Nigerian record producer and acclaimed disc jockey, DJ Shawn, has made a notable transition from being a behind-the-scenes player to the forefront of the music industry with the launch of his “Awesome” EP.
In this exclusive interview, the “O Pari” artist chats with us about his journey as a DJ, his love for music, and upcoming projects. He also shares some pieces of advice for young and aspiring talents in the music industry.
See the full interview below:
Hello, DJ Shawn! Let’s start from the beginning. When did you first realise you wanted to dive into music?
I have always known I was going to do music or wanted to go into music, as far back as when I was 9 years old. I used to be around my older brother’s studio and help him handle recording sessions with artists when he wasn’t available
That’s quite an early start. Now, since your track “O Pari” with Falz and Timaya, what’s the journey been like for you in the music scene?
The journey has been crazy, I won’t even lie; it’s been filled with ups and downs. There were times when I thought I wasn’t going to do music anymore and I wanted to give up. But there have also been better times when I smashed all my goals and wanted to go even ten times harder, and to be honest, just like every other career, there are always wins and losses that we just have to accept and move past, but overall, there has been progress, and I’m grateful for where I currently am and excited for what’s to come.
Your recent EP “Awesome” is making waves. Can you share the story behind this project?
“Awesome” was my way of challenging myself to do something better than what I had done before, as I love setting tasks for myself. I had previously released two singles, “O Pari” and “Baddest”, but I felt the need to do something more. Hence, the “Awesome” project. It’s a compilation that is very dear to me and serves as evidence of my dedication.
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It’s quite diverse, featuring different genres and collaborations. How did you manage to pull off this blend of Hip-Hop, Afrobeats, Afropop, and Amapiano?
When I started working on “Awesome,” I had in mind that I wanted to find a balance between various genres and not limit the project to specific and notorious genres like Amapiano and Afrobeats. I aimed to create a project that suits almost everyone and allows everyone to find their favourite track. For collaborations, I prefer working with people with whom I have a good personal relationship. Another approach I take is envisioning two artists together and imagining how they would sound on a particular beat. I create the beat based on that vision, then share it with the artists, explaining my concept and asking if they’re willing to collaborate with me. I also enjoy experimenting; almost all the collaborations on the project are unique and have never happened before.
That sounds like a creative process. What advice do you have for those behind the scenes aiming to step into the forefront of the music industry?
My advice for young people who are behind the scenes, looking to push forward to the forefront, is to first be ready! I won’t say it’s difficult, nor will I say it’s easy, but just be prepared. A lot of people you think are your friends and would come through for you might not be there when you need them the most. So, it’s best to prepare your mind and expect the unexpected. Also, another thing would be to work with artists that you have a relationship with or build relationships with these artists first before actually collaborating with them. It goes way beyond just making the songs; another difficult part is clearing the song for release. Most artists are signed to a label, which makes it complicated to clear the song. An artist who is your friend and wants the song to be released would push to get it out too. Even if it’s an upcoming artist who is your friend, create with them. Additionally, be true to yourself and don’t be in a rush. Move at your own pace, move in the right direction, and as long as you keep moving, you will eventually get there. Good things take time to build, so be ready to build, brick by brick.
Balancing DJing and music creation must be demanding. How do you manage it all?
Mixing DJing and music creation is quite a lot, to be honest. Currently, I juggle DJing, music creation, and music production, as I recently started producing professionally. I produced Niniola’s latest single, ‘Komiyo’. Managing time to curate playlists, produce beats, and create music is demanding, but I’m used to juggling between multiple things, and I have always found ways to balance things since the early stages of my career in 2016 when I started DJing at City FM and also worked as a DJ at a club in Ikeja while studying Physics at Unilag (University of Lagos). My radio station set used to start around 10 p.m. and end at 12 a.m., after which I would crash at the station. Then wake up as early as 6 a.m. the next day to attend my 8 a.m. classes at school. After classes, I would head to the club in the evening. This routine persisted for about 2 years, so in the end, it’s all about finding balance and not letting one thing suffer for the other.
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When you create music, what do you hope your listeners take away from it?
When I create music, I aim for the listeners to experience good music at its peak. I want them to immerse themselves and think, ‘Yes, this is exceptional music.’ I want them to feel a sense of uniqueness and be amazed by the creation. I also want them to understand that with every DJ Shawn record, it’s always about delivering great music and good vibes.
That’s a wonderful perspective. Can you share where your music and sound draw inspiration from?
My music and sound are inspired, to be honest. Sometimes I’m seated, and a melody randomly comes to me. When it does, I pick up my phone and record it. Even when I’m sleeping and dream of a melody, I wake up and record it on my phone to revisit it later. Inspiration can come from anywhere, even from an already-released record.
Exciting! Are there any artists you’re looking forward to collaborating with within the industry?
Yes, I’m definitely working with more people; I have always been working, but I won’t mention names. Expect more from DJ Shawn; a lot is coming.
What’s next for DJ Shawn?
More music, tours, shutdowns, and a whole lot of awesome things, but for now, it’s an “awesome” season, so we are all basking in awesome.
Stream “Awesome” here.