“I’m On Some Leo Shit”: A Seven-Minute Spliff with DJ and Party Girl Dylan Ali

Dylan Ali

Dylan Ali, photographed by Emma Stout.


In this week’s installment of Smoke Break, we lit one up with Dylan Ali, the DJ and partygirl behind the collective Eclipse, whose crowd bridges the gap between New York’s fashion and music scenes. With Times Square’s glow in the distance, the girls and gays gathered at Silencio, the recently-opened nightclub in the style of its Parisian counterpart, to hear some real bad bitch music. And Ali delivered: her hour-long set was a mashup of sounds from Nicki Minaj, Sexyy Red, Ken Carson, and the Caribbean. It’s a way to “celebrate the diaspora,” she explained—and shake some ass. In the dark, cavernous underbelly of Silencio, Ali’s lighter showed us the way as we rolled up a spliff and talked White Hennessy, Kendrick vs. Drake, and “keeping it cute”behind the DJ booth.


EMMA STOUT: We’re starting with a spliff.

DYLAN ALI: Yes, we are starting with a spliff.

STOUT: You always smoke spliffs?

ALI: Yes. I’m from the DMV region, the suburbs of Washington DC. If you ask the average stoner from my city, they’re rolling with sheets and funnel. Up here, that’s known as papers and Grabba.

STOUT: I can’t even lie, I’ve never smoked a spliff.

ALI: Would you like to try this?

STOUT: Yeah.

ALI: So it’s a ground-up, strict tobacco leaf. There’s no additives. Nothing sprayed the weed, so it’s healthy. It’s better than cigarette tobacco, which is what our European cousins use.

STOUT: So where are we?

ALI: We are at Silencio, New York City.

STOUT: What’s the vibe?

ALI: This was an interesting vibe. Usually, we do this party during fashion week, so this is our trial run for the new non-Fashion Week series that we’re doing. I’m actually satisfied with the crowd. Everyone’s gorge. There’s people coming in this late, which is good. The DJs are all fab. The hosts are fab. I’m not mad at any of this.

STOUT: Yeah, this is cute. So you’ve been taking a break from partying?

ALI: Yes, I did. I felt like the parties that we were doing became redundant and I wanted to really switch it up. I didn’t know what I needed to do yet. I just knew that something needed to change. It just didn’t feel authentic to me or personal at all.

STOUT: What’d you switch up?

ALI: The types of clubs. I switched up how I promote. Trying to meet the venues halfway while still staying true to what I want to do as a programmer and a curator. And I still show up unapologetically as myself, no matter what.

STOUT: Describe yourself in a sentence?

ALI: A passive rule-breaker.

STOUT: What rules are you breaking?

ALI: Well, they’re not necessarily stated rules because society exists in dog whistles and codes and shit. So it’s what they’re not saying. You want to book the fashion girl DJ, well, she has a very Black, very creative, very diverse crowd, and you’re going to have to show them the same love that y’all show me. I’ve been working with Silencio in Paris for a minute, so this is my first time doing my own party here and I’m satisfied. I definitely think they were accommodating. I think everybody did what they needed to do and this was very cohesive.

STOUT: Did anyone cute show up tonight? Who were you most excited about?

ALI: No comment.

STOUT: Cheeky, cheeky. Fuck, Marry Kill: alcohol, weed, tobacco.

ALI: Okay, we’re killing alcohol, we’re marrying weed, and we’re fucking tobacco.

STOUT: Correct answer.

ALI: Alcohol is the most sinister of the three.

STOUT: It comes up from behind you and fucks you up.

ALI: It’s a love-bombing boyfriend. Then, out of nowhere, you black out and you’re like, “This is where the trauma comes in.”

STOUT: The trauma. Well, what’s the worst experience you’ve had at a show?

ALI: So many.

STOUT: Have you ever blacked out at a show?

ALI: Okay, the one and only time I did it, I finessed in the most fabulous way because I really give a fuck about work. This was in, I want to say 2015 or ‘16, I was in my very, very, very early 20s, a beginner drinker, and this dude came through to the party with a bottle of white Hennessy and I had never drank that before. That’s some Caribbean shit. I drank it and I literally blacked out in the green room, took a whole hour nap. They had me closing the party, so I was chilling. I took an hour nap, set an alarm, woke up, hydrated, ate a snack, and then DJ’d. I resurrected.

