Krunk Pony is an NYC-based DJ, graphic designer & party promoter who is known to set dancefloors ablaze with her upbeat mashups of boogie, breaks, funk, disco and classics. She is also the founder & curator of Krunk Tips, “funky life advice for the unusually krunk.”
I met Krunk Pony on Halloween, when we shared the DJ booth at a Brooklyn loft party. I was impressed with the energy and passion of her DJ set as well as her impeccable style and overall fun spirit.
I was born in NYC, raised out in Connecticut, then went to college & beyond in Savannah Georgia. I think the Savanna years were the true formative years.
As soon as I got there I got two jobs: one at a really greasy spoon restaurant, and one at a club called The Zoo where I was a cage dancer.
I really loved music and I really loved dancing, and I really loved being out…drum & bass and stuff…
How old were you?
Seventeen. Seventeen in a cage! (laughs)
I got my turntables through this guy named Joker who was stationed on a base in Savannah, he had to go to the Middle East and he had turntables and a mixer which he sold to me for $400. So I just had it in my house, and at that time I played my drum & bass records on it. So I sort of knew what the deal was.
We had a really big night at The Zoo, it was a Kid Rock look-a-like contest, it was one of the biggest nights ever! Kid Rock had a show at the Civic Center, and then he was coming to our club to give out this award.
The DJ got really….stoned…sick…..acid? I don’t really know, and the manager was like, “Who can get us through the night? We still have to play this music!” At that time it was still all vinyl, and the DJ had all his vinyl there, and I was like, “I think I can!” And I made it through the night, and Kid Rock was there for a second, the first time I DJed…
Are you sure it was him?
(laughs) It could have been one of the lookalikes, actually! But it was such a high, such an ego trip, I was like, “Fuck yeah!” At that time I was going to school for design, so I was completely focused on that, but I was still practicing here & there…I didn’t play out hard until after I got back to New York, which was about five years ago.
What was the impetus for you moving back to New York?
Well…Georgia’s awesome, but if you live there, you just have to get out…it’s so slow, there’s not a lot going on, there’s not a lot of industry, I was working at this greasy spoon restaurant…super ghetto! Also, my family’s in New York—I have older sister, older brother, mom, dad…all here, so I wanted to come back.
I moved to Spanish Harlem and I started DJing under the name of Krunk Pony.
How did that name come about?
I was a black girl from the North, and the black girls there had never seen anything like me—they came with nails and weaves and lookin’ fly with jewelry every day, and they’re like, “Who is this girl?” I was like an alien. One day they were like, “Do you want some grits?” and I was like “I don’t know….I’ve never had grits!” and they were like, “Girl, what color you is?” (laughs)
So I was like a charity case to them and one day all the girls at the restaurant got together all of the extra weave hair they had, they’re all, “Look, we’ve seen you for a while strugglin’, we’re gonna hook you up, come over, we’re gonna do your hair. “ I was like, “Ok!” and so they all have this…weave-pool…..and so I went there, to this super-ghetto house with no furniture, and they’re screamin’ at their kids—the kids are like, “Mama, can I have a popsicle,” they’re like “You can’t have no motherfuckin’ popsicle!”
I didn’t even know what they were going to do to my hair, and I didn’t see it until the end, and it was like this pineapple of curls that went upwards, and then there was this “I Dream of Genie” ponytail that went down my back!
Wow, that sounds awesome, do you have pictures of that?
Noooo!!! I was mortified!!! It was at an angle too, it wasn’t straight!
(laughter) That’s amazing….wow, to have peaked at such a young age!
I couldn’t take it out, for one thing it was as hard as a rock, and two I worked with them so I had to rock it for a while! I went home to my boyfriend and he was like, “Daaaaaamn!!! That is a krunk pony!”
At the time I was bowling a lot, so that became my bowling name, and then when it came time to pick a DJ name it just felt natural! It was already my alter-ego.
I’ve also been hit by a rubber bullet, punched, had bottles cracked over me! Clubs in Georgia are ign’ant!
