The Coup’s Boots Riley Shares A Heartfelt Statement About Pam The Funkstress
As reported late last week (December 22), the iconic Bay Area DJ, Pam the Funkstress (aka Pamela Warren), tragically passed away after recently undergoing organ transplant surgery. Considered a trailblazer for all subsequent female DJs, Pam was a celebrated member of The Coup, and later became recognized as “Purple Pam” for her affiliation with Prince and her achievements as his DJ (most recently on his final tour).
While the Hip-Hop community has mourned her loss and seen everyone from Chuck D, to MC Hammer, and Atmosphere (among countless others) speak out in celebration of her life, it was The Coup’s Co-Founder, and Pam’s dear friend, Boots Riley who earlier today released the grandest tribute to his fallen companion.
With his heart in-hand, Boots begins his emotion-soaked and heartbreaking message with the striking opening words: “I loved a woman. Her name was Pam. I’ve yelled her name thousands of times in my life. Pam the Funkstress. Pam the muthaf***in Funkstress. Now when I yell it, she won’t hear me.”
Boots goes on to recount their first meeting, which took place in 1991 in the Bay Area at a Hip-Hop conference, where he saw her perform as a DJ for a group called the Funk Lab All-Stars. Boots describes her undeniable glisten by stating “She displayed a confidence in a way that I hadn’t personally seen from a performer- much less a female performer before. A boisterous, comical, energy that can only come across on stage once you’ve totally mastered everything you’re doing”. Boots goes on to say “We were being totally shat on by this woman wearing a giant smile, big baggy jeans, a giant Ben Davis work jacket all the way buttoned up, and a black beanie with all her hair tucked in. Dancing all over our identities. That was Pam The Funkstress.”
Boots describes the comical train of events on the night he went to hunt down Pam and recruit her to become The Coup’s DJ, experiencing a broken down car in the rain, and approaching her soaking wet while she was DJ’ing at Tupac’s first album release party. Boots writes “I said ‘I don’t know if you remember me-‘ She looked at my awkward, soaked outfit and said ‘I remember you.’ But the look on her face said ‘I remember your wack ass show from last year.’ I told her we were in need of a DJ and she told me that she was working right now.”
After that encounter and being persistent with daily calls, she agreed to meet with Boots and E-Roc (The Coup’s co-founder), ultimately deciding to align with The Coup and begin etching the story that she eventually carved out in the Hip-Hop history books.
In addition to elaborating on Pam’s personality, her strengths, weaknesses, unwavering perseverance, and how deeply Prince’s death affected her, Boots also describes the sexism that prevented Pam from pursuing her DJ skills to the fullest. “One time we talked on the phone after one of her DMC battles in the early to mid 90s. This was the second time I heard her cry. But she had apparently done really well. Her problem was that she got into DJing for the community it promised, but when she won battles against dudes- she started getting the cold shoulder from not only the dudes she beat, but other dudes that were there as well. She said dudes that she wanted to respect her skills instead talked shit about her. This hurt her so much that she decided to stop battling and just do parties and Coup shows. She stopped battling and stopped practicing things that might win because she would rather have friends in the DJ world- which, at the time, was mainly male. So, although she remained an amazing DJ that blew people’s minds, was better than most out there, and doing those battle tricks gave her joy, she stopped putting energy into developing that side of herself because of what she labeled ‘politics,’ but was just some insecure dudes not supporting an amazing artist because that artist didn’t have a d*ck. That, too, was Pam The Funkstress.”
Boots notes that prior to her death, they had had a falling out, due to a misunderstanding. Though he tried to resolve the issue with her, he was unable to actually speak with her before she passed away. When he found out she was sick, he did send Pam a video message when she was in the hospital, though it wasn’t with her eventual expiration in mind. Boots says he would have shared the following sentiment had he known death was near:
“Pam, you are f*cking amazing, you altered my life in so many wonderful ways, and I wish I had a way to show love to you, to sit back and enjoy you, more than I did. But maybe that’s it. That’s just the way we interacted with each other. I miss you, Pam.”
As Boots’ heartfelt words echo, Pam the Funkstress’ legacy will stand the test of time and her influence on Hip-Hop, especially as a pioneer within the female DJ community, will resonate with generations to follow. Ambrosia for Heads offers our deepest condolences to Boots, Pam’s family, friends, and collaborators.