Part of the pleasure of following DJs is seeing the really good ones get some shine.
Not that Honey Dijon, née Honey Redmond, a Chicago native now living in Brooklyn, has been lacking for attention. She’s been spinning a wide range of house music since the 90s—the San Francisco-oriented Nineties DJ Archives feature a passel of Dijon’s old tapes, including Tasty and Some Fierce Black Pu**y #1 (the latter recorded at Fag Fridays, at the legendary S.F. venue the EndUp). Her mentors were Derrick Carter—a name as synonymous with “Chicago house” as Frankie Knuckles’—and New Yorker Danny Tenaglia, the latter perhaps the most important of all New York house DJs. And her suave sound and look, as well as a deep interest in fashion history, have made her a regular DJ for events by designers such as Hermès, Balenciaga, and Givenchy. “The fashion world has a handful of ‘it girl’ DJs, but there are very few that other serious DJs respect,” one nightlifer told the New York Times in 2013. “Honey is one of those rare birds that traverses both worlds.”
Dijon is also a genuinely entertaining raconteur, as shown this week in Andrew Ryce’s Resident Advisor interview about some of her favorite tracks. The highlight comes while discussing Viola Wills’ “Dub Things Happen”—issued, as it happens, on Minneapolis’s Wide Angle Records in 1987: “The Black Madonna used it on her Beats in Space mix [from 2014] and I almost wanted to stab her in the neck because I was like, ‘How the fuck did you know about this song?’ It was played at a gay black club [in Chicago] called Club LaRay. If you know that one you get a gold star from me . . .”
Ms. Dijon is versatile, equally capable of incinerating a small club (as I saw firsthand at NYC promoters Discwoman’s first-anniversary party in Bushwick, Brooklyn) and rocking the main stage of an event. Her Essential Mix (July 22, 2017) roughly splits the difference between the two. It’s boisterous but also intimate, full of vintage tracks that fulfill the DJ’s top-of-show voiceover promise to take us on “a journey of my influences”—re-edits of Heaven 17 and Fela Kuti follow Gino Soccio’s 1982 “Remember” in the first quarter of the two-hour set.
“I try to infuse a little bit of my history into the music that I make,” she told Red Bull Music Academy last year. But what’s most appealing about the Honey Dijon Essential Mix is how easily it dips from one strain of history to another, from a minimalist Chicago track like Fingers Inc.’s “I’m Strong” to the bolder sound of recent Dijon-produced (and co-produced) tracks, particularly during the set’s third quarter. The DJ saves the best for near the end. Even after nearly two hours of house music that prepares you to expect just about anything, the silvery guitar figure that announces Isolée’s “Beau Mot Plage”—one of the great house records of the late 90s—elicited a gleeful yelp from this listener. Now you know it’s there—but it’s not a moment that can be spoiled.
Each Thursday, Michaelangelo Matos will spotlight a different DJ set—often but not always new, sometimes tied to a local show but not necessarily—and discuss its place in the overall sphere of dance music and pop.