'She wanted to make it her way'

Mourners recall groundbreaking DJ Khia Edgerton as determined, hard-working and talented

July 27, 2008|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,Sun reporter

The thousands of fans who filed into Morgan State University's auditorium for Khia Edgerton's funeral yesterday could recite her accomplishments: recording artist, radio personality, leader of an underground music movement.

But during the two-hour music-filled ceremony, those fans learned how Edgerton rose from spinning records in her family's Randallstown basement to become "K-Swift," leader of Baltimore's club music scene. The story is a by-the-book lesson on the value of hard work.

"She's didn't talk about building an entertainment empire - she just did it," said Marc Clarke, of radio station 92Q, where Edgerton was the first female DJ. "She didn't talk about losing 170 pounds. She just did it. And she didn't rely on a man to build her dreams. ... She didn't bat her eyes."

Edgerton, 29, died early Monday of neck injuries after jumping into an above-ground pool during a party at her home.

None of the eight speakers sugarcoated the 29-year-old's challenges in the music industry - from obesity to disappointing her family when she dropped out of college to pursue her career. But as her success grew, cousin Stacy Brown said, her family "warmed up to her dream."

As did Baltimore.

Mayor Sheila Dixon attended the wake Friday, and Gov. Martin O'Malley attended the funeral yesterday, issuing a proclamation in Edgerton's honor.

"But there's no more important proclamation than each of you here," O'Malley said, referring to the crowd of about 2,500 inside the Murphy Fine Arts Center. Police officers had to turn people away when the facility reached capacity.

In death, Edgerton achieved another goal - a national distribution deal to place her albums in music stores.

"I can remember when we were kids, when she had one turntable and a tape deck, and would mix on that," said Ronnissa Bailey, 29, who attended middle school and Randallstown High with Edgerton. "She would practice all day, every day."

Brown said that it was not easy for Edgerton to "come of age in two strong families," whose patriarchs and matriarchs wanted to see their children and grandchildren "complete college" above all else.

At the request of Edgerton's mother, Brown spoke to her cousin about studying to become a sound engineer to "bridge her career goals with what the family wanted," she said.

"I told her, 'You gotta have substance behind your trade so you can branch off and do your own things,' " Brown said. "But she wanted to make it her way."

From gig to gig, Brown said her cousin "grinded the streets." At 92Q, Edgerton began as an intern and worked her way up. Meanwhile, Brown said, she tackled her final obstacle in a quest for a record deal: her weight.

"She took that same DJ work ethic to her fight against obesity," Brown said. "Her life shows the world that anything is possible with discipline and believing in yourself."

Edgerton's mentor, Jimmy Trujillo, met the aspiring DJ when she was 17, a time he referred to as the "lost years," before she achieved fame on 92Q.

A guy had come into his nonalcoholic teen club, The Twilight Zone, hoping to push talent and "manage" the entertainment. Trujillo gave him a shot that night, but the DJs "just got worse and worse," he said. The guy begged Trujillo to give him one more try on a female emcee.

The emcee wasn't Edgerton, but the girl spinning records for her at the back of the stage was.

"I thought, 'This guy's not trying to sell her, so she's fair game,' " Trujillo said. "I asked her name, and she said, 'It's Khia, but I'm going to be known as K-Swift.' I slipped her my phone number, and you know she called me back."

Months later, during a conversation in his office, Trujillo asked Edgerton what she wanted to be. The answer: A DJ on 92Q Jams.

"We started plotting," Trujillo said.

As Trujillo began to cry, he concluded: "It comforts me she got to live her dream."

melissa.harris@baltsun.com

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