- Words Joey Levenson
The Internet’s very own barbie doll DJ, Goth Jafar, is taking NYC by storm, one eclectic mix at a time.
Gone are the days when the Internet’s finest export of stardom were exclusive onto the likes of pop princess Justin Bieber, or whichever next best tween-sensation YouTube and Vine were churning out out like butter. Today, we have the Internet to thank for New York-based DJ Goth Jafar, real name Suffy Baala. She’s a child of Tumblr, one of the esoteric few who rode the wave of incessant fringe-posting, cultivating and spotting trends before the masses in open-platform social media could get ahold of it (the ‘locals’, so to speak). It’s informed a lot of her musical sensibility today: where her taste comes from, why she’s doing what she’s doing, who she has around her to inspire her, and much more. The eclectic, free-ranging open nature of the internet is Suffy’s matrix, and it’s noticeable in her incredibly rich and immersive mixes. Just one browse down her SoundCloud page, and you’re led on a topsy-turvy journey through techno, pop, R&B, K-pop, and much much more.
Speaking to Suffy feels like meeting a DJ who is completely assured in their craft. She talks with undeniable passion and a boatload of confidence. It’s hard to believe that prior to 2020, the young DJ had never so much as approached decks. Now, she’s performed everywhere from Club Quarantine, to Los Angeles’ Heav3n, to New York’s Anonymous, all whilst regularly contributing to the iconic Discwoman and Club Carry collectives. It feels that in spite of all that has come Suffy’s way, she has not only persevered, but flourished – and suitably gagged us all in the process.
What follows is a conversation that captures Suffy’s characteristic shitposting-style humour, whilst deftly weaving in and out of the musings of a trans woman of colour in today’s society, and why she’s ultimately destined for more greatness to come.
Congratulations on all the good things that have come your way recently. How has this last year been for you?
The past year has felt like a blur of blessings. Multiple things I’ve talked about and manifested for literal years have come to fruition in this reality. I knew that when I started hormones the universe would reward me, because I’m not putting up this facade of a male cosplay – as I had liked to call it. I’m being my true self now, which has attracted so many wonderful opportunities in my life. There’s a new found glow and confidence that people are noticing, and I’m noticing, because I’m not hiding in the shadows anymore. However, whilst I’m experiencing so many wonderful things, I’m still going through financial hardship so there’s a disconnect there. I’m getting booked for all these amazing things, but still going through it emotionally. I just have to remember that this is truly just the beginning, and I haven’t even experienced a fraction of all the good things coming my way.
Are you into astrology? I’m curious to know your big three (sun, moon, rising).
I’m super in to astrology. I have a Gemini sun, Pisces moon, and Cancer rising. In fact, I’m so into astrology that I picked my hormone replacement therapy (HRT) start date on a certain date because I believe when you start hormones you get an entire second chart, like a rebirth. I wanted to start HRT during Scorpio season, but I missed the window so I decided I’ll take it during Saggitarius season, the Gemini sister sign. I still wanted a Scorpio placement, so I looked up which date had a Scorpio moon and I landed on that. Now, my second chart is Sagittarius sun, Scorpio moon, and Taurus rising.
I was actually at your first gig in Club Quarantine. It’s really hard to describe for people who weren’t there, but that night was very special. I don’t think I’ve ever had that much virtual fun before. What was that moment like for you when you first hit the decks?
I was extremely nervous, not going to lie. DJing is something I’ve wanted to do for years, so to have my first time being on a lineup with artists who’ve shaped and impacted my music taste did not feel real and to this day still does not feel real. I was DJing live virtually through traktor and it just felt natural. As the set progressed, I truly got into it and I found a true moment of bliss. Somehow in that moment I knew I’m going to do this for the rest of my life.
I love your online presence as well. I was part of the tumblr wave back in its peak and remnants of that era, I feel, are present in your humour and aesthetic today. What does online community mean to you, and how has your online presence shaped you as a DJ?
