Peckham DJ Nikki Beatnik on touring with Kelis

Nikki Beatnik is one of Britain’s most in-demand female DJs. Ahead of this year’s Streetfest she talks to the Weekender about street style, shoes and Peckham radio.

USE THIS ONE DJ_Nikki_Beatnik_1

We hear you’re a Peckham local…

I am. I live on the other side of Peckham towards Old Kent Road. I used to live in Shoreditch but it got too busy; I prefer Peckham.  I like the mix here and the diversity of it. I don’t really go out here though. Unless I’m working or have to go to an event, I really don’t go out!

How much time do you spend on the road touring?

I’ve been touring consistently for two years with Kelis, since 2010. I’ve been to every continent except Antarctica; I’ve DJ-ed all over the place: Paraguay, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Tahiti, Dubai, Australia, New Zealand… I always find something interesting everywhere we go. I loved Melbourne; I played at the Good Vibes festival, which was so much fun. The organisers are the nicest people. You really can’t have a bad time in Australia, it’s just friendly and fun and no stress, which is completely opposite to how it is in Europe where it’s all logistics and getting in and out! Of course Ibiza is really the pinnacle every year.

What’s it like touring with Kelis?

I love the fact that she always has a DJ live in her shows. Every show or festival we do is different and pushing boundaries with technology. We’ve mixed a lot of old hip hop with new stuff. Obviously in the last two years different genres of music have come out. I’m originally a hip hop DJ but I’ve merged my styles more.

Do you change your sets for different international audiences?

If I’m paid to play somewhere I make sure to tweak the set completely. You can’t just play the same thing everywhere. When I play in a different country I find out what’s popular there, but I never plan a set. I plan the show and then go with it. You can plan genres and know what’s popular but you can never go into a club in Italy and think it’ll be the same as LA. Paces differ completely; you have to be receptive to a crowd.

How do you find being a female DJ in a very male-dominated industry?

It’s so second nature to me –I’ve done this since I was sixteen- so it’s not a big deal. 20 years ago it was a big deal. Playing hip hop as a white chick and being the only girl, people would see me and be a bit surprised. But now there’s so many girls wanting to DJ and more female presence, so it’s based on talent. It’s not over though, in almost all industries men get paid more than women and it’s the same thing with DJ-ing but I never want to harp on about that, I just want things to be equal.

I heard that you only ever DJ in stilettos, is that true?

(Laughs) No! Although I do wear heels a lot. I have about 300 pairs of shoes. But sometimes you have to give in to comfort and if it’s a nice Nike or Adidas high top that can work, especially since I’m really tall. I’m 6’1” so I’m cramped over the decks! It’s usually glam on stage with Kelis but when we go to festivals we have a change of shoes on the side.

You’re playing at Streetfest this year, are you looking forward to that?

I am! This is the first year that I’ve been in the country for it, so I was thrilled to be asked. It’s very much a street culture vibe from what I gather, which is great because all my influences from the last 20 years have been urban and street. From acid house to house to hip hop and R n’ B, all these genres that have come through are in Streetfest. I think the street culture in London is so inspiring and I think this festival is trying to encapsulate that rather than being too electronic, which a lot of festivals are doing nowadays.

Nikki and her brother Statis host the Beatnik mix show every Friday night from 11pm-1am on local Peckham radio station Reprezent 107.3FM

Nikki is playing at Streetfest, Hearn St carpark, EC2A 3LS, on Sunday May 5 from 1pm-11pm. Admission: £10/£15. http://www.streetfest.net/

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