Certainly women have been making and playing dance music for decades, from ’90s rave headliner Sandra Collins to early-aughts techno champ Ellen Allien. The proportion varies depending on genre — you’ll likely see more women playing techno or house than hardstyle or dubstep — and nationality, as many of today’s leading female DJ/producers are based in hotbeds like the UK and Germany. The artists profiled here aren’t newcomers to dance music; each has spent years honing her craft but is reaching a career peak right about now. They’re spread out from Birmingham, UK, to Los Angeles and range in style from Ibiza-friendly techno to forward-minded hip-hop. And gender aside, they are five of the DJs and producers whose music you need to start bumpin’ right now.
Born Hannah Alicia Smith, Hannah Wants was too young to be inside the Birmingham nightclub that sparked her passion for DJing. She saw the DJ booth above the dance floor and how the guy behind the decks could move the crowd with his choices. “I knew that was what I wanted to do,” she says.
Wants began her career playing variants of garage. These days her sets lean toward house, but she’s still influenced by the bass-heavy sound that was popular in her hometown when she started playing a little more than a decade ago. It wasn’t an easy journey. It took three years for Wants to get a paid gig — she spent a lot of time playing in small pubs. Things started to turn around when she spent four months of her gap year in Ibiza. She won some DJ competitions, played a major club on the island and booked her first UK residency, at the Rainbow in Birmingham. Now she’s part of BBC Radio 1’s programming and has her own party brand, “What Hannah Wants,” which she uses to push her favorite DJs, like British up-and-comer DJ Barely Legal. Stateside, Wants played her first HARD Summer festival in Southern California last year and was floored by the crowd that turned up.
As her career continues to soar on an international level, Wants is noticing more women taking to the decks in her hometown — a microcosm, one hopes, of the EDM community at large. “There is definitely a lot more than one in the local Birmingham scene now,” she says.