Every DJ needs an alias. Or two. Casey Minatrea settled on DJ Beyonda, a moniker that in a few short years has become synonymous with all things good and true in Portland music. Best known for gracefully hustling her way to the top of the mountainous heap of Portland DJs—if you have not heard, everyone is a DJ—with her fascinating knowledge of obscure soul music, and just about everything else. Minatrea at times dons another alias, Beyondadoubt, as a Southern-groomed DJ with a penchant for dropping massive slabs of sweltering down-home hiphop (like if her usual alias simply popped in a pair of gold fronts).
Minatrea's gradual rise from mere turntable jockey to household name—even to those unaware of Portland's vibrant dance scene—began in February 2002. "I thought I would never leave Memphis," she explains via email, en route home from spinning in New York. "Once I realized that I would be stunting my personal growth to stay home, I started my maneuver westward. I moved to North Portland particularly because it reminded me the most of home; I couldn't wrap my brain around neighborhoods of only white people."
She cut her teeth as the live DJ for the female emcees of Siren's Echo, other DJ gigs ensued, and thanks to a tireless work ethic—seriously, try not running into the omnipresent Minatrea, with her various genre-specific nights, support of various indie bands, and spinning at various private events—she became the de facto, if possibly reluctant, face of Portland DJ culture.
Working—as any good DJ should—to become a by-proxy representative of those who occupy the dance floor, Minatrea (as Beyonda) balances the familiar with the alien; just as likely to drop a hint of guilty pleasure Top 40 hiphop as she is to dust off some lost 45 of thick Southern soul. Proof that her work behind the decks is far more essential than that of the casual record-needle novice can be witnessed at her weekly soul night, the aptly titled "I've Got a Hole in My Soul."
The night is in its fourth year as the hotshit dance destination, where Beyonda's deep catalog of beloved/lost/forgotten soul recordings sets the mood for the most dance positive of environments. It also acts as a rare listening session for recordings that feature—but aren't limited to—the stylistic charm of the Stax and Hi Records catalogs.
"I started that night for myself," explains Beyonda. "I had these records that were burning a hole inside me, and I needed to hear them, and hear them loud. When I finally found a spot, it didn't matter if only 30 friends came; it was for me, and for them. Through word of mouth the night grew, and so has the music."
As for introducing unheard soul singles to a city that was once known for not dancing, Beyonda's never had trouble unhinging the crossed arms of even the most rigid cynics. "Portland is a rock 'n' roll/punk town, and '60s soul has a direct link to these genres. There's this attitude to it and this tug on your heart when you dance to it. There isn't an over-commercialized image or a stigma attached to soul, which translates into why you can feel free to lose yourself, and your paranoid composure, in it."
As for the—in order of importance—grind and bump of Beyondadoubt, where she'll partner with New Orleans' Brice Nice, she says, "We delve deep into some Southern party genres—we really hit the New Orleans sound, Memphis, Mississippi, Texas, Georgia ([the music from] Decatur is a personal favorite)—basically, it's a night where you turn around and get thanked by your own ass."