WORDS GRACEY MAE - CONTRIBUTING FEATURE EDITOR JENNIFER ELETO - IMAGES COURTESY OF CUPPY
During the current lockdown, F Word's contributor, Gracey Mae caught up with multifaceted creative Cuppy to chat about the many things she has been doing during this time, from putting out some new fresh music to baking and doing LIVE Dj sets online. Cuppy is a remarkable character not only for her strikingly gorgeous pink hairdo but for her vulnerability to speak openly about life and mental health as well as being an ambassador for 'Save the Children' and Afrobeats artist iconic in the contemporary music scene. Cuppy speaks about how her name came about, the things she has been doing during the lockdown and her latest music project 'Jollof on the Jet.'
Gracey Mae: Cuppy, welcome to the F Word! You’re a DJ, philanthropist and event curator. Which one describes you best?
Cuppy: I have so many different feathers. I would say… funnily enough, ‘creative’, which isn’t there. Because every single thing I do is a way of expressing myself. So whether that’s curating events like Cactus [on the Roof], whether that’s through creating music like my album “Original Copy” or whether that’s DJing, they’re all me expressing myself. So I’m a creative expressionist. [Laughs]
G.M: On top of that, you’re known for your signature pink hair. What was the inspiration behind this look?
Cuppy: I went to the hairdressers and they ran out of black weave [laughs] I’m joking! The inspiration behind it is; I basically wanted to own my femininity, especially because I’m in a male-dominated industry as a DJ and as an artist. I wanted to really encapsulate my colourful personality, also quite striking but also fearless. I’m basically re-writing the narrative of pink, which is delicate, and overly soft. You know! Cuppy is a bold, strong character, and for me, the pink hair allows me to express myself that much more.
G.M: Word on the street is that you’re a big foodie. Is that the reason why your fans are called Cupcakes and your label is called Red Velvet?
Cuppy: I am a massive foodie. I love food and I recently became a vegan but that hasn’t stopped me from loving food. But yes! When I was growing up I loved food so much that my cheeks were slightly round and merry, so everyone started calling me Cupcake. To cut a long story short, I do love cupcakes. I was baking a lot when I was younger which is something I’ve been doing a lot during the lockdown. When it came to choosing my name, it just made sense. Cupcake is shortened to Cuppy, and it when it came to starting my own company, I chose my favourite flavour which is Red Velvet!
G.M: I love that. What’s it like being a female DJ in this industry, especially one that comes from a well-known family?
Cuppy: I think the narrative is constantly changing. As for me, it depends on where I am. Being a female DJ back where I’m from in Nigeria is very challenging because you often feel like there’s a lot of pressure working against you. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, women are very much seen as not ambitious and not very vocal which is the opposite of what I am. Then overseas, things are also different but still challenging, as I’m not just a female but I’m a female of colour. This means that when I am performing internationally, I have the added pressure of making sure I’m representing my people well. I also have to make sure that I’m representing for the music I play which is predominantly Afrobeats. It’s always important for me to represent and show people what we have. That’s a lot of pressure! The possible sexism, the possible racism and also coming from the family I come from, which is very entrepreneurial, people tend to water down my hard work. I’ve been in this game for a while and I’ve learnt to always allow my ambition to lead me and not let anybody [make me] feel like I’m less than I know I am.
G.M: On the topic of your family, we know that your sisters are both in the limelight for being creative. Temi is in fashion and Tolani is a singer. Is there a bit of friendly competition?
Cuppy: [Laughs] I mean… I always say, “I feel so sorry for my parents”, right! Three of us have decided to go into creative jobs which do not always follow the most straight forward path. My sisters and I are so different but we’re still this dynamic trio. I’m predominantly known as a DJ, my older sister Tolani is known as an amazing soul singer and my younger sister, Temi was very much into fashion but she’s now focussing on acting so we all do quite different things. I’m pushing to collaborate more with my sisters and I hope this will happen soon. For that, I’ll take credit for when it does happen! [At the moment,] I’m like “guys, let’s do something together” and they’re like “no!” [Laughs]
G.M: Well, you have recently collaborated with your sister, Temi, on the “Don’t Rush” challenge. We’ve loved seeing the creativity during this quarantine season. What else have you been doing to keep sane and upbeat during this time?