Yes—I went to the Savannah College of Art & Design. And it was good! It was hard, and there was a lot of alcohol, and I did a lot of cooking, and I was always in the restaurant, or in the cage…(laughter)….
I was a really good cage dancer. I was going upside down, I was workin’ the crowd, I was pulling things out of my underwear and throwin’ it to people, I was…awesome. But working at a club like that was dangerous. I got tear-gassed once, for reals…..there was a fight that was so epic that they couldn’t break it up, so they tear-gassed the place, and I was trapped in the cage, freaking out!
(laughter) Everyone is in the club, fighting, and the cops can’t break it up, they can’t do anything, when all of a sudden it’s just like, no one can breathe, and everyone’s vomiting!
Oh my god!
(faux-gagging sounds, laughter) I can’t breathe, I can’t see, and everyone’s barfing, it was terrible!
(laughing) That’s horrible!
Yeah! I’ve also been hit by a rubber bullet, punched, had bottles cracked over me! Clubs in Georgia are ign’ant! . . . But I learned how to get ruff, and rugged, and krunk (laughs)…..and I mixed it with my pre-raver New York days—the Skate Key, and Twilo—and going to the South and getting funky and warm, and dirty dirty! Mixing that all together, that’s part of who I am now, it made me more awesome n’ stuff! (laughs)
Is there anyone you can think of that was a special influence on you creatively?
When I first got back to New York, I guess it was 2005 and the hottest party in town was Wednesday night, APT, Rich Medina, with Akalepse upstairs, and that really transformed me! That really brought me back into the New York underground funk vibe, mixing with everything that I’d already learned. I’d be in there taking notes…I was there every Wednesday, for a really long time!
Yeah I’m a huge fan of Rich Medina myself—and he always brings in crowds that are so diverse and cool, yet unpretentious….
You have to curate the people at your event! And that’s something that I really focus hard on.
Also, another big influence for me was Duane Harriott. We both lived in Harlem at the time, and I was pretty good at DJing, but he showed me several things that took me in one night from being a mediocre on-the-decks-DJ, to having the potential to be an awesome DJ.
What kind of things?
Just like how he would beatmatch, he doesn’t even need headphones to do it. He showed me some speed-beatmatching techniques, and showed me some really cool songs and labels that I didn’t know about….in one night Duane Harriott took what I knew to another level and changed my trajectory! …and I tell him that all the time, “Dude, you dropped some knowledge on me!”
He’s dope, he’s a buyer for Other Music, he makes his own stuff, he is quietly one of the best people in the city right now. He’s definitely someone to pay attention to.
Another major phase I went through, when I first came up here, I was all vinyl, all the time, New York disco, New York funk, global funk, Fela Kuti, and I started rollin’ with these kats, I played with them a lot: the Boogie Brothers—Anthony Avatar and Shane Daddy, DJ Squirrel Master, and we were part of this all-vinyl funk/disco/boogie family. Extensions of that would be Snap & C’Mish, who they’d play with.
I’ve kind of sold out as far as they’re concerned, because now I’m incorporating computers and playing Serato, and I’ve kind of left that behind.
I DJ like my personality—I’m fun, I’m upbeat, not too crazy, not too loud, I’m warm, and I’m random.
What other genres are you into? You’ve mentioned your love of Drum & Bass…
I am a Drum & Bass enthusiast, but I fell out of love with the scene and am not a Drum & Bass DJ…
Nu Breakbeat! It changed my life! Red Astaire, Funk Thomas, U-Tern!
I DJ like my personality—I’m fun, I’m upbeat, not too crazy, not too loud, I’m warm, and I’m random. So I’ll be playing all this funk, and then…mind you, I can flawlessly beatmatch… I’ll slide in some classic rock or something. People will be like, “What, why is this in the set?” But it will work, and it will be fun. Or, you know, I’ll put in some New Jack swing randomly, or super-club music like Red Man, I mean, why not? If I DJ for an hour I’ll probably hit four genres.