STOUT: You were reborn.

ALI: I’m never doing that again. Disclaimer to the people that work with me, I don’t do things like that. I’m very professional.

Dylan Ali

STOUT: What’s your pregame ritual now?

ALI: A Yerba Mate and a spliff. If I’m drinking alcohol before the party, it’s a special occasion. New York is full of happenings. You’ll end up at a fashion open bar and then I’ll have to go to work immediately afterwards.

STOUT: What’s your cocktail of choice?

ALI: I’m in my experimental era, so I like to look at their menu and see what they’re the best at. If not, lime, Prosecco, champagne. I might do an espresso martini or a tequila pineapple if I’m feeling like a basic bitch.

STOUT: What’s your least favorite liquor?

ALI: Gin.

STOUT: What’s on your rider?

ALI: I literally got to control the last rider for the tour that I just went on. So I picked a cheese plate, because I felt like the cheese was different in every city. I got a crudite because you need your veggies. Ginger ale, water, and then wine for when we wanted to chill afterward.

STOUT: What’s your go-to food spot in New York?

ALI: I’ve been binging Evelina on DoorDash. It’s really bad.

STOUT: What part of the city do you live in?

ALI: I live in Bed-Stuy.

STOUT: Ooh, a Brooklyn girl.

ALI: I love Brooklyn.

STOUT: Is this party more Brooklyn or Manhattan?

ALI: This is definitely the Brooklyn crowd, but also some of the uptown crowd. I feel like a lot of my crowd lives in the boroughs.

STOUT: During your show, I saw this girl shaking so much ass. There was love in the air. A guy came to her, it was a mating call. They were dancing together for the rest of your set.

ALI: I love that.

STOUT: You’re a matchmaker.

ALI: I’m actually really good at making couples with my friends. I know mad people from working nightlife for such a long time, so I’m always pairing people in my personal life.

STOUT: Do you like watching people when you’re on the stage?

ALI: Kind of, but no. I’m super shy and I get social anxiety. But I make eye contact with people for too long. Part of the job is staying tapped into people in the room though, so I’ll still make sure to do that.

STOUT: But you’re still locked in.

ALI: It’s like 50% ADHD, laser focus, and then another 50% is just being shy.  But I feel like now that I’ve been in the nightlife for so long, I’ve been coming out of my shell. But on a regular day, I’m with the same people doing the same thing. I’m very much a me-oriented person. I’m on some Leo shit for real.

STOUT: But Leo’s are the center of attention, whether they want to be or not.

ALI: I’ve still managed to do that, but I still want my time.

STOUT: What’s the after-party tonight?

ALI: If I was doing that today, it would probably be Radioface. They do a good afters. If not Radioface, usually somebody has some shit at their crib. That shit’s fun. But I have a busy weekend. I want to keep it cute. I’m also just far from Brooklyn right now, so I just really have to get back to Bed-Stuy. It’s giving take my ass home.

STOUT: Wait, I peeped the Kendrick diss in your set. Are you team Kendrick?

ALI: I am team no one, but I do think that Kendrick made the objectively better raps. Drake has inherently always wanted to make a good song because that’s what he knows how to do, but I wasn’t necessarily blown away because he gave us what we expected. I think Kendrick had to really go there. I do think the lyrical content on both sides is egregious, but…

STOUT: Corny.

ALI: I think because people associate him with a very lyrical and I’ll say not hit-worthy approach to hip hop, and he’s going against the hitmaker himself, he had to give us a banger. So that was cool to see.

STOUT: Who do you think is the best rapper right now?

ALI: It’ll always be Lil’ Wayne for me. I guess HOV is close second, if you want to be technical. I love Gucci Mane, Flocka.

STOUT: Gucci Mane was my celebrity crush when I was growing up.

ALI: Wait, how old are you?

STOUT: 23.

ALI: That’s why.