Cuppy: The way I’ve been able to stay sane is to keep myself occupied with creative stuff so I’ve recently taken up the guitar. And of course, before you ask, the guitar is pink! And I’ve taken up baking again which takes me back to my childhood. I was able to bake an amazing cake in aid of Save the Children, you know, helping keep children occupied as an ambassador for them. Another thing I’ve been able to do as well is social-media-live-DJ-mixing. I got my first festival booking of 2020 which was live on social media. It was Triller Fest – that was really fun to do. I was also part of the World Health Organisation initiative with Global Citizen called ‘Together at Home’. That was really fun. Funny enough, Liz [my manager] can vouch for me. I’ve been busy and she’s been keeping me on my toes! We’re gearing up for the big release of my album, “Original Copy”.
G.M: Oooh! We can’t wait to hear about your new project. We’ve seen you be quite vulnerable online with regards to your mental health. What would your advice be to anyone feeling anxious or lonely during this lockdown?
Cuppy: Do I do that? [Laughs] Do I actually do that? Really. Oh wow, okay. That’s interesting. It’s good to know that. I’m really happy because I’m always myself, I just didn’t know that I was that transparent. I think I can do more but thanks for encouraging me. My advice right now? So a lot of people are struggling because they’re like me. They’re extroverts and we get energy off [having] a lot of people around us. We need physical presence so what I can encourage people to do is – you’ve got to keep safe – but luckily the government has allowed us to do an hour of exercise and now we can go out more, so you know, get out! Be safe but... take a walk. I know you still can’t engage directly with people, but you can see people and you can see birds in the park, and you can see people cycling and these things will just boost you up. At the end of the day, you need endorphins and serotonin. It’s very important for your wellbeing so I’ve been able to do that which is great and that’s really helped me.
G.M: Sport can be a great distraction when you’re feeling low but you’ve recently broken up with Arsenal. Give us 3 top tips on getting over heartache!
Cuppy: Yes, this is true. Getting over a long-term relationship like this is really hard. Six years being a Gunner and I never envisaged an end… But, there’s only so much heartbreak a girl can take. I’m still trying to accept it’s finally over and come to terms with it. It’s a process; you know? To get over it I guess I have to first deal with the pain and get the closure I need. I’m not ready to move on yet. However, I’ve had a few offers from football clubs.
G.M: Earlier, you’ve touched on baking as an ambassador for Save the Children. You are also a rep for Maybelline, Pepsi and Tiger beer. What does that mean on a day to day basis?
Cuppy: Well, it means to me that I have these amazing global brands that I’m able to collaborate with and it’s a way of also appreciating my positioning and what I stand for. It’s amazing to have these great brands stand beside me and support what I do, and also, represent some of these brands in the markets that I’m active in. It feels good to be able to be part of that. It’s also a huge responsibility, and it can be a nice cheque too! [laughs] The only thing I would say is my collaborations are not done – there’s more coming!
G.M: On the topic of more… Congratulations on Africa Now: you’re giving us the best of Afrobeats on Apple Music Radio. Now that you’re adding Radio Host to your CV, what are you hoping to achieve with this new venture?
Cuppy: Thank you! I’m excited to be the first-ever African to host a playlist radio show on Apple Music. It's a huge addition to my CV and my DREAM JOB! I’m literally living my dream, it’s surreal. I’ve always been an avid champion of the African culture; its music, creativity, potentials, talents... everything! So being part of a show that allows me to do exactly that is mind-blowing; a show by Africans for Africans. I’m really looking forward to telling the African story and documenting the process. I intend to shed light on our numerous creative talents whilst share the positivity that is resident in Africa with the world and correct the misconceptions about our history. This is a great opportunity to change the narrative and I intend to maximize it. I’m glad that our unique African sound has begun to make global waves but there is still so much work to be done and if we don’t do the job, who will? The time for Africa is NOW. Africa to the world!
