Serving house music history with Honey Dijon
2022 was a banner year for Honey Dijon. She co-produced two of the fiercest tracks on Beyoncé’s latest record, Renaissance, and she released her own studio album this fall, called Black Girl Magic. But Honey – one of the only Black trans DJs playing the biggest clubs in the world – has been a mainstay on dance floors for decades. And she’s become a historian, and champion, of the Black musical traditions that house music draws from. In this episode, Honey talks to host Brittany Luse about using music to create spaces of liberation, and paving the way for future generations to do the same.
The interview highlights below are adapted from an episode of It’s Been A Minute. Follow us on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, and keep up with us on Twitter. These excerpts have been edited for length and clarity.
On collaborating with Beyoncé on Renaissance
Brittany Luse: You were recruited by Beyoncé to work on her album, Renaissance, and you produced “Cozy” and “Alien Superstar.” What was it like working with Beyoncé on that album and sharing your experiences of the scenes that made you?
Honey Dijon: Well, first of all, I had to pick my jaw off the ground when that call came. I was like, “How does Beyoncé know about me?” It was so humbling to feel that the work, that your lived experience, was being acknowledged by someone of that caliber.
One of the things that I was told from her team was that she wanted to make this a dance record and she wanted to go to the true source of Chicago house music. I think of so many people that have laid the groundwork for me to be able to express that. You know, I think of the Frankie Knuckles and the Ron Hardys and the Derrick Carters and all of these amazing artists that have gone before me. For Beyoncé to acknowledge that was just so gratifying, and it made me proud. I had to pat myself on the back. My mother always says, “You may see my glory, but you don’t know my story.” And I just thought about all of the years of being told, “no,” or what I was doing was being misunderstood. So when that call came, it was such a proud moment for me.
On the parties she went to as a teenager
Luse: You are from Chicago’s South Side. And Chicago was famously the birthplace for warehouse music, house music, for short. And that’s where you started going to warehouse parties. Were you technically old enough to be out partying like did you have to sneak out of the house?
Dijon: No! I lied and snuck out of the house, like most teenagers do, saying I was going to study homework at a friend’s house and we would go out. And you could get a fake I.D. So I was a 13 year old dressing like I was 25.
Luse: Talk to me about what those parties were like. What was the vibe?
Dijon: Unfiltered abandon. You just had, you know, all this teenage energy and angst and community. And it was just electric. I always tell people, “You ain’t been to a party ’til you’ve been to a party like how Black folks party.” Because Black folks party were their entire being.
Luse: It’s true.
Dijon: From the rooter to the to tooter. From the hair follicles to the toenails. We use every part of our body.
On DJ’ing her own parents’ parties
Luse: Talk to me about the music that you would play at those parties.
Dijon: So I would play my hour and then they would put me to bed. My bedtime was like 9 o’clock so I could play from 8 to 9.
Luse: Before it got totally jumping, right.
Dijon: But then we would go to bed, and around 11 o’clock, we would start hearing all this laughter and cursing, and we could smell the cigarette smoke and glasses breaking. And it was just like, what is this world? And we would sit on the top of the steps, and that’s where I would hear all the music. You know, Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan. Minnie Riperton, the Isley Brothers. There was lots of Marvin Gaye. I like to call it Black consciousness music because it was post-civil rights. So those were the records I would play.
Luse: So you’re in your parents’ house. You play music for their parties. Are you starting, at that age, to notice how people are responding to different songs?
Dijon: Oh, yeah. I got off on just sharing the music. This sort of sense of fulfillment that just hasn’t left me. I think I was just born to do this.
On creating spaces of liberation through music
Luse: Have you met and/or seen people be able to grow and find themselves in those late night parties that you DJ’d, the way that you were able to at that point in your life?
Dijon: Well, in their own way, yes, of course. I mean, I see a new generation of kids coming up and I can tell that they feel a bit more liberated just by my existence and what I stand for. I’ve had people tell me they’ve met their spouses and future partners on my dance floor. “Oh, my boyfriend just proposed to me on the dance floor, and I wanted you to know.” The club is community for me. And it always will be.
So one of the things that I always tell people when they want to become a DJ, I say, “Well, why?” What is it that you want to do as a DJ? Do you want to contribute to culture? Do you have a voice that you want to connect people [with]? I build community through sound. And I try to create spaces of liberation.
Food & Health
The 4 kidnapped Americans are part of a large wave of U.S. medical tourism in Mexico
The four Americans who were shot at and abducted in Mexico were reportedly visiting for medical tourism — making them part of a booming industry that is vital to Mexico’s economy.
“Pre-pandemic, some 1.2 million American citizens traveled to Mexico for elective medical treatment,” Josef Woodman, CEO of Patients Beyond Borders, told NPR. His firm publishes a guide to international medical travel.
Here’s an update on medical tourism, and the recent tragedy:
U.S. medical travel is rising sharply
“Today, the market is recovering rapidly in Mexico, nearly back to its pre-pandemic levels,” Woodman said.
Nearly 780,000 people were projected to leave the U.S. for health care in 2022, according to Healthcare.com, citing data from the medical travel website Medical Departures.
That outburst of activity got a big boost in late 2021, when the U.S. relaxed key border restrictions with Mexico.
Costa Rica is the second-most popular destination for U.S. visitors seeking medical care elsewhere, Woodman said. It’s a particular draw, he added, for people in the Northeast and Southeast.
