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DJ Xclusive: A Different Kind of DJ

Thursday April 12 2012    |     Views: 3684    |     Comments: 0   |     Print    Bookmark and Share

He’s not your regular kind of disc jockey. He doesn’t braid his hair or rock dreadlocks; he doesn’t sag his pants or wear his cap backwards. In fact, you might mistake him for a CEO of a start-up. Clean shaven and soft spoken, he’s the hottest DJ rocking your favourite spots right now. If he’s not performing as Wizkid’s official DJ, he’s doing the Party Club Mix on 96.9 Cool FM. In the uptown ambience of the Matisse Restaurant, Shile Shonoiki speaks to the legend in the making: DJ Xclusive.

Compared to being a DJ in the UK, how has it been being a DJ in Nigeria?
It’s a challenge, compared to being a DJ in the UK, as a matter of fact, across the world. I have deejayed in different places: in New York, Monaco, Paris, and of course London. It’s different especially when you’re catering to the Nigerian crowd. It’s challenging; it has its ups and downs but I loved coming back here to DJ in Nigeria. I think it’s not as difficult as what I would have expected because I’m always coming back to Nigeria for holidays at Christmas. And what we do here is the same thing we do in London; the only difference is in Nigeria the songs are more current. In London, you could still hear songs like Bracket’s "Yori Yori" or Mukulu. You know, all those kinds of old school songs. But here, you don’t really hear songs like that; it’s proper correct jams. Again I think Nigerians here don’t have patience compared to the Nigerians in the UK. Here they want the heavy jams; in London you have to build up your night. You can’t just come to the club and just start with a song like Davido’s Damiduro. There, they want you to take them on a journey, right from the beginning to the end. But here, you can just go in immediately.  So, it’s different. But as a DJ, you really have to understand the crowd wherever you go, which is what I’ve been doing. So coming back here has been beautiful. It’s a challenge but I'm loving it.

What influenced your decision to come back here?
I was in the UK for 11 years. I studied in the UK, where I got my degree in Financial Computing. I’ve worked, I’ve done a proper 9-5 job. So, in terms of coming back here, I thought I needed a new challenge. In the course of being outside the country, I’ve made some achievements, such as winning awards; the NEA, for best DJ award, which took place in New York in 2010, and the Lovers Ball Best Nigerian Hiphop DJ, which was in new York as well in 2010. So, coming back here I wanted a different challenge. Since I came here, I’ve been a radio DJ on 96.9 Cool FM, which for me is an achievement. It’s something I’ve always wanted to be into. At the same time, I'm also with EME Music as Wizkid’s official DJ. So, I think one can also make money here. There, the weather is cold and the pound is tough!

Being a successful DJ, do you think you wasted time in school studying something completely different?
I think first thing first in life, you always need to have education. In anything you do, even if you want to be a carpenter, at least have some form of education. I don’t think my degree was wasted. I think I’m actually using my degree right now, because I have my business skills and I involve it with my deejaying. My DJ is a brand and I believe I have to market it in a certain way, and that comes with the skills from the degree. I’m happy with what I’ve achieved in terms of school. When people look at me, they don’t even know I’m a DJ. I don’t look, I don’t dress, I don’t even sound like one, and that’s the education part of the DJ. I just feel in Nigeria when you say you are a DJ, people automatically say you are a drop-out or you are a criminal, or that you didn’t go to school. I’m one of the lucky guys; at least I have to say I went to school and had a degree, and that’s what I’m implementing now in my DJ work.

Is the Nigerian party scene vibrant enough for DJs to get constant jobs?
I think in this industry, once you get your name out there, there always be gigs. For example, like  Jimmy Jatt; he can’t tell me right now that he doesn’t have an event every weekend. It’s very hard to believe because he’s gotten his name out there and everything is going on fine. So as a DJ, from the start it’s hard because you need to get your name out there. Once your name is out there, I think the gigs will always be coming through week in week out. 

How did you get the deal with EME?
I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for me; I thank God. There are so many DJs out there that will kill to be in this position, so I’m not even taking it for granted. I’m always appreciative of it, and of course this is one of the top record labels out there right now. I always wanted to be affiliated with a record label, because a lot of the major plans I want to do, I believe I need a record label to back me up. And to me I think Wizkid is one of the biggest artistes in Nigeria. So it’s fun to be affiliated with him. It’s a dream come true, it’s amazing. I love his music. I’ve always been a fan of his music; I know most of his lyrics. When we are on stage performing, I even dance, sometimes forgetting that I’m meant to be working. I’ve known Wiz for like 3years now. I remember when "Holla at you boy" just came out, that’s when I really knew about him, and I liked him. Wiz caught my eyes with his dress code, his colourful watch, the whole Justin Beiber thing, and that was how I started talking to him. We had a show last year in London called "London Afrobeats Festival". I think the day we did the gig in London, Banky W was there as well, and every thing was sweet. We had a 2000 crowd that was there and everyone was crazy. I think that impressed him as well. He was happy with my performance. Then one day I got a call from the manager that he wants me to be the official DJ. I was shocked but I was happy. So in a nutshell, that’s how it happened and there’s no going back right now.

