DJ Nikki Beatnik: Sometimes I get abuse for being a female DJ, then they listen to my music and shut up
DJ Nikki Beatnik has partied with Will Smith and Jay-Z and counts Kelis among her best friends. She’s won awards for her club nights and is currently the official tour DJ for both Kelis and Nicola Roberts. She talks shoes, make-up and how being trained as a classical musician has helped her rise to the top of the club scene.
DJ Nikki Beatnik totters across the dancefloor, all pink heels and white-blonde hair, she’s like a trendier, more curvy version of a Barbie doll. She’s late because she had to change her footwear for the event – a club night at Punk in Soho. She explains that she wore her glittery silver cowboy boots to drive here, but prefers embellished stilettos for the DJ booth. ”I love shoes!” she exclaims, “I had over 300 pairs, but I gave 40 pairs away to my neighbour, I’m always giving things away…to make room for more shoes!…I hope I don’t forget them, I’ve done that before and when you come back they’re never there.”
We pause for a moment’s silence to mourn the loss of the beloved heels. Tonight’s event, curated by her, is the epitome of girlishness, with manicures, makeovers and fruity, sweet cocktails. Nikki’s personality is stamped all over it. Like a girly big sister, she seems worldly and homely all at once. It’s hard to believe that she spends her time hanging out with A-list singers and rappers. “After a while, you realise they are all just people and some you get on with and some you don’t. They are all a bit strange, but everyone creative is a bit strange, DJs are all strange, too,” she says.
At one of her award-winning club nights in 2005, she was playing Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” and Jay-Z appeared at her decks and started singing along. “That was weird,” she says, “we saw each other a few times after that because my club night was just where everyone would come.” What’s Jay-Z like in person? “He’s really kind, intelligent, he takes everything in, a really kind guy.” But out of all her celebrity mates, Kelis is her favourite “‘Cos he’s my best friend! We’ve known each other for 14 years. When we first met I was DJing and playing The Neptunes and her music, and no-one was really into that sound then, because it’s minimalist hip-hop. She came over and we were dressed in a similar way and liked the same music and we hit it off.”
Since then, Nikki has become Kelis’s touring partner, she is the offical DJ for her gigs and they travel the world together. She shows me a big bruise on her leg from their recent appearance in Bali, “Me and Kelis always go on stage in massive heels and I hurt my leg because there are bits of metal sticking out everywhere on stage.”
She’s also well-known in the fashion world and has DJ’d at events for Roberto Cavalli, London Fashion Week and Fashion Rocks, but she never wanted to work in fashion. “I always knew I wanted to be a DJ,” she explains, “I took music lessons as a child, I’m classically trained and play the cello, it doesn’t matter if it’s classical or hip-hop, music’s music. If you’re working with someone who is classically trained, you can tell straight away, you’ve got this deeper understanding of the craft. It’s like anything, you practice and practice and eventually you’re good at it.”
It’s quite a reductionist view of Nikki’s path – she has been practicing since she was 15, and it hasn’t always been straightforward. “I got these decks off a DJ I knew and tried to teach myself. I’d go into record stores and the staff would chat to their mates the regulars and ignore me. Gradually their attitude changed and they started saving music for me.” Was it because she’s a woman? “Yeah, there were only one or two female DJs at that time, and you do get attitude, I still get it, sometimes I go up to the DJ booth and someone will say “it’s a girl” but then they hear your work, they realise that you know what you’re doing and they shut up!”
Nikki Beatnik curated the exclusive launch of Relentless Energy Drink’s ‘Apple & Kiwi’ flavour.Tagged in: Barbie, Beatnik, DJ, DJ Nikki, fashion, female, feminism, kelis, Nicola Roberts, Relentless
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