DJ Carisma always puts on for the West. Originally from Santa Ana, Calif., the 25-year-old Power 106 personality is Los Angeles’ ear to the streets. Coming up as part of the radio’s street team called the Flava Unit, Carisma impressed Power 106’s PD/Music Director E-Man who gave her a shot at mixing on air. After she passed the test, Carisma earned her spot at Power 106 as someone who isn’t afraid to show the diverse culture her city represents. From breaking artists on air to discovering new ones, Carisma continues to push the Young California movement to the top.
If anyone is going to shine a spotlight on the West’s up-and-coming talent, it’s Carisma. She’s responsible for getting hip-hop heads to pay attention to guys like New Boyz, TeeFLii, and Ty Dolla $ign. Her track record is pretty on point. Which is why she feels its ready to give more artists a platform on her debut album tentatively out Sept. 29.
The first single “Anyway,” a bouncy, dance-ready anthem, is already taking off. So with all these things going her way, we reached out to Carisma to talk about her early beginnings, staying in tune with music that’s bubbling, artists to watch out for in the West, and who she’s feeling on the other side of the States.—Eric Diep
XXL: What’s the favorite part of your job?
DJ Carisma: The fact that I am a DJ, I get to play music for the people and entertain. I love it.
Were you always a music head growing up?
Yeah, totally. I used to love making mixtapes growing up off of radio. In high school, I was definitely that girl walking around with headphones on with the backpack. That was me.
Do you remember what you put on your first tape?
I was a big West Coast head back then. A lot of Tupac. A lot of Snoop. Dre. All that fun stuff.
Did you sell it to other people?
I used to go to the mall and I used to slang mixtapes for five bucks. I would print up whole bunch of copies of it and I would just go to the mall with a backpack. I definitely made good money. There was a couple times [where] I would come home from the mall with at least $100 bucks.
What about a little bit before that? When you were a kid, how did you get introduced to hip-hop?
I definitely got introduced to hip-hop by my friend Blue when I was probably 9 years old. In my family, they listened to everything else. They listen to country and rock.
Do you remember what was the first album you heard?
Definitely, it was Da Brat, Funkafied. Her album had just come out for everyone. So I was talking about the Da Brat, so she gave me her first single that was when I really fell in love with hip-hop for sure. She was a female MC so it was even cooler.
How did you come up with the name Carisma?
I just went by my real, government name when I was younger. Carisma came during high school. I just decided that I am just going to be DJ Carisma. I loved the name Carisma. I love what the word charisma stands for. It just fit and I knew it. I knew that was it when I heard it. I came up with it all by myself. DJ Carisma, drop the H. Just keep it real round and short and sweet looking. Carisma. That was it. I knew it when I looked it up in the dictionary. I was like, “Wow, that’s definitely Carisma.” That’s gonna be me. I stuck with it ever since.
How did get your brand out there?
I’ve done it all with the weddings and the birthdays. It’s worked my way up to big events, clubs, to huge festivals now. Definitely just worked my way up. I’ve DJed on washers and dryers. Trash cans. Anything we can get our hands on back in the day too.
Why do people want to come see you DJ?
I do me and I love new music. I’m not scared to break records. I love playing new records at events. When you come see me, you are definitely gonna get me. You are gonna get a real head-bopping, feel-good sound. A lot of fun. I like to get on the mic and rock the crowd. Give ‘em a little Carisma.
What are the artists that you helped gain more exposure?
It started off with the New Boyz. The jerkin’ movement back in 2009. I broke the record for “You’re A Jerk.” That was exactly how I got my chance to be a mixer is because I broke that record. E-Man. He knows my taste in music and because of that record, I got my shot on air. And then after that, it was “Toot It And Boot It” by YG, which includes Mustard and Ty Dolla $ign. Cali Swag District, “Teach Me How To Dougie.” Jon Hart, “Who Booty?” I broke that off a mixtape. Clyde Carson, “Slow Down.” Pretty much all the stuff that was coming out of the West. “Cat Daddy,” The Rej3ctz. LoveRance, Iamsu! “Up!” All that fun stuff.
