If you’re a fan of Detroit house music, you’re likely familiar with the name Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale. known as the Godmother of House music, Hale was the first female DJ to play house music on Detroit’s radio airwaves and she did it all in the birthplace of American techno music — Detroit.
Hale’s multi-genre blend of House music with flavors of funk, gospel, hip hop and Motown soul has set her apart from other DJs on the scene and has afforded her opportunities to DJ at the Apollo Theatre in New York as well as major cities across the globe. It’s also gifted her the opportunity to give back to the community through music education for youth and adults. She was inducted into the National Museum of African American Music in 2019.
In recognition of Women’s History Month, One Detroit contributor Cecelia Sharpe of 90.9 WRCJ talks with Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale about her early roots and rise in Deejaying, what was at the time a male-dominated industry. They talk about how she developed her unique multi-genre style, her passion for mentorship and the importance of music education, and about the mission of her Sheometry Music & Arts Festival, which she created in 2019. The festival is planned to return July, 15 2023.
Cecelia Sharpe, Host, 90.9 WRCJ: Hi, I’m Cecilia Sharpe, and we are celebrating Women’s History Month and highlighting women in music. Today, my guest is Stacy “Hotwaxx” Hale. The first deejay in Detroit to play house music on the radio in the early eighties. And the godmother of House. Thanks for being on the show.
Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale: Thanks for having me.
Cecelia Sharpe: Absolutely. You started during a time when it wasn’t quite necessarily popular for women to DJ. What attracted you to DJ’ing?
Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale: Well, I don’t think it was not popular for women to be DJs, but you recognize them as on the radio, as air personalities versus playing in the club. And that’s what was unusual for women to be doing that. I was determined and the male/female thing wasn’t even in my thought process. It was the love of the music.
And to be able to play it and present it to people. My brother was big into electronics, so I was always looking at reel-to-reel and cassette players and turntables and things like that. So he was just one that like to play music and hear it. You know, he never aspired to be a DJ or anything, so I kind of got that from him and I took it to another level.
I stumbled in an old club that used to be a coffee shop. It was called the Chess Mate. It’s a laundromat now on McNichols and Livernois. And inside of there, this organization called True Disco, which consists of Ken Collier, Duane Bradley, Renaldo Smith and Maurice Mitchell. They created this thing called True Disco, and they were in there playing. I heard the records mixing, and I went, What? I found my way up to that booth and looked and I saw two turntables and a mixer and I set ahh that’s what I need to be doing.
Cecelia Sharpe: You also performed at the Apollo Theater in Harlem?
Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale: The Apollo Theater.
Cecelia Sharpe: Yes, the Apollo Theater. What brought you to the Apollo?
Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale: Jessica Caremore, Black women rock. We’re now called the Daughters of Betty. Yes, that’s what brought me there. And I work as the assistant music director helping Kat Dyson. And in addition to me doing that, being able to play with the band, the Apollo actually called and asked me would I DJ. Didn’t have to ask me twice.
Cecelia Sharpe: Of course they didn’t. They barely got it out their mouth before you said yes, right?
Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale: Yup. I’m like, what. All my friends came to New York and they were dancing in the aisles up by the seats.
Cecelia Sharpe: The way that you engage your audience, you make everyone feel invited. It’s a warm environment. Everyone knows that they can get down to the music, the way you blend house music with other genres, from gospel to…
Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale: Oh yeah.
Cecelia Sharpe: R&B. A little bit of classical, jazz. You incorporate acoustic live instruments. It’s just amazing. How did you develop that style?
Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale: I listen, you know, that’s the first thing I tell my students to do is to listen. Use your ears. And if you just pay attention to some things around you, then that allows the creativity inside of you to go on and incorporate it into something that you enjoyed doing.
Cecelia Sharpe: You talked about student Stacy and you’re definitely passionate about not just performing and sharing your gifts with the audience and the people that love your music, but passing on your knowledge, your wisdom to other young people, to students. Why is it so important to you as a DJ, as an artist, to pass on that craft?
Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale: It’s so important for it to come from someone like me to be able to pass it on, Because I can tell you real stories. I can let you know by different things. My real feelings. You don’t have to go to YouTube University to find out. The best that I could do is to pass this on is I want someone else to be able to do it. And we’d like to have this not only be historic, but for someone 50 years from now to be able to do that, or at least take the theory of that and present themselves in that way.
Cecelia Sharpe: This Sheometry Music and Arts festival that you created and launched in 2019, what is the mission of the Sheometry Music and Arts Festival?
Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale: The mission is to be able to show off women that are good in music, in many different genres, live instrument, DJ’ing and in the business of music itself. And it’s primarily women with a splash of men to be able to show off the arts and things that they do within this big world of music.
Cecelia Sharpe: Because a lot of times it’s the reverse. A lot of men in the festival..
Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale: Correct.
Cecelia Sharpe: with a slash of women…
Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale: Correct.
Cecelia Sharpe: But this time, this festival highlights women in music. You have style on the turntables. But you also have your own fashionable style when you’re rocking out. You always just bring it with the clothes, with the jewelry, with the hair. Even today, you got your… You’re representing the D with your old English D earrings on. You got these wonderful bangles and this piece that you are wearing as a necklace. Tell us about that piece.
Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale: This right here is a 45 spindle and it spins. And I realized there’s three generations that don’t even know what this is. And this used to be the item that you would place inside of the 45 records that you put on the turntable in order to play records. And so, I love to show this, and I wear it all the time. This is actually a keychain.
Cecelia Sharpe: Stacey, what makes your music so unique?
Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale: My music is so unique is because I believe in making people happy. When I play music, it’s my job to make you happy. So therefore I place myself in environments where people are going to enjoy the types of sound I deliver. I’m very spiritual. I love gospel house music.
Many of the selections that I play have that type of thing in it, and I have been successful in those that say “I don’t like house music, but I like yours”. And that’s because it’s coming from the heart and the vibe like that and they make you feel good. And that’s my whole point and everything. And it’s been proven. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.
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