When I’m at a party and the music changes, it’s interesting to me…in a way, where Girl Talk does it, his is more of a Julienne, he’ll mix really small pieces together, that & that & that.., I’m more of a chunky fruit salad. (laughter) I’ll slip into this, or that…I really love horns, I love anything off of Ultimate Beats n’ Breaks, I love revealing samples, especially if those samples come from Disco—“I’ll be good to…” you know how Jay-Z used that, I’ll drop the original in there.
And I love Disco, I could freak out on Disco for 6 hours.
Are there any Disco favorites that you have?
I have favorite songs that always get me—
Vicky “D,” “This Beat is Mine”…Importato, “Firefly.” “Watching You,” by Aurra….so good!
What is one of your favorite songs…that no one would expect?
Hmmm… I’m definitely not a big Kanye fan at all, but there’s this one song of his called “Addiction,” the lyrics and the melody just really gets me– “Why everything that’s supposed to bad make me feel so good? Everything they told me not to is exactly what I would.”
I’m a good girl, I went to school, I have a professional career, I am a contributing member of society, but the life I lead, I’ve always been right next to temptation, and I’ve had my bouts with drugs, depression and casual, meaningless sex. None of those things really left me feeling more whole and happy, and so I try to balance the temptation with a path…and that song really embodies that for me.
I can definitely identify….you love DJing & throwing parties and there’s a lot of different aspects of that lifestyle that you’re heavily invested in. But then you’re also into self-care…
If I was just working on my graphic design career, and drinking watercress shakes, I would want to kill myself! A little darkness with the light!
Is that what boring people do, drink watercress shakes?
Everything about the horse as a spirit animal really makes sense to me…for one thing I’m super-tall, I’m strong, and goddamn it if I don’t have some motherfuckin’ hindquarters! Plus I’ll stomp a bitch!
What makes me beautiful, I think, is my dirty edge. I will be an upstanding member—I own suits!—I’ll wear them to business meetings! But then if the party’s right, I will put on a horse mask and take off my shirt, and I’m just wearing a sparkly bra and a horse mask, imitating sexual copulation on the dance floor.
…That sounds like a Kodak moment…
The horse mask, it allows me to release myself a little more….do you know about my horse mask?
No! Are you going to show it to me?
Yeah! (Gets up to retrieve horse mask, continues talking) So I have this mask, and if I feel like everything’s going right, and the party’s taken a life of its own and I’m no longer in control and it’s alive, then I put on the mask (donning the mask) and the party just goes to another level!
Wow, it looks so real! How can you…you see through the mouth?
(horse head nods)
Wow, that’s kind of intense!
(laughs) It is, it’s really intense! It kinda’ looks real.
Man, if I was some dude tripping at a party and I saw someone wearing that, I think it would freak me out a little!
But I think the glory of it is that I don’t wear it the whole time. I only do it if I feel like I’ve given birth to the party and it has its own life.
Everything about the horse as a spirit animal really makes sense to me…for one thing I’m super-tall, I’m strong, and goddamn it if I don’t have some motherfuckin’ hindquarters! Plus I’ll stomp a bitch!
Right now I have natural hair, which is a really big part of who I am, but I’ve had my fixations in life with the horse hair, with the weave. The horse is my totem, for real!
Sometimes, if the party’s right, people can make the horse come to life—it doesn’t happen every time!
I’m gonna be watching out for that!
Do you have a favorite venue or city to play in?
I love DC, and DC loves me! I do a bi-monthly party at Little Miss Whisky’s and…they’re just such good people down there, they really are.
Do you find that you tailor what you play to the city you’re in?
To the crowd, to the night, to the feeling. Abso-fuckin-lutely. I am a pleaser. In & out of the bedroom, (laughs) and the DJ booth!
What a Rennaissance woman!
I will fit the situation and take it with a little bit of my edge. The variance isn’t too huge, but I definitely push it for the situation I’m in. I also love my after parties I do. I love to take people who are already on a spiritual journey, whether it’s a positive or negative one, and curate that for them.
I was involved with 8 Bond, which as far as I’m concerned was the most epic after party that New York has seen in awhile. It was in Andy Warhol’s old painting studio, and had a capacity of about 300. This was last summer. It got shut down, or as we like to say, we were “victims of our own success.”