You are absolutely correct, tumblr has raised me and I love that you can see that through my humour. I always say that anyone who was on tumblr always knew what was cool before it was actually cool, and being on a site like that really altered my brain perception. I’ll always thank it for that, as I truly learned so much from that site. The way I think, all the way to my sense of humour, definitely stems from the tumblr generation. It’s also pretty surreal that the trans girls from that site who I followed when I was younger know of me now, such as: Hari Nef, Angel Money [babydreamgirl], Rashida [howtobeafuckinglady] etc.. They have birthed me, truly – they were posting their little selfies and doing major things and showed me that a life worth living is attainable. An online presence can have so much impact without people even realising it, and in that sense I think online communities are so important. I have met my literal best friends from being online, and they are like a family to me.
My online presence has definitely shaped my DJing because my online presence is part of my brand. My original twitter arabthot (RIP) gave me a platform where I could talk passionately about the music I loved, which led to people following me for music recommendations. Eventually, it got to a point where I was tired of writing about music, so DJing became the perfect medium to showcase my music taste without having to say a word. I always say no matter how big I get, I will always be a twitter troll.
And where does the name Goth Jafar come from?
In 2014 there was a moment in time when twitter titles were just a play on words of the Spice Girls or random goth aesthetics. There would be titles like ‘Trill Spice’, ‘Corn Spice’, ‘Goth Spice’, ‘Health Goth’, just stupid shit like that. For my own twitter title I thought Goth Jafar would be cute because I had an obsession with Aladdin growing up, and I’m half-Moroccan so I wanted a piece of my Arab heritage in there in some form. Goth Jafar was born and I never changed the title, it just stuck and at that point it was my branding. I love goth things, I love darkness and I feel like you can hear creepy jarring sounds in my sets. I always love a cute balance, however, as its all about a dichotomy of evil and good, bubbly and dark, and just very Gemini shit.
You’ve mentioned numerous times that SOPHIE is your spiritual mother. What’s your favourite song by her and why?
Kitty Kat will forever be my favourite SOPHIE song. I’ll never forget hearing a live rip of it in 2015 and being obsessed with it from that moment on. The entire song is my aesthetic: a sexual, bubbly pop song that is equally as hard as it is flirty, with lyrics like “got nails, got claws, soft pussy purr / pink tongue, sharp teeth, dirty panther / catch men like mice, I’m a hunter” that screams Catwoman. I actually have a Catwoman obsession because I’m a cat girl, like I love cats and everything they stand for. They’re alluring, feisty beings who move with grace and get what they want and that’s me. Femininity and felines go hand in hand and my little in-the-closet trans girl self was clearly drawn to that, especially in Kitty Kat.
Let’s say you’re given the chance to curate a line-up of DJs at your favourite club. Which four are you picking to go all night with you?
Hm, that is a hard one. I would probably have to say 1morning, LSDXOXO, Juliana Huxtable, and Robert Hood. They’re all black DJs who I look up to and learn from.
I’m curious to know how you approach a mix or set of yours. What’s the first thing in mind for you when getting on those decks?
For mixes, I start with more of a narrative. I like to paint stories with my mixes so usually I find a setting or place where this narrative is happening. From there, I usually start to find tracks that fit the vibe of that place. For example, if I’m making a mix that takes place on a ‘haunted beach’ then I want to find tracks that would be reminiscent of such a place. For sets it’s usually the vibe of the party that I can grasp, and whatever mood I’m taking you in with me.
What’s a genre that you can find in your sets that people wouldn’t really expect from you?
I’ve been a huge K-pop head ever since high school, but only for the girl groups. In my live sets I love randomly throwing in LOONA or STAYC, but I really want to start blending more K-pop into techno. I also want to play more Arabic music, like Haifa Wehbe who is amazing. It’s time to go back to my roots. The Jafar in Goth Jafar is coming out.
What are you manifesting for the rest of 2022?
My biggest DJ end goal is to incorporate fashion into my DJing. I want to be a muse for designers, soundtracking runway shows and also walk or model for them. It’s my biggest dream, but right now I’m manifesting financial stability and to be even more comfortable in my skin. I’m only a year and a few months on HRT, so I’m just ready for surgeries, more glam and beautiful opportunities that I dreamed of my entire life to welcome me with open arms.