The Chronicles of Celebrity Super-Diva DJ Cuppy. Remember we told you to expect this! Here it is… DJ Cuppy is a female international DJ from Nigeria. In 2014, she was the resident DJ at the MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMA) in Durban. She then played at the Tatler and Christie’s Art Ball in London and at the Financial Times Luxury Summit in Mexico City.
In July 2014, she released House of Cuppy, her first compilation mix in both London and Lagos. She then had a launch for House of Cuppy in New York City in September 2014. She also launched the music management and content production business, Red Velvet Music Group, in 2014.
In January 2015, she was featured on the cover of the Guardian Life as a new generation African woman. Also, in March 2015, she was the official DJ for the 2015 Oil Barons Charity in Dubai, and the first African act to have ever performed at the event. She was featured in the 2015 April/May issue of Forbes Woman Africa. She was once an intern at Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. DJ Cuppy describes her sound as “Neo-Afrobeats” which is a fusion of Electro house and Afrobeats. In April 2014, DJ Cuppy was appointed by Nigeria’s ex-Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation as the tourism ambassador for the country’s “Fascinating Nigeria” campaign.
We were able to catch up with DJ Cuppy despite her very busy schedule and she spent some time telling us about how she got into deejaying, her journey so far, tips, tricks and a peep into the future.
- Tell us how and when you got into deejaying. Who or what were your early influences and passions?
I got into deejaying at a very young age when I was about 16 years old. As a teenager, I was in London. I was going out, learning new things and having new experiences. So, I used that as an opportunity to explore and discover. I also noticed the power of DJs and the control they had over the crowd.
My early influences were young international DJs in London. I left Nigeria when I was about 12 years old. So, as a teenager between the ages of 12 and 16 I found myself using music as a way of getting settled in the new environment. So, 16 years old was when I really got into deejaying and I started falling in love with it.
- Did you ever think you would be a deejay as a child / If you were not a deejay what profession would you have considered?
I didn’t every think I’d be a DJ. No, I don’t think a lot of DJs plan to be DJs. What most of us have in common is a love for music. If I were not a DJ, I would probably be an oil trader. I think that is the direction my life was heading towards. After studying Economics for my bachelor’s degree, I was doing a lot of internship in oil trading companies and that is the field and doctrine of my dad’s business but it turns out I have gone towards music and I love it.
- Tell us about the most incisive moment of your deejaying career?
I think it depends, when it comes to deejaying there are a lot of different ways in which we have experiences and we learn things. For me, that is the beauty of my job. That is the beauty of it. I think the most incisive moment would be when I deejayed for the MAMAs and I decided that, this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life because of the feeling I got. Being able to control the crowd on such a global Pan-African platform was phenomenal. I mean I was just 18 at that time and I was there representing Africa and the world. It was phenomenal.
- What are currently your main challenges as a DJ?
My main challenge as a DJ is pretty much the same challenge that other female DJs face. We are often underestimated. We have to work twice as hard to get half as much done but I am definitely up to the task.
- What do you usually start with when preparing for a set?
It depends, I like to know the crowd that I am dealing with. I think it is really important. I feel that, if you fail to prepare then you are preparing to fail, so I am always very well planned. I like to have an interesting setup, I like my set to tell a story. So, I have a very unpredictable beginning and then I shock my listeners by playing some throw-back records or records you have not heard in a long time.
- What makes you decide to play a particular record during one of your sets?
Well, when I am playing, I definitely go with the vibe. I love music, so I often just feed off my own experience. And of course, I try to please the crowd. So that is the way I decide to play a particular record during my set. I think it depends on; where I am playing at and the setup. My best gigs and my best sets are sets where I was completely organic and I just vibed with the crowd.
- DJing, playing live and producing have moved closer together than ever before, allowing DJs to tweak a track down the littlest detail. How do you make use of these innovations in your sets and is there a benefit?
Its really exciting how innovative deejaying and music industry is, it is really exciting. I think DJs are now are viewed as ‘creatives’ and not only just performers I definitely use that to take advantage of putting emphasis on the art of creativity. I take advantage of that. Sometimes, I find myself in the studio; find myself working with other known ‘creatives’ that are also DJs. It is very exciting.
- Do you feel a crowd is actually able to appreciate the intricacies of complex DJing, if they don’t actually know what, precisely, is happening behind the decks?
Yes, I think it is difficult. These days, the crowd does not really appreciate the intricacies of deejaying. Especially as there are so many DJs now and deejaying has been simplified. There is technology that makes these things easier but at the same time I think a lot of people can tell a good DJ from a bad DJ, which is great.
- Do you believe in the possibility of “reading an audience” – and how do you put it into practise?
Reading an audience is important though difficult. I feel it is such an important trait though it is relatively difficult to quantize. I think every DJ should know their demographics, the mood they are trying to evoke, they should be well informed and there should give a little bit of room for organic (organic changes). I do not believe in just playing the bogus records and that is it. I believe in also challenging people’s ears, so you must read an audience but you must also inspire them and challenge them.
- In how much, do you feel, is the club experience shaped by cultural differences? Do you, when travelling, take these cultural differences into consideration – and in how far has your approach as a DJ perhaps even benefited from playing in different countries and in front of different crowds?
It is really exciting traveling around the world. That is one of the best things about my job. I know so many experiences that are shaped by cultural differences. When I deejay in different countries, I definitely have different approaches and I definitely get different levels of appreciation as well. So, I am mindful of the fact that, for example, when I am playing in Nigeria (home-sweet-home) there is a certain approach and a certain energy level I need to create while when I deejay in places like Europe its very different and the crowd is naturally motivated by the environment not only by the music. So it really does depend.
- Will you like to share a few of your secret tricks with us?
Some of my secret tricks include nuggets. Nuggets are those tracks that I always have on my playlist. I know they are bangers and they are not always just current tracks, they are timeless. Timeless-golden nuggets. So always have nuggets ready. Always have them there, just in case something happens and you need to whoop them out and always make sure you are keeping the energy level high.
Another trick is; I always arrive as early as I can before my set, to read the crowd. I’d have a nice drink while I study the crowd. I try to understand what they want and what they do not want. In my case, I often do main set so I’d go check out what the warm up DJ is playing in order to understand better what the crowd wants and what they do not want.
- What is one mistake you see a lot of upcoming DJs making? / What advice would you give to aspiring DJs?
Big mistakes I see a lot of upcoming DJs making are; trying to get into it too quickly, trying to get to the big records, spinning too fast, feeling that they need to pick really quick which actually means that the journey for the consumer and for the listener is just limited. It is really important that some of these DJs (and this is an issue I have had before) take their time to really understand and allow listeners to have an experience.
- Where do you think the scene is headed? One year from now? Five years from now?
I think the DJ scene is getting bigger and better, and I think it is an exciting time. I think that for DJs we are now known as ‘creatives’. So I think we are now going to see more DJs do exciting things, become big artistes, big ‘creatives’ and big creators of music.
- How can we move deejaying forward in Nigeria just like the music, movies and entertainment industry? What do we need to do, to get investors to put in more funds into deejaying?
Well, as far as providing a stable positioning for deejaying in Nigeria is concerned, I think we just need to support our DJs more. Our DJs as well, need to push themselves a bit more. I think it is such an exciting time and the DJs must take on the task ahead of adding value to the industry.
Credit: Wikipedia, Red Velvet Music Group, Cuppy Music, DJ Cuppy