You are really emotionally invested in throwing parties and seem to get a real creative catharsis out of it. Do you have certain approach when it comes to the genesis of a party?
I just love throwing parties, it fulfills all of my needs…it’s better than sex! First of all, I’m a dope graphic designer, so my flyers are always engaging, smart, and the best!
Yeah, your flyers are nice…I’m gonna have to get some of those for this article.
Yeah! I have a drive full of ‘em. My drive is so well-organized…it does not reflect the rest of my life! (laughs)
Ha! Gotta write that one down…
(laughs) I’m good for one-liners…..hence….the Krunk Tips!
My daily life advice service for the unusually Krunk!
Probably one of my best Krunk Tips ever that people still talk to me about is “Experiencing chub-rub? Apply a little deodorant to your inner thigh. Thank me later.” So many girls did that after that, I got letters from people saying “thank you so much, I did not know how to handle the chub-rub, you’ve actually changed my life.” (laughs)
Or just how to be a professional club-goer— “Bring a purse big enough for all your stuff, including your jacket, and then leave that in the DJ booth and make sure that you know the DJ.” So it’s little things like that.
Sometimes I’ll do one and people will be like, “This is so appropriate to what I’m going through right now,” or like “I did not know this, you’ve changed my life.”
Oh! So true to myself! Some of them are things that I’ve mastered, some are things that I’m battling with, but I know what the right answer is. It’s for me, just as much as for anyone else…
I have a website, krunktips.com, and a twitter (@krunktips), and I also have a private phone network where you can subscribe and have Krunk Tips sent to your phone….and I pay the cost of that, out of my pocket, for all the people in my network—cuz it’s that important to me! (laughs)
Hey—you get the karma, they get the tips!
Exactly….I will sponsor your chub-rub!
What was the genesis of Krunk Tips?
At one point about a year and a half ago, I started a party in the basement of Happy Ending with 2 friends, Robbie Loggia and DJ Ecks, called “The Tip.” It was a party where I’d play my Blaxploitation movies—that’s another thing I’m into! Super into Blaxploitation flicks, I have an awesome collection! So we’d play those films and we’d DJ, since there were 3 of us I’d have a lot of down time.
At that point in my life, I just had a lot of friends going through shit—the economy was fucked up, people were depressed, Mercury seemed like it was in permanent retrograde. I’d be talking to my friends in the siderooms, listening to them and engaging with them in a way deeper level than you should in the club, and I think Robby Loggia actually coined it he said, “Aw, you’re getting some more tips at The Tip, getting’ the Krunk Tips!” I would just joke around about it, it was like an inside joke, you know, “the Krunk Tips,” and he was like, “You should put them all together, you should do something with it.” And I was like, “Ok!” and so it just happened!
What’s one of your favorite Blaxploitation movies?
Umm…The Hitter….I remember there was one especially awesome line in the movie that’s epic for me….there’s this character who carried the movie, the boxing promoter, who led this quiet, awesome boxer around, he was always jive-talkin’, he said, “You know know Clark Gable, from Gone With The Wind? Well, you’re lookin’ at Dark Gable, and I’m Coolin’ It With The Breeze!” (laughter)…and that’s just one example, the whole movie is filled with all these amazing gems.
As far as Blaxploition movies go, this film’s score is a bit inferior….I love the old soundtracks with those funky horns, and that “wikkachikkawikkachikkaweow!”
Babe, you know what these hindquarters are about…they’re about kickin’ up some dust!!!
I’m into so many weird things. I even do….murder fetish videos! My friend Brandy D’vine, she’s such an awesomely dark individual as it is, she discovered this whole community of murder fetish…these people would probably go out and be murderers if they didn’t have this outlet where they can masturbate to images of women bleeding to death.
Sounds kind of freaky…
It’s so freaky! And then she’s like, “I’m going to take this dark genre of life and put this artistic and sort of more softcore spin on it.” So I actually do softcore murder fetish porn. No nudity, just suggested situations.
So it’s like movies where they’re strangling you, and stuff like that?
