By Pamela Echemunor
Nigerian-born DJ and music producer, Florence Ifeoluwa Otedola, also known as DJ Cuppy, is a phenomenal personality who has taken the disk jockey trade to another level.
Cuppy, who is the second out of four children of billionaire Femi Otedola, has managed to carve a niche for herself in the Nigerian music industry.
Cuppy, resident in London, started her music career when she was 16 and has risen rapidly over the years. The 22-year old is a tourism ambassador, CEO as well as patriotic citizen of Nigeria. The philanthropic artiste is passionate about the well being of her female kin and never relents when she is called upon to influence change and growth that is beneficial to them. In this interview, she talks about her love for Nigeria and her new album.
How did you come about the name DJ Cuppy?
DJ Cuppy is a name that actually came as a result of my love for cupcakes and pastries. As a young person, I have always had massive sweet tooth so, after a while, my friends and family began to call me Cupcake and from Cupcake, they called me Cubs, Cupito, etc.
I think my brand is so versatile; so even though I used to name myself DJ Cupcake when I was 16, I decided that when I went into this full time, I would be known as Cuppy. Then, I won’t feel like I am constrained. So that’s where Cuppy came from.
Why did you choose to become a DJ?
I chose to become a DJ because of my passion for music. I think that everything one does should be passion-driven. I always say when you find a job you love, you never have to work a day in your life. I love the fact that I’m doing what I love to do.
I think for me, it’s amazing that I get to be involved in education at the same time so, I’m also building myself as a young African woman and learning entrepreneurial skills. I also think it’s a fantastic time to be a DJ and a fantastic time to be a Nigerian.
How do you handle criticism based on your family background? Do you think your father’s position in the oil sector influenced your fast
rise to the limelight?
It’s so easy to get distracted by the background.
A lot of people don’t focus on what really matters, which is music. It is something I battle with; most of the time, people are most obsessed with my family and background. My dad is a fantastic father and he is such a great supporter and challenger. He pushes me.
I remember when I first said I wanted to be a DJ. He said, “You can DJ but you have to be the best at
it.” I think having that high level of expectation there is great. As the saying goes: to whom much is given, much is expected.
I think I have that behind me. I think after a while, it’s starting to show that my music and my talent speak for themselves. It’s fantastic and I’m so
blessed to have such support from home.
How was growing up for you?
Growing up, for me, was an amazing experience because I was born in Lagos and I grew up at Ilupeju (in Lagos). I remember being such a
mischievous child. (laughs)
I was always intrigued and adventurous. I always wanted to find out about things I didn’t know and as a child, I always wanted to explore. I think that is reflected in my brand. I think that having parents that allow me to express myself was fantastic. From a young age, I had piano lessons, art classes, dance classes etc. I think that creativity is a great way to build confidence in a child. That’s why, at this point, at age 22, I am able to run my own business; have a brand that I am building, able to do a Masters degree and conquer some of the big challenges we, women, have. I think it’s due to having such a fantastic upbringing and having parents who tell me I can be whatever I want to be.
Between your father and mother, who are you closer to?
(Laughs) That’s such a funny question. That’s like asking my mum and dad which child they love the most. It’s really hard to say. My mother is an
entrepreneur. I look up to her so much. She runs Garment Care, which has been open for over ten years and she’s top of her own sector. She is also so supportive in the sense that she believes it’s important to be the best version of you. My mum lives in London but she is very active in the way she has raised me to integrate myself in our culture. I have certain values and norms that I have followed because of my mother. She is very much into respect, which we both have for each other.
My father is a very inspiring individual. He is very hands-on; more hands-on than people think. He is fun too.
I feel like my parents are my friends at heart. I can talk to them. They are also my biggest critics.
Everyone has off days. My dad and I have great days and bad days. Same with my mum. I can’t choose right now (laughs) but if my dad and I had
an argument, I would say my mum.
How did your parents react to your career choice?
I don’t think they were shocked. They always saw how passionate I was about music and they saw how much I really wanted to achieve in whatever I did. Basically, they were supportive but concerned so, they made sure I did my research before I entered the market.
Aside from music, what are your long-term plans, career-wise?
My long-term plan is to really grow Red Velvet Music Group (RVMG), which is my company. At the moment, we have three clients. Cuppy is one of them and we also have Maxwell, a music producer in London, and we have JTO, my sister who is a fashion blogger.
I want to grow RVMG to bridge the gap between the Western world and Africa. I want to be able to position the company so that we are really providing a platform for African music outside Africa. It’s important to give young people a platform and access to exposure. I think my company is as strong as my brand is and, in the next few years, my focus is to grow the Cuppy brand to international level.
I have been lucky to DJ around the world; Mexico, Bahamas etc. It’s such an exciting job and RVMG is definitely up and coming. As a matter of
fact, the company is producing my tour “Cuppy Takes Africa” project.
What is the feeling like when you are working?
I forget everything when I’m up there. I love music so, for me, it is so therapeutic. Music is so powerful. I feel at peace. I really get absorbed by
music; it’s why I fell in love with music. I feel like I get paid to have fun. (laughs)
What influenced your decision to become a DJ ?
I would say my drive was entering a male dominated industry and creating the same kind of standard. I think that it’s such a shame that for
female artistes in Nigeria, it’s so hard for a number of reasons. We all need to support each other more and I think that people just need to give us
opportunity to shine a bit more.
