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Get To Know: Dana Lu

Get acquainted with Dana Lu, the Dominican-American DJ and producer blending house, Jersey club, dembow and more with a party-starting energy

Musically speaking, Dana Lu can be a bit hard to pinpoint. Listen to her 2019 Boiler Room set — it’s a galloping Jersey club affair. Or check out another one, from a raucous Everyday People in Greenpoint, Brooklyn — it’s stuffed with the sounds of dancehall, amapiano, soca, and dembow. Or there’s that house-heavy set from Le Bain in Manhattan — it kicks off with a bit of Euro candy in the form of Real McCoy’s ‘Another Night’ and Snap!’s ‘Rhythm Is A Dancer’, before veering off into tougher territory. This is a DJ with range, to put it mildly — and her productions and remixes, steeped in warm-weather vibes, tend to show the same breadth.

Growing up, Lu split her time between Manhattan and New Jersey, and her sound reflects the musical mélange of the tri-state area. “My dad was really, really into freestyle music,” she says. “My mom, on her side, it was salsa, bachata, merengue — the ’80s and ’90s style of that. In the summer, I’d be with my cousins in Newark, hence why I’m into Jersey club. But I had also started watching videos of all of these crazy festivals like Tomorrowland and Ultra, and stuff like Major Lazer, and Good Times Ahead. So I just love a lot of music. But if I had to pick my top three, they would be house music, Jersey club, and definitely dembow... because I’m Dominican.”

Her DJ sets do tend to have one thing in common — she’s not shy about getting on the mic to hype the crowd. “You got more than one drink in your system right now, make some motherfuckin’ noise!” she exhorts the crowd at that Everyday People bash; commands to “wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute!... make some noise!” permeate a set from this past spring at Manhattan club Musica.

But her extroverted ways behind the decks didn’t come naturally. Not long after she had kicked off her DJing career in 2010, while still attending William Paterson University in New Jersey, Lu had secured a residency at a Bronx nightspot. “Typically with uptown clubs, there’s a lot of crowd engagement, meaning being on the mic and engaging with the crowd. One of my good friends was a promoter there, and I remember him telling me, ‘Listen, Dana, if you do not get on the mic, I’m pulling your residency.’ So I said, ‘I got it. I’m gonna wing it.’ I went back to my dorm and I started practicing, acting as if I was DJing and then listening back to it. And now, I can’t leave it alone.”

In the years since, Lu’s spun her way through a wide swath of the city’s nightlife, playing everywhere from Bushwick’s Bossa Nova Civic Club to the Papi Juice parties to her own Word Of Mouth and Tacos Y Cerveza affairs. (“My two babies,” she calls them.) On top of that, she’s a member in good standing of Heavy Hitters, the hip-hop–oriented crew led by Hot 97 personality DJ Enuff, as well as Riobamba’s APOCALIPSIS collective.

Lu’s been making music for years, but her first official EP release wasn’t until 2020 when she unveiled ‘Girls Having Fun', four tracks of pan-genre tunes that drew heavily from her Caribbean roots. Her latest, the ‘Worldwide Link-Up’ EP is a similarly wide-ranging affair, with affirmations of “lo que es pa ti, es pa ti—y nadie, y nada te lo quita” nestled among shades of house, soca, Jersey club, dembow and more.

When asked about what producers she looks up to, Lu answers quickly. “Missy Elliott,” she says. “I’m so fascinated by her contributions within the industry — and she’s also someone that looks like me, so I definitely hold her as a very high inspiration in that regard. And M.I.A. — I would love to collaborate with her if it’s ever in the stars.” 

Want more? Get to know NIMMO, the London duo channelling ‘80s and ‘90s queer pop into anthemic dance music

Bruce Tantum is DJ Mag’s North America editor. You can follow him on Twitter @BruceTantum