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DJ Spinall speaks to Pulse on his journey, losing out at the SMWA's and meeting Killertunes

In an industry littered with a legion of disc jockeys, DJ Spinall is one of the few names that have ascended the ranks of DJ royalty working with some of the biggest names on the scene.

DJ Spinall talks to Pulse on his music, awards and years in the industry [Pulse]

Born Sodamola Oluseye Desmond, DJ Spinall aka The Cap needs no introduction.

From the time with Wande Coal at the early stages of his career to becoming the official DJ/hypeman for Mavin Records, Spinall whose passion for music can be traced to his teenage years has enjoyed a steady rise to the summit of a crowded space with his unique lighthearted, refreshing and exciting style behind the turn tables.

''I am the unconventional person,'' he said to me. ''I have come to upset the flow, I have come to go on tour when DJ's are not expected to go on tour, I have come to drop albums when DJ's in this side of the world rarely do... Doing things the regular way never works.''

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In 2018, Spinall released the album, ''Iyanu,'' his fourth studio project in four years and he describes the body of work as his best yet.

''I think I took myself off the radar from doing the regular with Iyanu, I took a lot of risks with the album pushing some unconventional sounds.'' 

How would you describe the year 2018?

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''It was epic. 2018 is a year I will not forget anytime soon. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with as many talented people. The year kinda like taught me a lot of new things. It was an amazing year business-wise, career-wise.''

What are some of those things that the year taught you?

''Self-confidence. The year also taught me that sometimes you could do so well and people still don't give you your credit for doing amazingly well. The number of successes I recorded last year was downplayed by the media and a lot of people.

And if you do so well and it gets downplayed, it could affect your psychology, so self-confidence is what helps you pull through that, whether they recognize it or not. It is just very important that you are aware of who you are and your worth.''

How was it like when you did not win the Best DJ Award at the SoundCity MVP Awards?

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At the third edition of the Soundcity MVP Awards, which took place on January 5, 2019, a minor controversy occurred during the announcement of certain categories, particularly that of the ''Best African DJ'' and ''Producer of the year'', with the crowd favorites in each category failing to emerge as winners on the night.

Spinall who lost out to DJ Neptune in the DJ category explains how he felt following the announcement.

''It was a lot of emotions in one. I think that is just what awards is. Sometimes, I don't understand why and a lot of my fans don't understand why as well, I saw a lot of angry tweets.

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We are not the ones that run the awards so they probably have other reasons but they never put out the reasons why. No doubt, I felt cheated, I felt like I deserved the awards, that it didn't come doesn't mean that life stops, it just shows that we have to keep going.

The other part that hurt me about the awards was the fact that Killertunes didn't win his category. This just makes me feel like, it's glaring, so obvious.''

When the award did not go to Killertunes, what was the first thing you said to him?

Killertunes, a producer signed to DJ Spinall's The Cap Music enjoyed a dizzying rise in 2018 with his high profile works for the likes of Wizkid, Olamide, Kizz Daniel, contributing some of the biggest records for the year and Spinall recollects what he told him on the night after losing out to Phantom, producer of Burna Boy's 'Ye.'

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''I remember the first thing I told him before we left the house, I said guys, remember one thing, awards do not define who you are. Win or lose, you are already established.

Like in the shortest possible time, The Cap Music has been able to produce some of the biggest songs the industry has ever heard especially in the space of 2017 to 2018. Killertunes has produced some of the biggest records.

I remember taking him to Wizkid, telling him that this is going to be the producer of the future, listen to him, I remember going there like four times a day telling him to listen to his beats.

Wiz has a different kind of ears for music and that is why I went to him first because I know he understands music and he understands sound. We worked with Kizz Daniel, Olamide, Tekno, basically everybody.

The records were there. We produced 'Manya,' we produced 'Fake Love,' 'Motigbana,' everything and these were like the biggest songs of the year and I still don't understand and that really hurt me in a way because I felt like they know and yet some powers that be just felt, we not giving him, he is not our guy.

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How did you meet Killertunes?

