#HeyMsDJ: Miss Milan Is A Testament To Taking The Opportunity When It Comes
For Women's History Month, BET.com is highlighting some of the best women DJs on the 1s and 2s.
Miss Milan is the official DJ for two of hip-hop’s biggest female artists, but that only came because she struck when the iron was hot.
Just off of her Rolling Loud set with Saweetie and preparing for a Coachella outing with Doechii, the Brooklyn/Queens native began her music career only seven years ago after visiting a pawn shop in New York and purchasing used turntables and a mixer. It’s a buy she made with tip money she had from being a bartender while living with her grandmother.
From there, and after years of perfecting her craft behind the 1s and 2s, Milan eventually began networking around the Big Apple, meeting luminaries like Combat Jack, and eventually, Saweetie during the beginning of her ascension and Doechii when she was a relative unknown.
From there, Miss Milan took the opportunity to grow with both women in different ways, which landed her the gig of being each’s DJ, and in-part, helping her grow her network and spin for some of the biggest events in native city and across America. She’s also a big proponent in spreading mental health awareness as well as promoting emerging women and LGBTQ+ artists through her GIRLGVNG Global platform and playlist.
Speaking with BET recently, DJ Miss Milan details her come up, meeting Saweetie and Doechii, DJing for Combat Jack and other shows, the importance of raising mental health awareness and more.
BET: I wanna take you back a bit. You’re from Brooklyn but primarily raised in Queens. Tell me about growing up in those boroughs and how it shaped you as a person.
DJ Miss Milan: Well, as a person being born in Brooklyn, I mean, what can we say? Everyone loves Brooklyn. We got Biggie, and [Jay-Z], and also Miss Milan. But just growing up in Brooklyn, I literally grew up right on Eastern Parkway, where the labor day parade was always held, so I remember it as a child because I only lived there ‘'til about three years old. Then I moved to Queens with my grandparents. So growing up in Brooklyn, I was in the apartments, my grandmother moved from Barbados to America and her first apartment that she got was a beautiful two bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, right on Eastern Parkway. I just remember growing up, and the Caribbean culture was so heavy because we're also Caribbean. It was just so heavy and prevalent in those areas.
Then when I moved to Queens, which is another part of hip-hop, I literally lived right up the block from LL Cool J's grandmother. I went to a Catholic school, so I had very much a discipline background. My grandmother, my grandfather, raised me from a young child because my mother wasn't able to take care of me at that point in time of her life.
And then I also went to public school when I got to high school, which kind of just opened my mind to not only freedom, but also opened my mind to creativity and being able to do different things such as dance and doing sports and different activities that I necessarily didn't get to do in Catholic school.
BET: One thing that’s kind of wild about you is that you haven’t been DJing for relatively that long. I think it’s only been about seven years now… Can you kind of reflect on that fast growth from buying your DJ equipment from a pawn shop to your now a big ascension within the industry?
Miss Milan: Well, wow, the pawn shop story is really crazy. But, I did always have music in my background. Like I said, growing up in a Caribbean household, I was exposed to Soca, Calypso, Dancehall, Spanish music, classical music. My grandmother literally used to put me to sleep listening to classical music. Getting older, I found my love for music based on the things I was also exposed to. Creatively I already had some type of DJing and artists in my family lineage. But I personally never took it seriously because I didn't know that you can really make a career out of it, especially as a woman DJ. So from then, I had an interest, which is funny because I wanted to be a singer. I used to get all of the girls that were growing up in my neighborhood and we would literally go in my grandmother's backyard and I would teach them different dance steps. I would write songs and I would have us perform for different talent shows and for our neighborhood. So I always had that itch to want to be an entertainer.
As I got older for me, I just felt like number one: I don't have the discipline to continue to sing as much as I did before. So I wanted to do something different but still in the entertainment lane. And DJing was something that interested me because I've always seen it and heard it.
I saved up every last coin I had as a bartender and invested in myself as a DJ – buying equipment from a pawn shop because that's all I could afford. Really taking at least like 12 hours a day to teach myself how to DJ until I was exposed to the DJ culture and meeting different people who also helped assist me along the way.
BET: And then going all the way from then to now – you DJ for both Doechii and Saweetie, two of the more notable artists out right now. Take me through meeting each of them and how you became their DJ.
