About Shop Sesh: Every month (or so), I’ll visit the curators, artists, builders and designers who enjoy a little kush to help them push their creative boundaries. It just so happens they’re all also doing pretty impressive things to cultivate the arts community in Colorado and beyond. We’ll have a smoke and a chat in the spaces that often inspire them most — their own. If you’d like to request a sesh or have one to recommend, e-mail me here.
Shop: Undisclosed location
Interview with: Eva Magdalenski, DJ, self-proclaimed “game changer”
Sesh: Pre-roll ($11), L’Eagle
Right after Eva Magdalenski greeted me with a huge hug in the lobby of her downtown hotel, she handed me a pack of Juicy Fruit with a hundred dollar bill taped to it. For a second, I thought she was giving me weed money — I was there to pick her up and take her on her first-ever Denver dispensary visit.
But then she quickly explained that it was her business card (I was not high), and we were off to Denver pot shop L’Eagle.
Fresh off of her DJ debut on Friday night at Red Rocks Amphitheatre for Icelantic’s 4th annual Winter on the Rocks, her adrenaline was still pumping. It was a dream come true for the Colorado native, 31, who got her start in the entertainment industry as an assistant to Comedy Works owner Wende Curtis.
Magdalenski quickly rose through the ranks to handle publicity and marketing for the legendary stand-up venue. But after seven years of paying her dues and a chance bonding moment with a then-fairly unknown Chelsea Handler, Magdalenski headed for Hollywood.
Magdalenski started as Handler’s assistant in 2007 and went on to produce the wildly successful “Chelsea Lately” (along with “After Lately”) on E! until its final episode in August 2014. Since then, she’s thrown herself into a new career as a DJ and also has a project with her parents in the works to transform their barn in Evergreen into a grow house. Post-dispensary, we headed to the Terminal Bar in Union Station to talk about changing the game with loud beats, big smiles, chalk graffiti and Mary Jane.
Cannabist: How did you land your first-ever public DJ show at Red Rocks?
EM: I purposely did it this way because I’m a self proclaimed “game changer,” and it’s also my DJ name. You can’t be a game changer without being a game changer. I dream big and I think big, so I just said it out loud, “I want my first show to be in a 5,000-seat arena.” I didn’t know how it was going to happen, but I knew it was going to happen.
One of my homies who I grew up with happens to be Sam Warren, one of the co-founders of Icelantic Skis, so I knew about Winter on the Rocks. I was so busy with the end of “Chelsea Lately” this past summer, but it just hit me one day. So I picked up the phone and said, “Sam! Hi, I want my first show to be with you guys. I’m rapping and I’m DJing now.” He was like “done.”
Cannabist: It must have been surreal.
EM: It was epic. I walked up to the entrance with my mixer and all my gear, and I see the sign that says “The Biggest Rocks in Rock ‘N’ Roll.” I see Chuck Morris, the CEO of AEG Live (Rocky Mountains), and then I see what Icelantic has built. I started jumping up and down. It was insane.
But probably one of the best moments was seeing Sam and looking at him eye to eye. I wanted to give him a hundred thousand high fives. To have this friend that you have such a long history with by your side was like everything coming full circle. He’s so positive, and the vibe of Icelantic is just quality. Purely happy people that are huge game changers with their company. This all coming together how it did is overwhelming — to be able to come home to Colorado and celebrate it with my community.
Cannabist: You killed your set.
EM: I was after Holy Ghost and before Damien Marley, so I was just focused on building the energy. When I turned around from my booth and saw Damien ready to go with his whole band waiting for me to pass it over to them was incredible. But just hearing my music at Red Rocks — such a legendary venue — was beautiful.
Cannabist: Were you nervous?
EM: I’m still a little bit surprised about it, but no. I worked so hard and was ready, so I made a point to just enjoy it. But I definitely didn’t sleep for two days before the show. I was always nervous performing in class though. It’s actually a really cool thing to feel your nerves. It’s uncomfortable, but it means you are doing something … you’re pushing yourself. (My mentors) can tell you epic stories of me bombing over and over again. Bombing is part of the process!
Cannabist: You had lucky shoes though, too.
