Every once in a while we need to take a step back and look at how far we’ve come in terms of the steady progression towards equality in all its forms. Since its rise in popularity in the early ’90s, modern electronic music production has been a male-dominated art with females mostly contributing to vocals in a somewhat passive manner. The last decade, however, has seen a massive rise in female producers who are completely shattering all preconceptions of the producer stereotype. Women are not only rising up in the EDM space, but they are completely changing the scene and pushing fresh new sounds through the airwaves with stellar live performances too. Below I’ve listed a handful of the most notable female producers who have quickly risen into the spotlight and are taking full control of their artistic destinies.
JVNA (pronounced Jana) is an up-and-coming LA-based producer and DJ who has very recently begun to make a name for herself in the EDM world. She became active on social media around 2016 and has garnered a loyal following on Twitch over the past couple of years where she live-streams mixes and showcases her production skills. It’s safe to say that 2019 has been her breakout year as she has left the confines of her bedroom (metaphorically), graduated college, and just announced her own headlining tour.
JVNA’s musical style can be described as melodic and bassy with influences from the likes of Illenium, Seven Lions and Porter Robinson. She feeds into your nostalgia with serene remixes of video game tracks such as for Kingdom Hearts and Nier: Automata. As seen from her live mixes, JVNA tends to favor building you up with emotional lyrics over melodic tracks before switching it up into grimy, glitchy trap and dubstep jams.
Most importantly, JVNA has been releasing a steady stream of originals on which she offers her own refined and distinct vocals. She enjoys making covers of popular tracks, such as her beautiful rendition of ‘Crashing’ by Illenium. And to further showcase her artistic ambitions, she has released music videos for several of her originals and covers.
Be sure to catch JVNA at one of her upcoming live shows and catch up on all of the mixes she’s recorded on Twitch and YouTube. JVNA is definitely one to watch for.
Feeding off the dark energy of your nightmares, Savannah Mae has conjured her creative identity known as HVDES. Mae has her roots in the punk scene of inner-city L.A. She admits that drugs, depression and resulting rehab in her high school years led her to discover her passion for electronic music. From this dark past, HVDES was born, and she is out to steal your soul with aggressive electro, trap, and dubstep beats.
In 2017, after releasing teaser clips promoting a new track, HVDES finally released her song, ‘Fuck My Nose Up’, to much acclaim. This sinister, energetic electro track boosted her into popularity and solidified her as a pioneer of a new sound. ‘Fuck My Nose Up’ feeds into the dark and grungey direction EDM has taken since that time with the likes of Rezz rising into fame, somehow turning evil into the new positive. As a follow-up, Mae delivered another punch to the face in the form of her remix to Away’s ‘Sleepwalker’, a somber song that fits perfectly into HVDES’ style.
More recently, Mae debuted an EP titled Revelations, released under the Kannibalen record label founded by Black Tiger Sex Machine. The EP looks a little deeper into the HVDES mythos and showcases more of her devilish bass beats. HVDES continues to release music as of 2019 with her latest single being ‘Please’, a heavy mid-tempo, genre-fusing track that is proving her to be one to watch going forward.
Ninth Child is the bass goddess persona invented by Natalia Benson, an LA-based moon child and internet businesswoman seeking to enlighten the masses. The crazy thing about Natalia Benson is that Ninth Child is clearly just her side hustle, which is surprising given the creative talent oozing through this project. Benson’s website and personal social media accounts show that she is a woman of many solid talents radiating with creativity.
Benson as a producer alone is worthy of spotlighting in this post. Her musical style can be described as mystical bass music heavy on the 808’s. There is strong trap influence in her beats, but the message her music conveys goes far deeper than just party anthems and fun drops. Ninth Child acts as a guide through the human journey of mind and emotion. As mentioned on her website, Natalie Benson used to be a yoga teacher; this explains how soothing her voice can be overlayed atop her deep bass productions.
Ninth Child’s first full body of work was her 2017 EP Lovers. The EP plays out like a traveler’s story imbued with themes and lessons of discovering one’s self. In it, she explains:
If you wish to be a warrior
Prepare to be broken
If you wish to be an explorer
Prepare to get lost
And if you wish to be a lover
Prepare to be both
These lyrics comprise both the intro and outro to Lovers and sets the tone for everything in between. Benson’s latest EP Venus Square Saturn is an equally thematic work filled with bassy wonders and valuable lessons. It’s a little less serious than Lovers, but is still an excellent showcase of Natalia Benson’s love for astrology and empowering others.
