Weed, Pussy & Music: Welcome to the Universe of Dominican Artist Venus X

Image by Venus X. Art by Alan Lopez for Remezcla

For the last 12 years, Venus X has been a cultivator of—and way-maker in—both mainstream and underrepresented cultures and sounds. From her nightlife parties that quickly became the blueprint of cool with GHE20G0TH1K to her highly sought-after DJ sets to her former brick-and-mortar fashion storefront Planet X—the Dominican, New York-bred artist has proven to have her hand on the pulse of the moment.

Today is yesterday’s tomorrow and therefore everyday is both the present and the future. From that perspective (and I promise I’m not high), the future is now. Venus X is aware of that and is taking steps to ensure she’s doing her part to make it a more inclusive, queer, and drama-free world for us all. We spoke to her about the projects she’s got cooking up, her fashion choices nowadays, what she’s listening to and more.

This interview has been lightly edited & condensed for clarity purposes.

Tell me a little bit about how you’ve been doing in quarantine and how you’ve been affected by the pandemic; we know that that’s greatly affected the DJ community and live music space. 

Um, it’s been a terrible year, but I feel great. It’s been different—I haven’t worked [so] there’s not much to speak of. Most of the festivals have canceled and haven’t rescheduled. Plus, they’re back open at 25% in New York, some of them, but most of them are not. So yeah, there’s not a lot going on, but I’ve been in the studio developing a few different projects and I feel really good about what’s to come.

I can imagine. I’m curious about how you feel about this: I know many people have felt, in a way, creatively stimulated. Many have pressured themselves to be, which is a totally different story. But you mentioned you’ve been in the studio. Do you feel creatively stimulated even though you’re not in spaces that feed that energy/live environments? 

No, I don’t. I thrive off of the people, I thrive off of nightlife and being able to be a call and response with my audience and I’ve been in America for most of the pandemic and it’s been in my opinion, very toxic, but I’ve been trying to push through it because I don’t think that there’s an endless amount of time. I know that there’s not in fact, and I have no choice, but yeah, no—it’s not easier to create when you don’t know how to pay your bills.

I‘ve been working in spite of the pandemic, not because of it.

So, I will confidently counter whatever people have [said] about creativity being easier when you’re struggling to survive or when your livelihood is taken from you, and you have plans to grow your business and you create jobs for people and now you feel that the guilt of not being able to create some jobs, you know what I’m saying? It’s not easier because we’re home. It’s actually much harder… I‘ve been working in spite of the pandemic, not because of it.

Right, and how do you care for yourself during these times? 

Well, funny you ask. Part of my getting some music making in a serious way this year had a lot to do with me moving to California and going six months straight, and really replacing all the… all the extracurriculars that I had in New York [laughs] that might be surrounded like surrounding alcohol, or hookah or whatever. I replaced them with weed and I always smoked weed, but now I really have been able to benefit from the varieties and like being able to figure out which weed is right for me, and really find the way of smoking and the, also the ease, you know, the lack of shame that California offered really helped me use it as a medicinal tool, as well as a stress reliever, as well as a party, you know, lifestyle drug. So yeah, weed is like my bestie, especially when it comes to having fun and healing—both equally.

Image by Venus X. Art by Alan Lopez for Remezcla
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In what ways do you think of it as a source of healing?

It’s not really something that I have the ability to explain, because I’m not an expert in the field, but the fact is that weed has been used for thousands of years for all of its healing properties. And I encourage anybody who’s questioning that, or maybe has some of that leftover guilt from when it was illegal and highly criminalized in their state, to do your research because you’d be surprised [about] how long people have been using marijuana. And you know how many of the great poets from Muhammad the prophet to some Vedic gods, as well as even Jesus and the disciples are believed to have used marijuana for anointing, for healing, for [their] spiritual journey.

It has a lot of healing properties and this is not something new and it’s not a choice. We don’t get to decide. Our ancestors and all of the spiritualities in some way, shape or form have already claimed it. But, because of the rewriting of history and the criminalization of certain traditions, we just aren’t familiar, but like, there’s like a whole practice of death ceremony that involves weed among Indigenous people, you know what I’m saying? So, it’s like, there’s nothing to it, baby. We’re just uncovering the power of weed now.

