“When I play live, I play the music that I like, rather than what’s hot/trendy. I’d throw in a couple crowd pleaser hits, yeah, but I’d rather put you on and show you the digger in me.”
Growing up in Manila, Angel Mercado, aka Kronika, was surrounded by music. Whether it was vibing out to her father’s jam sessions, sifting through her cousins’ dusty record collection, or tape recording her favorite radio station after school, Kronika was always searching for the perfect beat. Upon moving to Los Angeles, she immersed herself in the thriving “beat music” scene—the experimental hip-hop scene that was born at legendary club night Low End Theory in LA. It led to a chance encounter with Low End Theory founder Daddy Kev, who discovered her talent as a DJ.
Today, she is responsible for talent scouting and artist development for one of the hottest music collective/labels, Soulection, making noise around the world with their signature “Sound Of Tomorrow.” I recently spoke with Kronika about how she got involved with Soulection, being a DJ, and her favorite food. She plays Directions In Sound on Friday, March 13, 2015 at Mercer along with beat smiths Vinroc and DJ Bluz, live performances by rappers Awkwafina and Suboi, and hosted by hip-hop producer CHOPS of the Mountain Brothers.
Introduce yourself to the CAAMFest fans. Who are you and where are you from?
My real name is Angel but I go by Kronika. It’s actually my handle from Counter-Strike because I used to be a gamer back in college (laughs). I was born and raised in Manila. I came to California in 2003, and I currently live in Los Angeles right now. I’ve been A&R for Soulection since 2011.
How did you get started in DJing? What was your first gig?
I really never expected to be a DJ, which is kind of funny. I was just doing mixes online, you know, and I noticed that people started showing me love and support. It was only last year when I played during the Soulection 3 year anniversary party when Daddy Kev [head of LA’s premier beat music party, Low End Theory] was like, “I want to book you for Low End Theory.” It was super big for me! After that, that’s when I started getting booked.
As a female DJ, have you experienced any challenges or setbacks trying to break into the scene?
Not that I’ve noticed. Maybe if there were, I wouldn’t pay attention to it, because I know if something is just going to bring me down, why pay attention to it? I’m just going to keep doing me.
Let’s talk about Soulection. For those who don’t know, what is Soulection?
At first, Soulection was just a radio show. Later we put out a compilation on bandcamp. So that made Soulection a record label, that grew into a movement, that is now a culture, you know, a community of forward thinkers who mess with that good, dope, banging music. Mostly that future sound that hits right on the spot. That’s pretty much how I would describe Soulection.
You’re playing Directions In Sound. What can people expect to hear during a Kronika DJ set?
When I play live, I play the music that I like, rather than what’s hot/trendy. I’d throw in a couple crowd pleaser hits, yeah, but I’d rather put you on and show you the digger in me. Whether there are only 5 people out of a hundred in the crowd, at least I know those 5 get it, right? They know wussup (laughs)! People will remember the set was different and amazing. It stays with them. I want to leave something that stays with them.
This year, our theme is Destination CAAMFest. So far, what is your favorite city to play in?
Well, I like playing at Soulection shows [in L.A.] of course, because everyone gets it. They don’t have to stand there and wait and figure out what the hell I’m playing, because they already know the kind of music that is going to be played. And it’s going to be banging and hard. I like playing in Oakland too, actually (laughs).
If we’re ever in L.A., where can we catch you spin?
I’m a resident at 143. It’s an R&B night every last Wednesday of the month. I spin with another Soulection artist, SoSuperSam. She’s one of the founders of 143. She’s also Filipino. You know we be reppin’ it!
Okay, one more question. If you had one last meal on Earth, what would it be?
I am hella Filipino, so something with mad flavor. I love fish. I would want to eat with my kamay [hand] on a banana leaf! You know a real banana leaf with rice, fish, crabs and suka [vinegar] with mangos and bagoong [shrimp paste].
You’re really Filipino.
That’s the meal of champions for me, you can’t get any better than that!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.