EM: My sister got me gold Adidas for Christmas two years ago, and I saw them in the box and said, “I’m going to wear these at my first show.” I kept them in the box until I busted ‘em out in my hotel room. My sister was there, and I made her have a ceremony with me — they were a part of my dream that I held onto.
Cannabist: How did you prepare for such a big first gig?
EM: Three years ago, we got a call at “Chelsea Lately” from Scratch Academy — an unbelievable DJ school founded by Jam Master Jay. I already had decided I wanted to start DJing, so it was a total sign. So, I’ve been training with the world’s top DJs to learn everything I can. Out of respect for hip-hop culture, it was important to me to learn the art. These guys take the time to teach me how to understand it and believe in their students 100 percent. And I practice all the time. I sleep in a bunkbed with my desk and turntables underneath me.
Cannabist: Do you remember your first Red Rocks show?
EM: I remember my first show at the Fillmore! I was 16 and went to go see Wu-Tang Clan with my guy friends. I was so excited, you can’t even imagine, because I just loved them so much. I still do. I’ve always been a hustler, and I always tried to get backstage and become friends with rappers. I started shooting the shit with the body guard, gave him some Juicy Fruit and next thing you know I’m in. I still have the towel Method Man gave me. I once also offered to do all of Nelly’s laundry — and ended up at a laundromat on West Colfax [Ave.] dripping sweat to get it all done.
Cannabist: Why Juicy Fruit?
EM: It’s fresh and cool — I mean come on, it’s Juicy Fruit! It’s always been my thing. At Scratch it became my nickname, and whenever I got to class my teacher would always say “Juicy Fruit is in the house.” It’s really just about the ability to connect with people and break the ice. I don’t care who they are — the maid or the celebrity. I just talk to everyone like a normal person. No one is better than anyone else. It’s a happiness thing … just to give a gift, blow some bubbles and make someone’s day for a minute. Everyone loves it.
Cannabist: Who are some of your biggest musical inspirations?
EM: “The Tang” first and foremost. I am dying to do something with them. I love underground Atmosphere, Dilated Peoples and Evidence and NWA. KRS-One is huge for me, too, and one of my favorite lyrics is (KRS-One’s) “Rappers spit rhymes that are mostly illegal/Emcees spit rhymes to uplift their people.” I think about it all of the time because I take responsibility for what I am saying, what I am putting out there — ultimately what am I giving that 13-year-old girl to think about?
Cannabist: How did you get into hip-hop?
EM: It’s seriously my biggest passion. I’ve been going to underground shows since I was 14 with Sam and our friends. As I got into it, I started questioning where the beauty was in the lyrics. I think that’s the feminist in me, but that’s where it got real for me, and it grew into how I could actually take it in a different, more positive direction. My mission is to use my hip-hop to uplift the message, empower women and support each other in business.
EM: The Atmosphere lyric, “When life gives you lemons, paint that shit gold.” I either give a 110 percent or I don’t do anything. Don’t tell people your dreams, just show them. I also made a rule that every day of my life is the next best day of my life. I wake up every morning and say, “Hello, best day of my life!” The most important one to me is charity.
Cannabist: How so?
EM: 50 percent of all of the money I make in music goes to Girls Inc. They’re truly change in action and work to empower inner city girls. I mean, I live in Compton so it’s all around me. I’m building it into everything I do. I want to be able to see where the money can help.
Cannabist: How did you end up in Compton?
EM: I was working full time and paying really expensive rent in Burbank, where the show taped. My friend Jackie needed a roommate, and I went for it. I was so excited because Compton IS hip-hop. As soon as I moved in, I ran to Scratch to tell them I moved to Compton, and DJ Verse asked me to show him where. He said, “That’s not Compton, that’s three blocks from Compton.” I looked at him and said, “Even better!” It’s the name of my first album. I love it. But it’s really such a perfect place for me right now — it’s helped me gain a perspective I was naive to and now that I understand it, I’m ready to make a difference.
Cannabist: Why the career change?
EM: After a bad breakup, my hairdresser told me about the Agape International Church. Actually it’s not a church, it’s a movement. It’s a huge part of my life, and it gave me the power to dream even bigger than I ever had. I already had vision boards up in my office at “Chelsea Lately” — it was scary to say out loud — white girl DJ/rapper/MC. But I had a board for each one, and that made it real for me. It was also time. I knew the show was ending, and it was time to just do it. Once my Red Rocks show was locked up, Chelsea had my back so fast. She literally bought my mixer for me, promoted Icelantic on one of our last shows — I’d never seen her move quicker to support me. Now I’m all in.
