Bay Area Hip-Hop Pioneer and Prince’s Personal DJ, Pam the Funkstress, Dead at 51

Raymond “Boots” Riley and DJ Pam the Funkstress at the Fillmore in San Francisco on May 3, 2002 (Anthony Pidgeon/Redferns)
Raymond “Boots” Riley and DJ Pam the Funkstress at the Fillmore in San Francisco on May 3, 2002 (Anthony Pidgeon/Redferns)

The Bay Area is mourning one of its pioneers, DJ Pam the Funkstress of the seminal political rap collective the Coup, yet another hip-hop trailblazer gone too soon. She was 51 years old.


There had been word buzzing for weeks that the Turntable Queen, born Pam Warren, had been ill, but Bay Area rap godfather Too Short confirmed the news early Saturday morning.

Others also weighed in via social media:


Rolling Stone reports that Warren died of organ failure. The DJ was hospitalized recently after undergoing transplant surgery. The magazine chronicles her early career:

[Pam] began DJing in 1988. After building her reputation as club DJ and serving as guest DJ for a handful of East Bay rap groups, [Boots] Riley recruited Warren to join the politically charged Coup in the early Nineties. Warren contributed to four Coup albums, including 1994's Genocide & Juice, 1998's acclaimed Steal This Album and 2006's Pick a Bigger Weapon.

In 2001, the Coup gained some unwanted notoriety after the cover of their album Party Music, due for release in November 2001, coincidentally depicted the Coup blowing up the Twin Towers. The album cover was created months before 9/11.

Following Pick a Bigger Weapon, Pam the Funkstress left the Coup to focus on working as a club DJ as well as her Bay Area catering business, although she continued to appear onstage with Riley during the Coup’s Bay Area shows.


In the last few months of Prince’s life, Warren also served as his personal DJ, flying out to do after-sets at his Minneapolis compound.

“When we first met, I was like, ‘OK, Pam, don’t act a fool,’” Warren told the San Francisco Chronicle in May 2016. “I was trying to keep my composure, because this is fricking Prince. It’s like Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson. It doesn’t get any higher than that.”


She got the gig and reportedly deejayed a party at Paisley Park just days before the pop star’s death.

“He walked over to me and he looked at me and smiled. He said, ‘Thank you for being here,’ and he gave me a hug,” Warren said. “I remember him all in black, asking people, ‘What do you think of the music?’ That would be the last time I talked to him.”


His Royal Badness dubbed her “Purple Pam.” Here’s to the two of them keeping the funk alive from here to infinity.

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Senior Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.


scowlybrowspinster---FREE ABORTION ON DEMAND!

Whaaaa? I danced with her at the 1015 Folsom Prince Memorial night right after he died. We closed that place DOWN. Really sad to hear she has died. She was good fun.

Will have a drink and dance it off in her honor next time I am out.