Seldom do we cross paths with billionaires’ kids who get unfettered approval from their parents to explore an enterprise as showbiz. You would typically assume that all the fuss about Florence Ikeoluwa Otedola is because she is daughter of oil and gas magnate, Femi Otedola. But you would be wrong because DJ Cuppy, as she’s known in the showbiz industry, is no dilettante on the turntable. The 21-year-old speaks to LANRE ODUKOYA about her career, dream and family.
A SELF PORTRAIT
I’m a disc jockey, a songwriter and a producer. I’ve just recently taken it to a professional level after I graduated from King’s College, UK.
So, I can do this full time. Now, I’m making sure I do things to a very professional degree. I realised that if your dream is to grow your art into a brand, you must do things in ways that are properly structured especially in Nigeria and when you speak of Nigeria, you’re speaking of Africa.
My dreams are bigger than me and they are all very exciting. I started ‘disc jockeying’ when I was about 16 years old. I got a deck and I’ve always loved music and I also had academics to balance as well.
So, it was about prioritising things and education is key to fulfilling these dreams. I’m also very passionate about young people. So, when I see young people watch me do what I do and come to tell me, ‘you’re a great example’, I feel so honoured.
As I think of acquiring education, I think of family life and I also think in direction of my company which is into publishing and management. Cuppy is just the baby of the company and it’s the first brand. I have a 10-year long plan to grow to be someone who is the pioneer of a new movement not only for females and the young, but to Nigerians generally.
I’ve just launched my new compilation which is called House of Cuppy. I’m 21 years old and I’ve been a DJ for five years.
But professionally, I would say I got involved in music a year ago when I launched my debut single titled, I Love My Country.
It’s an original song by Tunji Oyelana which was written by Wole Soyinka. It was commercially released in July, 2013.
And it was debut single for sale and has its music video. It’s a revival of the old song. I’ve lived half my life in Nigeria and the other half in the UK, so, I reflect both cultures in my music.
There’s a music genre called ‘House’ and I’m passionate about it so much that when I’m in London I take it and a piece of Nigerian music with me and I constantly play them. I make the fusion with other kinds of music which makes me unique as a DJ.
TAKING THE BILLIONAIRE’S DAUGHTER SERIOUSLY
It’s true that some people just think that, ‘how do I contract a billionaire’s daughter to play for me?’ And the truth is that I understand where that feeling is coming from. People do make assumptions.
There are times when I go to a venue with my general manager and they look at him straight and say, ‘okay, the DJ’s here’.
They’d assume the DJ should be the guy and that’s because there are just a few female DJs around. People don’t even expect females in that career.
Do people expect me to be a DJ? No. Do I know my job and do it well? Yes.
To be honest with you, I’m mostly very busy. And that’s maybe because I put 101 percent in everything I do.
To me, what is worth doing is what doing well. Same explains why I put my all into whatever I do.
I don’t like too many projects at a time so that I can concentrate on one and deliver it perfectly. We’re more than halfway through the year and I’m already working on a project for next year.
HOW I DID THE TUNJI OYELANA SONG
What I did was just to sample the chorus of I Love My Country and it’s only that part because I feel it’s a very powerful song. I delivered the song in House/Techno music style and it makes it impressively unique.
I think because of globalization, Nigerians are more open to new sounds and for me it was g e t – ting something that is very Nigerian and making it become something everyone around the world can listen to. And in my new project, House of Cuppy, that’s the same thing I did.
I got five of my favourite Nigerian songs and interpreted them in my own way with a different sound. That’s the same way I got the fusion of Afrobeat and House.
HOW I’D MAKE HOUSE MUSIC WORK IN NIGERIA LIKE HIP-HOP
It’s something that’s going to be a journey just like every other thing. If you look at old music in Nigeria, you’d see different influences from different genres.
So, Nigerian music itself is not the same that we saw back in the days, naturally, we’re coming to terms with the new waves of sounds going around because musically is something people socialise with universally.
CONTENT OF MY LONG TERM PLAN
As far as Nigerian musical content is concerned, I feel that there’s so much potentials on global scale. I’m a Nigerian bringing different sounds to Nigeria and I also want to take Nigerian sounds to other places that have different sounds.
With my job, I get so fortunate because I’m always travelling around and I think we underestimate the power of music. If we look at the population we have in Nigeria and how no matter where you go certain songs are prevalent and how people really use music as a way to interact, you’d appreciate it more.
In the long run, I would love to have a business that gives opportunities to African artists on global platform. I’m not talking about the cliché record companies having sorts of music group per se.
It’s like having stuffs like publishing rights, having writers and producers particularly. In these modern days, I can see the DJs and producers being more prevalent.
