Nine Questions w/ 13-Year-Old Phenom Dj Sophia + Exclusive Summer Playlist
While most other eleven year olds were just busy trying to figure out how they were going to pass math class, Sophia Clayton was rocking the house at the 2019 DJ Expo in Atlantic City, and subsequently being interviewed by DJ Times about her burgeoning career behind the decks. She told them at the time, “I feel like people are thinking, ‘Aww little kid, she’s going to play some music.'”
Two years on, and no one is really thinking that anymore. In fact, Dj Sophia is signed to the same agency (New York’s Kagency) that represents such top deck talent as Whitney Fierce, Nicolas Matar, Eve Salvail, Isaac Ferry (son of Bryan) and Roger Taylor of Duran Duran. She’s straight outta Dover, Delaware, but there’s every indication she’s going to take the world by storm, already having shared a stage with Ava Max, The Lost Boyz and Erykah Badu (she is part of the latter’s Wild Tight Collective). If that weren’t enough, she’s also performed for The Roots, and nabbed the distinction as the youngest person ever to do a full mix on Sirius XM’s Sway in the Morning. (Trust us, that’s a really cool thing.)
It’s necessary right here to make the point that she’s not just good for a 13-year-old…she’s just good. A client list that includes the James Brown Foundation, the NAACP, Fashion Your Future, Black Girls Rock, Wieden + Kennedy, and even the Four Seasons Hotel at the Comcast Center in Philadelphia only serves to confirm that.
But what’s especially poignant about all her success is that she almost didn’t live to have it, as at just three months old, a heart defect nearly claimed her life. Emergency surgery at A.I. Dupont Hospital for Children in Wilmington corrected the problem (apparently for good), and perhaps instilled her with a permanent sense of urgency, to live life like there might not be a tomorrow.
So as we struggle out of a health crisis that forced most of humanity to confront our own mortality, we asked Dj Sophia to honor us with an exclusive post-pandemic summer playlist (fittingly titled Back outside) to help move us forward, and to get us dancing again. We also slowed her down long enough to talk about where she’s been, and the amazing places she’ll definitely be going.
You almost lost your life to a heart defect a few months after birth. How is your heart treating you these days?
My heart is treating me well, just like any other heart would. I do have to go to the cardiologist every two years now. I’ve been lucky that every time I go they say “your heart is looking healthy.” I’m not complaining because it’s a very good thing! I’m very lucky and thankful for the doctors at A.I. Dupont Hospital that took care of me.
How did you come to take up DJing?
My dad [Dave Clayton] is a huge inspiration to me and my DJ career, and he actually started it all because he is a former DJ. When he would get on the equipment every once in awhile, I would come in the room and just listen to him play around on the turntables. Sometimes he would let me scratch, but of course I wasn’t that good because I was about two years old. Then it just grew from there.
How do you feel when you’re behind the decks? What does being a DJ mean to you?
I feel great when I’m behind the turntables, it’s always an experience and an experiment, whether it’s learning a new scratch, coming up with a routine, or just working on the basics. I like to try and figure out something that no DJ has ever done before. It’s crazy because you never know what’s going to happen when you first hit the on button. Being a girl DJ means a lot to me, I like to represent for all girls of all ages, to show them you can follow your passion and be great.
Who are some of your inspirations and influences?
My biggest influence and inspiration is my dad. He keeps me going every single day by either giving me a pep talk to start my day or just a text with an inspirational quote in it. But I am also inspired by DJ Jazzy Jeff – I always watched him on Vinyl Destination growing up, and him being a tour DJ really inspired me to become who I am and to try to be a tour DJ myself.
How would you describe your style? What do you like to spin?
My favorite genre is hip-hop, but I like to spin all types of music. I also like to occasionally scratch in my mixes and sometimes juggle a couple of beats. I enjoy the deep bass in the sound and the different variety of beats that producers create.
You’ve shared a bill with some really high-profile people – any particular highlights or good stories?
Meeting Jazzy Jeff was a good one. When we first pulled into his driveway I opened my arms up and said “hey!” Then he opened his arms up and said “hey!” – and we walked right into his studio. We definitely bonded, everyone there, even the audience that I met virtually, was super nice and very welcoming. I felt like I was home. I can’t wait to return back and do a mix for the Magnificent Pool Party this summer. Anyone that I have met with a high profile has been very nice and encouraging to me.
What have you been doing during the pandemic quarantine?
I’ve been busy nonstop during the pandemic, because virtual gigs happen many times during the week and weekend for me. I’ve had the ability to work and collaborate with artists and DJs virtually…and now that things are starting to open back up, I have been able to meet some of those people in person. I’m just happy I could bring my style of DJing to everyone’s home and create smiles and good conversation.
How do you think people finally getting together again and grooving to good music can help us heal from the hurt of the coronavirus crisis?
I think music can help people – getting together and dancing and enjoying [each other] is a great way to heal from this deadly pandemic. Most people say music heals the soul, which I say myself as well. Positive music can boost someone’s mood and give them a break from worrying about all of the tragic things going on in the world right now. Also everyone needs a break from Zoom platforms and virtual screens.
What are your big plans going forward?
My big plan going forward is to continue to working hard. Now that the pandemic is starting to slowly lift, I’m ready to get back on those big stages.