G* LEE, DJ, Musician, Producer, Founder and Creative Director of Liaison Femme
At 21, Grace "G* LEE" Lee may seem preternaturally accomplished. She's one of NYC's (and the world's) top DJs; a producer with an impressive list of credits; a musician who's about to drop her first album; and the founder of Liaison Femme, a professional collective for female DJs. But — hey — let's remember that this downtown-raised party pro was spinning at The (old) Beatrice Inn around the same age you were studying for your driver's license. Yeah, she's one of those super-talented young women who can make people in their mid-20s feel old. But, as long as she keeps spinning the good stuff, we don't mind. Here, Lee talks about her favorite tracks, her early start, and the time she got busted by her teacher at The Beatrice. Oops!
You got a very early start on your career. How?
“Growing up as a ‘downtown’ kid in NYC, I was always surrounded by my mentors and elders who were DJs and musicians. They’d sneak me into a club or anywhere illegal — I’ve got to thank them for that (you know who you are!). Club owners and managers adored me like a younger sibling and showed me the ins and outs. Slowly, but surely, I received my own spare set of keys to New York nightlife.”
And what was it like DJing at places you weren’t even legally supposed to be in?
“I remember the first time I DJed at The Beatrice Inn. I got caught by one of my teachers from school. The next day she asked for my number, so we could grab drinks. I was so scared, because I thought she was going to tell on me to my mother. Mind you, I was 16 years old. Conclusion? I got tipsy with my teacher!”
Crazy. Got any tips for the at-home, amateur DJ?
“You need to read the room and people’s reactions, and once you understand, you will know exactly what will fit at that moment. Sometimes DJs become selfish with their sets and don’t give a sh*t about the energy of the room — that’s where I see a lot of amateur DJs getting caved in. In situations where the room is deading out, I suggest amateur DJs go for their top records of choice to play — what people want to hear — but try to stay away from Top 40, which actually makes you look noncreative. Old-school jams always win. You’ve definitely got to play ‘Hypnotize’ by Notorious B.I.G. and, depending on the energy, I go with ‘Show Me Love’ by Robin S.”
We can only do a few parties in a week — but being at these things is your full-time job. How do you deal?
“I do meditation two times a day — once in the morning and once at night — usually consisting of ‘silent’ practices. Growing up in my faith, I scheduled prayers to keep me grounded and stress-free. Late nights decrease your hours of sleep, so your mind can get really distressed and even depressed. I tend to dedicate nights off to myself — I turn off my phone for the entire night, read poems, pull out photo books on architecture. Diet is also key when you are a traveling DJ — you have to balance physical health and nutritional health. My limit is five — two beers, two Jamesons, and one shot to close the night off. I can drink more, but I never get drunk while I’m DJing — that’s just out of order!”
And what was your favorite moment as a DJ?
“Celebrating an album release party for Alicia Keys. My mentor introduced me to her right after her concert. We both graduated from the same high school, so I have a lot of respect for her. To this day, she still donates to our school. When we met, she whispered in my ear ‘I already see your future. Time doesn’t trick you. You must always do what you are born for, not what you are born to.’ I’ll never forget that night.”
Styled by Lauren Edelstein; Hair and Makeup by Bethany Brill.
Mom's vintage Pink Floyd tee; Vintage Levi's jeans; NY Hat Co. hat; Mom’s vintage chain necklace; Vintage gold-chain necklace; Bande Des Quatres ring and cuff.
Photographed at Edi & The Wolf, 102 Avenue C; 212-598-1040.