There’s a reason Boiler Room came to New Orleans to document the local club culture. The Big Easy has always been a hub for legendary musicians, but in 2022, it’s an especially unique moment for DJs in the city. Alternative Black artists, Black women, queer and people of color are taking over the turn tables and reclaiming their space in the city’s music scene. Last weekend, Boiler Room, an international platform known for filming DJs and music artists at lively parties, made its way to New Orleans.
This new wave of New Orleans DJs isn’t the type to sit back and play requests or a “Top 100” playlist. Spinning is a form of artistry. Each creatively blends unimaginable songs together to make you feel like you’ve transcended into another dimension. They tap into the energy of the crowd and carefully curate the vibe for the night. Being a DJ in New Orleans takes guts. If the crowd isn’t feeling you, they’ve got at least four other venues to go to instead.
Boiler Room, a London-based online music broadcasting and promotional platform, captures DJs, musicians, and parties around the world. The reputable brand partnered with New Orleans creative platform FREEWATER, a group known for high-energy parties packed with vibrant people dripping in expressive street style.
“We started FREEWATER with the plan of changing the stigma of New Orleans,” Creative Director of FREEWATER Frankie Watts said. “When you think of New Orleans, people think about the Hot Boys, Cash Money Records, and baggy clothes, but we are in a new era. We are shifting the culture. We’re bringing together crowds that you don’t normally see when you come out to New Orleans.”
For the two entertainment powerhouses to join forces on this foggy, mystical December evening, meant one thing: it was about to be an epic night.
Hundreds of people lined up outside of Republic NOLA eager to be a part of the sold-out Boiler Room x FREEWATER experience. The star-studded lineup of DJs included DJ Kelly Green, Legatron Prime, ANTWIGADEE, DJ RBD, and Lil Jodeci.
“Every DJ that we picked goes crazy in their own lane,” Watts said. “We were able to bring every scene into one room.”
The party started around 11 p.m. beginning with DJ Kelly Green. There were cameras everywhere – one propped right in front of the DJ booth with a big light above it, recording the whole night. Boiler Room and FREEWATER photographers and videographers with handheld cameras moved throughout the room capturing the performances as the night unfolded.
For this group of DJs, their sets felt personal. It was as if every performer went into the night knowing the weight that Boiler Room videos carry (thousands of people will be watching them all over the world). Boiler Room has over 3.21 million subscribers on YouTube, so the opportunity to be featured on their platform can make or break the artists.
Around 12:15 am, Legatron Prime started scratching her turntables after some minor technical difficulties. The crowd cheered as New Orleans bounce boomed from the speakers while she threw up a “7” with her right hand, paying homage to the seventh ward in New Orleans, where she grew up. Her bass-heavy, pant-vibrating set celebrated her culture with bounce music and songs like UGK’s Int’l Players Anthem. She blended club bangers with artists like Beyonce, 21 Savage, and Kendrick Lamar. She wore a reconstructed jersey that read “victorious” on the back, which rang true after her unforgettable set.
The performing DJs weren’t the only stars in the room. Amongst the audience were HBO Original Katrina Babies director Edward Buckles Jr., music artists Stone Cold Jizzle and Pell, and other up-and-coming New Orleans DJs like D1ME, DJ Jess, and Mikey Offline.
A highlight of the night was undoubtedly ANTWIGADEE’s moving, cinematic, masterfully mixed performance. From the moment he stepped up to the turntables, put on his headphones, and started his set, the audience was all aboard his train and ready for the ride. He tastefully opened up with the horn section from Beyonce’s Homecoming album and then got the crowd jumping with his remix of Kendrick Lamar’s song Element.
Waves of movement rippled throughout the crowd. With each genius blend, the synergy between ANTWIGADEE and the audience meshed together. It was the type of energy that could be felt throughout your whole body.
“I feel euphoric,” ANTWIGADEE said after his show. “I put in a lot of time and work into that set tonight. It felt like a culmination of all of the years that I’ve been working to get to this point. I’ve been watching Boiler Rooms for a minute and when I got the email to do it I was like ‘Woah, this is crazy.’ I’m so thankful to God for that. He’s been guiding me and leading me and I’ve just been putting in the work.”
Around 2:30 a.m., the party was still rolling. Lil Jodeci and MC Lord Chilla started prepping for the last set of the night. Lil Jodeci is known around New Orleans as one of the most influential house DJs, hosting events that celebrate house and dance music prior to its resurgence in 2022. Before he started his set, he looked around at his surroundings, soaking at the moment before taking the crowd on an otherworldly musical journey. He’s a complex creative with a unique ear and particular style. He wore a lavender beanie, a pearl necklace, a Louis Armstrong T-shirt, printed jogger-style pants, and cowboy boots.
Next to him, Lord Chilla chanted inspiring affirmations, encouraged the crowd to keep dancing, and shouted out all of the zodiac signs. Throughout the night, he reminded everyone of the origins of house music by repeating “House music is black.”
Boiler Room x FREEWATER showcased the musical renaissance that is happening in New Orleans nightlife. Though the revolution may not be televised, thank God it was streamed.