HOT GIRLS with Lex on the Decks Interview

Jesse Williams

By Jesse Williams

Jesse Williams

9 May 2021

Hot Girls is a podcast, founded in early 2020 by London DJ Lex On The Decks serving intially as a response to the lack of female representation on “best of” lists. Joined by Akua Ofei as the creative producer the pair have developed the platform into a space for celebrating women in music and championing both DJs and Artists. 

The focus of the podcast resonated with listeners overtaking the likes of JD Sports and Defected Records to sit in the top 5 on the Apple Podcasts Music chart in its first season, and was listed by Esquire as one of the top Culture Podcasts of 2020.

Lex who learnt the ropes mixing hip-hop and bashment, initially in bars and parties in Sydney before moving back to London building a reputation for her open format house mixes, inspired by South African sounds, tribal, and tech house, sat down with Mixtape Madness to talk all things Hot Girls podcast as well as discuss the dynamics of being a women in the music industry and those who are trying to improve it.

Lex finds time outide of music to work in the brand team at Nike, mentor on The Dots, and is the founder of Cleopatras Worldwide; a digital magazine focused on unlocking the full power of women all over the world, and ultimately impacting the gender imbalance in the C-suite and in funding for female founders.

With season three already launched you should check out some episodes of Hot Girls like the interview with artist Rachel Foxx on Covid, SoundCloud and 2021 goals,  a history episode on what Kelis can teach us about expression and an interview with dancehall name Alicia Harley on faith, resilience and not stopping, after you’re done here.

How did the podcast come to be about? (When did it start, why and with who?)

DJ Lex: The initial idea for the podcast came to me as a DJ when I was looking back on my mixes and realised they were really imbalanced gender wise it was like very dominated by men. And then it was about the same time in 2019 when T.I released his list of greatest rappers of all time and there were only three women on there and I saw so much of the debte was around ‘oh he’s put Nicki Minaj too high’. It just started to creep on my radar how extreme the imbalance was in rap. And then when I was first looKing for guest I would go on kinda these UK spaces to look for who was up & coming and who was putting music out that was a female that we could kind of bring on to talk about their journey and I would be scrolling and scrolling and scrolling and it would just be like so many men. It became really increasingly apparent to me that this was a really serious problem but I didn’t know why it was the case ? There was no reason for it to be the case and the more I did my research the more I realised that this wasn’t the case back in like the 90s. It’s always been imbalanced but it became… we’d gone backward. So that was how it started and then a couple of months in I met Akua kinda explained what I was doing and she’d worked on… I was DJ but I hadn’t done a podcast before, she worked for nation of billions so she was a bit more familiar with music journalism and how that all worked. She joined as the producer and went from there and that was in March, that was in early 2020.

Why are platforms like the one you created important?

If we don’t have platfoms like Hot Girls, like sucession freestyle these specific places calling out the problems everyomne thinks they are just the way things are and doesn’t realise there’s no reason for them to be there. But without creating the platfroms and spaces for the minority in this case women to thrive then there’s no change and where I think this is real, some people who might so ‘oh does it really matter’, its really really important because everybody consumes music and that’s where we get a lot of our ideas from. Music kinda charts our lifes in so many ways, it tells us how to feel, it helps us relate to how we’re feeling aNd if we’re only hearing one perspcetive in those lyrics then that has a broader impact on the whole of society. So I think platforms like this are super important.

Does creating spaces especially for women serve to divide the genders further?

With Hot Girls, we wanted to have male guest on. So that’s actually something we’ve always done, we’ve always had male guest on. We’ve just flipped the balance so that it’s weighted female, kind of 80% in the way that the music industry is. I do think it’s important to have people of all genders in the conversation but I also think it’s very important to have diversity metrics in place and positive bias intiatives because again if you don’t force people to pay attention to certain things and don’t force yourself to pay attention to certain things then you just get lazy. You just do the easier thing which is to reach out to the people who are most in your face or your friends friend or whatever and then the problems persist and you never get any change.

What are the challenges women face in the entertainment industries? Would you say this industry is harder for women to work in than others?

I feel like the entertainment industry is just an exaggeration of any of industry. I think everythings heightend in it because… well two things. A) you have an audience and B) your skill is creativity and creativity comes from a very personal place, so your whole sense of being and ego is kind of wrapped up in the work you’re doing and how succesful that is. And I think that’s true of people in all different fields but it’s exaggerated in entertainment because there’s an audience, people are watching you. I think the particlar challanges that women face that maybe men don’t face is things like extreme pressure around how they look, much more intense scrutiny around their age and whether they fit into a certain bracket. I don’t think guys are put in the same… they’re not given the same kind of narrow package that woman are and I actally think it’s unfortunate that a lot of the women who do really really… a lot of the women who get really big marketing money behind them, who people say ‘oh, but that person did well’, they were like one person who ticked every single box in terms of they were the right age, they had the right look and their sound was Pop or whatever. It’s so much more marginalsed the way we groom female artitst whereas you can be much broader. Like could you imagine a female Slowthai ? You just wouldn’t get it or it wouldn’t be… by wouldnt get it I mean people wouldn’t back that artist in the same way people would kind of back Slowthai. So I think, these are all things that can be changed they’re not inherent natural things they’re just things that the industry has created.

I also think one of the biggest challanges for succeeding in music and entertainment is relationships because it’s unofficial and informal for such a long time until you get to a certain level and thats I think where there’s a huge problem with the gender imbalance because so many guys just started it off because their friend was involved in it. And so the less women you have, the less female friends you have, it goes on.

What are other platforms you’d recommend out there that do something similar to what you guys do? (or are doing other good work you think we should know about)

There are so many great platforms, it’s super exciting. Some to call out, Saffron Records is based in Bristol and they’re doing really brilliant work across all different aspects of the music industry kind of highlighting the need for change. Thery’re also doing brilliant workshops for producers so any women, it’s really really important that we have more female producers because if you make the beats you decide who gets them, so people should look that up. They also have a thing a called a women producr group, which I’m apart of so definitely check that out. I also love Succession Freestyle, I think in terms of the rap space that’s a really brilliant way to elevate different voices, different female voices so that’s relly cool. Key change is a new initiative looking again at the gender imbalance across europe and working really hard on that. There also doing great things keeping the pressure on festival lineups etc. and then also Girls I Rate have been doing a lot of work in this field for quite a long time and She Said So another one, those are some immediately on my radar. There’s also lots of brilliant individuals who are doing work, and the more the merrier.

Who are some women in the music industry that inspire you?

There are so many women in the music industry who inspire me but I think the ones that really excite are like the hustlers, the ones who really created themselves… like Lady Leshur I think she’s amazing and I think she worked really hard for a really long time. I remember her posting something saying ‘I’m gonna win a mobbo next year’, then she won one like five years later or something. So that kind of commitment to growing as an artist and now she’s evolving into radio so I think definitley her. Annie Mac’s been really inspirational to me by the way she’s embraced all different genres and she’s also been really actively vocal about the need for balance and diversity. And with her Annie Mac presents… all the line ups are always really rich with female talent so definitely her as well. They’re are some incredible DJ’s who are bubbling at the moment, who are changing – I don’t really wanna say one name because there are so many – but that are changing the landscape for female DJ’s as well. We actually spotlight a lot on mix series and that’s a really exciting place we’ve got and we put kind of anything from Grime to Techno to Jazz and Soul so if it’s good music that’s basically the curation angle, it just needs to be good. So I’m inspired all the time.

Follow DJ Lex on her socials here