DJ Cuppy is nicknamed the Princess of Afrobeat — and with good reason.
The Nigerian-born deejay is one of the continent’s top musical tastemakers, and Apple Music executives knew this when they gave her hosting duties of the streaming service’s first African radio show, “Africa Now Radio.”
Based on the recently launched Africa Now playlist, Cuppy’s show will showcase the latest African sounds, from amapiano and highlife, to house and kuduro, every Sunday. Since launching in late May, the bubbly and high energy Cuppy has already brought the likes of Nigerian powerhouse producer Kiddominant, Netflix’s Queen Sono star Pearl Thusi, South Africa’s Master KG as guests of the show.
“There’s been a revolution; our artists are taking things to the next level and the spotlight is on us now,” she says, from her Covid-19 perch in London. “It’s so beautiful to watch and even better to be a part of it. Raw and pure talent emerge daily further solidifying our position at the top.”
Of course, being the first African to host a radio show on Apple Music is new territory for Cuppy, but breaking boundaries is par of the course.
“Throughout my career as a DJ, I’ve had to deal with various social injustice but I’ve learnt to stay true to myself through it all,” said Cuppy, née Florence Ifeoluwa Otedola. “I never let negativity weigh me down; instead it fuels my determination to succeed. I’m unapologetically who I am.”
With her debut album on the way, learning to play the guitar, marching in Black Lives Matter protests in London, as well launching a brand new show, Cuppy talks to ESSENCE about staying busy and winning during the time of the global pandemic.
You’ve called your new show, which is Apple Music’s first African radio show, your “dream job.” Why is that?
DJ CUPPY: My new radio show means the WORLD to me, literally. Working with Apple Music on this special project has been the most amazing experience (and I’m just a few weeks in!). I’m so proud to be African and the core of my brand is to promote the continent’s culture. My new show allows me to continue being an advocate of what we Africans represent and shed light on our numerous creative talents. As a young Nigerian woman, being given the opportunity to host a global show that helps me do exactly that is a dream come true for me and honestly mind-blowing. I still pinch myself sometimes to confirm that this is real.
Is there pressure around being “the first”?
DJ CUPPY: Definitely! Being the first-ever African to have a radio show on Apple Music sure comes with a lot of pressure. To be honest, most of the pressure has been self-inflicted. I’m such a perfectionist and want to be the best at everything I do. I’m constantly brainstorming ideas to make things better, making sure that every episode is great and the following episode even greater. I want to make everyone at home be proud. With so much great new music across the African continent, it’s A LOT to cover in 1 hour.
How did the deal come together?
DJ CUPPY: I’ve always been an upholder of the African Culture. Promoting and pushing our music, potentials and talents has been deeply integrated in my Cuppy brand hence my nickname, ‘Princess of Afrobeat’. Africa Now Radio was a vision Apple has always had and we did a demo about a year ago and the team spent a lot of time developing it. So when I got the call this summer, I knew it wasn’t just a coincidence but a result of years of hard work.
What has been the response so far?
DJ CUPPY: The response has been beyond amazing! Since the launch of the show, I’ve gotten so much positive feedback and support from my fans, the Cupcakes, and industry friends. I feel like the whole of Africa is behind me and I’m definitely going to make the continent proud. An important agenda for me is to take the World to Africa; my show allows curious people to learn what we Africans have to offer. Every time someone adds the ‘Africa Now’ playlist is a chance to delve into a new world that they never knew existed.
For many worldwide, their most consistent interaction with the continent is through its music. Why then is Apple Music’s decision to launch this show important?
DJ CUPPY: It’s phenomenal how Afrobeats is taking over the world. Music lovers from all over the world can attest to the fact that the African sound is unique and are beginning to appreciate it. There’s been a revolution; our artists are taking things to the next level and the spotlight is on us now. It’s so beautiful to watch and even better to be a part of it. Raw and pure talent emerge daily further solidifying our position at the top. I foresee a huge inflow of global investment into the African creative scene, I mean we’re already seeing it. Look at my radio show! Inevitably more to come from other industries.
There’s been a revolution; African artists are taking things to the next level and the spotlight is on us now. It’s so beautiful to watch and even better to be a part of it.DJ Cuppy
I’ve heard rumors that we might be hearing original music from you in the near future. Might we be getting a DJ Cuppy album this year?
DJ CUPPYY: I’ll be releasing my debut album titled Original Cuppy this year. I worked tirelessly on this project with some of the world’s most gifted artists and created a timeless masterpiece. I’m very excited about it and cannot wait to share it with the world. Ahhh!
You recently marched during the Black Lives Matter protests in London, saying “I honestly thought of SO many reasons to NOT protest, but the truth is I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t go and support!” Can you speak more about that?
DJ CUPPY: I was honestly skeptical about the possible violence that could arise during the protest, but I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t get involved. So, I got up and went. With no regrets. At the age of 13, my parents uprooted me from Nigeria to move to the U.K, where I got thrown straight into boarding school. My first few years away from home were tough, I went from seeing only people of the same skin color as me (in Nigeria) to frequently being the only black person around. I remember getting picked on at school for having different hair to everyone else, being the last to get chosen during sports games, and even being told my accent was ‘weird.’ I look back at those experiences now I realize that things haven’t necessarily improved. I have been booked to perform at venues where promoters have refused to let me in the venue and later realizing that I was the DJ! So I felt that it was important for me to join the protest and be part of a movement to incite change in the world.
You have had to contend with racism, ageism and sexism as a DJ. Where or what do you turn to overcome those difficult times?
DJ CUPPY: Throughout my career as a DJ, I’ve had to deal with various social injustice but I’ve learned to stay true to myself through it all. Being a female in a male-dominated industry, I’ve had to kick down doors and work twice as hard. Also, being a Black entertainer, I’ve come to discover the truly perceived disparity between skin colors. I never let negativity weigh me down; instead, it fuels my determination to succeed. I’m unapologetically who I am.
Who is on constant repeat on your playlist right now?
DJ CUPPY: I cannot get enough of Fireboy he is such diverse talent! Also, my sister Tolani is one to look out for.
Finally, where and how have you been spending your quarantine?
DJ CUPPY: I. Am. Buzzing. During this time, I have been in London with my family; this has to be the longest I’ve sat in the same country for years. Honestly speaking, it’s been challenging adjusting to the present reality especially because I am an extrovert and I really do thrive on social interactions as a creative. Luckily, I’ve had to find ways to stay productive and still work on achieving my goals for the year despite the numerous restrictions.
For example, I’ve had multiple Instagram live DJ sessions, been part of various initiatives for positive change, learned to play the guitar, completed my debut album, and also land a dream job with Apple! Not too shabby huh? Yes, the highlight of quarantine is DEFFO the launch of my brand-new radio show on Apple Music, ‘Africa Now Radio with Cuppy.’ Regardless of what’s going on around the world, my positive mindset hasn’t changed.
Paula Rogo (@kalibawse) is a Nairobi-based writer and digital producer.Share :