There seems to be a rather curious relationship between DJs and artistes. DJs help artistes blow up by playing their songs, but when these artistes become big, they completely forget the DJs! How do you handle this?
I’m so happy you asked me that question! You know, that’s one thing I’ve always been facing throughout my career and I’m not gonna lie or front because it’s an interview. I’ll be blunt: it’s very very ridiculous, it’s very annoying. I know a couple of artistes (I won’t mention names) that have changed in this way. They start disrespecting the DJ. Before they blew I remember they used to beg the DJ to play their song, but now and they changed. It has happened to me. When I was I London I knew a couple of artistes but back here in Nigeria, they are just acting silly. I always say one thing in life: you have to be humble; arrogance will not take you anywhere in life. If you want to do your research, a lot of artist that have gone down went down because they were too arrogant. Now they are trying to come back, begging everybody. You know, you once slapped us in our face. What do you want us to do? We should bring our faces for you to slap us again? To be honest, there’s no solution to these things. I have a couple of friends that are artistes and they are very grounded. The ones that don’t show me love, I don’t see any reason why I should show them love. Treat me good and I’ll treat you good. Like I said it’s not because of the interview; I’ll just be very honest, I think it’s just a very silly thing. Any artistes that do that, I don’t see them lasting so long in this game. One thing a certain DJ said, "artistes would come and go, the DJs will always stay." I guarantee you, in the next 10years if people should ask who DJ Xclusive is, he’d still be there. I have a very popular saying: “this is football, anything can happen.” There’s nothing we can do; it’s about the artistes’ personality. I think sometimes it gets in their head so much. They haven’t even blown up and they start acting silly. I think the women, the money, the crowd, get into their head and they just forget really who they were. As an artiste, you really have to remember: the fans are the ones that make you; without the fans there’s no you. So it’s a circle: the DJ, the artist, the fans. We all need each other; we all have to come together. It’s one circle

DJs on radios are quite a recent development. How does it feel being the pioneer DJ on Cool FM?
First thing first, let’s just give a big shout out to Cool FM 96.9. I think that’s the number 1 station in Nigeria, even in the world. I don’t think I am the pioneer; no, I don’t think so. I think before me, there have been other DJs. I mean Humility is still at rhythm, DJ Smooth is at Rhythm. I mean there are DJs everywhere. I don’t think I’m the pioneer DJ on radio but I think I am the first DJ to come to Cool FM. Like I told you, everything is changing these days. DJs are really coming out, showcasing their talent, and I’m happy to be on board with Cool FM. Before, callers would just call in and the OAPs would play the song. But now, we are try to make things sweet. We are try to change things around and I guess that’s what Cool FM wanted to do, to just spice things up. I do my show, Party Club Mix, Fridays and Saturdays from 8pm to 1am, and it’s a phenomenal show, it’s amazing. The feedback we get has been great, a lot of people tune in, and it makes me happy. I always say this, I’m just in one studio mixing, having fun and you have millions of people listening! So you right about that, Cool FM has given me a platform and opportunity to showcase my talent, not just to Lagos but to the world and I’m grateful for that. I think Cool FM is the best station. I can’t go anywhere else; I love the station with my heart and soul.

So, back to the origin. Who is DJ Xclusive and where did that name come from?
My real name is Rotimi Alakija. A lot of people thought I was Ugandan; some even think I’m from  Sudan. But I’m a Yoruba guy, from Nigerian.
“DJ Xclusive” came from a couple of my friends back in the university. In my hall of residence, I was always fond of downloading music. I always get my music first, so the guys were like “this guy is so exclusive! Your jams are always so exclusive! We should call you the hypnotic DJ Exclusive.”  I was like that was long! You could bite your tongue pronouncing, so we shortened it to DJ Exclusive. It nice, but when we wrote it down I didn’t like the way it was spelt. I thought it was spelt in an unsexy way, so I got rid of the “e”at the beginning and that was it. So from there it was all home and dry. Then someone was like, if you’ve got to be exclusive, you have to be exclusive with everything: your swag, packaging, your yarns. So the name came from a friend of mine. I started using it in 2003; I’ve been in the game for 9 years now and I’m still pushing.

Like Jimmy Jatt and David Guetta, do you plan to release an album?
I’m sure you know my answer: “this is football, anything can happen!” I mean, shout out to Jimmy Jatt. He deserves to release an album, as in he’s been in the game. He is a respected guy, so he deserves all of that. Hmmm am I going to? I don’t know; right now I’m into Cool FM and EME.  I’m focusing on 96.9. I’m focusing on Wizkid. So an album? I don’t know, like I said “It’s football, anything can happen.” James Bond can come back and rap, so I could do it. I might not do it, I don’t know. I’m just enjoying the moment, enjoying Naija. I’m enjoying it right now, so I don’t know. Let’s see what happens.

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