Three records spin simultaneously. Promoters, friends, and unfamiliar faces clamor for attention. Below the DJ booth, a hungry crowd of hundreds impatiently awaits the next track. If you don't have attention deficit disorder, you'll get it quickly. Luckily DJ Tracy Young has learned to use ADD to her advantage.
"You laugh, but it's true," she says, her voice carrying through the VIP lounge at Crobar before a recent Sunday-night gig. Dressed in plaid pants and a bright yellow top, her dark hair cropped playfully short, Young exudes a girl-power attitude that isn't so much defiant as it is confident. She claims the disorder is the secret to her success.
"Having a short attention span has helped me," she notes with a grin, "'cause if I'm bored, then I know the crowd is bored. My job is to make people dance, but I don't want to just be a DJ, you know. I want to educate and lead and teach people through music."
Holding a Marlboro Light in one hand and waving a cold Corona in the other, Young demonstrates the positive effects of hyperactivity. "I'm writing a book right now about my experiences as a female DJ," she confides. "I'm also going to do a movie, like a documentary but not really. I'm doing a lot of different things through music. I love DJing, but when I'm 40 or 50, I don't want to be in this environment."
Her ADD aside, Young has been gaining ample amounts of attention but agrees the spotlight has been both a blessing and another hurdle in the way of her crashing through the male-dominated club-DJ industry.
"I think there's even more pressure on me now," Young offers. "Everyone is so quick to judge. It's a very critical place to be in, for any artist really. You play a set and someone will say, "She sucked,' and someone else will say, "She was awesome.' There's no gray area."
The fine line between superstar and resident is especially thin because Young's first break came at the hands of onetime South Beach personality Ingrid Casares and her friend Madonna.
"Ingrid gave me my first shot," Young points out. "She didn't get me started, but I credit her a lot in pushing me and giving me big parties where people who could give me big breaks were attending."
One of those gigs was the New Year's Eve bash hosted by Madonna that transformed Young from Washington, D.C., hip-hop radio jock to South Beach circuit player, leading her to adopt the tribal/vocal sound that would catapult her into the upper echelon of clubland.
"I met Ingrid through her sister maybe seven years ago," Young remembers. "We just connected. We had the music as a foundation for our friendship. Then she opened Liquid and started flying me down, so I just decided to move here."
But friends in high places can do as much harm as good. The rumors started flying: Young was spinning because of who she knew, not what she knew how to do.
"I didn't hear anything firsthand, but I know it's been said that the only reason I got certain remixes was because of Ingrid," Young reveals. "Production is very hard for a female. It's very hard to get credibility. Even with Madonna's seal of approval, people will assume I got where I am because of the people I know."
She stamps out her cigarette and lights another. During the pause a bass rumbles through the club as technicians tweak the sound system. Young breaks into a wide smile and eases back on the couch.
"I'm very happy where I'm at, but I don't know if I've actually made it," she says. "A lot of what I said I was going to do has happened. Being a female DJ, I encountered a lot of big-time resistance. I heard "no' more than I ever heard "yes.'"
She also heard an ex-boyfriend say what many on the scene had been thinking for some time. "He bought me my first mixer 'cause I was really interested in what he was doing," Young says. "I met him at a party where he was spinning, and when he knew I was eager to learn he said, "That would be so fucking cool to have a girl DJ.'"
Young learned the ropes at a D.C. radio station by spinning R&B and hip-hop and began testing her house skills on the club scene. The crowds welcomed the change, and soon Young was on her way to the fateful Ingrid encounter and a grateful nod by the gay circuit crowds.
"I began spinning before straight male audiences," she says. "I don't want this to be taken the wrong way, but I couldn't get a gay gig in Miami to save my life. I was just doing straight parties, but after I did the Madonna records [remixes of "Music" and "Don't Tell Me"], the gay community kind of embraced me." Laughing, she adds, "I'm happy the gay audience is supporting people like me and Susan [Moribito] and Lydia [Prim], 'cause girls rock."
But quite a few DJs have "rocked" for Madonna and just as quickly stopped -- Junior Vasquez, Victor Calderone, and William Orbit, to name a few. How does this sit with Young?
"Would I like to remix for her more?" she asks rhetorically. "Of course. But she needs to do what's best for her. If she doesn't decide to use me again, I won't take it personally; it's business. If she feels someone will better represent her, then so be it."
The system tests have ceased. Young takes the silence as a cue. She swigs the last drops of beer and drags out the cigarette. The DJ booth awaits and so do the critics. But Young has time for only one thing right now, and surprisingly, her focus is crystal clear.
"The ultimate responsibility is playing for the people," she says. "I've always been about the music. I feel very fortunate to be in this position, and hopefully I'm making a difference."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.