HONEY DIJON

“The word is artist,” says Honey Dijon. She is talking about her new album Black Girl Magic – thirteen fierce tracks of attitude, energy, heart, community,x`x` and engagement. But she could be talking about all of her work and life: her stratospheric DJing career; her fashion line Honey Fucking Dijon; her soundtracking of some of the most iconic fashion shows of the 21st century. “For me, it’s just about creative energy,” she says. “It’s so human for me, to want to express my experience.”

Honey is talking from her home in Berlin. “As an artist, especially as a trans woman of color working in music, I wanted the album to be in-your-face, unapologetic, raw and honest,” she says. “The album is very timely. I’ve mostly collaborated with black, queer singers and songwriters. These are songs about love, life, resistance, fighting oppression.”

It’s also joyful. “That’s the trick of great dance music,” says Honey. “It’s why I always resonated with disco. Even though it was talking about the realities of life, it was also uplifting and liberating. That’s what great dance music does. Uplift and liberate while also reflecting. It’s affirmation.”

This puts Honey’s work firmly in a cultural tradition as urgent today as it was in the days of disco and early house. Dance music is as much of a force today as it was then, especially in this age of structural racism and media-fuelled transphobia. “It’s the politics of the party,” says Honey. “It’s no different from when Joe Smooth made Promised Land over thirty years ago. The conversation is still valid. It has always been queer people of color using dance music to create spaces for themselves.”

Honey knows what she is talking about. Born and raised in Chicago, she grew up surrounded by House music, and the creative souls who started a global movement. Moving to New York, she learned her art of DJing the right way: by playing records night after night after night. She worked the dancefloors of the city to master her connection with the crowd, that special magic she now brings to every set she plays. It led to some legendary residencies, such as Sunday nights at Hiro, and Ladyfag’s Battle Hymn party, where every Pride she would play twelve hours sets.

As a kid, Honey had educated herself about fashion, devouring magazines while knowing, at that time, fashion would have no place for a queer person of color. When she started DJing, the New York fashion crowd soon took notice. Finally, Honey could share her knowledge and understanding of fashion, mixing its creativity and self-expression into her art.

Honey has put in the work in music and fashion, the results of which are clear for all to see: the legendary Sugar Mountain DJ set for Boiler Room with now over 6,000,000 views on YouTube; her fashion line Honey Fucking Dijon now stocked in stores worldwide; her 194K followers on Instagram; her work mixing catwalk music for creative director Kim Jones, now of Dior Men, including the soundtrack for his show in his previous role as creative director of men’s at Louis Vuitton which revealed the game-changing Supreme collaboration.

Which is all just the beginning.

“When I think about the physicality of the music, I think about the journey of the night,” says Honey. “What makes a really good party is the journey. It’s like sex: fast tempos, slow tempos, giving people a break to catch their breath, then bringing them back up. Whenever I write music, I really write it from an emotional standpoint. Dance music doesn’t have to be above 125bpm.”

This knowledge comes to every track of Black Girl Magic, from the euphoria of Love is a State of Mind to the intense drive of Don’t Be Afraid to the new classic deep house of Finding My Way.

“I think about the journey of the dancefloor when I think about the physicality of the music that I make,” says Honey. “Storytelling – I think of it as storytelling. I make physical music. It’s not just between your ears. I want it to be in your legs, your arms, in your torso, and in your lower body, my favorite area!”

Every track reveals truths about Honey, her life, her beliefs. “It’s there in the titles of the tracks,” she says. “Don’t Be Afraid, Stand, Love is a State of Mind, Tension: these are all words I use in my everyday life. This record is my life.”

Like the communities found on true dancefloors, Black Girl Magic is a work of collaboration. “We wrote the music first,” says Honey, “then we would back-and-forth with the songwriter, so they could bring their energy and emotion. I collaborated mostly with queer people of colour, because I wanted to give them the platform to express their art. The album is a true collaboration, which is how it should be.”

Honey collaborates with the new generation, such as Hadiya George on In The Club or Josh Caffe on La Femme Fantastique. And then there are legends, such as Junior Labeija, who opens the album on the intro of Love is a State of Mind, or Douglas McCarthy of Nitzer Ebb, who features on Tension. “It’s basically about S&M sex,” says Honey.

Just like she said: this record is unapologetic. “I want to own my narrative,” says Honey. “I feel like so much of the trans narrative is from a heteronormative point of view. Trans people are always seen as standing in opposition to the binary. I want to stand for exactly who I am, and not be perceived through a straight lens any longer.”

It goes into all aspects of life. “I’m tired of having to make other people feel comfortable about my existence,” she says. “Why is it that marginalized people have to gain the acceptance of the majority? I don’t get it. I don’t need to be validated by those I do not respect.”

A key to unlocking Honey Dijon comes near the beginning of La Femme Fantastique. Josh Caffe makes an announcement: “Ladies and Gentlemen… Miss Honey Dijon”. It’s a direct nod to the line spoken by actor Ian McShane on the 1985 Grace Jones album Slave to the Rhythm: “Ladies and Gentlemen… Miss Grace Jones.”

Grace is everything to Honey, serving as a constant inspiration for bringing worlds together. “When I first saw a Grace Jones album,” says Honey, “not only did I see music, but I also saw fashion, art direction. I heard different textures, from reggae to French ballads to covering a punk song.” She’s talking about Grace’s album Nightclubbing. “It is the most important album for me. It is the impetus for me to never separate creative energy.”

In Grace, Honey found how to harness your own personal motivation. “Grace is constantly questioning everything that she does. She is restless. It is her own need to find something new, to keep herself interested, to keep pushing forwards.”

Music. Fashion. Art. It’s in everything that Honey touches. “I come from a background where art is interdisciplinary,” she says. “If I think about the artists I love, from Keith Haring to Jean Michel Basquiat, from Kenny Scharfe to Klaus Nomi, they all mixed worlds together. Look at Klaus Nomi singing backup vocals for David Bowie. These worlds should collide.”

And so Black Girl Magic is the next chapter in Honey Dijon’s personal journey. “I am always asking questions,” she says, “about myself, about the world. That is what I want Black Girl Magic to be. For me, this questioning is a lifelong pursuit. I’ve been questioning things my whole life. It’s what energized me then and it is what fires me today. I’ll never settle.”

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