Those are all big records now. Were you out there looking for those artists to break?
I DJ a lot of high school and college events here on the West Coast. That really keeps me in-tune with the music. What’s coming up in the streets, what’s hot online. A lot of these kids are going online nowadays and finding music. It’s not being played on the radio. Those are the things I look for. I look for trends. It’s crazy I would be DJing high schools from The Valley all the way to Orange County and they keep requesting a song called “Your A Jerk.” I’m the type to go home and see what these kids are talking about. Download it. Ain’t nothing like dropping a record that no one’s heard and these kids go insane once it comes on. I love that feeling.
Tell me more about breaking TeeFLii’s “This D.”
TeeFLii, I was just a big stan. All of a sudden, he releases his first mixtape, AnnieRuO’Tay, and I was a huge fan. I love R&B music. I reached out to him. I have no problem reaching out to people, especially if I see that you got something. Reached out to TeeFLii. We sat down, met, hit it off. He showed me the song “This D.” I was like, “This is a hit. This is a crazy radio record right here.” I just started working with him. Last year, on his birthday, we put together this huge showcase. And this was before he was signed. It was sold out on the Roxy on Hollywood. He literally got signed the Monday after that. It was crazy. It moved very fast. It was awesome. Broke “This D” on the radio. He ended up getting signed to Epic. Now, he’s got huge hits and he’s about to drop an album. It’s crazy.
Ty Dolla $ign, too. You helped him early on.
Yeah, I’ve known Ty for years. I’m so proud of him. Ty is such a talented person. He’s been working hard for so long. I’m so happy he got the big one with “Paranoid” and all his new success. I’ve known Ty for years since the jerkin’ movement.
At this point, you’ve helped some of these guys get to the national stage. How does it feel to hold that power?
It’s crazy that I never thought I’d would be able to do something for them, but God has sent me in a position where I’d definitely take the kids that are now killing and running the game. I was definitely the first ones there to support them and give them that chance to get radio play. At least present themselves to all the radio DJs. I’m blessed. I’m happy its me. I don’t know why it is me, but God put me here to do it, so I love it.
Who are some of the new guys that we aren’t hip to yet?
Some cats to keep an eye on from the West is definitely RJ. He’s apart of Pushaz Ink. He’s definitely an MC to watch out for. Another singer to watch out for, two of them, actually. Adrian Marcel from Oakland, Calif. and Rayven Justice. Those are definitely two guys that are on the rise. Casey Veggies is really about to shake the game up. He’s got some fire coming. Rapper by the name of DUBB from LA. Of course, Iamsu! from The Bay. HBK Gang is doing their thing. Tinashe, representing for the ladies. Mila J. There’s a lot of artists coming out of the West right now. Quality music.
We know you are heavy duty in the West, but are you feeling anyone out in the East?
I love it. I fuck with all kinds of music. I am loving the whole Chicago movement. I love the New York movement. There’s a girl named Leif out there that I am a big fan of. Of course, Action Bronson [and] the whole A$AP Mob. I’m a real big A$AP Mob fan. I love how Nas is kind of coming back. Re-releasing everything. I am a huge Nas fan. I love music all across the board.
You are putting an album out soon. Why do you think its a perfect time for you?
I just think my relationships have gotten to that point where I needed a new way to express myself. “Let me see if I can do this album” and I did it. I got 14 tracks. I got a lot of amazing features on here from Wiz Khalifa to Ty to TeeFLii to whole bunch of newcomers. It’s dropping in September. I’ve already released my first single. “Anyway” featuring Tory Lanez, Eric Bellinger, Sage The Gemini and Mishon. I just wanted to show people that I can definitely make music too. Get my Missy Elliott on.