DITA : KITTY CASH
Nazanin Shahnavaz spoke to the socially-conscious DJ —perhaps best-known for getting a fashion party started— who has given airtime to marginalised voices and issues with her philanthropic projects.
On a recent Friday morning, Cachee Livingston – known to most by her DJ pseudonym Kitty Cash – calls from a cafe in Los Angeles, where she’s about to tuck into a slice of what she calls “bomb-ass banana bread”. Her plan for the rest of the day is to head back to her apartment and build a bench for her balcony, “It’s funny, people often say ‘you’re so girly’ but really I’m such a hands on person. I love rolling up my sleeves and doing things myself.”
Livingston’s energy is full of warmth; she generously shares uplifting anecdotes and sage insights, quoting 13th-century Persian poet Rumi from memory. “‘The wound is the place where the light enters you.’” she says. “So it’s like, if I work on myself and heal these wounds that are darkening my life, no one can fuck with me.”
She carries herself with a strong humility – a rare virtue in an era defined by social media self-promotion – especially for someone who’s toured with leading rappers, DJ’ed luncheons at prestigious art events and played countless sets around the world for major fashion houses.
Just last night she flew in from her hometown New York, where she had transformed a Manhattan boutique into a dancefloor with her signature blend of R&B, hip-hop, Caribbean and Afrobeat. “At certain functions I don’t expect people to let loose,” she says. “But people were literally doing the choreography to ‘Level Up’. It feels good when you can surprise people like that.”
After high school, she attended a prestigious New York fashion school before landing a job heading up the marketing and communication department in North America for a well-known denim brand. It was around this time that Livingston started to carve out her own space as a DJ with her intimate, curated mixtape series, Love The Free. She created the platform to showcase her love for music, emerging talent and storytelling by using her mixtapes as a vehicle to discuss to wider issues such as female empowerment and black identity.
She hand selected collaborators she felt were aligned to her artistic narrative who all contributed original music to her project. On The Only Way Is Up mixtape, she sampled snippets from lectures on politically motivated artists and mixed them over contemporary urban and hip-hop instrumentals. "What it did was combine two worlds that do not always meet, if my homeboy is driving and wants to hear that hot new track, he can listen to it whilst absorbing information on an iconic black artist."
When she’s not collaborating with international stars or bouncing between coasts, the socially-conscious DJ likes to slow down and take a moment to reflect. “It’s all about finding balance,” she says. “New York reminds me of my hustle, it reminds me of my grind and that energy I need to propel myself to never be comfortable. LA always forces me to slow down, get introspective and be thankful.”
Livingston explains that as an entrepreneur within the entertainment and creative industries, it’s easy to focus on what you’re not doing and not achieving. “I’ve been having this internal conversation about what happiness means to me and the things I need to do to accomplish it,” she says. “For me, happiness is rooted in gratitude. I have to be thankful on a day-to-day basis for everything that I’m doing, it becomes so normalised but really it isn’t normal, it’s fucking spectacular.”
On the topic of spectacular accomplishments, Livingston’s latest project, I AM WOMAN, is a community set up to empower women through shared narratives. “I created the platform during a time of personal crisis; as a woman in this industry everyone is already side-eyeing you or questioning your craft, people think you’re an assistant or someone’s girl, like I’m the headliner on this bill. I just got tired of always being super strong and holding it together.”
Livingston longed for a space where she could be vulnerable and unapologetically female. She started reaching out to friends asking them to send letters that spoke to challenging moments in their journey through womanhood. "They were like diary entries. I was so moved by their honesty, I realised that by sharing our experiences we can create an unspoken unity and not have to navigate our vulnerabilities alone. It feels good to let your guard down. "
The project now hosts workshops, panels, film-screenings and most recently partnered with the United Nations’ global Girl Up initiative. “We had fifty women from various backgrounds in the creative industries, nonprofits and activists speak and select their ‘girl power’ song” she says. "I felt so inspired by the range of female voices and by our collective strength – it was awesome to hear what song people use to put the battery in their back. "
“When I was a kid, I was enamored with poetry, always reading books and reciting my favorite poets,” she says. “One of my mom’s friends bought me a journal, I’ll never forget how much that meant to me. I ran into her recently she said to me, ‘You know baby, you’ve always been a poet but now your poetry is through music.” Livingston’s mixtapes, like her journal, contain parcels of her past and future; and if you listen closely you’ll hear these ever-flowing narratives echo through.