Most people travel for dental and cosmetic work
Cosmetic surgeries are just one of the procedures that are far cheaper in Mexico — for years, people have been visiting from the U.S. to get elaborate dental work or cosmetic treatments done, or to pick up antibiotics and other medicines at favorable prices.
Many people also travel to get orthopedic work done, replacing knees or hips for less than half the cost of such procedures in the U.S.
“North American patients travel to Mexico for care primarily to save 50-70% over what they would pay in the United States for an elective treatment,” according to Woodman.
Medical tourism does bring risks, experts say
While an element of risk is inherent in many procedures no matter where they’re performed, medical tourism can heighten complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Potential problems range from the dangers of flying in a pressurized plane cabin too soon after a surgery to the complications of getting follow-up care for a procedure done in another country.
Some of the most serious warnings from the CDC are for infections, from wound and blood infections to pathogens that might be more common or resistant in the host country than in the U.S.
“Recent examples include surgical site infections caused by nontuberculous mycobacteria in patients who underwent cosmetic surgery in the Dominican Republic,” the CDC says, “and Q fever in patients who received fetal sheep cell injections in Germany.”
U.S. medical tourists rate Mexico highly
A 2020 research paper that surveyed some 427 Americans crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in California for medical services found that most of the respondents “felt that Mexican health care services are of the same or better quality compared with those in the United States, for a lower cost.”
People had come from 29 states across the U.S. to get care in Mexico, with the vast majority driven by cost concerns, according to the paper, published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.
The researchers also collected data about the medical tourists themselves, reporting an average age of 64.5 years. Their most common yearly income range was reported to be between $25,001 and $50,000 — but that reflects less than a quarter of the respondents.
More than 400 of the survey’s 427 participants said they would undertake more medical tourism in the future, the paper said.
Most of Mexico’s hospitals follow U.S. standards
Mexico has worked for years to promote medical tourism to draw patients across the U.S. border. That includes improving its health system and following international standards.
“About 10 years ago, the Mexican federal government licensed the Joint Commission accreditation standards, which are used to accredit U.S. hospitals,” as David Vequist, who runs the Center of Medical Tourism Research at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, told NPR’s All Things Considered.
“So most Mexican hospitals are now basically using the same standards we use in hospitals in the United States,” Vequist added.
Details of the recent violence are still emerging
At least one of the U.S. citizens who were caught up in the recent tragedy was reportedly going to Mexico for a tummy tuck operation. But the group’s vehicle came under fire hours after entering the border city of Matamoros, Mexico, from Brownsville, Texas.
Two of the four died; all are reported to be natives of Lake City, S.C. Their identities have not been released, but relatives have been speaking to NPR and other outlets.
Mexican officials say they believe the four were caught in the middle of a conflict between drug cartels in the state of Tamaulipas — an area that is under a do-not-travel advisory from the U.S. State Department.
New Music Friday: The best releases out on March 3
On her latest release, the Colombian-American singer Kali Uchis celebrates love in all its forms, shows the healing power of music, perseverance and forgiveness. We give a listen to Red Moon in Venus on this week’s show and talk about how Uchis is having a mainstream moment by staying true to her love of dreamy, old-school R&B.
We’ve also got a joyful, self-titled release from Masego, an ode to the mess of life from Australian guitarist and singer Jen Cloher, trippy soul from Chiiild and more. WBEZ and Vocalo Radio’s Ayana Contreras joins NPR Music contributor Cyrena Touros, Radio Milwaukee’s Tarik Moody and host Robin Hilton as they share their picks for the best albums out on March 3.
- Kali Uchis — Red Moon in Venus
Featured Songs: “Hasta Cuando,” “Como Te Quiero Yo,” “Worth the Wait (feat. Omar Apollo)”
- Masego — MASEGO
Featured Songs: “What You Wanna Try,” “Afraid of Water,” “Black Anime”
- Yazmin Lacey — Voice Notes
Featured Songs: “Legacy,” “Where Did You Go?”
- Jen Cloher — I Am the River, The River is Me
Featured Songs: “My Witch,” “Mana Takatāpui,” “The Wild,” “Being Human”
- Chiiild — Better Luck in the Next Life
Featured Songs: “(Running Out Of) Hallelujahs,” “Good For Now (feat. Lucky Daye)”
- Adi Oasis — Lotus Glow
- Hello Mary — Hello Mary
- Spektral Quartet & Julia Holter — Behind the Wallpaper
Other notable releases for March 3:
- Kate NV — WOW
- Macklemore — BEN
- Object of Affection — Field of Appearances
- Radio Supernova — Paratiisi
- William Basinski — The Clocktower at the Beach
- Xiu Xiu — Ignore Grief
- Zulu — A New Tomororw
Little Simz, ‘Gorilla’
The North London-based rapper Little Simz knows her worth. She may be an introvert, but she isn’t faint-hearted, and on “Gorilla” she’s keeping score: “Name one time where I didn’t deliver,” she assuredly raps on over a laid-back, plucking bassline. Over producer Inflo’s steady break beat and surging streaks, she displays command of her punchy rhymes with a cadence so casual it feels as if she could deliver them in her sleep. The track closes the same way it starts: with the pomp and circumstance of booming brass notes. It’s a declaration — Little Simz is here and she wants you to feel it.
(A version of this review originally appeared on NPR Music’s Best Songs of 2022.)
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