…yeah! (laughs) Mostly guns.
Oh my god, that’s so bizarre, I love it….There’s no way for them to track you down, is there?
Well…after this interview there is! (laughs)
Do you ever have guys looking at you funny on the train, like they got off the night before to a depiction of you killing or getting killed?
No, that’s never happened. I mean, I have guys look at me funny on the train anyway, but that’s just cuz I’m a Krunk Pony! (laughs) Like, babe, you know what these hindquarters are about…they’re about kickin’ up some dust!!!
I live for my projects. I don’t sleep much, and I do a lot of stuff that has no monetary gain, it’s just things which I’m passionate about, that I feel the world needs to see!
It’s really both. Some months, I’ll make more from DJing then I will from graphic design, some months it’s the opposite. I just do whatever I can. I hustle….
Some artists thrust themselves into their creative pursuits, and their every waking moment is informed by this. Others maintain a separation between their muse and their careers for fear that turning their passion into a job will rob it of the fulfillment it brings.
Do you subscribe to either one of those views?
Hmm…I subscribe to all of those views….and the success for me is to let things be organic. And to let things happen organically, you’ve got to find the balance. If you’re trying to stand on one foot, you’ll sort of move back n’ forth….so I just go back n’ forth! I just intensely do design for awhile, and then I intensely focus myself on DJing, I just go back n’ forth.
…and it gives me a refresher every time I change course and I’m going on to another one.
I just go with the ebb and flow and I’m open to anything organically.
I do a lot of emergency work on both the DJ and the design front. People can call me up and be like, “Where are you? What are you doing now?” and I’ll be like, “I’m DJing at a wine bar until 1am,” and it’s like, “Ok, we have this space, we’re going to get this afterparty going in 3 hours.” “Done.” I do a lot of rush jobs.
How do you go about figuring out the payment for each of these scenarios?
I just treat each situation differently. I just put my best foot forward, and I’m honest with myself and them, and what I spent to get there, and what I’m worth, and it always seems to come back to me.
I don’t know, how life works out. Last night I was really sad because I didn’t know how I was going to pay my rent for this month, and I was like, “Fuck, this is the month I’m going to get evicted.” And then this morning I got a call that saved everything, this job that was going to pay me and they need me now.
I don’t know, I think it’s partially that interpersonal relationships are really important to me. I have a lot of friends, and I make sure that I spend time with them individually and listen to their problems and try to help them…I’m a matchmaker….
Actually, that was another Krunk Tip I liked…”There’s always time to catch up.”
Yes! There’s always time to catch up! I’m a matchmaker, I get people jobs, and I don’t know how, but the world gives it back! I just put the best I can out there, and it just always seems to work out. Sometimes I’m at the bar and I can’t afford a drink and someone says, “Tiffany, you always hook me up! Drinks are on me tonight!” Sometimes I’m hungry and someone buys me a sandwich. It just happens…I’m lucky! I think I’m meant to be here, I have a place in this world.
What do you feel your place is?
I have a friend who I admire a lot who said, “Tiffany, you’re a curator of fun.” And I bring joy to people, whether it’s through my music, through my cooking–I cook for people a lot!
I never have a potluck…if you come over to my place and you want something to eat, you will get down and you won’t have to open your pocket or bring anything, it is there, and it’s gonna be a full spectrum of everything. I cook for people, I talk with my friends, I will massage you—I give a lot of massages! I will stretch you out, I will give you advice on what haircut you should get. I have a very important place in this world, it’s just not like a real legit job….I make people laugh all day long! It’s part of who I am.
So right now you have your graphic design that you’re doing, and you have all these parties + DJing that you’re doing, is there a certain direction that you see yourself going in the near future?
Yeah, I’m working on this music project right now, I’m taking my time with it…I wanna start a new genre of music! Called gutter funk…and right now I have lots of little snippets and beats that I feel like work, but are only 16 bars but need to be developed into full-length songs…
I really like the sounds of horns, I really like soft, crooning voices, and…Nina Simone-ness….and I really like some hard-hitting percussion, and maybe some slightly harder percussion than is really associated with funk music. As for subject matter, I really like dirty lyrics, and I really like it when they can be re-interpreted on a grander scale, for instance, “You gotta have a J-O-B, if you wanna be with me,” it’s just like…I love the simple! Or like “Hey Joe” by Jimi Hendrix.
