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In conversation with Jess Ajose

“Remember you’re a bad bitch, even if you don’t feel it at that moment”

Jess Ajose may be the new kid on the block, but she knows the game and is playing it beautifully. This East London girl is making moves on the scene and considering she has only been DJing for the past two years, the talent is rippling and is undeniable. After making her Boilerroom debut in just 2018, her mixes are catching some well-deserved attention and we couldn’t resist catching up with the up-and-coming star! Discussing her experiences as a black woman on the scene, her alternating levels of confidence and biggest inspirations, Ajose lets us step into her world and see life through her eyes. 

Hey Jess! First off, how’s it going and what have you been up to? 

Hey! It’s been a crazy past couple weeks with everything going on around the world, especially being a Black woman. I’ve been protecting my mental and pushing the BLM movement, having lots of conversations & mobilising. Oh and still working my full-time job lol 🙂 

That’s certainly a lot to have on your plate right now, thank you for taking the time do this interview amongst everything! Do you have a message you would like to put out there? 

Keep pushing the movement, make it a way of life. And for my Black peoples around the world, remember you’re beautifully and wonderfully made ?

Thank you for sharing and for giving us your time. Could you give us a quick introduction to yourself as an artist? and the journey that led you to what you create today?

I’m a multi-genre DJ! I’ve been properly DJing for just over 2 years now so still kinda fairly new but I’ve been surrounded by and working in music for many years now. I fell in love with the thought of DJing in secondary school, it was around the time Boiler Room was a thing so I used to watch all these sets on YouTube. But it wasn’t accessible to me and I never saw women that looked like me DJing, so I just couldn’t imagine myself doing it until I started University in Brighton. In my last year of Uni, I started interning at a community radio station and I had all this access to practise rooms with industry-standard CDJs so I’d just spend my spare time practising in soundproof studios (so no one could hear how terrible I sounded lol). In 2018 the radio station gave me my very first DJ gig and it took off from there, I was forced to stop feeling scared to DJ in front of people aha.

Your sets have this super ‘bad bitch’ vibe, releasing a lot of powerful energy: is this within your nature? 

That’s funny because I think I’m usually a reserved person IRL! But when I touch those decks I just feel so much adrenaline and confidence, nothing else makes me feel that way. Maybe it’s something about controlling a crowd with my selections and seeing their reactions that empower me. Also, the fact that being a DJ and a Woman you’re expected to not be as good as your male counterparts, so it feels like I’m proving that notion wrong every time I DJ. 

I certainly get that vibe… and let me just say you’re killing the game!  It’s so refreshing to see more and more female DJ’s emerging and really crushing it, especially women of colour.  

All my inspirations continue to be authentic in their selections and their technical ability is incredible, it pushes me to keep practising. I hope to be a trusted voice in the DJ community, I hope to take my sounds across the world and connect with different audiences. Most importantly I hope to be an example to little Black girls, show them that they can be DJs and play whatever genres they like. If you’re confident and having fun then I feel like that energy transfers to the audience! 

Who have been the biggest inspirations for you so far? 

Oh, I have so many! I think my real-life influences have been DJ’s I’ve worked with (especially during my years at the community radio station). There’s too many to name and I don’t wanna miss anyone out. In terms of female DJ’s I’ve never worked with; DJs like Carista, Amz, Shy One, Ikonika but also male DJs like Benji B, Sango, Kaytranada, Joe Kay

You grew up in Hackney, what’s the scene like there and how have you been embraced? 

In terms of clubbing and events, a lot of things happen in East London so I’m close to everything (which has helped in terms of accessibility). Hackney is very multicultural so I’ve always been surrounded by many different types of genres which has definitely influenced the music I DJ. It has definitely moulded my DJing style. The music scene in London as a whole is beautiful, but also in the UK generally; we’re seeing a lot of up & coming artists coming out from the North and Midlands which wasn’t really the case a decade ago

For sure! I mean, I would say you’re known for this fusing of genres and sound!

I talk about music with friends a lot so there’s always a swap of music going on. Melodies & drum patterns draw me to particular tunes, I like hearing beautiful vocals & melodies but I also like hearing weird abstract productions too

You’ve been featured on boiler room and had an NTS take-over (pretty amazing experiences I can imagine): What has been the biggest pinch-me moment you’ve had as a DJ so far? 

I think it was my very first Boiler Room in 2018, I was pretty anxious and the line up was great (Unknown T & Headie One were on there so there was naturally going to be a lot of people). I think playing your first BR set is an aspiration for many DJs and I was just thinking about my 16-year-old self watching all those sets and thinking that it could never be me. I’ve developed so much more as a DJ since then but It’s an indescribable feeling to accomplish things that you always thought would be out of reach. But yeah, literally all my friends were there to support and I just had fun man. Here’s to more pinch me moments! 

I’m sure there’s MANY more to come! Any parting words of wisdom? 

Continue being the bad girl or bad boy that you are; like do your thing, whatever your thing maybe. I know it sounds generic but whenever you have that doubtful voice in your head just remember you’re a bad bitch even if you don’t feel it at that moment. 

Check out more from Jess Ajose here! 

Words by Grace Powell