Cannabist: Your positivity! Where do you get it from?
EM: For the record, I have the coolest parents in the world. They did everything for us, and they’re the reason I’ve done everything I’ve done. I’ve learned meditation through Agape and practice it daily. I’ve also been extremely lucky to work with two of the most inspiring women who taught me everything. I spent seven years with Wende at Comedy Works … that woman is so impressive and so smart. And I spent seven years with Chelsea — one of the most epic women of all time who is changing the entertainment industry for women and breaking doors down. My teachers DJ Revolution and DJ Hapa. Oh and Dave Chappelle. I met him during my third week at Comedy Works, and I went off. I busted my ass for him, and he’s the one who’s responsible for getting me hired full-time. I ran into him a few years later in the green room on one of Chelsea’s book tours, and he said, “I told you I would see you around in this business.” I love Dave. He’s very special in my heart and just a really good guy. With these kind of people in my life, it’s hard to be anything but positive.
Cannabist: Your graffiti is even positive.
EM: I could never bring myself to pick up a can of spray paint and deface something, so I decided to start doing it in my own way — chalking. I write positive messages everywhere I go. I’ve met so many great people just going out and doing it.
Cannabist: Was this the first time you’ve visited a dispensary since marijuana has become legal in Colorado?
EM: Yes. What I saw was on a level that I cannot even put it into words. All of the work (L’Eagle) is doing, perfecting this process so that it’s organic with so much care behind it, was impressive. It’s a plant — a very delicate plant that has powerful abilities. There’s a reason it’s becoming legalized, and I think the whole national mentality against it comes from a place of not understanding. Just taking the time to learn and ask questions like I was able to do today is something more people should do.
Cannabist: What are your thoughts on everything that’s happening in Colorado with legalization?
EM: The fact that I can talk about this now is the amazing part. My dad has smoked pot my entire life, and when I was a kid I picked up on it, I could smell it, but we could never talk about it. He had really severe medical problems, and I saw the way it helped him through so much pain. I am really grateful for marijuana because I love him so much. Weed is working here, and when it’s used in the right way it’s very powerful. I’m proud of my home state for being the leader of it.
Cannabist: When did you get high for the first time?
EM: I was in 8th grade, and my friend and I snuck some of my dad’s pot. We ate a ton of pudding with Golden Grahams and just cried laughing. We smoked it out of a soda can. I don’t even know how we knew how to do that!
Cannabist: What’s your weed life like in LA?
EM: I don’t smoke a lot of weed. It’s definitely not a daily thing for me. But I’m planning on getting my medical card in California because it’s a way for me to help control my crazy excitement sometimes. I also love it at hip-hop shows. There’s this epic moment when you walk up to an underground show. The first thing you hear is the bass, and then the smell hits you — I just got goosebumps. I love the smell of it, and it’s just an amazing part of hip-hop culture.
Cannabist: Do you worry about a negative stereotype — especially with some of the problems with drugs you see with your Girls Inc. work and where you live?
EM: Only because people abuse it, like anything else. When you abuse marijuana you’re not respecting it. And when you don’t respect something, that’s where stereotypes develop. If we all focus on the healing elements of Mary Jane and help contribute to the sophistication of it, that’s how the resistance will fade.
Cannabist: What’s next?
EM: My album, #3BlocksFromCompton, is coming out in June. I almost don’t even know what to say, because it’s kind of like nothing that’s out there. I am very fortunate to know a lot of amazing producers, and they’re the reason it’s going to be good. So I’m heading back to the studio full time in LA. But I like to say I’m retired because I am in love with what I do.
I’m also going to support my parents and their renovation project. They’ve recently sold their business and retired, so we are working on transforming a barn in Evergreen into their new house and marijuana grow space. I want to be really hands on, so I’ll probably be back in Colorado a lot more, which makes me so happy.
Follow Eva Magdalenski on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And keep an eye out for her chalk graffiti on the sidewalks of Denver.