By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, [email protected]
Part one of a two-part series.
Ultra Nate is on fire.
It is just before midnight on March 16 and the globetrotting singing star and DJ entered 1722 N. Charles Street in the Station North community dressed in White and ready to slay.
Deep Sugar, the House Music party she has hosted for 16 years with her partner and best friend Lisa Moody (a DJ duo known as The Girl Squad) is starting to boil. It is Nate’s annual birthday celebration and several of Baltimore’s House Music legends, Wayne Davis, Teddy Douglass, Thommy Davis and others descended upon 1722 to party with Nate. But, the party is more like a family reunion, because they’ve all known each other for decades and in the process laid the foundation for Baltimore’s seminal underground House Music culture.
When Moody finishes her towering opening set, Nate steps up to the decks and sparks her set with ferocity; she starts with the righteous, raucous banger, DJ Karizma’s (another Baltimore native), “Work It Out,” then transitions into the Hall of Fame House classic, the Larry Levan remix of MFSB’s, “Love is the Message.”
“I have to continuously get better because the stakes are higher for me because I’m an international DJ and I’m known as the singer/songwriter as I am,” Nate said over the phone a few days after the latest chapter of Deep Sugar. “And so when I get on the decks…people who don’t know that I spin, you know they have to come away from that like, “Oh my God, what just happened?””
The Sweet Sound of Deep Sugar
During an interview for the “Race and Politics” column in the AFRO in October 2015, Nate and Moody revealed the Deep Sugar dance party was birthed out of necessity in 2003. Nate, who by that time was an established international dance music star, decided along with Moody to begin DJ’ing after the departure of a popular Baltimore House Music DJ. Sixteen years later (almost unheard of for an ongoing dance music party), the Deep Sugar party has toured the globe (last weekend in New York City, this week in Miami).
“First of all, it’s a major accomplishment and a blessing to now be in our 16th year. I didn’t even think about it in those terms when I first thought of the idea of starting a party, on the surface level,” Nate said.
The foundation of Sugar’s enduring success starts with the DJs, Nate and Moody. They have been tagged by many as the female version of Louie Vega and Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez, the legendary New York producers and DJs known as “Masters at Work.”
“It’s…a good time for women DJs. Women are stepping up into this with a lot more fervor to master their technique and master their style, and not play timid,” Nate said. “We still get that a lot, when people hear us sometimes for the first time they’ll say, `Wow, you guys play like the boys, you guys play like dudes.’ We get it all the time and I know exactly what that means, it means we don’t play timid in terms of our selections of music…and when I say selections of music I mean like playing the same style of music all the time, or playing things that don’t have lyrics for fear of trainwrecking,” she added. What it also means is the world of House Music DJ’s and producers is just as sexist as any other genre of the music industry. Still, Nate and Moody rock on undeterred and in some ways unparalleled.
“We ride mixes, we’ll blend two records for however long we want to hold it and attack the mix, not sneak it in, get it in and get it out. I call it a soft mix when you just kind of get it in and get it out…we don’t play timid,” Nate said.
After 30 years in the music business, including 16 years as a DJ, Nate is still energized by the challenge of thriving in an industry that has devoured thousands who entered it in 1989 when she first emerged.
“You’ve got to put yourself on that cliff where either this mother is going to be an absolute nightmare, going to be a total disaster, or it’s going to be f—— magnificent,” Nate said. “You got to be able to able to take that moment, take that chance and put yourself on the cliff, or your never going to grow. Are you going to have a memorable moment that’s going to take people to the point of screaming, because their going to be on that cliff with you.”