Long before she ever started DJing, Ash Lauryn was a fan. She says she first started exploring the scene around the new millennium with her sister, whose Wayne State University roommate was a raver.
"I was like middle-school, ninth-grade age," she says. "And I've been into the music literally ever since then."
She adds, "I think that's something that also makes me different, or what makes me feel like I know what I'm doing. Because I was a fan for so long, I studied the music when I wasn't even really realizing I was studying it, when I was going to parties and being a part of the culture. It wasn't in hopes of traveling the world and being a DJ, it was because it truly was my passion."
Lauryn says she started DJing about eight years ago, and doing it professionally only about six years ago. But she has quickly become one of the faces of the new generation of Detroit techno. When we speak, she calls from a world tour stop in Georgia.
"I'd say this tour is probably the best one, because I'm maybe at the best point in my career," she says.
Lauryn says she became inspired to take to the decks herself when she realized she was seeing a lack of younger, Black women DJs. It was also around the time that electronic dance music's Black roots were being whitewashed by what the music industry had by then started calling "EDM," a commercial juggernaut that felt a world away from the electronic music that DJs and producers were making in Detroit and Chicago in the '80s and '90s.
"I felt like there was a lack of millennial-age people that were trying to contribute to that legacy," she says. "And it felt like a great time to get involved with the knowledge that I already had just from being on the scene."
She says the transition to the other side of the DJ booth felt natural.
"It felt like a path that I was supposed to be taking, like everything kind of worked out," she says. "I manifested a lot, but I also feel like the universe and my ancestors — I don't know, it just all was kind of making sense to me."
She adds, "I've had every job under the sun, went to college, dropped out, took a class to teach English as a foreign language. I've done a lot of stuff, and it's cool because I finally got to a point where I figured out what I was good at, and it happened to be my passion. It's the dream."
Last year, Lauryn released the Truth EP, her first solo record. It's anchored by the track "Life Is Back," where voices muse about the return of the nightlife following the pandemic-induced closures, all over a funky bassline. "The music chose me," Lauryn says in the lyrics. "The music molded me." Meanwhile, tracks "Truth" and "Dancin in the D" have propulsive, rave-ready beats.
"The music that I play and the sound that I represent is basically just straight Detroit house," she says. "Detroit is extremely respected in the electronic music community internationally, especially in Europe, when it comes to dance music."
Lauryn's concerns about Detroit's connection to electronic music being erased also led her to create a blog, Underground & Black, where she comments on dance music culture. She has also written for electronic music publications including Resident Advisor, Mixmag, and Beatportal.
This year, Lauryn will perform as part of the Movement music festival in Detroit. She's scheduled to perform on May 29 — her birthday. The day before, she plans to host an Underground & Black party at Detroit's Spot Lite, featuring a lineup of all Detroit DJs.
"I've just been acquainted and learned about so many other young Black people that are also trying to carry the torch and keep our faces present in this culture," she says. "Because it's just like with any Black music, you feel like our faces sometimes get kind taken out of the picture, or the stories get changed. So it's important to me that people remember that techno music is Black and it's American. Obviously, it's everywhere, but it started with us."
She adds, "It's just important to me to be an ambassador of that music. As a Black woman from Detroit, it's important to me to just carry that torch."