The national NAACP convention is returning to Boston next week for the first time in 40 years. It’s a showcase not just for the city, but also for some key local talent, including DJ WhySham. The SparkFM and live-event DJ will be providing the soundtrack at the convention’s free Hub space on July 28 and 29. It’s part of a typically busy summer for Dorchester’s Shamara Rhodes, a.k.a. WhySham, who has been a tireless advocate for female hip-hop artists in the city. She’ll also be part of the free GLD FSTVL at City Hall Plaza Aug. 12 and is mounting her own free event at Carson Beach Sept. 9. Her LP “Survivor’s Prayer,” currently on Bandcamp, will also get a full release in September.
WhySham spoke to the Globe about her ideas for the convention and beyond.
Q. What does it mean to you for Boston hip-hop, and also for a female DJ, to be represented at such a landmark event?
A. It means everything to me! We are celebrating the 50th year of hip-hop, and for me women in the music are not really presented as pioneers as much as they should be, so having a DJ be part of the main focus is amazing. I’m ecstatic to be there taking over.
Q. Have you started to put together your set? How do you approach spinning to the NAACP at 11 a.m. compared to a club set?
A. It will be a fun one because people are traveling not just from the US but from all over the world to come to this event, so I’ll have to do a quick audience read. I’ll have some upbeat music and I’m going to go with some old-school classics, maybe some Lauryn Hill just to wake everyone up, and then some party music like Funkadelic up in there.
Q. You’re also finishing the night right after DJ Jazzy Jeff. Is he an influence?
A. Not even an influence — that’s the meta! The ultimate DJ! I saw him when I was in Aruba. My friends were partying and I was standing there the whole time with my mouth open. I love his transitions, how he takes you on a musical journey and shows where a song was sampled from, then after he’s built up the track he hits you with the actual song. Sorry, I’m nerding out here!
Q. You describe yourself as “Your Community DJ.” What does that mean?
A. I would say 98 percent of my gigs are community-related events. You mentioned a club set, and while I might be there occasionally, most of what I do is for the Boys and Girls Clubs, the YMCA, schools. And I just signed a contract to put on a music program for an organization that works with people 55+ who have disabilities.
Q. Your email signature says “SBA-certified Women Owned Business.” What goes into running that business?
A. I don’t just DJ. If people need equipment I rent it out. I host DJ lessons with youth. And I have Boston Got Next Entertainment. We are helping other artists develop a plan, whether it’s for a one-day album release or with their career. And sometimes people want a curated playlist for an event or program — maybe where there’s no swears, or it’s all women, or all guys — so I’ll curate a playlist for them. Sometimes when I’m walking in to set up my equipment, people will be confused, they’ll think I’m the DJ’s girlfriend or assistant. I’m a lot of people’s first female DJ.
Q. What’s happening with your own festival in September?
A. This will be year three. This year we’ll be at Carson Beach. Families can come for hearing, harmony, and hope, the three H’s. It’s great that we have this convention, but there are things happening right in the city we should be addressing too, like violence, trauma, and food insecurities. Some of the DJs will be DJ Live, DJ 1-800-Short King, DJ Brandi Chanel, and Island Pride, and then we’ll have about 45 minutes of performances, including some artists from Worcester and Lawrence. We really wanted to highlight women DJs.
Q. What is the theme of “Survivor’s Prayer?”
A. I wanted every artist’s own story about how they are surviving in this day and age. How did they survive during COVID or suicides or breakups? How do they survive as a mom or dad or being an artist and working a full-time job? I really believe in longevity. With Brandie Blaze or Cakeswagg, we’re going back to when a DJ and MC would collaborate over a long period of time.
Q. Who would you like to collaborate with next?
A. Well, of course, everyone will say it, but Millyz. I love his work. And Mighty Mystic, a Caribbean artist from Boston who is a legend for me. For women, I used to DJ for Oompa but we haven’t done a track yet.
Interview was edited and condensed.