Pam the Funkstress
“We, we came to fight. It’s your disgrace, smash up your place, that’s just polite!” My eyes are closed, power fist up, head bangin’ and booty shakin’ to the some of the most sensational lyrics, guitar riffs, drums and bass lines; the DJ brings it back home to Bay Area Hip-hop and funk where the band, The Coup, started—scratchin’, slidin’, funkin’ like a turntable MASTER. In this case, a mistress, a “Turntable Queen”—Pam The Funkstress! Wooing the crowd with her trademark tricky finish, her very own invention: The “Titty Scratch.”
“I’m the one that created that scratch . . . It’s called the Titty Scratch,” explains Pam Warren, the Funkstress herself. “I was going to New York in ’94 or ’95 with The Coup, and they wanted me to do this Battle New York at the Zulu Nation conference or something . . . I listened to Lady of Rage on Afro Puffs and she said, ‘Let me loosen up my bra strap and let me hit you with this raw rap.’ I said wait a minute, ‘Let me loosen up my bra strap?’. . . I learned to take my bra off while DJing. When I went to the Zulu battle . . . everyone went crazy. I threw my bra out I said, ‘Let me loosen bra strap and-uh . . . let me loosen up my bra strap and-uh . . .’ And it just became my signature thing.”
Pam struggled to define herself as a performer and competitor in a male-dominated world. In 1994, she got together with two emcees: Boots Riley and E-Roc, members of The Coup from East Oakland, one of the most socially conscious, politically charged and underrated hip-hop groups to date. Boots Riley is not only a lyrical genius, he has a sense for real talent. He’s worked with some of the best at what they do, and Pam was his select DJ.
Pam also became the select DJ of the one of the most well-known, funky, lyrical, musical and talent-sensitive geniuses of our time, who dubbed her “Purple Pam.” Yes, his Royal Badness himself, Prince, made her his last-known recruit when he picked her up on the last tour before his passing. “I feel like he is with me every day,” says Pam. “When he first passed, I felt his spirit in my room.”
“I’m blessed, and to be able to have The Man himself call upon me . . . there’s no words that can express how I feel, you know,” she tells me with tears in her eyes. “I listened to Prince when I was a kid. He was on my wall. You know what I’m saying, to actually have DJed with him and meet him—it was just really huge . . . Prince is on that Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley-type of status. Man, I’m just honored . . . that I was part of that before he left, and just to think if he was still here, where would we be right now.”
A few years ago, Pam and I would have conversations about Prince in the DJ Booth. She called it a prediction, I called it math; I said if Prince ever saw her perform, he’d pick her up. Despite her rising fame, Pam is still just as humble and warm as the day we met. Those that experience Pam are glad when she forgets she’s human and reveals her superpowers.
There are two wall murals of Pam, both in Oakland: One on 30th & West and another on 8th and Capital. Pam’s constantly growing, and is currently exploring a more EDM sound to take on the globe. Her future plans for giving back involve opening up a DJ school for young women. Multi-talented, Pam is also another type of table queen: A chef. She has a catering business and a restaurant—Piccadilly in Foster City—which she’s leaving in capable hands while she focuses on her music.