According to Forbes, as of the 18th of March, 2020, there are 2095 billionaires worldwide.
Heiress to Nigerian oil mogul, Femi Otedola’s billion dollar family fortune, and the biggest female DJ in Africa, Florence Otedola — more famously known by her stage moniker, DJ Cuppy — sits in front of me, top to toe in her signature pastel pink, an ear-to-ear-wide smile playing across her friendly face, and I wouldn’t guess her wealth or fame if you gave me a thousand tries.
I wonder what childhood must be like for a billionaire heiress, and she takes me back to Lagos, Nigeria. “I was born in 1992, a very interesting time for Nigeria in general,” she starts, “I was born, interestingly enough, into a political family, ‘cause my granddad was governor of the state at the time, so I definitely have memories of me being a bit of a golden child,” she giggles and regresses to daddy’s little princess.
The family celebrated her birth with an incredibly extravagant party, and from that moment forward, all eyes, as well as expectations of grandeur, were on her. “I don’t wanna say that people were surveilling me but people definitely had eyes on me. And so when you grow up feeling like there’s a telescope, you learn to be a certain way: to be well-behaved, to dress well, to brush my hair, to be pretty like a girl, be polite,” she explains.
“But there was the fun side of it, you know, I was quite a social child, from a very young age I liked creativity, I was always in art class, I was always in dance class, I did ballet, I was in drumming class,” she elaborates.
As if someone flicked a switch, her smile vanishes and her tone intensifies as she relives a more challenging memory, “And then after my childhood days, my parents made a sudden change and decided to move me to the UK at 13 years old. Having lived in Nigeria for most of my life it was a big change for me, to go from the tropics of Africa to cold England.”
During this time, her relationship with music became so much more pertinent. “Music was honestly my escape, the only thing that made me feel like, for three minutes, I was home, and that’s how I realised how powerful music was. That’s how I fell in love with it, and that’s my early experience with music, guiding me, this teenager who felt homesick, guiding me and helping me through that time, it’s just me and my music.”
Cuppy started DJing at the age of 16, while she was still in London, but the scene wasn’t ready for African sounds. To please the audience and keep her club residencies, she would play music she felt didn’t really speak to who she was, and it wasn’t until after she’d moved to New York to do her Masters in Music Business that she discovered herself and, with it, her sound.
“What I love about Americans is that they are unapologetically them. I fell in love with hip hop. I forced myself to become a better DJ because the level that those guys operate on is pretty high, so I just felt like America really changed me and made me love being black, and it made me love who I was as an individual,” she explains.
While doing her Masters, Cuppy interned at Roc Nation, Jay-Z’s entertainment conglomerate, an environment that really helped her understand that music could be profitable and that she could create commercial opportunities through it, starting her own label, Red Velvet Music Group, shortly after.
A decade in music has seen Cuppy perform all across the world from the MTV Base Africa awards in Durban to Tatler & Christie’s Art Ball in London, her president’s inauguration to Oil Baron’s Charity in Dubai, but one of her proudest and most recent achievements was being named the host of Apple Music’s Africa Radio Now show.
“I’m so excited, Apple Music is so important as far as an organization worldwide and for them to ask me to be the forefront and to be the face and the curator for their Africa Now Radio is phenomenal,” she shakes her head in disbelief. “A lot of people are like, ‘Wow, Apple Music are doing so much in Africa’ and I’m thinking, ‘It’s about time!’ It’s called Africa Now, but Africa’s time is now and forever. And I’m glad that Apple shares my vision, you know, it’s not about putting Africa on, it’s about making people aware of what we’ve been on. We’ve been doing it, we’ve been having it,”she reasons.
Two weeks ago, DJ Cuppy dropped “Jollof on the Jet”, the first single of her upcoming debut album, Original Copy, so we bring things back to her music. “It’s all about feel-good vibes. I want people for two minutes, thirty seconds to just escape and feel those tropical exotic vibes and go to their happy place,” she says emphatically.
“Part of it is about being unapologetically African. I made this record when I was travelling between DJ shows and I always insist I have to have my Nigerian food. I was literally like, ‘Oh, I’m on a private jet, I’m eating Jollof rice — Jollof on the jet. And we laugh but it’s my song and it’s doing so well — over a million streams in less than two weeks kind of well — and I’m so proud of it.”
I ask her to drop me a hint about her upcoming album, and she concludes, “I’m excited but I’m nervous at the same time but honestly I’m so proud of it because it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time – 12 tracks, 14 collaborations. You take my African roots as a young girl from Nigeria, you take the influence from London, you take the influence from New York and you get Original Copy.”
“I’m gonna be myself unapologetically and I believe that we were born into this world as originals, so we should never die as a copy.”