Apple Music Festival 10 has finally come to an end after Chance The Rapper’s Friday night performance at London’s historic Roundhouse. One week prior, the Sidewalk Hustle team travelled to the UK for two incredible performances from The 1975 and Alicia Keys. While there, we had the great pleasure of sitting down with Beats 1 anchor and DJ Julia Adenuga inside the Camden venue, where they broadcasted the show from during the festival.
Being the only UK-based anchor on Beats 1 (and the only female), Julie builds on and rounds out what LA’s Zane Lowe and New York’s Ebro Darden bring to the table and with a totally fresh perspective on UK music which she’s honed through years at London community radio station Rinse FM.
She’s a huge advocate of the Grime genre, which only makes sense being raised by her older brothers JME and recent Mercury Prize winner Skepta, who founded Boy Better Know when she was just a teenager, and is undeniably one of the contributing reasons the genre hit it big in Canada and the US.
We had the chance to speak with Julie in studio before Alicia Keys’ performance at the Roundhouse during the festival, about her progress so far with her show over the past year and her take on contributing her UK perspective to the Beats 1 airwaves.
Read our Q&A with Julie below.
Why did Apple bring you onto Beats 1?
I don’t know why, because I’m a nice person? I like stuff, I like things, I like music…. I think that they understood that I’m really passionate about music. In my first meeting with Julie, on the Apple team, she asked me loads of questions about what I was interested in. I was almost blessed to have this accidental interview on Brick Lane, because I didn’t know it was an interview at the time. I showed her stuff, so I wasn’t just like “I really like the new so-and-so record” – we went to Rough Trade on Brick Lane to look through records and stuff.
Almost accidentally, I was able to physically show her all the stuff that I’m interested in and take her to Rinse, which was the station I was on at the time, and show here where Rinse was broadcasting from. So I think they were able to see that I was genuinely passionate about music and about the people that I’ve grown up around and the music I listen to. I think that’s why.
What do you bring to Beats 1 and how does it differs from Zane Lowe & Ebro Darden.
I’m younger. I’ve still got youth inside me. No, I’m joking. I think we’ve got a lot of things in common, it’s funny you’d ask that; I’ve never thought about what we have that’s different to each other. In saying that, yes, I would say, I’m of a different generation than them. It’s always interesting, and I’ve grown up with their generation of music, because of my older siblings and my parents, so I’ve been able to know music, years and years and years before my time in life.
But I feel like, of the whole team, I’m sort of the person who is of the younger generation, and not just kind of listens to the music and knows a little bit about it, but also, in a way, I am it. I am that generation of music. I go to those shows. I host the shows… I’m friends with the artists of that sort of era of music. So yeah, I would say that’s the biggest difference – that I am that person that is a part of the newer era of what music is evolving into right now.
You’ve been on the air over a year now. What’s your most memorable moment so far at Beats 1?
Pharrell Williams, here in this very place. I interviewed Pharrell Williams. It was the single most crazed day of my life. I always think that when I may be interviewing Alicia Keys today, and in my head I know what I want to say to her, but also I think that it’s not gonna mean as much to her, but she used to sing me to sleep (I don’t know if I’m going to tell her this). I used to set my CD player to sleep, and play The Diary of Alicia Keys, and just fall asleep every single day to that album. But that might not mean anything to her…. she might just be like ‘ok cool’.
With Pharrell, it was the same thing. I used to learn dance routines to Pharrell produced beats to N*E*R*D beats, when he had his solo career, fronting and stuff… those were actually my tunes. Me and my friends made up a dance called ‘The Schmiegel,’ I don’t know why it was called ‘The Schmiegel,’ but anyway, it was to “Change Clothes” by Jay Z featuring Pharrell.
Just to be able to speak to these people is just the craziest thing, because I finally get to see them from the opposite side. Like I know how I feel about them, but I get to actually hear what they think and how they feel and almost get to be really nosy and get inside their brain and ask them questions and stuff that I could never imagine being able to ask them.
What does representing the UK on Beats 1 mean to you?
I always find it weird and interesting to see what people think of the UK. Because, to me, it’s just second nature, and I don’t think anything strange. But just being on Beats 1 for the last year and hearing people… I’ll say something like “get wedge” and they’ll be like “what does get wedge mean?” and I’ll be like “oh, it means to get muscles and stuff….”
Just the same with the music, to play music for people for the first time, that I’ve been listening to for ten years, and they’re saying the things that I used to say when I first heard them, it’s interesting to me. I think that it’s nice to come out of your comfort zone. I’m less complacent now, and I don’t think that everybody knows what I’m talking about straight away now and I’m more open to being like actually I might be saying this to you for the first time or you might be hearing about this artist for the first time. So I’m going to almost cherish that moment for you and be excited for you to be able to experience what I would think is not a normal thing, like driving on the other side of the road *laughs*
Tell us about the selection process for your UK Represent.
When we first spoke about it, thinking, how do we highlight what’s happening in the UK. We were like, okay cool, we’ll have these different artists and that represent the UK, and in my head I was like they’re not new and this is normal. But then, playing NAO to people, and them saying “she’s my new favourite artist,” I’m like okay, cool! I get why we do this now and it makes more sense to me.