Yeah. I was looking into it and it’s forever been at home in the spaces of people of color; its first appearance in written history is in China, but then it made its way to places like India and Africa, and then in Latin America it was actually introduced by way of colonization. So, essentially, Spanish people brought it to the South and Central Americas, and then it made its way to California, but still even in the States… 

And even here, there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of controversy around the founding fathers because they apparently were all farmers, but no one discloses what they were farming and hemp was a huge part of the economy at the beginning of the formation of what is now America, so I think people are just about to discover that there’s a whole world of weed history that has been erased quite frankly, because of the way that the laws were dealing with it. And also, the, the cultural consciousness, you know, the West created a criminalization, which the East had not had, you know, and then eventually the East picked up on the West.

We’re just uncovering the power of weed now.

Government was able to, you know, criminalize it as well, it still does. China is one of the worst places to do drugs. So ironically, they created it. They’re there, their nature presented it to us. And now if you are found [with] weed, you go to jail for years, you know?

Yeah…. even in the States, half of drug arrests are because of marijuana and Black people are three times more likely to get arrested; but as the legalization of cannabis spreads in the States—as we’ve seen already—gentrification and monetization of the medicinal and pleasurable cultural staple is bound to be whitewashed even further. Why do you think it’s important for people of color, queer people, etc., to be at the forefront of this moment? 

Well, I mean, [I’m] a girl who likes girls and has had a lot of strife because of it… [I’m] a girl who likes weed and has had to deal with a lot of strife because of it, [and] obviously, I’m Dominican; so it’s like the worst thing: A bisexual or lesbian pothead [laughs]. That’s like your mother’s worst nightmare. So, for me personally, I feel like I’m owed a debt. I’ve also been arrested for weed. I’ve had a lot of family members arrested for drug crimes that included weed charges as well as, I’ve had a lot of family die in the drug trade.

And so, I feel that, personally in my trajectory, I have to comment and get reparations for some of the things that have happened as a result of the criminalization of weed. In addition to that, I have put on parties in safe spaces, and created safe spaces that were heavily reliant on marijuana. What other people do in my parties, I don’t know, and I don’t care. But I am a big weed supporter because I like the way that it creates a sense of calm and ease that allows for more understanding and more compassion, you know, when you’re trying to bring communities together.

Image by Venus X. Art by Alan Lopez for Remezcla
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There are things that I was trying to do as an alchemist inside of my spaces. Cocaine would have incited mad drama, and alcohol is so much drama. You know what I’m saying? So, for me, I was always smoking, but I want to create a culture now, as I get older, that is more weed-friendly and weed-focused because I just think that there’s massive healing potential. So, when people heal together, they’re able to go out there and be better versions of themselves.

The world that we’re seeing, there’s a lot of resistance to it. If people were high, they wouldn’t care. And, to put it simply, that’s why I think it’s important. It’s almost like for our survival—for the survival of our stories [and] for our ability to live and co-exist. Some people have to calm the fuck down and weed can do that for them. You feel me?

This is an interesting time as people start thinking about what nightlife is going to look like in the future; do you see it? How do you see those two loves coming together for you? 

Well, I can only speak from my personal experience that I’m having as somebody who is being asked to do parties more and more frequently as the world opens up and then realizing that, ‘hey, this party is mad straight,’ or ‘this party doesn’t pay enough,’ or ‘this party is too gay.’

And it’s not that there’s anything that’s too gay, or too straight. But in my perfect world, everything is a little bit of everything, right? I want to work inside of a world where everybody feels comfortable coming to the event.

Some people have to calm the fuck down and weed can do that for them.

I don’t value spaces where [all] people are one way or another. Obviously we need all black spaces. We need all gay spaces. We need spaces where you can listen to a specific type of music. Everything should not be integrated, that’s not what I mean. But everything has given me a little bit of, ‘Oh, I wish it was more like this.’ And so, with that said, I want to fill the void with music and weed, and I don’t care about the other stuff… All I know is that for me, nightlife, at this point—if I’m most authentic to what I like to do—is filled with bisexual and lesbian women and also filled with marijuana.

You’re known as not only an important face in music, but also an influential person in the fashion space with a clear influence on the style of a lot of other young, rising Dominican artists. Now that we’re kind of stuck at home, do you think fashion is still very much a thing? How would you describe how your fashion has evolved during this time or changed, if at all? 

