Pam Warren, the DJ known as Pam the Funkstress in the Oakland hip-hop duo the Coup, died Friday at the age of 51. Warren also served as Prince‘s personal DJ during the final months of the music legend’s life.
Bay Area radio station KBLX confirmed Warren’s death, with the San Francisco Chronicle reporting that Warren died of organ failure. The DJ was hospitalized recently after undergoing organ transplant surgery.
“The KBLX Family would like to send our love, prayers and condolences to the family and friends of Pam Warren, AKA Pam the Funkstress, The Turntable Queen, who passed away on Friday,” the radio station said in a statement. “She was one of the finest DJs on the planet, a true legend, and she was family! Information about public services will be forthcoming. We will miss you Queen.”
“Rest In Beats SIS …damn this is a hurting one,” Public Enemy’s Chuck D tweeted.
On November 30th, the Coup rapper Boots Riley wrote on Facebook, “Pam the Funkstress is still in the hospital recovering from an emergency, life-saving surgery. She is not out of the woods yet.”
Dubbed the “Turntable Queen,” Pam the Funkstress – inspired by Salt & Pepa and their DJ Spinderella – began DJing in 1988. After building her reputation as club DJ and serving as guest DJ for a handful of East Bay rap groups, 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 February 2016, during Prince’s run of Bay Area concerts, Warren auditioned to serve as Prince’s personal DJ. “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.”
For the final two months of Prince’s life, Pam the Funkstress, or “Purple Pam” as Prince called her, would fly to Prince’s post-concert gigs or the Paisley Park compound to DJ the late icon’s legendary after-parties, including an April 16th “Paisley Park After Dark” party just five days before Prince’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.” Warren DJed a handful of Prince memorial shows following his death.
A GoFundMe page had been established to help Warren’s family with medical costs.