gone as far as creating an event which takes place every Sunday called ‘Home in Winter’. This event will offer music lovers a choice of beats that she would normally play when at home. She believes that people should share all music, not only music that is made to party to. The female DJ admits to not wanting to become a commercial DJ and believes that when you play only commercial music, you sell yourself short.
On a social level, the vinyl cover art photography that she documents has also allowed her to cross generational gaps. Many older music lovers who relate to music from the vinyl era whether it be soul, soul funk, jazz or old school R&B can also relate to her work. Despite her love for Hip Hop, Cross does not limit her genre as a DJ to only Hip Hop.
Currently planning her next Vinyl Digz event which takes place on the 28 July, Cross//\\Colours sets the scene for the upcoming gig which will be held at East City Boxing. The event is a tribute to Muhammad Ali, one of her heroes and the concept focuses on fighting for what you believe in. All of her artwork and images are for sale and money goes to support the artistic workshops that she has organised.
>>> To find out more about Cross//\\Colours, you can visit her website on www.soulcitymovement.org or join the Vinyl Digz network by joining the group Vinyl DIGZ on Facebook. The future of this event will lead to showcases of international and local acts alongside vinyl collectors.