Xie (pronounced Shay) is an LA-based producer, singer, and multimedia artist. Her catalog is relatively small at the moment, but everything she’s released thus far is an absolute banger. Starting with her soulful remix of ‘Watch’ by Billie Eilish, Xie has continued posting a steady stream of singles on various streaming services.
Xie’s catalog includes a cover of ‘LOVE’ by Kendrick Lamar, where her vocals are offered up in their rawest form yet and her production skills are weaved into an already amazing vocal performance. My personal favorite of hers, ‘Drip’, is easily her hardest song, featuring heavy trap drops and lyrics dripping (heh) with confidence. It’s the perfect song to mix into a party set.
The pace of Xie’s career is picking up as she is appearing on more and more festival lineups. With the combination of her artistic abilities, it will be interesting to see where her self-made career takes her.
Cheney Ray a.k.a. Cray is a Canadian native who now resides in LA. Her explosive rise in popularity is partly due to the dedicated following she had already amassed on Twitch before she started really producing music. Cray is a gamer girl at heart who randomly decided to showcase some of her mixes during her Twitch live-streams resulting in much fanfare. Now she is amassing millions of plays on streaming services, playing the biggest festivals, and has become somewhat of an Instagram model. She’s also toured Japan with Skrillex and is now dating the DJ/producer Kayzo. As further evidence of her duality as a gamer and producer, she was invited to make a song for the Ninjawerks compilation album put together by the famous video game streamer Ninja.
Her music usually features her own pop-influenced vocals and lyrics backed by dreamy future bass and trap beats. On the decks, she has a crazy good ability to hype the crowd with high energy tracks that seem to run counter to the more laidback vibes of her original productions.
Although her stage name ‘Cray’ is a shortening of her name and not the stylized way of saying ‘crazy’, her live performances and sense of fashion can certainly be described as such. Whether you’re into video games, fashion, or electronic music, Cheney Ray has nothing but quality to offer.
Caroline Cecil, better known as Whipped Cream, has had a crazy last couple of years. After showing up on countless lists of “producers to watch”, and receiving praise from Porter Robinson via Twitter, Whipped Cream is now one of the most sought after acts of 2019. She is proving to be one of the hardest working and grateful producers out there, so her recognition is well-deserved.
From the ages eight to 17, Caroline actually trained tirelessly and passionately as a figure skater. She would head over to the skating rink every day before and after school to work on her skills, until one day she injured her ankle attempting a complicated move. After a long existential crisis followed by a chance invitation to her first music festival, Caroline decided to lock herself in her room for a year and learn how to make music. This passion and persistent quality of hers ended up working out for her in the end, and Caroline attributes the fateful day that she injured herself ice skating as one of the most important days of her life.
Cecil’s production consists of deep, distorted mid-tempo basslines cut from the cloth of hip-hop. Good examples of this can be found in songs like ‘Luv’ (the track Porter Robinson praised), ‘Ignorant’ and ‘Blood’. Her DJ sets tend to get pretty hype, yet the dark overtones of her more recent sets will make you stop and wonder whether you should be dancing or ruminating over your existence. Her newest song ‘Time’ is an example of that sentiment. Whipped Cream’s positive persona definitely runs counter to the darker vibes weaved into her productions. She is proving to be a trailblazer of a new sound all the same and her rapidly growing fanbase is proof of the goodwill and love that she has to offer.
Beginning her career as a DJ at the age of 13, Morgan Neiman a.k.a. Ducky started producing music by the age of 17. Nieman is no stranger to the rave scene. With a fake ID she was able to land club DJing gigs when she was 13, and throughout high school, she listened to EDM legends like Deadmau5 and Benny Benassi. By age 20 she had graduated from NYU with a degree in recorded music, moved to LA, and got picked up by the NEST HQ record label (sister label to Skrillex’s OWSLA).
Nieman is a true child of the internet age as is evident in her anime and video game-influenced digital persona, which doesn’t actually differ much from her physical persona. Ducky effortlessly channels the rave scene of the late ’90s to early 2000s in her appearance, and this is also evident in her musical style, which I’d describe as quintessential rave techno that also draws from more modern genres. Even with her latest releases, Ducky seems to favor a slightly more retro sound that is still fit for today. Her music also frequently features her own vocals that are usually pitched a bit higher to further exemplify the happy hardcore nostalgia vibes. Lyrically, Ducky is emotionally raw, conveying sentiments of heartbreak, social awkwardness, and inadequacy. In contrast with her lyrics, however, her production radiates confidence and soul that is surprising at first, especially with her online caricature in mind.
