Kelsey Williams, a.k.a Killa Kels, might be the new kid on the block but don’t let that fool you. The Toronto-based DJ’s determination has driven her to learn everything she possibly can about music and the industry. She’s been working with Toronto mainstays DJ Agile and DJ Grouch to hone her craft and will soon be sharpening her business skills at the Recording Arts Academy’s Business Academy.
It looks like her efforts have been paying off; a little over a year since she began spinning professionally, Williams has been working steadily and making her way to becoming one of Toronto’s top DJs.
The Rhapsody checked in with the up-and-comer and got the scoop on her musical journey.
TR: Hey Kels, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
KK: My name is Kelsey, I am a female DJ from west-end Toronto. My DJ name is Killa Kels. I’ve been DJing professionally for a little over a year now. Aside from DJing, I work two jobs in retail, and keep busy with my 5 year old son. I love being around my friends, good music, and good food!
TR: How did you first encounter music?
KK: I don’t exactly remember when my first encounter with music was, however I do have a baby book that my parents have filled out and kept over the years, and it says I really enjoyed music that was current to that time. It says I loved dancing to Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, and New Kids On The Block.
TR: Who gave you your first album?
KK: Far before I received my own album, I remember sneaking into my older brother’s room and stealing his CDs and having to remember to put it back in the exact same order I had found them. I would listen to the likes of Foxxy Brown, TLC, SWV, Method Man, Wu-Tang Clan, and more. As their music played, I would flip through the little booklet that came with CDs back then. I’d read about what inspired their albums and followed along singing the lyrics to each song. My first album of my own, however, was Mariah Carey’s #1s in cassette format when I was about 8. I don’t even remember who bought it for me, but that person definitely impacted my life greatly with that little cassette tape. I would listen to both sides on repeat every morning as I got ready for school, and every afternoon once I got home. To this day, every Mariah Carey ad lib and high-pitched run is ingrained in my memory to perfection.
Being a female DJ, a lot of the times you are underestimated in the industry. I’d like to make it very hard for the boys to do so.
TR: If your life didn’t turn to music, what was your plan B?
KK: I always knew I wanted to be a part of the music industry in some way. Because I was always very shy and afraid of being placed on any kind of platform, I wanted to play a part behind the scenes, which caused for me to put DJing on hold for a very long time despite my interest in it. I don’t play any traditional instruments, although I craved a way to fit into the industry. I always loved every inch and detail of music. DJing, to me, was another way to play a role in music, its manipulation, and its distribution. Eventually, I took the risk and put myself out there, and I feel much more fulfilled because of that choice. Putting myself out there and giving up fear has shaped me as a person and continues to help me find myself. At the moment, for me, I couldn’t see myself working towards anything else, but should I venture elsewhere, I hope I find it through DJing and that it gives me the same sense of fulfilment.
TR: What’s your karaoke jam?
KK: No question whatsoever, Mariah Carey – Heartbreaker, the whole dang song. Every ad lib hit to perfection. Choreography down pact.
TR: How do you discover new or old music?
KK: Sometimes I’ll go onto Youtube and search playlists to find some old school gems, but I download my current music from a DJ pool website where I can also find cool remixes to new tracks. I don’t really have any specific songs that I like more than others, but I love finding Indie/EDM remixes to current Hip Hop/R&B. I love how they chop and screw the verses and can take the tiniest detail, like a run by a vocalist, and use it throughout the song as part of the instrumental. I like creative things like that.
TR: What are your most recent (old or new) musical discoveries?
KK: I recently rediscovered all the late 90s/early 2000s music I used to listen to, from S Club 7 – Bring It All Back, to Ashanti – Foolish, to Jennifer Lopez – If You Had My Love. I’ve also been in rekindling my love for all the girl groups who raised me (Spice Girls) and have been in complete boy band bliss (Backstreet Boys, N’Sync).
TR: What are your go-to tunes for:
– Getting out of bed and seizing the day?
KK: Again, I don’t really have specific favourites. I think it’s because I have a DJ mindset – I have a very short attention span and can rarely listen to a song from beginning to end. However, my favourite genre to listen to when it comes to hyping me up for the day ahead is 80s R&B. It’s so positive and upbeat; it’s perfect for positive vibes.
– Hitting the gym/spin class/going for a run?
KK: While working out, I prefer to listen to more aggressive, hard-hitting music. Trap Hip Hop music is best for that.
– Hyping up as you get ready for a night out?
KK: Believe it or not, Mariah Carey. Whenever my girls and I are together we blast either “Heartbreaker”, “Fantasy”, or “Honey – Bad Boy Remix” and belt out every lyric as we get ready for a night on the town.
TR: Can you share any deets on what working on now?
KK: It’s only been over a year now that I’ve been DJing publicly (my first gig was for Harbourfront’s Canada Day 40th Anniversary in 2014), and I was sort of forced off the diving board by one of my mentors, So now I’m focusing on my branding and getting more organized with how I’d like to carry myself as a DJ. I had participated in The Remix Project’s 11th semester in 2014 in the DJ Program under the Recording Arts Academy, and I was recently accepted into its first Alumni Program under its Business Academy, where I’ll definitely be soaking up as much knowledge as possible in regards to brand-building.
Aside from branding, I am also working on my skill set. Being mentored by amazing turntablists such as DJ Agile, DJ Grouch, DJ Charlie B, and DJ Andre 905, I have very high standards for what I could be able to do on the 1s and 2s. From scratching, to party-rocking, perfect song selection, all the way to great branding, I have my work cut out for me. Also, being a female DJ, a lot of the times you are underestimated in the industry, I’d like to make it very hard for the boys to do so.
Killa Kels was photographed in Toronto by Olivia Seally.