''I met Killertunes when I was working on my first album at Timaya's studios. We were working on a record called 'Excuse Me', it wasn't like the biggest song on the album, but I just felt like he could do more from what I heard him do.

We did not intend to sign Killertunes to The Cap music initially, as a matter of fact, there were a lot of other people that we put on the waiting list even while working with him. Then it hit me one time like how are you going to help him, so one of the other guys on the list traveled out of the country, so I called Killa.''

You have had a career as a DJ for over a decade, at what point did it become important for you to transit into becoming an artist?

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''I think it comes back to how I started. I read Engineering in school and always had a passion for music.

I didn't know how to go about my passion, so I felt I could start from one stage of understanding how the industry works, knowing I could make amazing playlists, so I learnt how to Deejay for three years.

I worked at Ray Power, I worked at Eko FM, Beat FM Ibadan and Lagos, then I did Industry Nite, which gave me a bigger platform to show my craft in the industry, I did that for five and a half years.

As I was moving ahead, I told myself it was time to do more, so I started making music and the first person I made a record with was the producer, Pheelz, we did a song, 'No Sorrow', unfortunately, the record didn't come out.

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When Burna Boy moved to Lagos, I was among the first set of people that met him and we got into the studio with Spellz and we made the record 'Gbagbe E', which was my first song.

I knew then before I started that I was going to do more than just DJ but I didn't want to be running around with no knowledge, so DJing was a starting point.''

Have you ever had to DJ at a place and in your head you were like, what am I doing here?

''Yeah, I have done a couple. We have done events for a group of guys that were actually a dangerous set of people, I was seeing guns all over the place... I have DJ'ed for a group of girls and the party ended up being very wild. 

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There are the ones I have had DJing for Government officials, and those ones, you don't know how to please them, or not sure what song will offend them, so you don't lose a client, but experience pulls you through those things.''

Do you think DJs have it easier now than you did when you started your career?

''In some sort of ways, I will say it has been a bit easier.

There are two sides to this. It is so easy for me to come and say yeah they are lazy, they are not learning but I feel like people's challenges are different.

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At the time I started, it was peculiar to that time and to me, so it varies but what I know for a fact is the new set of people are not patient. It's like people come into the game and you want to be Calvin Harris just like that. It takes time, it takes dedication. I need young people to understand that.''

Let's do a summary of your years in the game, what will be the most important advice you would be passing on to those on the come-up?

''I am still in the learning curve, so I am not sure I am at a stage to tell people these are the things they should do, but of the few things I have learnt is you must know your craft.

It is important to know your craft. If you know your craft, it gives you confidence irrespective of where you are.

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Try as much as possible to not be under pressure, because I feel like the pressure is making people anxious and when you are anxious, you are less productive and when you are not productive, you are frustrated, so these are some of the things that have worked for me.

I don't bother myself with what others are doing, I don't care about what is going on in people's world, I just focus on me.

There is so much information out there that you don't need and you will learn that half of the people you meet in the industry are just temporary people and you cannot get mad when temporary people start to act temporarily, when this happens, you just need to understand that this is business and emotions will not get you anywhere.''

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For one who is quite vocal on social media, how do you react to being criticized?

''Sometimes, people want you to be expressive, but they don't want you to be so expressive.

Some people want you to say how you feel about certain things but they don't want you to say what they don't want to hear, so when that happens, you get called all sort of names but I think it is important for you to live for yourself.

People are always going to have an opinion on you and are you going to let every opinion define you? It is just an opinion, it is not a fact.''

Last year, you signed a deal with Atlantic Records, UK, what was the deal about?

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''It was a single record deal for my new single,'What Do You See' that just dropped featuring Kojo Funds, so the whole purpose is for them to help us distribute it across the world.

It just helps you better, that is just what the deal is about. If it is well done, it is supposed to help position you in different parts of the world where people don't know you, that is the goal for any artist.''

So was the choice of Kojo Funds based on the label or you?

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''It is what I have always wanted. Kojo is someone I respect, so the whole point is to establish connects with other Africans in the diaspora.''

How do you select the artists you work with?

''Sometimes it comes from the studio, the energy I am getting from the sounds in the studio and sometimes I just have people I want to work with.

