When Julie Adenuga was announced as the UK anchor of Beats 1, the British music world rejoiced. Sister of grime icons JME and Skepta, or Jamie and Junior as they’re known to her, and a beloved radio DJ in her own right, Adenuga grew up at the centre of one of the most exciting British musical movements in decades. Having held down a show on Rinse FM since the pirate radio days, she’d developed a keen ear for the best, emerging grime and UK rap talent and an army of listeners that tuned in for her unique perspective on the scene and hilarious patter. At a time when British rap music is gaining more and more international acclaim, it’s hard to think of a better person to take the sounds of the UK to the wider world.
There’s hardly been a more important time to get it right either. Between Brexit and the ongoing reign of Theresa May, Britain’s international standing isn’t the strongest it’s ever been and shows like Julie’s provide an important opportunity to show the world, or at least the 27 million people that have an iTunes account, a more diverse and open-minded version of British culture.
Julie’s taste in music fits the brief perfectly. Well versed in the history of grime but also eager to break new talent, during her time at Beats 1 she’s morphed into a champion of UK music in almost all forms, using her weekly UK Represent feature to educate the world and entertain her home with tracks by everyone from our cover stars Stefflon Don and Kojey Radical to veterans like Kasabian and Wretch 32. If there’s something exciting bubbling in the UK, chances are Julie’s been on it from early. However, she protests at people labelling her as anything but the messenger. “I don’t call myself a tastemaker or a gatekeeper or any of those weird words people might chuck out, but I do like to talk to people and meet people who have potential who I think ‘I can’t wait for you to do this’ when I’m actually excited for them to do stuff in future.”
“I wasn’t a massive guitar music fan before, and I’m still not now, but I appreciate that music so much more now because of Matt Wilkinson, because of Sam, my producer, introducing me to stuff I wasn’t into before,” she explains of her role at Beats 1. Her show, like all of Beats’ has always been based on her personal taste in music, but that taste has also been shaped by the show introducing her to music she may not have otherwise experienced. “Estrons is a Welsh band and the lead singer,” she says, “she’s like me when I lose my temper but in tune. I love listening to her voice, and it’s not something I listened to before but… when I put it on the show it feels more real and authentic; it doesn’t feel like I’m just playing stuff that’s popular.”
Above it all, Adenuga is a fan. The least experienced but probably most enthusiastic (if it’s even possible to more enthusiastic than Zane Lowe that is) of the station’s three anchors, she brings an energy to her show that anyone who’s passionate about music can relate to. It’s the kind of energy generated by a near endless search for brilliant new music and the excitement generated when you find it. Catch her on the airwaves at 8 PM every day Monday to Thursday and get ready to get swept up in the wave.
Do you have a plan to get Americans into grime
I don’t have a plan because I don’t feel like it’s important to do, I don’t feel like it’s important for the US to get on board with UK music. I can understand the way they feel about it because hip-hop comes from America, so I can understand if there’s something that sounds a bit like it but isn’t it why that’s confusing. For me it’s not about them getting on board, it’s just about having something that’s ours. The rest of the world loves grime; there’s French grime, Canadian grime, Japanese grime. I don’t have a plan to get them to accept it; I just want to make sure people understand it.
If you had to co-host your show for a week who would you pick?
Vince Staples. It’s not even a question. Everyone should co-host their show with Vince Staples.
If one of the other DJs from Beats 1 would take over your playlist who would it be?
Scott Vener. He can do whatever he wants, I don’t know what’s wrong with him, it’s crazy. He loves his dogs and so he just sits in his beautiful house in LA and listens to music, hours and hours and hours of music. He’s a music supervisor on Ballers, so he just listens to music and decides where it’s going to go.
Who deserves their own radio show that doesn’t have one?
Wiley. Wiley should have a radio show, and we should have to go to wherever he is to record it. We’ll just be like ‘where are you now?’ and go there and record it. It isn’t about anything, just wherever he is we go there and record what he’s saying, don’t ask him no questions, just record what he’s saying. It’s just Wiley talking about Chinese food, and then we play any record, and then we come back, and he’s talking about something completely different.
What are three qualities you need to be good radio presenter?
You need to be good a talking, and you need to be good at listening. I think you need to be funny as well. A serious radio show would be so boring.
Who should we be talking about that we’re not talking about now?
Can we please be talking about IAMDDB? Because I love her. She’s so magical. I love when women come out, and they’re not normal. Let’s talk about Kojey Radical as much as we can because I’m getting old now and I need people to realise that you need to listen to some people when they’re talking.
Listen to Julie Adenuga’s Beats 1 show Monday – Thursday at 8 pm BST.