Ahead of Radio 4 techno documentary, who is Ash Lauryn?

Narrating your own documentary on a prestigious station like BBC Radio 4 is something which comes with bragging rights. This is understandable – there are few other stations quite like it the world, something which many outside Radio 4’s traditional broadcasting area of the UK appear to be aware.

Hence why Ears To The House was amused to hear that Ash Lauryn – the mysteriously rising star who represents Detroit by being over 700 miles away in Atlanta – was going to narrate a documentary about the origins of Detroit techno. It’s due to air in a few hours time – 11.30am UK time – and this site is hoping to bring you our review of the documentary tomorrow.

But who exactly is Ash Lauryn? It’s a question worth asking in light of her role. Because despite the fact she appears on lineups like Defected Croatia and appears to be something of a favourite with the likes of Resident Advisor, interviews with Lauryn herself reveal surprisingly little about the person behind the DJ.

Perhaps there’s a reason for this, of course. As far as we’ve been able to establish, Lauryn spent years behind the scenes befriending as many of those in the world of Detroit house and techno before embarking on her own career. This, of course, is nothing unusual – especially in the notoriously incestuous circles of Detroit.

However, most of those who rise to the top either have a strong discography of tracks and remixes which got them there, exceptional DJing skills or both. Lauryn’s rise is more mysterious – even she would be hard pressed to describe her discography as significant, and although a talented DJ, her sets are hardly masterpieces. So how did she rise so high up so quickly?

The answer is through her networks. Now, this isn’t exactly unusual in this day and age, but in a scene like Detroit where those at the top tended to get there through hard graft – sometimes taking many years. Lauryn, by contrast, started receiving DJ work after meeting Derrick May in 2017, a few months after she started working as Kai Alcé’s bag carrier for his gigs.

But although she has many friends in Detroit circles, it was her mentorship with Kelli Hand which saw the biggest rise in her career. Hand managed to get Lauryn onto her management team, and this was when things started to happen – but surely enough, this friendship didn’t last for long either.

In 2019, there was a row after controversial Russian DJ Nina Kraviz wore cornrows. Lauryn considered this to be a form of cultural appropriation, whereas Hand defended Kraviz amidst the criticism. Lauryn responded by going onto a podcast and publicly calling Hand a “little black groupie” in an astonishing display of petulance and disrespect.

Even more curious is an interview she is supposed to have carried out with Derrick May for Resident Advisor in the same year. The interview, as far as Ears To The House can establish, was never published – because May allegedly made numerous inappropriate comments in it towards Lauryn. If this is true, why has Lauryn been silent on the subject of the many sexual assault and rape allegations made against Derrick May since?

Could her silence possibly be anything to do with not wanting to upset the likes of Carl Craig – whom she seems to share an awful lot of lineups with? Craig is one of very few in the music world to publicly support Derrick May since the allegations emerged – indeed, he was engaged in a disgusting smear campaign against one of the two journalists who revealed the claims to the world.

Whilst this journalists and friend was being attacked in this cruel way, Lauryn stayed silent – indeed, Ears To The House was almost alone in unanimously condemning what happened. For a woman who gets very angry about toxic masculinity, it was very strange to see her staying quiet as her own Detroit pals engaged so blatantly in it.

Ash Lauryn does have one thing in common, however, with many of her peers. That would namely be the fact she is hopelessly oversensitive to criticism – indeed, anyone who takes issue with her over something is usually accused of telling lies. And if that doesn’t work, she just brings out the ridiculous, debate-shutting card that someone must have a problem with a woman of colour having an opinion.

She used the accusation of untruths against this very site last year – whilst simultaneously failing to point out a single alleged inaccuracy. So, given how much she hates lies and places truth on such a pedestal, will she tell the real story about Detroit techno – or will she stick to the press release style Belleville Three version perpetuated for decades now?

The fact she has relied so heavily on the Detroit network to get to where she is today isn’t an encouraging sign that many questions will be asked. But then again, Lauryn might surprise us – as anyone who witnessed her treatment of Kelli Hand can testify, she seems to have no problem biting the hand that feeds her…

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