Like Dotman, he is someone who I see as a smooth Afro artist and I wanted people to get where we are coming from when we are making music. I feel like Afrobeat is not a genre where you can understudy, it is a culture thing, it is deeply rooted in our lifestyle, into our everyday activities and I feel like Dotman and few other artists get it.

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We recorded Dotman's record before we even recorded 'Nowo' and 'Baba', Dotman's song, 'Omoge' was one of the first songs we recorded.

Four albums in four years, what is the drive behind that?

''We are at a very young stage in what we are doing and there is not enough content that speaks volumes about the type of sound we are creating.

I wanted the music that is coming out from my team and my label to have a home and not just singles, so we were recording songs and I felt it is essential we put them together.

We are not thinking like ''oh, an album must drop every year'', we are just constantly making music and before you know we have like nine new songs and we just decide to put it out. It wasn't about making albums for the sake of it, but documenting what was happening at the time.''

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Translated in English, the album title 'Iyanu' literally means 'Surprise' and when asked if the reception to the album surprised him, he replied; 

''Iyanu'' did surprise me, the year 2018 did surprise me, 'Nowo' did surprise me. I know its Wizkid but I am sure the song surprised Wizkid too.

'Nowo' was massive. Nowo is the biggest song I have released to date. It surprises me in the sense that when you think about the creative process and how we made it, it surprised me, not just in terms of how successful it became but because of the technical parts before it was released.

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Did the success of 'Nowo' prepare you for 'Baba?'

''No, I am always prepared. When 'Nowo' was released, 'Baba' was already done, so it had nothing to do.

I knew that people were going to like 'Baba,' I didn't know 'Nowo' was going to be a monster hit, but I and Kizz Daniel knew 'Baba' would blow. At some point, I and Kizz had a back and forth because he wanted the song released earlier.

It is funny how we created the song, I had sent the beat to Kizz Daniel, and he was like, ''what's this, send me something better, so I called Killa and was like what are we going to do, he sent me something else.

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But I knew that Kizz would kill that beat, I have had it for a long time like, 2016, and it was surprising that he wasn't liking it, So I changed the name of the beat, the same beat and sent it back to him. Kizz is the type of guy that works a lot in the night, so I sent it in the afternoon, he now called and was like ''Where did you put this beat since''.

So in the studio, he asked me what type of song do I want from him and I said like a banger and he went into the studio and started ''Shebi you want Banger the banger''? That was how we came about the hook. 

We recorded that and instantly we knew the song was a problem.''

What does Spinall have for 2019?

''We started the year with the song with Kojo Funds, we have different festivals that we are doing across the world, but the biggest announcement that I have put out so far is my concert in London on April 21st.

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It is the first time ever that I am doing it in the UK and I feel like it is not just a win for me as DJ Spinall but for every other Nigerian DJ.

In the history of Nigerian music, no DJ has ever headlined a show in the UK. When Jimmy Jatt started, he paved the way for all of us and was able to do extraordinary things and for us now, it is about taking it to the next level to pave the way for the next generation to know that they can break down any door.''

You once worked with the likes of Wande Coal, Wizkid and more, who would you pick as a favorite?

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''All of them. Everybody brings something different to the table, it was working with Wande Coal that I later became the official DJ for Mavins. I learnt so much from Wande Coal, from Don Jazzy and Mavin Record.

Wizkid, the amount of intelligence that he possesses is remarkable and I am learning so much from him as well. I DJ for anybody, I am not anybody's DJ.

I feel like collaboration is the key to spreading our wings as Afrobeats, if we want to established and recognized, we should not go alone. That is the communication that is not being sent out, we are all good individually but we are powerful collectively. I love to collaborate

I hear you talk a lot about 2Baba, what is your relationship like with him?

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''There is no other bigger fan of 2Baba than me and he knows this. I am 2Baba's biggest fan, it is just organic, it is just how you love everything someone does. He is a different guy on his own, we celebrate him, but I feel we don't do it enough.''

Should we be expecting an album in 2019?

''I don't know yet, we have a lot of work to do, so I can't say.''

This interview has been slightly edited for clarity

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