Our new Originators series explores specific, underserved scenes through mixes of representative tracks and interviews with prominent artists, as conducted by Zak “SPF666” DesFleurs. The intent is to provide desperately needed historical context for these genres in the age of the Internet, a time when cultural objects are uprooted from their scenes and reworked, repurposed and reappropriated beyond recognition.
The first in our series is DJ Relentless / Jade Elektra (neé Alphonso King Jr), introducing us to the cunty voice of ballroom, bitch tracks. Relentless is best known for his Relentlessly Cunty mixes: a multi-volume series that serves as a near-comprehensive survey of bitch tracks.
His contribution is primarily an archival one: the Relentlessly Cunty mixes served as an introduction to many (myself included) to a specific element of ballroom culture that lives on in the endless Soundcloud reworkings of classics in vogue’s most recent rise in popularity.
When did you start DJing? Was it always under the DJ Relentless Moniker?
I guess it all started in 1980 when my Uncle Herbert King moved to Tampa from Las Vegas. He was blind and needed an assistant to help him at his new job at WMNF 88.5. We did a Jazz/R&B show from 1 to 4 PM on Mondays. I had always loved music and had collected records since the age of 5, but this began my love affair with programming. He always told me to “only play what you believe in and love”. I didn’t get the DJ name “Relentless” until 1996 while I was spinning and VJing for The Works and The Break in Manhattan after playing in New York City for the past 4 years. Until then I just used my real name, Alphonso King Jr.
Your uncle gave some pretty solid advice when it comes to djing (and production for that matter). So how did you initially get into the ballroom scene in the first place? What was your house?
My first residency was at Sally’s II (as featured in Paris Is Burning). Ironically, the year before I moved to New York, I watched Paris Is Burning and dreamed of being at a ball. So, when I moved in with The Electrifying Grace (who was the downstairs neighbor to Paris Dupree), I was thrilled. Then Grace got me an audition for Sally’s, right around the time that Dorian Corey and Angie Xtravaganza had weekly shows there, and Willi Ninja, Octavia St. Laurent and Pepper Labeija were regulars.
Check this mix it is EVERYTHING!