This Saturday marks the end of an era in DC nightlife as the monthly KIDS party dominates DC9 for the last time. KIDS, named for and inspired by the controversial Larry Clark film, has given DC scenesters a haven to enjoy 90s hip hop jams without irony and with plenty of Olde English malt liquor and free condoms.
The first KIDS flier – everyone looks so young!
The impetus for KIDS was a shared love of hip-hop, skateboarding, and city culture – the same terrain as the film. Started during the height of the hipster, electro obsession, it gave four budding DJs the chance to spin the music they truly love. After two plus years, the group of DJs – Lil’ Elle, Steve Starks, Nacey and Jackie O – chose to end it, even though the party is still successful. They admit it was a tough decision. “DC9’s been a home to us and the staff is like family… We can’t wait to come back and throw a party at DC9, it just might be a little while.” The move will give everyone time to focus on other things, and a chance to, as Elle says, “put this chapter to rest for now.”
The KIDS crowd was a unique one, combining friends of the DJs, a dedicated group of devotees, and random party-goers down for anything. But in a transient city like DC, the scene is constantly in flux. Lil’ Elle laments that the party “lost the homie mentality.” That mentality was due in large part to the vibe: KIDS was a grown-up version of a high school house party, paradoxically both laid back and irreverently out-of-control. The spot of many memorable nights, one in particular stands tall.
In February 2010, during the second blizzard of the season, KIDS went on as planned. “I’ll never forget walking with the crew up the middle of Florida Ave, which had no cars on it, thinking nobody was coming out to KIDS,” Nacey remembers. “We considered canceling it. Two hours after rolling up, the place was bubbling. By 3am there was a massive snowball fight outside.” Before devolving into a snowball fight, premiere DJ Dave Nada jumped on the tables and treated the sweat pants-clad crowd to a hip-hop, turntablist clinic – a rarity from the club/house DJ. “Tittsworth ended up flipping a couch,” laughs Lil’ Elle.
With a fixed set of songs that fit the 90s rubric, there were bound to be songs that felt played out; Elle names R&B jams “Return of the Mack” and “This Is How We Do It” as songs that got old but continue to be crowd pleasers. Thankfully, favorites outnumber duds: Biggie’s “Going Back to Cali” for Elle, Smif-n-Wessun’s “I Love You” for Nacey (“That piano loop gets people every time.”)
Steve Starks took a different route: “[It’s] kind of funny, cause I started playing crunk sets, which were my favorite moments at KIDS, which I hadn’t done at the very beginning. Those tunes weren’t really throwbacks in the 90’s hip hop sense, mostly early/mid 00’s. Anyways, that music is my shit! Lil Jon, “Whatcha Gon Do.” The party always boiled over with that one.”
What’s next for the KIDS crew? Lil’ Elle, who recently relocated to San Francisco, is getting deeper into the Bay Area music scene, DJing, promoting, and connecting visiting DJs with locals. Along with remixing, Nacey is writing and producing songs with Misun, “an amazing vocalist in DC who hasn’t really been discovered yet. She’s got a lot of soul and has a ton of ideas.” Steve Starks has “a rack of new original tracks coming out, and some remixes.” Jackie O continues to DJ in DC, with residencies at Velvet Lounge and the 9:30 Back Bar and appearances across town.
For DJs that want to establish an event or party with the staying power of something like KIDS, the key is passion. “It’s really important that your heart is in it; we really wanted to spin this music,” says Ellen; Starks and Nacey feel the same way, but note that “the free malt liquor didn’t hurt either.”
Join Nacey, Jackie O, and Steve Starks at DC9 for the final KIDS this Saturday, July 2. Free entry, condoms, and malt liquor before 10PM and only $5 after. Hip-hop all night.