Mann logged on to Facebook to find that a video of her old-school hip-hop DJ set at a New York City block party had garnered millions of views overnight. She didn't even know she was being filmed during her set, and she might never have found out had it not been for a heads-up from her godson. "He’s in a [DJ] crew in England. He's pretty young, but all these young friends, they love the '90s hip-hop. His friend had sent him this video saying, 'Look at this lady,' and he was like, 'That's my godmother!'"
Part of the reason DJ Misbehaviour's video commanded public fascination was the way she undid expectations about what a DJ is supposed to be or look like. Mann is a white woman in her mid-50s spinning old-school vinyl hip-hop records, wearing a no-frills pink wrap dress. The caption underneath the posted video simply reads, "Don't judge a book by its cover."
Misbehaviour's video was shared by artists she's long admired, including Common, Pete Rock, and Bootsy Collins. "That feels great," she says, "because you’re a fan of the records, and then you play the records, and then someone whose records you play then shares you."
She's been DJing for 25 years. For the past six, she's been part of the Mobile Mondays collective, based in New York. Every Monday night, DJs from the collective spin their favorite records, mostly 45s and some other vinyl. Mobile Mondays
Over the years, Misbehaviour's become familiar with the wide range of styles and technologies available to today's DJs, and she enjoys experimenting with all of them. But there's something about vinyl. She compares digital technology to playing vinyl: "It’s almost like having two very similar instruments that are slightly different... When I play 45s, because they're obviously a lot shorter, there isn't enough physical space to have a really long song on there. I enjoy that a lot... It kind of keeps your energy up." Still, she says, there's great value to digital media. It allows the opportunity to access any song imaginable on demand, and that's an asset to any DJ aiming to please an audience.
After her video went viral — it's accrued more than 26 million views on Facebook to date — the internet dubbed her "the Martha Stewart of Hip-Hop." Most comments she received about the video were positive, but she wasn't too keen on her new nickname at first. "And then I was like, 'Yeah but she's kind of cool, 'cause she’s got a show with Snoop!'”
Mobile Mondays! with Misbehaviour & Operator Emz. 8 p.m. Monday, February 19, at Wood Tavern, 2531 NW Second Ave., Miami; 305-748-2828; woodtavern.com. Admission is free with RSVP via eventbrite.com.