In rare DJ fashion, Ducky has been showcasing her truly live performance at some of the biggest EDM events as of late, including this year’s Electronic Daisy Carnival (EDC). Her performances include live instrumentation, mixing and singing. This alone sets her apart from many of her counterparts, both male and female.
Amber Giles hails from Phoenix, Arizona where she used to DJ weddings and promote rave shows, including one where she booked Skrillex before he reached fame. Her boyfriend at the time gave her the nickname Mija, which is now her professionally recognized name. Mija’s DJing reached a breakthrough when she was recorded DJing alongside Skrillex at Bonnaroo Music Festival in 2014. Since then, the EDM world has become familiar with her genre-defying sound.
Since being recognized for her DJing skills, Giles eventually felt that she needed to start producing music. Since 2014 she has released a steady stream of remixes and originals, and as of 2017 she released her first album, How To Measure The Distance Between Lovers. Her debut body of work is a prime representation of her ‘Fk a genre’ touring brand which aims to afford artistic freedom to musicians who are continually trapped into the genres that others define for them. Alongside her ever-evolving music career, Giles also has a fashion brand called Made By Mija where she sells a grungey punk and rave style collection fit for both men and women.
Whether you catch Mija at one of her DJ sets or live shows, prepare to be immersed in a musical world with no boundaries and nothing but raw emotion.
You simply cannot talk about the current proliferation of female producers without talking about the meteoric rise of Isabelle Rezazadeh, more popularly known as Rezz. In fact, when I first heard the song ‘Plague’ in 2015 when it randomly showed up on my Spotify, I thought it was produced by a male. The sound was so aggressive, dark, and intense that the conditioned part of my mind that categorized traditionally male and female-sounding music jumped to conclusions. It wasn’t until months later when I attended the Paradiso music festival and walked into Rezz’s set did I realize she was female. I am ashamed to say I was surprised, but it’s actually a combination of things that surprised me. First, it wasn’t as common around that time for women to produce such dark and aggressive bass music, and second, Rezz’s music is inherently unique to begin with. So, regardless if it was produced by a man or a woman, her music is in a category of its own, and it is mind-blowing.
On social media, Rezz is commonly referred to as ‘Space mom’. I think this comes from what she represents as a female artist standing above so many others, and also her positive influence over her fans. Her style of music also fits the nickname. It is definitely something otherworldly and alien; equal parts psychedelic and bassy. On stage, Rezz is like a magician or illusionist hypnotizing you into a dance-filled trance. The spiraling LED glasses that she wears on-stage further exemplify this effect. Going to a Rezz show means subjecting yourself to mass manipulation, which, appropriately so, is the exact name of her debut albumher debut album.
The culture surrounding Rezz is infectious. One only needs to attend her live shows to witness the dedication of her fanbase and the strange fictional world she has created. At this point, Rezz’s musical catalog is large enough that her sets are probably 90% original songs.
Leading the charge in female dominance over the EDM scene is Australian native Alexandra Sholler, known professionally as Alison Wonderland. With tens of millions of plays on Spotify alone, Sholler is at the apex of female EDM production. She is rapidly expanding into mainstream attention with almost a million followers on Instagram, winning the respect of music fans who don’t even primarily listen to EDM.
Sholler famously started her music career after studying the cello, which continues to be her favorite instrument and one that she has implemented into many of her productions. Many of her early fans remember her legendary Mixmag performance where she showcased her high energy, passion and ability to seamlessly weave together hip-hop influenced bass tracks with house music and other genres. That video now has 11 million views on YouTube.
Alison Wonderland’s original productions frequently cover themes of heartbreak, anxiety, depression and abusive relationships, all of which feel super authentic due to her real-life experiences and portrayal of these themes through her own lyrics and vocal performances. More recently, Sholler has mustered the courage to sing some of these songs live, such as for her 2018 Coachella performance, something that she has been hesitant to do due to anxiety and the fact that her popularity means singing these songs in front of thousands.
For a deeper dive into what I find profound about her artistry, I wrote about Alison Wonderland’s sophomore album, Awake, on my blog post highlighting the best EDM albums of 2018. I also created a write-up of the release of her song and video for ‘Church’. As of 2019, Sholler has released a new song titled ‘Peace’, and again it deals with some of the themes mentioned above.
Someday, I’ll be better
Now that you’re gone
I’ll burn all your letters
And right all your wrongs
Right now, I am barely off of my knees
But someday, I’ll find peace
Here’s to hoping that one day Alison Wonderland does indeed find her peace.