Miss Milan: The first major artist was Saweetie, of course. I've been with her right at the cusp after she dropped “ICY GRL.” I remember a friend of mine, she was actually DJing for her first, and she couldn't make a gig. So she hit me up and was like, “Hey, can you please cover for me?” And I was like, Yeah, sure. Because at this point in time, I wanted to just DJ and I remember writing down my goals – one of my them was to DJ for an artist and be a tour DJ. So this opportunity came up, and I ended up DJing for her literally when we met. I had no rehearsals, and no knowledge about what we were doing. It was like, here's the music, here's the order, play. And I can say they probably loved me a lot because I'm still her DJ to this day.
For us, we've been working now going on four years and it's been an amazing journey. Just seeing her growth as an artist and also being a part of it and my personal growth as a DJ, which led me to ultimately working with Doechii because I wanted to always work with women, especially up-and-coming women, and Doechii, I basically found her before the come-up and her being signed. I literally heard her on a friend of mine’s song and I was like, I love this girl. Who is this girl? And he literally gave me her music link on her Instagram page and I followed her.
I ended up just putting her on [my GIRLGVNG Global] playlist and she reached out to me because she started getting some streams from that playlist. And from there, I just shot my shot. I was like, Hey, if you ever need a DJ for anything, I would love to work with you.
We had our very first show, once again at a festival in Brooklyn, and it was amazing. Our chemistry was just literally like deja vu: the same thing that happened with Saweetie was the same thing that happened with Doechii. And now the elevation of who she is as an artist and the rising of her is amazing.
BET: Aside from DJing, you’re also a big proponent of raising awareness around mental health. Talk about that initiative and some of the ways you’ve been involved in that…
Miss Milan: I've dealt with depression all of my life and finally getting the proper help, such as therapy and just doing the things and using the tools to help me get through those hurdles, was something that I wanted to always be transparent about in my journey on my social media pages. I'm never trying to portray an image that everything is all roses. Sometimes the roses are dead, I'm not gonna lie. Sometimes you do what you got to do to water your plants so that they can grow accordingly, and for me, I've always been vocal about mental health because it is something that a lot, if not everyone faces. Sometimes a lot of us are facing it alone and not speaking up about it and sometimes when we look at social media, we're always looking at an image or a video of somebody living a perfectionist type of life and we don't even know what's really going on behind closed doors. So for me, I've always been an advocate of just telling your truth and allowing your truth to also help you so with that.
I always let people know like, Hey, I've been doing therapy for this time, and it has helped me and I never want someone to push it on anybody but I am such an advocate of really taking care of your mental health that if you're not feeling your best self, you need to do what you need to do in order to get to that space. And if that means disconnecting from social media, if that means isolating yourself a little bit from certain things just to get your mind in a space where you feel safe – and you feel how you shouldn't be feeling then I'm all for it.
BET: Earlier I took you back to your upbringing in New York, but I’d like to take you back there again. What are your fondest memories of the Combat Jack Show and Reggie [Osse] because it was so ahead of its time and really the father to all of the hip-hop podcasts that have sprung up since?
Miss Milan: The Podfather! Listen. Combat Jack, rest in peace. He has been literally one of the biggest supporters of me and my come up. When I say I would call him with tears coming down my eyes like, Oh my gosh, I don't think I'm good enough. What if people don't like me? He will always be like, “Milan, you got it. You're it.” He's always been super, super supportive. I actually met Combat Jack doing a live show for another podcaster by the name of Taxstone, who also was a big podcaster and he's also been very influential and helped me in my career as well as giving me the opportunity to DJ his live show – the very first one that he had, which ultimately, that's where I met Combat Jack at.
I just remember this guy having on like this leather vest, he had some big jeans and some white Timberland boots on. He was like a brown ball headed guy with a camera phone like, “Coming up to the DJ booth” as I'm DJing the live show and he's just recording me. And I didn't know that was combat Jack at that time. So when I was going to the studios where they would be recording their podcast, I finally met him. He literally gave me so much love like, “Yo, you're so dope. You're so amazing.” And it was crazy because at that time I literally was just starting out. I would still consider myself a baby DJ. So for him to embrace me, and just see ahead of time how much he thought I was great at what I did. It’s just a testament to where I am right now.