Celebrity DJ Kiss is setting herself up for three careers in the music industry. At 14, she knew she wanted a career in entertainment and sought out one as a rapper. When she was 19, she decided to learn how to deejay. By the time she turned 22, she had won the award for female DJ of the year and become a personality in the music industry. Kiss is a 25-year-old DJ, and in today’s episode of The Elevator, she talks about learning to be a DJ and the journey to becoming an all-round international entertainer.
When did you notice your interest in music?
When I was about eight, I developed the habit of coming home early after school to listen to music. Watching music videos made me happy. At that time, African Prime, Galaxy TV and STV were reigning.
Did you know what you wanted to be?
I wanted to become an engineer, but I didn’t like maths so that dream died fast. By the time I was in SS 1, I became famous in my class for my rapping skills. In SS 2, I asked my mum for money to record some of my songs and she gave it to me. I made the songs but didn’t do anything with them until after secondary school in 2012.
What happened in 2012?
I met a popular Lagos DJ on Facebook. I told him I was a rapper and sent him my songs. He liked them and started inviting me to perform at shows.
What about school?
I gained admission to the University of Ilorin to study English. But instead of reading Shakespeare’s poetry, I was busy trying to build my music career. LOL. I rapped at my hostel party, at my faculty dinner and other school events in my first year.
In 200 level, I slowed down to chase a different kind of career in the entertainment industry.
Why the change?
I decided to learn DJing. I was inspired by a DJ that lived in my hostel. Anytime I heard music playing from his room, I’d go there to watch him work. After watching for a while, I saved money to buy a laptop and asked him to teach me. I also asked my mum to send the sound system we had at home. She did, and that’s how I started practising to be a DJ. This was in 2015.
After a few months, I called another DJ I knew that played at clubs. I told him I had been learning but I wanted to take my skills to a professional level. He invited me to his club. I sacrificed so many nights to watch him play. I particularly loved that he played old school music because I am a sucker for it. I watched him for two months and then, I started playing at the club too.
Nice. How long did you work there?
Four months. In 2017, I decided that I deserved more so I left for another club. It was a better opportunity because I got to meet a lot of people and got gigs outside of the club. But I didn’t get paid for months.
In 2018, I won the Esteem Nigeria Youth award for female DJ of the year. I also won the DJ Neptune DJ challenge, which was a nationwide competition for emerging DJs. I was on the lineup for every party in Ilorin. Then I started getting more gigs across the country. I played at mainland and island block party in Lagos every month. I also worked with brands like Jameson and Martell. I loved travelling so it was nice until COVID 19 hit in 2020.
Ah, that. How did the pandemic affect your work?
During the lockdown, I released a lot of mixtapes and got to connect with more people because everyone was at home. I also made a lot of reels. This helped with my visibility online. In May 2020, I got a job at a private lounge. You had to be a member to gain access to the lounge. I worked only at night plus there was a ride to drop me off. It was great.
In March 2021, I met Remi Burgz, a DJ and radio personality in London, on Clubhouse and he selected me for BBC 1Xtra London’s Africa 360 project. It felt good to be recognised internationally. I continued making my videos online and working at the lounge until July 2021, when places started opening up fully and events returned. Since then, I have been freelancing. In December 2021, I got to play at DJ Spinall’s Livespot concert. It was great exposure for me and it made me feel really good to perform in front of a crowd as big as that. It means I’m getting to the peak of my career.
Love that for you. What does being at the top of your career?
Being a successful artist and DJ who has access to whatever she wants, becoming a producer, working with the top artists in the industry across the world, putting out a lot of projects that people enjoy and selling out my own concerts.
Essentially, becoming an all-around international entertainer?
Yes, becoming a producer is like adding a master’s degree to my DJ and rapping skills. It’s the missing piece to my equation. After I get there, I’ll consider myself to be at the peak of my career.
Hope you get there someday. What’s it like being a full-time female DJ in Nigeria?
Difficult. The Nigerian music industry is a jungle. I have sacrificed a lot of time and resources to get to the stage I am. That’s the only way to make it here.
What’s your work process like?
It depends on the kind of group I’m catering to at an event. I need to know if it’s going to be people of the same age group or a mix of different groups of people. That helps me decide the kind of music to play and I develop a playlist.
However, 90% of the time I end up not using my playlist at an event because I pick up on the vibe of the people present and play the music that suits them. I don’t play blindly — I watch what they like and make sure to keep their vibe going. People’s enjoyment at parties is my fulfilment.
Nice. How do you get through a creative block?
I only get creative blocks when I’m about to make a mixtape. I wouldn’t call it a block per say, it’s just me trying to make the mixtape sound 100% perfect.
That happens quite often, and I deal with it the same way — I close my laptop and take a break. After my break, I reshuffle the music and try again. If it’s still not working, I do the same process again till it sounds right to me.
What does sounding right to you mean?
I want people to enjoy themselves when they’re listening to me. Music is all about entertaining you, so if it’s not entertaining you, then what’s the essence of it?
I get that. If you could change anything about the trajectory of your career path, would you?
The journey has been a fun experience, and I think life is about enjoying yourself. I’ve gotten to travel a lot and meet a lot of people. If I could go back, the only thing I’d do differently is to concentrate more in school. I’d probably study something in tech.
Cool. What would you say to a 15-year-old version of yourself?
Nothing, to be honest. Because we all have different races to run. Anybody can advise you, but deep down you know what you want. I’d say have fun and enjoy your life — country hard.
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