Most of you may know Nastia from being the musical voice behind some of your favorite East Bay Express pieces. Well, this Russian native is a creative in her own right, and recently sat with us to discuss her background, DJing, and her love for the Bay.
I want to thank Nastia for everything that she does to document the essence of the Bay Area. I’m truly honored to feature you on our Queen see Queen series. Now, on to the Interview.
Where are you from and can you tell me about your childhood and your transition to writing?
Growing up was interesting because I moved around a lot. I was born in St. Petersburg, Russia and moved to the Bay Area when I was seven; then I moved to Tampa, Florida during high school. Then at 18 I moved back to the Bay to go to UC Berkeley. After graduating five years ago, I moved to Oakland, which is where I stay now. As far as writing goes, I’ve always been a big reader and fantasized about being a writer since I was little. As I got older, I started to take it more seriously until it became my full-time gig.
What was your first writing gig? How was that experience for you?
It’s really funny to think about now. The first piece I ever published was during my freshman year at Cal. It was a blog post for a student fashion magazine about Lil B’s outfit at a Pack show, before he was known as the Based God. But my first professional gig was with the art magazine Hi-Fructose, where I started freelancing while I was still in college.
“I’ve been obsessed with music my whole life, and I’ve always gone to a lot of shows and events. As I developed my writing voice, I got more into music writing and eventually became the music editor at the East Bay Express, where I worked for most of 2015 and ’16. When I started writing about music, I felt like my literary side and my party girl side could finally merge.”
I know you write about various topics, but you write about music the most. Why is that?
What experience of yours led to your love for music writing? I’ve been obsessed with music my whole life, and I’ve always gone to a lot of shows and events. As I developed my writing voice, I got more into music writing and eventually became the music editor at the East Bay Express, where I worked for most of 2015 and ’16. When I started writing about music, I felt like my literary side and my party girl side could finally merge.
“I try to tell people’s stories in honest and real ways, and my goal is for readers to take away unique insights from each piece. I also like to use my writing to talk about social issues that are important to me, whether it’s through reporting on larger trends or writing about specific artists.”
You recently connected with E-40 for a one on one interview, how did that opportunity come about? How was that experience for you?
I’ve interviewed a lot of Bay Area rappers over the years, like Nef the Pharaoh, JStalin, and Mistah F.A.B. They all work with the same publicist, Michelle from Audible Treats, who is awesome and connected me with 40 when she started representing him recently.Interviewing him was a great experience! I’ve been an E-40 fan basically for as long as I can remember. As I got older I began to really admire him for his longevity in the rap game. He’s almost 50 and he’s still making music that’s relevant to young people, people his age, and everyone in between. When I met him, he was extremely open and let me ask him everything I had always wanted to know. I also watched him work on a song in the studio and witnessed his super sweet relationship with his son Droop-E. E-40 is an amazing rapper, a formidable business man, and a family man who sets a great example. I was just trying to absorb as much game as possible.
What do you want your readers to absorb when they read your articles?
I try to tell people’s stories in honest and real ways, and my goal is for readers to take away unique insights from each piece. I also like to use my writing to talk about social issues that are important to me, whether it’s through reporting on larger trends or writing about specific artists. And sometimes I’m literally just geeking out over a dope work of art that really speaks to me, and I hope to share that feeling with others.
What are some of your favorite things about living in Bay Area? Would you ever leave?
Omg, so many! I love how creative the people are. I’m very inspired by the history of activism with the Black Panthers and the Free Speech Movement. I love how you can literally meet people from all over the world and eat every kind of food. I grew up in the Bay Area Russian community but I have friends who come from so many different cultures and we all learn from each other. I wouldn’t mind leaving the Bay for a few years (like if any publications in New York or LA wanted to hire me ;]) but I definitely want to end up back in the Bay. When I have kids in the future one day I want to raise them here.
How did you get into DJing? How has that experience been for you so far?
Through my friend Albert aka DJ Neto 187 of Trill Team 6, shout out. Albert is one of my favorite DJs in Oakland and he invited me to DJ on his radio show on ADP.FM, Sick Sad Radio, about a year ago while I was music editor of the Express. I didn’t really know how to DJ at the time but I was always up on the latest music so he gave me a couple short lessons and then I pretty much winged it on the radio show. Then my good homie Marty aka DJ Willie Maze (a total force of nature in Oakland) was hella supportive and started booking me for little gigs like opening for him at Somar. Eventually I started getting bookings through people hearing me at parties, I think because they appreciate the fact that I play underground Bay stuff and a lot of female rappers that you don’t hear in the club too often.
What does being a woman mean to you?
I enjoy expressing my femininity, but I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to be a woman or to express your gender in general. Maybe some things in life are easier for men because of their privilege in society, but there’s a ton of dope stuff about being a woman and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I think sisterhood is magical, women are powerful, and we will eventually overcome misogyny.
What have been some of your experiences being a woman in the Bay Area art scene?
People in the Bay are woke and I’ve had a positive experience. Sometimes certain scenes can feel male dominated, but I feel like even in those situations the guys I’ve worked with have been supportive. And my community of girls and trans and non-binary people who I fuck with in the scene hella cheer each other on, which is amazing.
Any advice for young women coming up as writers, artist, or who just want to level up in their careers?
When you’re young and just getting started in a creative field, you really have to dedicate yourself to your hustle. I’m writing full time today because I used to work retail jobs and write on the side. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the kind of work you want right away. Grab opportunities and make the most of them. Leverage your social media presence. Never sell yourself short and be about your money.
How does being an immigrant and having parents had an impact on your work?
I feel like being an immigrant and having immigrant parents is one of the biggest defining factors of my life experience. Coming from Russia and growing up in the Bay Area has allowed me to see very different sides of life, and I feel like that’s shaped my entire world view. My parents lived most of their lives in a very oppressive country and made sure to teach me to never take things like freedom of speech for granted, and to value money. Immigrants are hustlers and I’m proud of that.