We are excited to announce a very special interview coming to 99.1 Friday February 24th at 3pm ET. When it comes to House Music, Chicago is a place of legend. Countless innovators and inventors have come from Chicago, from Frankie Knuckles, to Ron Trent, to Derrick Carter, to Green Velvet. When Chicago’s current house scene comes to mind, no name is bigger than The Black Madonna. A veteran of the Midwest’s rave scene and a small-town Kentucky native, in many ways it was both surprising and inevitable that Marea Stamper would become a figurehead of Chicago’s still quite alive and well House Scene. But that’s exactly what happened. The Black Madonna, who takes her stage name from a common and symbolic depiction of The Virgin Mary in European art as a darker woman, has become one of the worlds most desired house DJs for her selection that spans genres, from Disco, to Techno, to House, and Funk. She has also become notorious for her statements on the politics of dance music and developed a reputation for booking top talent in her position as Smart Bar’s booking agent. In an interview with Red Bull Music Academy, she remarked:
We did something at the time which I caught an enormous amount of s**t for, but we went through and we decided we were going to have a more diverse residence program. It wasn’t just going to be men. Now, dance music talks about this kind of stuff all the time, but you have to understand, four years ago, the shit that I caught for what I did in Chicago, you cannot imagine…..We set some standards and values, and if you were going to be a DJ who was just a selector, you had to be so fucking good….. I think, at the time, there was this sense in America, in dance music in general, that if you were just like a bro in the sea and everybody got a turn…I was like, “You know what? I got one shot at this, and if dance music is really a meritocracy, which is what you guys have been telling me the whole time, and why I’m not allowed to play this and that, woah… it’s just not going to work….Smart Bar is a meritocracy now. Then what? People lost their f***ing s**t.
Another notable Black Madonna quote is emblematic of her beliefs about the politics of dance music:
Dance music needs riot grrrls. Dance music needs Patti Smith. It needs DJ Sprinkles. Dance music needs some discomfort with its euphoria. Dance music needs salt in its wounds. Dance music needs women over the age of 40. Dance needs breastfeeding DJs trying to get their kids to sleep before they have to play. Dance needs cranky queers and teenagers who are really tired of this s**t. Dance music needs writers and critics and academics and historians. Dance music needs poor people and people who don’t have the right shoes to get into the club. Dance music needs shirts without collars. Dance music needs people who struggled all week. Dance music needs people that had to come before midnight because they couldn’t afford full admission. Dance music does not need more of the status quo.
The Black Madonna is back home in Chicago to take a victory lap after a tour that saw her jet-set across continents and play to crowds at some of dance music’s most storied institutions such as Panorama Bar in Berlin. She plans to release a single in 2017 entitled “He is the Voice I Hear”. She scheduled three dates at Chicago’s House institution, Smart Bar, where she served as the buyer and then creative director.
I caught up with her at the second of those dates and mentioned that I was involved with student radio back in Bloomington. She was gracious enough to agree to a phone interview, remarking that she owed a lot to her own college radio station and has a soft spot for student radio. By the way – her set back to back with Techno Dj Ben Sims killed. It was obvious from the get-go that we were listening to one of the best selectors out there. I was able to chat with Marea a few days later over the phone. We talked about student radio, living in Chicago, and traveling the world. You can check out the full 30 minute interview on 99.1 this Friday at 3 pm ET, and we will have it up on our website soon after. If you like what you hear, The Black Madonna will be playing one more date in Chicago – a very special all night set (According to Smart Bar’s website doors open at 10 pm and the club closes at 5 am. You do the math) before she leaves her home for a residence at London’s XOYO and another round of touring across Europe and the world.