DJ Kaywise: Egbeda to the world [Pulse Interview]

DJ Kaywise talks about Alaba, Egbeda, Olamide, Konga, Phyno, Ice Prince, Highway and more

DJ Kaywise. (Instagram/DJKaywise)

DJ Kaywise has been here for a while. The son of pastors, he grew up in Egbeda, Lagos with a dream that the world - regardless of race - would one day dance to his music. He always felt like it was his destiny to be a DJ and that led to a falling out with his dad, who didn’t understand his career path.

At the time, he just wanted to make music with the dream that he’s always had - he didn’t specifically know that he was going to be a DJ. When he googled that image in his head, he realized that it was related to DJing, so he set out to learn the craft. After going through six DJs, from whom he learned little, he decided to branch out on his own.

With benevolence, his mom believed and invested N25,000 for her son to go learn the craft from a DJ that Kaywise refuses to namecheck.

Despite his feud with his dad, the man still gave a young Kaywise a small space beside the house to play music. Kaywise would then rent equipment and speakers to thrill his Egbeda hood.

When the time for the next level came, a young Kaywise prayed to God for direction and a sign that he was on the right path. The next day, somebody walked into Kaywise’s home space to ask him for a mixtape. The man also asked Kaywise to come to Alaba.

“I was shocked and also scared because our mindset about Alaba was very sinister, like they kill people there [laughs]. Even my mom was apprehensive,” he reminisces. “But I gathered money, took a bus and got to Alaba. I met a marketer who asked me for my mix because he doubted my ability due to my age and how young I looked.”

The next day, Kaywise brought in a mix that made everybody in the shop dance, both intentionally and unintentionally. That was how Kaywise earned N1,000 for his first mixtape. Excitedly, he asked if he could do more.

This was because I didn’t think I was ever going to make money from DJing, I just knew I would have prestige from it,” he says. “Now, I realize that they ripped me off because they were selling thousands of that mix. But at the time, I didn’t care enough to realize. I was just happy with making music.”

The following day, Kaywise brought another mix and it became a routine that became bigger and bigger. From working with one marketer, he grew smart enough to work with multiple markets and his name became bigger. Mind you, Kaywise was doing 20-30 mixes everyday.

I’m serious, that was my life because I want to be here. Sometimes, I would use two laptops simultaneously,” he reminisces. “Now, it’s soft work because I only work for three to four hours on radio or at gigs. But back then, I was only getting two hours of sleep everyday because I was making money off the tapes, saving, buying equipment and I saw a way to a better life.

For his first show, Kaywise was meant to earn N4,000 but he only got N500 because he paid fees for rented equipment. That made him form a need to buy his own equipment because he knew that with self-owned equipment comes shows.

Conversely, Kaywise has over 26 DJ sets in 2021, and he is still importing more.

“We keep importing more of these equipment because we have a Kaywise Academy where we train DJs,” he says. “I think I have all the latest advancements in DJ sets and we are buying more to give our students the best.

When I started making it, my dad came home one day and said, “DJ Kaywise, joor oh…” [laughs], I laughed, but I was so happy that I almost cried as well. I always want my dad’s approval and I felt I had it at that moment,” he reminisces. “I also told him that I would keep my relationship with and serve God - I’m still doing that. Right now, he’s really proud to see me do things in church.”

The real respect came when a young Kaywise started paying his tithe.

“I remember when I paid N20,000 in tithe for the first time, my dad was like, ‘Yo, what’s going on?’ [laughs,” Kaywise jokes.

By the time he was 18, he was as popular as DJ Kami Kami, DJ Real and a few others in the mainstream mixtape market.

Some people think that I’m new, but I have been part of some of the biggest records. I was part of pushing Afrobeats from the ground up [Laughs],” he jokes.

For a brief moment, Kaywise was also a music producer. One day, YQ, DJ Neptune and Konga came to record a song, only for Konga to hand Kaywise a CD of ‘Kaba Kaba.’

It was during this meeting that Kaywise asked eccentric Konga for a drop. While in the booth, the fast-rapping Nigerian simply blurted out the now-famous tag, “DJ Kaywise Joor Oh, Joor Oh, Joor Oh…”

Kaywise jokes that, “And that day, Konga don high [laughs]... E dey on a highway.”

Then, an 18-year-old DJ Kaywise became part of the team that marketed Konga’s ‘Kaba Kaba’ featuring DaGrin and Remi Aluko. Then Kaywise started working with artists like Duncan Mighty, Waconzy, Wizzboy, Lace and more to push their music via his mixtapes.

“I met people like P Square, D’Banj and Tuface, but the 2010 generation met me in the industry… name them,” he clarifies.

It was during this run that people started thinking Kaywise was Igbo.

“I don’t even think cutting off my dreads would make me more Yoruba,” he jokes. “I think people will have their opinions regardless. I still work with a lot of Igbo acts, we are all Nigerians.”

Six years ago, “DJ Kaywise joor oooh” had become a popular tag in the Nigerian street-hop/mixtape phase. He was so powerful that regular Nigerians would only go for his mixes. But he still struggled to put a phase to the brand, so he resorted to making music.

“A lot of people used my name to scam people [laughs] and I needed to put a stop to that,” Kaywise reminisces. “But I was also quite young at the time, so I had a little [conundrum].

In 2015, he released his debut single featuring Yung6ix and Dammy Krane. A video for the song took all of Kaywise’s savings - NGN700K. Over the past few years, Kaywise’s need to make music has evolved; one is to feed his fans and the other is to have an impact on the larger market.

Money is of peripheral importance because he can always make money from other avenues.

Kaywise’s records usually come laced with superstar features and people think those features turn his great songs into hit records, but that’s not exactly the case.

In January 2021, rapper AQ told Pulse Nigeria that, “Kaywise has been here for a long time. This is a guy who blew off mixtapes and Alaba market. He understands the concept of marketing music through the streets, radio and now, streaming platforms. He also chooses the right distributors.

“You can see what happened after Sydney Talker and Caramel Plug danced to ‘Highway’ on January 1 [2021], it’s just evidence of how Kaywise understands the game.”

While he was initially reluctant, Kaywise admitted this reality.

“I make sure that the people I feature align with the sound I want to drop for my fans. I also make sure that my songs relate to the streets in some form,” he says. “This formula works for me everytime.”

As a DJ, Kaywise is particular about the beats. He wants to only make music that he would ordinarily play as a DJ. Although he drops downtempo songs, he usually drops hightempo Afrobeats records.

A lot of his released songs were given to him by artists who like him and respect him. But when he hears beats first, he has to think about the right type and profile of artist he wants on the record.

“‘What Type of Dance,” Mayorkun reached out and we found a way to put Naira Marley and Zlatan on it. ‘Highway,’ Phyno reached out. ‘See Mary, See Jesus,’ Olamide reached out and ‘Feel Alright,’ Ice Prince reached out,” Kaywise breaks it down. “Till now, I appreciate these artists.”

These days, Kaywise is focused on releasing his debut body of work and his marketing and promotions company. The company creates plans for artists to get their music heard and it has worked.

The DJ is also on Soundcity as a DJ because it’s a core part of who he is.

“I started from the streets, then radio and then TV,” he clarifies. “When I play on air, millions of people listen to me and I don’t want to take that for granted.”

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