At 12 years old, Yo Yolie (born Faby Peña) learned to DJ by watching her older brother spin. As a teen, the Bay Area native saved up to buy her own equipment, practiced religiously and worked her way from dive bars to nightclubs in San Francisco at 21. Then in January, Yo Yolie packed her gear to move to Las Vegas.
How’s it paying off? Well, you can catch her December 16 at Ghostbar, December 20 at Bond in the Cosmopolitan and December 17 and 31 at the Ice Rink at the Cosmopolitan. The in-demand beat matcher still manages to mix every Saturday night on the Bay’s WILD 94.9-FM. Naturally, Yo Yolie insists there’s hope for aspiring DJs.
Why did you move to Las Vegas?
When I was in high school, I used to watch DJ AM do his residency at the Palms. I was like, “Yo, that shit’s fucking dope!” That was just something that I’ve always wanted to accomplish. Once I started really DJing, after I was 21, I started doing the club circuit in San Francisco. Something just pushed me to be like, “I’m still young, and I still really wanna accomplish this. Why not go ahead and hustle my way in [Las Vegas] for a year?” I was doing H&M gigs in the daytime and at night, I would take the bus and go to Insert Coin(s). That was my little hustle that I had going on. If I had nights off, I would go to the club and say what’s up to everybody and network.
I’m just super grateful for everything that’s happened since I got here. How crazy is it that I’ve always dreamed of having my name on the Palms marquee because DJ AM had it and then—bam!—all of a sudden my name is on it? I freaked the fuck out.
What kind of music did you grow up listening to?
My mom was into salsa and merengue, with a jazz influence. My sister loves [Mexican rock band] Maná. My brother loved hip-hop and ’80s stuff. My influences were super weird. Growing up, I caught on to everything. My whole life was like a melting pot of every genre. Now, whenever I DJ, it’s kind of confusing to keep up with me. I’ll just play the Beatles, and then I’ll play some Future. I’ll play some Oscar D’León and some Selena. And then some Drake.
So you scratch … and mix and … beat match?
What? You do that?! Yes, I DJ. [Laughs.] It’s crazy, the explosion of DJing. When I grew up, it was never like this. I never heard any of my friends say, “I wanna be a DJ!” When I was in high school, it was like, “What are you gonna do?” and I was going out with this one guy and we were both going to the Academy of Art. And it was funny because we would be talking to our friends and say, “We’re gonna study fashion and music.” Next thing you know, they’d say, “Oh, she wants to do fashion? That’s cool!” No. I want to do music, and he wants to do fashion.
How would you describe your style?
Hmmm …, If I had to describe my style in food—cuz I am a foodie—I would have to say a bag of hot Cheetos on the side, chicken and waffles, some horchata, some rice, some Korean barbecue. I’m just everywhere. It’s funny, because I used to be like, “Fuck, man, I think I have musical ADD.” And then somebody told me, “Duh, that’s what DJs are.” And I’m like, “That’s true, huh?” [Laughs.]
What would you do if you weren’t DJing?
I [used to] want to be a music teacher. It’s just so much fun to open everybody’s eyes. It’s like a music history class—whatever record you pick up or song that you hear. It teaches you a part of that certain time. That was always interesting to me. Even sampling, the violins that Kanye uses—those came from a certain time and period. Now, if you knock [those records], they go so hard because he put an 808 [drum beat] behind them, but you have to understand that he was influenced, maybe, by what his mom played. Or maybe by what Q-Tip or someone like that played. Going back to the root of a song is just dope as shit to me. I get nerdy like that.
Where do you see yourself a few years from now?
I would love to headline a club on the Strip. I would just love to travel more across the country and around the world. If God permits, I’d love to expand even more with my brand and reach out to kids. … When I did Camp Spin Off, it was dope because I was teaching little kids to DJ. I was so happy that the girls there weren’t like, “Yeah, I’m going to be a Playboy model first.” They were like, “No, that’s whack.” They loved scratching lessons. I was like, “Yo, there’s hope for the future.”