I’m grateful that I have been given opportunity to enter the industry; also that a lot of young girls see that I’m such an inspiration to them. I can only hope that, in the music environment and entertainment industry, we see more females coming in.
Tell us about your work with the Fascinating Nigeria Campaign.
The Fascinating Nigeria campaign was fuelled by the Ministry of National Orientation, Tourism and Culture and the former Minister of Tourism, Edem Duke.
The way I entered the industry was through a song I called “I Love My Country”. At the time, they were looking for a campaign song for an up and coming event called “The Centenary Awards”. My song was a remix of Tunji Oyelana’s original song and the ministry loved it. They reached out to me and asked me to come down to Abuja; the former minister loved my passion for young people and my passion for the country.
People call me ‘Patriotic’ all the time. I am one of those people who are proud to be Nigerian; sometimes, people question your patriotism because
of your location. I don’t live in Nigeria but I don’t see why I shouldn’t be an advocate and hold the flag high outside. Eventually, after meeting with them, they asked me to be one of the ambassadors for their tourism campaign. I joined the campaign in April and we had a fantastic couple of weeks.
One of the plans I was able to implement was representing Nigeria at the ‘Financial Times Luxury Summit’ which took place in Mexico. We had a lot of other plans but, unfortunately, with the security concerns, it was quite devastating when we lost our girls in Borno. The priorities of the government changed from tourism to security. There were a lot of plans we were unable to engage. I’m looking forward to, hopefully, working with the new tourism officials. I look forward to, hopefully, getting more things done and really influencing more confidence in the country.
Can you talk a little about your Cuppy Takes Africa Tour?
It’s such an amazing project. We are embarking on an eight-country Africa tour and we are starting in Nigeria. We take it from there to Senegal, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and then to South Africa – all in a space of four weeks! We are doing about 2 countries per week. I’m so excited and proud that my company is producing the tour. We have fantastic sponsors on board like GT B. We are also partnering with the Dangote Foundation.
The Dangote Foundation is the biggest philanthropic organization in Africa. It’s so fantastic that they have recognized how important it is to
connect with young girls. They want me to inspire girls to use creativity as a way of communicating with each other. I am looking forward to catching up with you when I come back and also looking forward to telling people about our amazing country, Nigeria, and representing you all so well.
Tell us about the ‘House of Cuppy 2’ album.
‘House of Cuppy 2’ is the second edition of my compilation mix-tape. Due to the success of the first House of Cuppy, which I did last year, I decided to carry on with it this year. I want to show a different musical side of me; one which a lot of my fans are not familiar with. You know, I feel it’s always important to be diverse. ‘House of Cuppy 2’ is vibrant, energetic and colourful. As a Nigerian and African, I feel that this
represents and reflects who we are.
What charities do you plan to work with alongside the Dangote Foundation during your tour?
Yes, you’ve heard about the tour- haha! Cuppy Takes Africa is an 8-country tour of Africa. As well as the musical aspect, I will also be giving back
to communities in partnership with the Dangote Foundation. We will be working with schools and charities that focus on young girls and education especially. Names will be revealed as we begin our tour of each country.
Tell us about your work with the DVF Foundation?
I was very honoured to have been the official DJ for the DVF Awards in April. The DVF Award honours women who have displayed leadership, strength and courage in their commitment to causes relating to women. Supporting other women is something that is very close to my heart.
How would you describe your style?
Hmmmm! My style is very girly, fun, colourful and chic. I wear a lot of dresses and prints. Ankara prints
are my favourites. I can wear them every day of the year!
What has your experience been like working on the international scene? How would you describe the feeling compared to when you work here?
My experience has been great! People appreciate female DJs in the Western world a bit more; it’s almost a norm to see a female DJ doing her thing in the US than here in Nigeria. Nonetheless, I love working here and being able to play my favourite Naija jams!
What challenges have you encountered so far?
I have a funny one. When I started DJ-ing, I used to get turned away at clubs because I didn’t fit the ‘norm’ of what a DJ should look like. They would let my previous manager in (he was a guy) but not me.
Then, they get the shock of their lives when they see me doing my thing!!
What pre-show rituals do you perform?
I practice like there’s no tomorrow. I have a few people on speed dial to assist me before a gig; my
Dad is one of them. Yes, believe it or not, my Dad assists me with my playlist. We go through the songs together and he gives
me tips on what tracks to play and for how long. He’s a perfectionist. I get it from him!
How does it feel going shoulder to shoulder with the big names in your field, especially being female?
It feels fantastic. I have learnt to never let anyone or anything put me off what I do. I work hard and have faith that my talent will allow me to shine. I’m always up for a challenge so, bring it on! (laughs)
Congratulations on your ‘City People Awards’ nomination for DJ of the Year. How does that make you feel?
It’s nice to be recognized for what I do. I can’t thank my “Cupcakes” enough for always supporting me and keeping me going when it gets tough!
Have you signed any artiste under RVMG?
At the moment, no. RVMG has no other artiste under her belt. This will come in due time though. So look out!
What kind of artistes are you looking to sign?
RVMG will be looking to sign artistes that are diverse and relatable to by a diverse range of people.
What advice do you have for young ladies who want to take a cue from you and venture into your line of work?
I would advise young woman looking to venture into the entertainment industry to focus on the end goal; regardless of the challenges that come along the way. It’s always important to remember why you chose that career in the first place. This will get you through those tough days.