G.M: Amazing! When Quarantine is over, we’re all going to be looking for a motive. You’re known for putting on amazing day parties. Cactus on the Roof takes place across multiple cities and features amazing guests DJs. What have you got planned for the next edition?
Cuppy: Once the quarantine is over, I think it’s only right that Cactus makes its comeback. I think for me it’s going to be a matter of celebration but also to appreciation. A big part of Cactus is DJs and so many DJs have had the spotlight on social media. I’ve been following a lot of DJs! Of course, I’ll have a lot more new music so it’ll be a massive get-together, definitely in London and in Lagos, and all the other countries we’ve done before. We’re just gearing up. In the meantime, Cactus on the Roof’s social media has done a lot of cool live mixes so people should check it out.
G.M: I love that you touched on new music. We can’t wait for your forthcoming album, “Original Copy”. You’ve teased us with some artwork on Instagram. When can we expect the project?
Cuppy: The full project will be out shortly after the lead single. I have finally been able to get it done! It’s basically sitting in the oven as we talk [laughs] which is a nice innuendo on Cupcake. I just want it to be perfect, so I am putting the icing on top. I’ve been working for a long time on my debut album. I’ve put my heart and soul into this; I couldn’t be prouder of every single record. It’s been a journey – one that hasn’t been easy. I think like you’ve said; I’ve been quite vocal on how I’ve been feeling. A lot of my Cupcakes, my fans will know that I had a few disappointments going along from artists to everything. From just making decisions like ‘how do I want to put it out?’ Do I want to sign a label deal? Do I wanna do this independently? It’s been very very exciting and it’s going to be coming sooner rather than later.
G.M: Amazing, we can’t wait. Let’s talk about the first single off of the album; it dropped last week, what can you tell us about it?
Cuppy: It’s a fun and highly anticipated record. It genuinely came about most authentically. It’s called “Jollof on the Jets” and I was having Jollof on a PJ and my fans started commenting it, so I thought ‘oh okay!’ I was in the recording process and I thought ‘what can I do with this amazing concept?’ I asked my fans who they would want on the record and different names came up. People really took it upon themselves! This record feels very special since my fans inputted into it. I haven’t quite revealed the features on it yet. Really excited about this record. Really proud of it. I’ve worked with two of the most buzzing artists from East Africa and West Africa. We’ve got Rayvanny from East Africa on the record and Rema from Nigeria. So it’s gonna be a banger!
G.M: Explosive. Amazing. I love the name. It actually leads very nicely into the very last question.
Cuppy: Oh, how so?
G.M: Last but not least; what’s your favourite F word?
Cuppy: [laughs] F word? Oh shit. [laughs] My favourite F word? Oh God. [laughs] Actually I think my favourite F word would have to be 'flower'. Maybe? Yeah, because it reminds me of the tropics. Cactus. And obviously, I love patterns…so maybe flower. Or maybe Fufu? I think Fufu because I’m a foodie. OMG! It’s so annoying. Why is every single word that comes to my head a swear word? [laughs] Like why?
G.M: When you first said “flower,” I thought you meant “flour” in reference to baking and Cupcakes but then you said patterns so I said, “oh wrong flower!” [laughs] I’ve got it. Fufu for the foodie. Thanks for clarifying.
Cuppy: Yeah, my mind was going to a lot of places.
G.M: Thanks, Cuppy. Any final words for your fans and followers?
Cuppy: I just wanna say you need to look out for ‘Original Copy’ and stream it when it’s out. There’s a song there for everyone. Also, be yourself. Be your original you. Do you! Make sure you follow your dreams.
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