Tracy Young says that music always communicated better than she could. Ever since she was little, the music producer and DJ has been connected to and working in the music industry.
Young is up for her second Grammy on April 3, after winning back in 2019 for a remix she did of Madonna's song "I Rise." She's the first woman and the first lesbian to be nominated and win the Grammy for Best Remixed Recording.
This time around she's nominated for her remix of k.d. lang's "Constant Craving." Young's remix, "Constant Craving (Fashionably Late Remix)," reworks lang's piece into a master dance track, still holding the initial power the song had when it was released decades ago.
But the accomplishments of the last few years happened to Young after a period of questioning about music as a career.
Young's musical beginnings came at a young age. In the fourth grade she had already started making her own cassettes from the radio, she tells The Advocate. As a teenager, she snuck into Washington, D.C., nightclubs. At 16, she discovered the art of DJing.
"I heard like one continuous song, and I was like, How are they doing that?" Young remembers thinking as she heard the DJ's remixing music for the first time. "I was just blown away."
"That was when I fell in love with DJing because it was like people were just creating a new song, like it was a remix [but] live. In other words, people were just being really clever and creative and dropping sounds."
It wasn't until her first year in college that she was able to get her hands on turntables for the first time. That period was rough for Young, who attended Radford University in Virginia. She was queer-bashed that year and her roommates, after finding out she was a lesbian, moved out. Young ended up dropping out of school and moving back to D.C.
It was her time in D.C., though, that led to her getting a job at a local radio station. People started noticing her -- a woman DJ in the early aughts wasn't so common, Young explains.
She eventually met Madonna through a friend's sister. Young says she got Madonna's seal of approval and the pop icon scooped her up. For years, she was Madonna's DJ.
"I toured with her, I DJed her private events and birthday parties. I DJed her wedding when she married Guy Richie," Young tells The Advocate. "I owe Madonna a lot of gratitude. She really handed me a career."
It was during her decade-long career as a DJ that Young began to turn to drugs -- something, she says, she'd never thought she do.
"I was actually very much against drugs," Young says. She explains that seeing people so messed up while in the clubs kept her from wanting to even try anything. However, when she felt that she had finally gotten to the top of her career as a DJ, touring and playing around the world, the pressure finally got to her.
"I was using quite a bit, which was shocking to a lot of people that were around me because I was so against it," she says. The drugs, according to Young, also let her open up a bit more and overcome her naturally shy personality.
She realized she wasn't OK at an event for Madonna. "I hadn't slept, I wasn't taking good care of myself, and I was really thin," Young says. She says she put Madonna on such a high pedestal, and she always wanted to be her best around the superstar, but there she was "a mess."
It was then that she knew she had to get her act together.
Young says Madonna never spoke about Young's drug use or behavior, but she eventually lost touch and wasn't working with Madonna for a while.
Young ended up in a rehabilitation program and went back to school to learn audio engineering. While Young thought her career was over, the classes opened her mind to other possibilities. It was around the same time that Madonna was releasing her album Madame X. Young reached out and Madonna allowed her to create the remix of "Crave."
She then won the Grammy for Best Remixed Recording, making history by doing so.
"It was kind of like a full-circle moment," Young says.
This year, she's up for her remix of k.d. lang's "Constant Craving." It was the same friend who connected her to Madonna that connected her to lang.
"Her voice is just angelic and ... she's such an awesome person ... I can't even explain to you how it's almost like I'm high without the drugs," Young says. "This is the best time."
Young is also just happy to be nominated again so soon after her first Grammy win.
"I've already won because I'm able to do what I love and make a living doing it," Young says. "I'm in a clear head and I'm making good, clear choices, and ... I've been recognized by my peer group. It's really given me a lot of confidence again."