In 2003, Mercado left the Philippines and moved to Los Angeles. She began working as a word processor and a proofreader at an escrow company. Like most young people grinding in the office life, she constantly had music playing in her headphones to help the day pass. Noticing her passion for music, a coworker put Mercado onto imeem, a now-defunct social networking site that allowed users to interact by sharing music and music videos. She began posting under the handle “Kronika”, a tag she kept from her early days as a young Counter-Strike player, and started to develop a following. “I started making playlist after playlist for my own listening pleasure.” Mercado explained, “I uploaded almost 10,000 tracks!”
When imeem shut down in 2009, (“I LOST ALL MY TRACKS!” exclaimed Mercado) most of its users, jumped ship to a new music-sharing platform, Soundcloud. Here, Mercado found a new home to upload mixes that she made using a program called, Virtual DJ. “Honestly I was one of those bedroom DJs, I had my laptop and that’s it,” she recalled. “ My mixes were noob. They weren’t blended well because I didn’t know how to mix then.” Despite whatever technical flaws the mixes had, Kronika’s selection and ear for quality music garnered her a following. It wasn’t long before websites and brands began tapping her for guest DJ mixes, expanding her profile. One of these first guest mixes was for Sticky Sugar Shack’s “Nothin’ But Butter” series, a “honeycomb of soulful classic grooves inspired by love, hustle and struggle”. The series featured DJs spinning soulful, jazz-inspired R&B and hip-hop. “That’s actually how I first met Joe,” she says, referring to Soulection founder Joe Kay. “I remember looking at the playlist for his guest mix and was like ‘This guy listens to the same shit I do!”’
During that time, Joe Kay was hosting Illvibes, a podcast started in his grandmother’s basement. Connected by a mutual friend, DJ Santana, she and Joe began trading music online and bumping into each other in the front row of shows around LA. It was during one of the legendary Boombox parties when Joe first approached her about his idea for Soulection, bringing together like-minded artists and DJs with a shared passion for soulful electronic music. “He came up like, ‘I have this thing I want to do and I want you to be a part of it!’ I think he was drunk, you know, yelling in my ears,” she says laughing. “’I didn’t really understand what he was saying, but I was like ‘Yeah!’” Soulection was still in its infancy. The crew was a trio, consisting of Joe Kay, 96 (artist Guillaume Bonte) and Andre Power. When Kronika joined, she was tasked with managing the group’s Facebook page. She and Joe would post tracks online and slowly build up Soulection’s fan base and web presence. “I remember our first Soulection night at Little Temple,” she recalls. “Only 30 people came out! ” Today, Soulection is a globally known brand, broadcasting to an audience of millions on Apple’s Beats 1 and making tour stops everywhere from London to Capetown.