If you look at the Nigerian industry, you’d see that DJs, producers and songwriters are now being recognised. These were people who were previously known to be behind the artists.
So, I think moving forward, there’s going to be a lot of changes in the industry.
When I look at the business side, it’s great that I have a talent but how does it get commercialised? How does one do it properly as a business? One has to look at how the industry is going with professionals trying to get their works protected from pirates.
I’m actually doing my Master’s degree in music business in New York City. I’m looking forward to learning how to monitor sales, the legal sides of entertainment and the rest because a lot of music talents are wasting because their contents are not protected at all.
My 10-year plan will form a legacy to frame the Nigerian music industry to be one that is very lucrative.
HOW MY PARENTS REACTED TO MY CAREER CHOICE
I have to say that I’m very lucky because I have the most supportive parents in the world. I think generally, what stops a lot of young people from following their passion is not having support.
I mean moral support not necessarily financial. My parents push me to be a better person and be myself.
I feel very fortunate to have parents that believe in me and are challenging me constantly.
BETWEEN MY DAD’S WEALTH AND MY CAREER
I know that quite often people get distracted by the background information they have about me. So, when I make any success, they’d tie it to my dad’s wealth.
Here I am following my dream doing a very exciting project yet it’s shadowed by my family life.
It’s quite difficult to convince people that I’m doing this without reliance on my dad’s mega influence. But I think time tells it all and talent and passion will speak.
I’m a very honest person and I hope people start identifying only with what I do and how passionate I am about what I do. In life, we all have different platforms, big or small, it depends.
Everyone has their personal battles too and maybe this is mine. But it’s how you deal with it.
Do I go to my job and do it well? This kind of questions always creeps through me constantly.
You might get opportunities based on different things, but that can only take you as far as it can and after a while, if you are not good at what you do, you’d have nothing left.
MY OUTING AT THE MTV MUSIC AWARDS
I was actually honoured to be the resident DJ for the MTV African Awards this year and it was such an amazing gig. It was very interesting because they approached and said, ‘we love what you’re doing especially with the House music’.
Talking about different sounds in Africa, House music is very big in South Africa. We see it constantly slipping into the Nigerian music industry and Nigerian music is also very big in South Africa. So, we can see the synergy across the continent.
With the job I do, I get to do different things; I’ve done awards, weddings, birthdays and I did a show for the Financial Times in Mexico which was absolutely fantastic.
My job keeps me on my toes as I get to do different things while I learn on the job.
HOW ‘DJ CUPPY’ BECAME MY SHOWBIZ MONIKER
It came from the word ‘Cup Cake’. I decided to be called ‘DJ Cup Cake’ because when I was 15, I was absolutely obsessed with cup cakes and I love baking as well.
I think it was more or less a girly thing. So, when at 16 it was time to choose a stage name, I chose DJ Cup Cake but I also asked myself, ‘do I want to be called DJ Cup Cake when I’m in my 20s? No.
Naturally, friends were calling also sorts of names from that pronunciation and that was how Cuppy stuck.
FAMILY LIFE AND CAREER
I don’t think marriage later would conflict with my job. Even with the job everyone else does, there’s the work line balance, to be honest, I’m not good at considering that yet.
If I’m not working, I’m thinking about working and that comes from the pressure of always having school and music to worry about.
I’m not just a DJ, I own a music company and it requires me to be wearing different hats at different times.
Sometimes I’m DJ Cuppy, other times I’m the head of my company and there are times I’m a student.
I also find time when I am just that 21-year-old who doesn’t know what to do, but somehow I find balance of everything.
As for settling down in the long run, it’s something I’m looking forward to but I’ve just started something really massive and it’s important to focus for now.
I’m dedicating my time to the project now and every other thing will come later.
SHINING IN A MALE DOMINATED INDUSTRY
Being in a male dominated industry can actually can be very difficult at times but it makes me very comfortable with myself and I feel quite confident. No intimidation whatsoever on my part. It makes me just fight a bit harder.
MY UNSUNG PASSION
If I wasn’t into music, I would have been a lawyer. I love law especially entertainment law.
Growing up was absolutely colourful because I was a very playful and naughty child. I loved to always ask question because I was intrigued by things. I was very energetic.
In fact, I turned our living room into a studio. I grew up on the Mainland at Ikeja G.R.A., Lagos and I remember my childhood with a lot of fondness.
FIRST CAREER FANTASY
I wanted to be a banker because I would pick papers and cut them to look like money and I would be playing a banker with my sister.
MY DEAL WITH QUILOX
PUB The re-launch of Quilox was fantastic and I was privileged to be their guest DJ that night. But concerning doing regular gigs there, I would be living in New York but I would be in Lagos nearly every month because I an ongoing project back in Lagos. So, I won’t be gone for too long and you won’t have to miss me too much.