Pam Warren, a.k.a. Pam the Funkstress or Purple Pam, was born on November 11, 1966 in Shreveport, Louisiana and died on December 22, 2017. Warren was a DJ, most notably for the Oakland political hip-hop group the Coup. She was known for her liveliness when “scratching” beats, her push to include more women in hip-hop, and her outstanding personality. She also had a unique, original move called the Titty Scratch.
Warren was first drawn to Oakland after meeting “Boots” Riley in 1993 and becoming part of the Coup. Part of her appeal came from being one of the very few female DJs, and also from supporting the community by speaking out against police brutality and capitalism. As she quickly became a beloved musical figure in Oakland, she made a career out of her DJing skills. Her fame earned her the attention of other popular Bay Area groups for whom she would also DJ. She stayed in the area for over two decades until her death in 2017.
Warren attended Burlingame High School, where she honed her focus on her two passions: music and culinary arts. While working at her family’s business, Piccadilly Deli & Catering, Warren earned a degree in Broadcast Communications from Columbus Broadcasting School. Later in her career, Warren was spotted by Prince and was invited to join him for what would be his final tour, which was the opportunity that earned her the nickname “Purple Pam.”
Warren’s introduction to hip-hop was through her best friend Donna’s group, Imperial Sounds, in 1988. When Donna’s boyfriend wanted to teach someone how to DJ and Donna didn’t want to learn, Warren then volunteered to learn. She fell in love with DJing instantly and was inspired by the female hip-hop group Salt-N-Pepa to become a member of Female Funk, which gave her an outlet and led to her guest DJing for a number of other groups. This is how Warren met Boots Riley, who invited her to DJ for and tour with his group the Coup, which she became a permanent member of. She would go on to DJ for KBLX, a San Francisco radio station.
- The Oakland Museum of California’s inaugural Park Jam outdoor festival, 1000 Oak Street, Oakland, CA 94607. The Oakland Museum of California’s inaugural Park Jam outdoor festival was a musical event that aimed to feature the full spectrum of hip-hop artists, including live musicians, turntablists, and break dancers. In 2018’s event, to honor Warren’s major contributions to hip-hop, a tribute was performed so that everyone in attendance was reminded of just how important her music was.
- The New Parish, 1743 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, CA 94612. The New Parish is an intimate music venue in Oakland that features reggae, roots, and world music, along with having an outdoor patio. In 2018, the Purple Pam Foundation hosted a birthday celebration for Warren to honor her memory, which featured musical performances, silent auction items, and a donation in her name to Youth Radio.
- Candle Light Vigil for Pam – A Show of Love & Unity for Pam the Funkstress at her Mural on 30th Street & West Street, Oakland, CA 94608. An official candlelight vigil for Pam the Funkstress was held in Oakland following her passing after a sudden illness in 2017. It was an event meant to celebrate her life and legacy, where those who participated could share stories about her if they had any, and her music would be played so they could remember her art. Pam the Funkstress truly left an incredibly powerful impact on the Oakland community.
~ by Alina Gomez ~