So are you producing?
Yeah, I’m just starting to—singing to myself & recording it. My friend taught me a good technique for writing music. You know, sometimes you get blocked—”Where do I begin? It’s like this empty slate.”
Find a song that you’re passionate about, especially when you’re doing lyricist work and stuff like that, and write a song over it, and then delete the original song and fill in the blanks. That’s really helped me to open up, loosen up, and create more….cuz there’s a certain amount of garbage that you have to make before you can make anything good…so I’m working on making a lot of garbage music right now! On the road to making good music…
There has to be a certain period of germination, of being inside the seed, before you crack the soil and open yourself up to the sun.
That’s actually how Krunk Tips came about, I worked on it for a long time before anyone saw it. Even my Tumblr, it took forever to freak it, and I wrote hundreds of Krunk Tips before anyone saw it, so that when I presented it, I’m like, “Here it is!”
My mom would just put me in situations and say “Swim! Sink is not an option…let’s be glorious together!”
Going back to that Krunk Tip “Overcome the stigma of self-marketing.” Did you ever have stigma regarding self-marketing? You seem really on point these days.
Oh yeah, you know, everyone has to start somewhere– back when I first started DJing, I was, well, a bad DJ…I had some good music in hand, but I didn’t really know what I was doing. So I’d be like, “Uh, maybe come see me, maybe?” This was many years ago, of course…
I’ve learned from my mom, who is the biggest “fake it ‘til you make it” in this town—”Just put on that award-winning smile, put your best foot forward, and fill the room with a positive I-can-do-it-energy and see what the fuck happens.”
I did a lot of theater growing up, as well as singing in musicals, placing in monologue competitions and playing violin in the orchestra—I was performing so much and then one day I just stopped, and said, “I’m going to be an Illustrator”…and I just kinda’ went internal. But I have this background of many years of constantly putting myself in these high-stress situations where I could fuck up and embarrass myself….so I kinda’ just got that fear out really early, you know?
What does your mom do?
My mother is a saleswoman at heart, but she is full of so much love…she is obsessed with love, actually, she’s a wedding guru. She is the woman to talk to about romantic travel, destination weddings/honeymoons, she’s one of the foremost experts on the subject. She worked at New York magazine for 8 years as their travel director. She has a company called the Global Bridal Group, which I’ve done most of the graphic design for. My mom literally came to America from Jamaica with $26 in her pocket, and created an empire.
Because of who my mom is, I have traveled the world, sold thousands of dollars of advertisements….I made my first ad sale at 12 years old, in London, on the floor of World Travel Mart. My mom would just put me in situations and say “Swim! Sink is not an option…let’s be glorious together!” She’s taught me so much!
What are your thoughts on being an artist in this day of internet and social media?
You know, there’s so much chatter, it’s hard to be noticed—noticed for the right things! You know, the last thing you’ll know about me is my talent….I’m still here because I’m talented, I really do believe that, I really believe that I’m one of the best female DJs…over 6’2”….with a pony mask on….in New York City! (laughs).
I think I can really curate a vibe, and be smooth with it! Straight butta baby! But it’s sad that a lot of people, the last thing they’ll see about DJ Krunk Pony is my talent…they’ll hear my voice, they’ll see who I am and what I physically have to offer—videos, twitpics, etc…but the last thing they’ll do is listen to my mix, or see me spin out….so it’s hard, you have to be everything….you have to be beautiful, you have to present an attitude to even get people to see what the product is.
You have to be a marketer, basically….
Yeah….everybody is their own small business, in some way, whether it’s for profit or not. Managing our own corporate reputations in a microcosmic way. Sometimes I wish things were more simple, and sometimes I like it the way it is.
You can keep up with Krunk Pony’s ongoing adventures at krunkpony.com