Like I had Frisco in, who’s part of Boy Better Know. I’ve known him my whole life. I asked him why his name is Frisco, and in my head, I thought, I’ve never thought to ask you that before, because you’re just Frisco! But to give that information to someone for the first time, and for people to hear about it, or even talking about the origins of Grime sometimes… Trying to explain what Eskimo dance is… it’s weird that people don’t know what it is, but then actually explaining it and thinking this is a really cool thing – the scene that you love built is really cool.
I’m actually excited now, I find it fun to be able to go back and start from the beginning with these different people. Kano is someone I’d never met before and my first interview with him was on Beats 1 but he’s been doing music for years. To be able to start from day one with Kano for me, felt amazing because I’ve listened to his music from the beginning and I actually get to talk to him about it and not feel like we were going over stuff he’d been over before, because he understands, and I understand, there are people that might be hearing this for the first time.
UK Represent has turned out definitely to be one of my favourite things about the show.
How do you figure out which artists to feature? Is there a huge long list?
There’s two lanes. Sometimes it’s just people, like NAO, her album was coming out, it made sense that we should do something around the album and also be able to tell her story from the beginning… But sometimes I’ll be listening to music on iTunes and have it on shuffle and an artist will come on and I’ll think “actually that would be a good person, or this person’s got a good story.” It might not be that they’ve got an album coming out, but it just might click in my head that it would be a great person to feature.
Sometimes I get a bit greedy and I wanna know more about this person or I want the opportunity to be able to start from day one with this person, and for them to tell the story, because I’ve already made up this weird journey in my head of what their life must have been like. But sometimes I’m greedy and I would love for them to be able to tell that story.
It’s a combination of all those things. Sometimes I’ll think of someone and they’re not from the UK and I’m like damn! I wish that they could just pretend that they were born here.
Is there someone in your community that influences your musical taste and the UK Represent?
This is going to sound cheesy. My boyfriend, definitely. He is, like an A&R, well, in his head he’s an A&R, and I’m like, you’re really good at this, but we’re just like, chill out, you don’t need to deal with that stuff. From the day I met him, before we were even in a relationship he was always the person that showed me new artists, like super new as well. Not even like, they’ve had an album out, like listen to this one song from this person, and I’m like, okay cool, and I’ll ignore it for a bit, and then I’ll hear something else from them again, and again and again.
And then my brother Jamie [JME] as well. Jamie listens to songs on repeat. I go to his house and whatever song he’s got on repeat, I know I should check out that artist. He’ll listen to songs on repeat for like three days in a row, just the same song, and every time I see him… Getting in the car, same song again. He’ll make sure it’s on every single device, so that wherever he goes he can hear it on repeat. He listens to a lot of UK music, so he’s a good person, because there’s someone I might have missed. There’s so many artists, I can sometime miss people or there might be a crew of four people, and I’ll be listening to one, but he’ll be listening to the third or fourth one.
Why is it important for the world know about the UK music scene?
I know everyone must have said this already… But the Skepta Mercury Prize Award, was at the minute, the highest of all of what is happening in the UK and why people should listen to the music. That’s the one that we can all see, visually, from far, from another country, from space… you can see that this guy has won a Mercury Prize as an independent artist, from an independent label, and an independent album.
That’s something that we can all see, but my job is to get closer, and you can see everything else that’s around, not just this one album, but all the mixtapes, all the artists, all the little shows that are happening, all the small gigs at The Nest, at Birthdays, at all these different venues and events, and these people in the community.
For me UK music is just so interesting; it’s like a movie to watch it. Then things like the Mercury Prize happen and that would be the bit in the movie that we definitely have to record the scene, that’s a big part of the story that we’re telling. As a whole, if someone was to start from the beginning and tell you their story – I haven’t found one person who doesn’t find UK music interesting. The journey of what has been, what the artist has been through. There’s been people that have gone to jail, there’s been people that R.I.P. have passed away and you know that we still talk about to this day.
Hattie Collins and Olivia Rose just released a This Is Grime book, and that’s just that one story. So there’s just so many genres within the UK that were born here and I just think it would be weird for me to not tell their stories and to not find those stories interesting and to talk to people about them.
From an American perspective, my whole life, I have watched American television. I used to watch Sweet Valley High, any teenage school program, I would watch it! American culture is such a big part of me and everything I saw growing up. In my head, I always think as an American I would love for you guys to be able to look at the UK and be like, there’s all this stuff, because apart from EastEnders, we weren’t really trying to get any UK things across to you guys.
I feel like this is such a great way for you to be able to learn who we are and what we’re about and what our culture is about because it’s so powerful. It is to me as strong as what hip hop was back in the day, the start of that movement was amazing, and the start of punk, and for people to be able to tell those stories… What’s happening now is just as amazing and will be taught in history for years and years to come.
What are you listening to right now?
I’m listening to Desiigner “Timmy Turner.” I’m still listening to Blank Face by Schoolboy Q, and Kanye West’s album. I think it was the best album that’s been released this year – I can’t wait for Saint Pablo tour to get to UK.