This is the year that I smoked probably more weed than ever, because I was in Cali for six months and I was in Portland for two months. So, my fashion has definitely adapted to the cozy life because we’re inside, high, and there’s nowhere to go.

Now with that said, though, I feel like we need to demand a roaring twenties for our people, because, finally I do think it’s going to be more acceptable to do whatever the fuck you want.

Whatever way you want to show up, just know that it will not just be accepted, but it will be celebrated.

Even if I’m wearing a fit that’s just baggy, it’s meant to not just show that I’m comfortable, it’s also meant as a symbol that I don’t care about gender. I don’t care about the requirements of gender, because I know that I have just as much sexual appeal in hoodie and sweatpants as I do in a tight dress and a bikini—and I know that because it’s deeper than what I wear, it’s who I am. It’s all a matter of perception… Two girls [may be more] interested in me now than they were when I was wearing those tight clothes, because obviously they can tell that I am fluid in my expression of my gender, and I’m fluid in my expression of my sexuality, because I don’t want people to just perceive me the way that it fits into their little hierarchy of how they should treat me.

There’s a lot of things in this culture that we don’t talk about. And I’m just here to say: Whatever way you want to show up, just know that it will not just be accepted, but it will be celebrated and there’s room for full on experimentation… We’re seeing gay people rise to a level of massive fame through Instagram, you know, Lakisty and La Shakata and a few other girls that are big [in the DR], that are like massive comedy viral incident comedians. And even though we know that there’s still a culture of toxic masculinity where these people’s lives are at risk, we also know that things are changing and, simultaneously, marijuana is becoming more legal and more accepted.

Image by Venus X. Art by Alan Lopez for Remezcla
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What would you say your purpose is as an artist? Do you think the response to that has changed for you at all? 

The purpose that I serve as an artist is to be authentic to myself. But also I have a large community that I feel like I owe it to, to continue trying to fight for the things that I think are important, which I think [is] expression of self whatever that is—whether it’s your sexuality, the way you dress, the music you listen to, or even just your Blackness—that’s your special self… I am just trying to be seen for who I am without having to bend over backwards to get accepted in society. So, I’m going to do that as much as I can because that’s my purpose.

Part of that is to highlight new musicians; there [are] artists like that I love and I’m seeing them pop off. A good example is Tokischa—I’ve been playing her music for three years, but people in America as well as DR were very rejecting of her image, and didn’t accept it until like six months ago. My point is, it’s my job to sow the seeds of what I know needs to exist in this world for girls like me, for girls that are coming up [who] want to be expressed in the way that I’m expressing fully—as a creative and as a woman who’s proud to be Afro-Latina, proud to be smart [and] also proud to be bisexual and sometimes lesbian depending on the year or the decade [laughs].

I am trying to be seen for who I am without having to bend over backwards to get accepted in society.

I want to make sure that it’s a safer place for us. But also, at the same time, you know, I’m sharing my taste with the world. I’m sharing my interests with the world through my DJ sets; I’m sharing my skills with the world. And some of that includes how I dress. So, I don’t want anybody to limit that, and I think that by creating room for myself, I create room for other people and in the process, I create products.

So, whether my party is the experience or the product that you take in the future [whispers] when we start selling marijuana products; it’s really exciting to just create your own community and your own culture, because the idea that we have to suffer and we have to be traumatized and we should just be artists where we’re challenging society. Fuck that, that’s insane and they put a lot of people through a lot of stress for nothing, because look, now the culture is accepting that Black power is the biggest slogan in corporations ever. Now, all of a sudden everybody’s got a weed brand. Jay Z has a weed brand. You know what I’m saying?

All of a sudden everybody’s sustainable. All of a sudden everybody’s gay. All of a sudden everybody’s wearing crop tops—straight men, gay men, everybody. You got Kid Cudi in a dress. So, it’s like ‘bro. So, are we gonna talk about all the people who get killed for wearing dresses in their community? Are we going to talk about all the people who are rejected from their families for being gay, for being Black, for being pro-Black? Or are we going to talk about how people get paid less because they’re Black’… I had my life completely altered by having to be on probation for a year for smoking weed in the park. I’ve had family members literally die in the drug trade.

So it’s very personal for you.

Yeah. Are we just gonna be like, ‘Hey, you know, everything’s legal now?’ [No], let’s talk about our people.

