The year was 1988 when Jennifer Witcher, otherwise known as DJ Minx, fell in love with house music. “Although I’d heard house music on the radio often, I never liked it,” she says. Until one fateful Friday evening a few friends brought her to the Music Institute in Detroit, and everything changed.
“There was a long line to get in and that made it so I had to get in there! After a long wait, we finally got in. The crowd was dancing like there was no tomorrow! The sound system, the crowd and that badass DJ was it for me! I started going to the M.I. every week. That’s when my love came to fruition.”
For three decades after that night she dove into the music world and progressively developed herself into a powerful innovator, DJ, radio host, label owner, and producer. This path to success all started with a challenge posed by Derrick May. One night at the M.I. he told her, “Don’t come over here again till you’re DJing.” And so she did.
Helping her rise to the challenge was Minx’s old friend Jerrald James who began mentoring her. “CAT! Jerry the Cat, is what we call him,” she says. “Cat knew that Derrick May ‘challenged me’ to be a DJ, so he pushed me – hard – to get into it. He helped me get turntables and a mixer and explained how to mix music. He came to my apartment with two records a week telling me to mix them.”
Undoubtedly, the more she grew as a female DJ she encountered struggle and discrimination. Her mentor was there to remind Minx to keep her head up, and never stop grinding. “When I started to feel overwhelmed by guys being disrespectful, I told Cat I was going to stop DJing. He demanded that I keep on playing, and to ignore idiots and stupid things. He pushed and pushed and pushed me to be grand. I love me some JLC (Jerry the Cat)!”
Minx mixes records with sophisticated, graceful and robust energy. In the second wave of Detroit DJs and producers, she was there hustling along with the best of them. Her moniker unfortunately encouraged unwanted advances and negativity, but Minx never let the textbook definition of her name keep her bound into some ideology of what she should be. No longer will minx solely be defined as the wily ways of a flirtatious woman. Now, Minx means a hustler with tenacious diligence paired with zero tolerance for bullshit.
Encouraging empowerment within others, she has used music as a platform to advocate and support females interested in mixing. In 1996 she founded female DJ collective Women On Wax.
“Many girls looked for support and help with ‘how to become a DJ’. A few of them had heard of me or saw me in action. I developed the collective to help female DJs (or potentials) to be more confident in their performances and in the business aspect of things. I’ve mentored and helped Magda, Jennifer Xerri and Laura Hardgrove, just to name a few.”
Ten years later that collective became a label on a mission to put out quarterly deep and soulful house tracks. Inspiration to make this next step in her music career came from Kenny Dixon Jr., otherwise known as Moodymann. He advised that she push in a new direction, and onto the next phase of her life.
“I love music because of the way it makes me feel, and the way it makes other people feel. It’s a helluva pick-me-up when I’m down and is a motivator when it’s time for production. I don’t use drugs. My music keeps me high.” – DJ MINX
Eventually she created a sub-imprint W.O.W.B.A.M. (Women On Wax Bangin’ Ass Music). She also has her own productions and remixes out on labels such as West End Records, Third Ear Recordings, Trisomie 21, Soiree Records, Code Red, Liberate, to name a few. The track she became most known for – “A Walk in the Park” – was picked up by Richie Hawtin and released on M_nus in 2004. Initially, Hawtin and Minx were familiar while she was mentoring Magda. After hearing the track in a set by Ricardo Villalobus, Hawtin and his manager reached out to Minx and Hawtin says to her, “Anything you have with bass like that track, I want to put it out.”
To add to her repertoire, Minx also has a prominent presence on the airwaves with two years as engineer and host of Queen Beats Radio on WGPR Detroit Deep Space Radio. On 91.5 FM Minx also hosted “Steamy Windows”, a weekly program through the University of Canada in Windsor.
As an international DJ she has performed in world-renowned clubs like Tresor and Panorama Bar in Berlin, Stackenschneider in Russia, Club Air in Japan, as well as in Paris, Toronto, Switzerland, Spain, and Belgium. Not only did she play the inaugural Detroit Electronic Music Festival in 2000, but she has played throughout the United States including Hot Mass in Pittsburgh, for Sole Rehab and Signal > Noise in Rochester, Deep Sugar in Baltimore, NYC’s Output and Good Room, and more. Of course it goes without mentioning, throughout the venue circuit of Detroit where she still resides.
“What I find everywhere is that people are actually in love with this music. Doesn’t matter what language you speak or where they’re from, when folks are on the dance floor the communication flows all the same.” – DJ MINX
A pivotal venue for Minx was one in the beginning of her DJ career: a residency at Motor, an influential club for Detroit in the mid-1990s. Located in the city’s Polish neighborhood, Hamtramck, the spot was far-removed from downtown Detroit but home to the greatest local DJs with close ties to the Music Institute. Carlos Oxholm, Motor’s co-founder, put together the sound system for the Music Institute and when M.I. veteran Derrick May played Motor’s first year anniversary party the space started picking up some steam.
Shortly after that night, he recommended DJ Bone as a resident for Fridays, which were dedicated to techno. Following soon after, Motor brought on Mike Clark and DJ Minx for house nights on Saturday.
“Motor! Oh my god, what a club! So, I get a call one night from Linda G., who was a promoter at Motor. ‘Hey Minx, it’s Linda G! So, what are you doing every Saturday night, besides being the new resident DJ at Club Motor?’ That’s how it happened!” she says with a laugh. “She gave me some details, asked to meet with me to discuss further, and the following Saturday I was in there like swimwear! One of my fondest memories is when I opened for Derrick May – my influence in all this. He stood behind me and watched me spin. I turned around and he said, ‘I can’t believe that you got into this…and you’re so GOOD!’ I felt like a little twinkly star that night.”
She continues to shine and spread the groovy house music she has fallen so deeply in love with. Once again, catch Minx at Charivari, a small family-style festival in Detroit this weekend. “If you haven’t experienced it, it’s time to make plans to visit the D! I’ll be playing in L.A. for the first time in August, I’m excited about that! There’s also Boston, Atlanta and Paxahau’s 19th Anniversary party coming up. Outside of parties, look for my next release on Women On Wax Recordings in the fall. I also have a new label, Footwerx, debuting in the coming months.”
Eternally encouraging more women to get mixing in the clubs or the underground, or maybe start producing the presses themselves, she passes along a piece of advice for those that are just beginning.
“My advice? Don’t feel belittled by the ‘it’s a man’s world’ mentality. Instead, look at it as being your world. Work hard to achieve the success you envision. Don’t let negative people and situations hold you back. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, whether it’s support from others, pay, whatever – PHUCK THAT! Handle your business!”
Do as Minx does. Redefine your world and keep pressing on. Don’t let anyone hold you down. Do it with heart. Do it with soul. And don’t forget to always keep it funky.