Miss Florence Ifeoluwa Otedola, popularly known as DJ Cuppy, is one of the few Nigerian female Disc Jockeys. The second daughter of Nigerian billionaire, Femi Otedola, DJ Cuppy spent most of her life in London, United Kingdom only returning to Nigeria to partake of the booming music market. In this interview with Newton-Ray Ukwuoma, the graduate of Music Business (MA) shares some of her aspirations, challenges and ambitions for the music industry. Excerpts:
In Green Light, your new song, why did you choose to collaborate with Tekno?
When I decided to move back to Nigeria, one of the things I wanted to do was to make my own original sound. I have been working as a DJ for a long time in London. I chose Tekno because he is always making great music. He is very talented. Tekno is an amazing creative that I value a lot. He and I have always wanted to work together, and this happened to be the project. I am really proud of the outcome. I think it is a great song. We wrote and produced it together. I am very excited that in just three weeks, the song had hit one million views on Youtube.
Has anyone asked why the song is entitled, Green Light?
Yes. Green Light typifies Go in traffic parlance. It signifies for me an indication of moving forward. I am using Green Light to represent the next level of my career, from DJ to a performing artiste. Everyone knows DJ Cuppy, but this song is a change in my position. I am an artiste now.
Does it mean you no longer wanted to be known as DJ Cuppy?
No. I am still foremost a Deejay. My long term goal is to remain a DJ. However, my plan is to do my own music and infuse it into my set.
You recently performed the song during Falz’s Birthday?
Yes. It was wonderful. I am looking to perform it on more platforms.
In 2013, you did a song, “I love my country.” In relation to Green Light, which is the first?
I Love My Country was a song I came out with. It was a remix. Green Light is my first original song. I Love My Country was a song by Tunji Oyelana and it was a house remix. That was the way I entered into the music market. Looking up, I feel that that project was very impactful because it was very patriotic. But Green Light is the sound I came up with because it is Afro beats.
Is it possible to link the theme of patriotism in the two songs?
Yea. I truly love Nigeria, I love my country, what can I say?
What is the unique thing about being a DJ?
As a DJ, we get more opportunities to express ourselves more than the artistes using wide range of songs and sounds. I feel like we get to have my cake and eat it too. I can play other people’s songs and I can play my own songs. I have more control over my creativity. I have a lot more catalogue. Artistes perform only their songs even though there are other songs they would have loved to perform. A DJ can get away with using other people’s songs.
The BBC documentary of you puts you on the spot light internationally. Has it helped your career?
I did a documentary for Channel 4, not BBC. It was called,“Lagos to London”. It was a long term project where they followed me alongside other Nigerians. It was a big piece broadcast globally. It helped me not only in Nigeria, but also in London.
I became known in London because a lot more people stopped me on the streets of London. I was happy that they showed that Nigerians speak well and are mostly educated, that we are not living in mud huts. Because I watch TV in the UK and every single time there is the advert about how we Africans are carrying water naked and living in shanty homes. So, it was important for people to understand that there is a new generation of Africans that are educated and well-spoken and skilful. But I wasn’t happy that the documentary kind of showed that I didn’t take my job seriously, that I was just doing DJ for the fun of it, that I was just some rich kid that just gets things easily. But I take my job very seriously.
Not many people saw it that way?
Oh! That is amazing! I am glad not many people saw it that way. I did a lot of things in that documentary. I took the crew to Epe where I am from; I did a lot of school visits, but these sides were not in the documentary. They just decided not to show the grassroots. But I am very glad not many people saw it the way I did because that is going to help me. I felt it was the perception people have of me. I say it now because I really take my job seriously and I put in a lot of work and effort.
Are you making money from DJ or are you a starving artiste?
That is a great question [Smiles]. I am making money. But as to whether I am running on profit that I can’t answer.
What would you have done without the help of your father?
I do not shy away from the fact that my father helps me. When I was younger and less confident, I used to wonder why everyone is asking about it. Actually, I am really proud of being associated with him. He is a great guy, he is an entrepreneur. He has helped me not only financially, but also morally. He is a great dad, he tells me when I am right and wrong. However, as far as my career is concerned, being Otedola’s daughter has created a lot curiosity. If I wasn’t my father’s daughter, I feel like I would still have my skill set; I would still be just as passionate; but people would probably be a bit less curious.
Now, people just want to know what I am about because I am Femi Otedola’s daughter. And they can easily say, “She is not that good” just because she is Otedola’s daughter. I have had people come up to me and be like, “You are nothing like I thought you will be.” People are more prone to assume anything about me. I could do a really good DJ stuff, but because someone may have had a problem with my dad they may not just be happy about my work. They already decided that I am a bad DJ.
In an interview in 2014, you said people should not look at your father, but should look at your talent. Has that perception changed?
I feel like it is changing with Green Light, for example. Being able to produce my own song and the song is a good song, working with someone like Tekno instead of Davido shows that I am a credible musician. Yes, my father may be who he is, but I understand and can make good music. So, I don’t think anyone would like Green Light because it is a Femi Otedola’s daughter’s song. I feel like the perceptions are changing.
Recently your sister, Tolani, introduced herself to the music industry with a new single. Any chance of working together with her?
Yes, my sister Tolani just launched her music career. She is my older sister and I am very excited for her. She has been doing music for a while, but the whole world has finally gotten to hear her. And as far as doing music together, I definitely think that we will. As you can guess, our house is never quiet. My father has got GTO fashion, who is the youngest girl. She has her fashion blog. He’s got Cuppy, who is a DJ and now, he’s got Tolani who is a singer. I would like to do something with Tolani. My younger sister, Temi, and I have done a lot of things together. I think it will be great to do something with my older sister.
DJ Jimmy Jatt more or less began the collaboration between DJ and artistes. What is your take on that?
Uncle Jimmy has been a father figure for all Nigerian DJs. And it is amazing what he did because with him came a crop of new DJs like Neptune, Xclusive, Spinall. There are so many DJs doing amazing things. For me, it is important I create my own path. I didn’t come out like saying, “DJ Cuppy”, I am literally singing. I want Cuppy to be that DJ that pushed the buttons; that did different things especially for young people. I am turning 25 in a week’s time and it is such a pinnacle point in my career where I have got to make sure that all the things I want to do, I am doing them now. I want Cuppy to be that brand that did things differently.
Who inspires you?
Every successful person I have met has different role models. You have to surround yourself with different types of people and pick the good and leave the bad.
From whom did you get the love for music from?
Showbiz and music has always been a big part of my growing up. My dad loves music. I think in the past, he did something with Shina Peters. Music has been something we loved. Whether listening to music in the car or going to concerts, we were almost into music. My dad used to tell me stories about when he used to go to the shrine. Fela has always been my favourite artiste. While getting educated, I used music as a way of having fun. When I moved abroad, I used to listen to Nigerian music to make me feel better being in the cold. Yes, to answer your question directly, love for music came from home.
How long do you intend to do music and since the family business is big, which of you would be paying attention to your father’s businesses?
I am turning 25. I still consider myself a young person. Yes, I have to make some decisions and I have to think about the future. I feel like I have more to offer music wise: whether that means for me to do one album full of good songs or drop an EP. Green Light has been very well received. I think it shows that I have a lot of potentials. I feel the need to drop one EP or Album that has a body of great work. On the other sides, I have been involved in my father’s business on many levels. If I wasn’t a DJ, I would be an oil trader in an office complaining of how boring it is, but probably making more money than I do now. But for me, I put happiness over money any day. However, I would love to get involved in renewable energy someday.