Real. What kinds of questions do you think folks should be asking their weed suppliers going forward (whether that be you or someone else)?

I can’t tell you all the ways to protect yourself, all I can tell you is that there will be an alternative and it’s going to come from the universe that I’m creating. There will be a GHE20G0TH1K strain. The bigger project is called Nature’s Candy.

Nature already gave you everything you need.

It’s going to be a slow and steady process to just basically take accountability because what people smoke informs how they act and their mood, how they feel. And a lot of the stuff out there it’s really bad for you, and if nothing more, I want people to understand that you have to start buying weed from people who care about your health and who care about your wellbeing and your mental, you know, your sanity because unfortunately weed is one of those drugs that’s easily sprayed by anything. You know, there’s a lot of cases too, [in which it] can cause hallucinations. It can cause people to have psychotic breaks and you wouldn’t think because it’s like, ‘Oh, they sell it at the grocery store.’ That’s the problem. They sell it at the grocery store. That is not where you’re supposed to buy weed.

Be wary of the smoke shops [too]; do not buy weed at smoke shops and do not buy CBD products at smoke shops because most of the time they’re just getting it in bulk, and they don’t care about the quality. But again, the idea is that nature already gave you everything you need. So, a big part of the mission is just to create a better relationship [with] nature through the products we sell.

I’m sure that there are challenges that come along with it, but how are you enjoying this moment and having fun with bringing this baby to life?

I’m not gonna lie. I love it. I love it so much because I never thought I would get into the food, beverage, produce business… anything of that nature and now I’m learning about how products are developed, the ways that you can extract from different things [and] even the different properties. You know, we only know about CBD, but there’s other properties that are starting to be extracted from marijuana because the plant is just so generous, they have so many different uses and it has so many different powers.

A big part of the mission is just to create a better relationship [with] nature.

And so, I’ve [taken] two trips to California now… just trying to secure the best suppliers for marijuana and pre-packaged products that we want to make. So: ‘Who makes the best gummies, who makes the best powder, who makes the best CBD infused with lavender…?’ Taking the time to learn: ‘is this blood weed?’ There’s blood diamonds and now we have blood weed. San Francisco is a very controversial place where there is so much, basically, war over land and over crop. And so, making a concerted effort to do the research, to make sure that the farmers and that the people that we are giving business to are doing the kind of business that we want to do long term.

The goal, eventually, even though it’s very hard at first, is to make sure everything is organic, and that people understand the value of smoking things that are grown in the sun. I know things about weed now that I’ve never known; I’ve been smoking for like over a decade, maybe a decade and a half. I’ve never learned so much until this year. So just for that, I’m grateful, but I’ve also been able to witness the effects. I’ve never lived in California for six months. The most I ever spent there was like a month, and even then, I wasn’t calm enough. I didn’t have enough time to really understand and let the weed do its work, so I’m just excited because this is a whole new world of possibility, and in my humble opinion, I think for me, at least, it has the potential to replace a lot of the Western pharmacology that I’ve subscribed to up until now.

In the meantime, and to tide us over, what are you listening to nowadays, when smoking or not?

Well, I’m always smoking, so I have to be honest. This is definitely a random, random playlist. I would say that I am listening to a lot of salsa, believe it or not. A lot of salsa, and I say I’m listening specifically to like early salsa, you know what I mean? Seventies, eighties. There’s one song in particular I would love to include, because I think that more people should be aware of it. And for some reason, I didn’t know about it. Like I’ve heard it growing up, but I didn’t know the title. [It’s] ‘San Lázaro’ by Celina y Reutilio.

It’s all about dembow, Brooklyn drill and salsa for me.

Okay, OK. 

I highly recommend it because it’s just bomb, but in the same token, I’ve been heavy on my dembow because finally the world is ready and, and similarly, Brooklyn drill… baby girl, it’s all about dembow, Brooklyn drill and salsa for me, let’s just be real. Those are the three things that have me most excited and it’s because it really, you know, that’s how I grew up. Basically. I’m a maker from uptown, but I’m from New York. I love rap music and, you know, I grew up around a lot of salsa, a lot of reggaeton obviously, and now we have our own version of it. [Plus], New York has its own rap sound, you know? So, I’m loving it. And then, you know, you got to always keep the ancestors with you.