When producer and DJ Jasmine Batson, aka HexKitten
, performs, a booming, scary voice announces her tagline: “HexKitten music.” That’s followed by bellowing laughter, the kind you’d be hard-pressed to find outside of a haunted house. Batson doesn’t include that to scare off potential fans; she just wants them to know she’s not afraid to come off as a little abnormal.
Batson, a Denver native, found herself drawn to all that is different at an early age. While growing up, her interest in gory horror movies, her dark clothes and her knowledge of black magic and voodoo was written off by others as weird. But as she matured and developed her sound as a DJ, she incorporated those characteristics into her craft and found her own groove.
“[My music is] just a testament of not being afraid to like what I like,” she explains.
So it’s no surprise that in sixth grade she was intrigued by DJ MIA, the woman supplying music on MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, a show that was largely about men.
“It was powerful to me to see a lady up there, looking fly and controlling the sounds,” Batson explains. “I had just never really seen it before…. It made her seem very powerful to me. How did you get there? In this male-dominated show, how did you end up here?”
After living in Hawaii for a few months in 2013, Batson returned home and began producing beats as HexKitten. For the next couple of years, she experimented with sounds on her laptop and eventually produced full songs, which she posted to SoundCloud. In the spring of 2016, Nzuri, the host of Wednesdays With Z at Lincoln Street Station, invited her to deejay after hearing her beats.
One problem: Batson had never deejayed before. Happily, fellow artists, including Truck Turner, showed her the ropes, and behind the turntables, she was able to express herself in a different way than she could while producing.
“With learning how to deejay, I realized just how much of that was my passion,” Batson says. “I love to make music, and I am just in love with music people have already made. Putting it together and making a whole new sound was something I became obsessed with.”
Mixing gives her a chance to get to know artists and imbue their songs with the darker aspects of her own personality.
“The dark side of my sound that you may hear in my tagline is something that I want people to notice, because it highlights such a huge part of who I am,” Batson says. “I’ve always been drawn to things most people consider morbid or ominous for reasons unknown, but I connect with it and embrace that side of myself.”
Although she’s only been deejaying officially since May 2016, she’s spent evenings and weekends since then sharpening her mixing and production skills and refining her style. (By day, she works as an auto loan customer-service representative at a call center.)
“Now, because I’ve worked so consistently to try and better my craft, it’s almost like I can freestyle,” Batson says. “I don’t have to pre-plan the mix days in advance and practice, practice, practice to make sure it’s on point. It’s going to be solid, because I’ve been consistent enough to know how to make things sound good without having to practice over and over.”
Her confidence was put to the test in August with a performance at the Trip, a hip-hop festival at Mishawaka Amphitheatre. That night, Batson was running late and feared missing her set completely. Driving through the mountains to get there, she had no cell service and no way to contact anyone at the show, which rattled her nerves. Moments after she arrived at the venue, her name was announced and she took the stage. Under the lights and in front of the crowd, Batson sunk into her performance and delivered.
“I got up there and let it all go,” she says. “I couldn’t really see anything as far as anyone in the crowd, and that was part of why I just had to let go of the nerves, because I can’t control anything right now.”
But Batson has found control, in mastering her art and staying true to herself — something she hopes all artists do. Her motto is straightforward: “Make your weird acceptable and still keep it weird.”