Born and raised in West London, meet DJ Kizzi. I was only five minutes into the interview when I realised that her devotion to DJing is unmatched. Despite recently securing a club residency as well as a radio show on Westside, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Read on to find out how she has assaulted obstacles and stereotypes with her fierce self-belief and desire to be better.
How did you get hooked on the decks?
I had just moved schools and a lot of new friends were into music production. They all had these MIDI keyboards so I wanted to get one too. I told my teacher who said: “Kizzi, no. Buy some decks.” She showed me which ones to get and I sent them to my family group chat. I remember my mum sending me question marks followed by: “You play piano. What do you mean you want decks?” I got them for Christmas and was obsessed. I thought I was a next level DJ. I thought I was some sort of David Guetta.
You’ve achieved so much at such a young age. Who are your main sources of support?
I come from an Asian background; a lot of people would have wondered whether my parents were pushing me into my education. Surprisingly, they weren’t. I can never thank my parents enough. The most supportive is definitely my dad. For my first paid gig, he spent so long telling me what XLR cables were, adjusting volumes on mics and going through the instructions that came with equipment. He just wanted me to have fun and enjoy myself. When I’m on Westside, he’ll hear me being introduced by the previous presenter, listens to the whole show and WhatsApps me throughout: “Love that song, Kizzi…sounds really good” or “not feeling the music.” With gigs, he always stays up. Sometimes when I’ve DJed at clubs and I’m back at 6:00am, he’ll be sitting there. My dad bigs me up so much; he is my biggest fan, supporter – everything. He’s the OG.
Who do you look to for inspiration?
Yinka from Capital Xtra. Her presenting is amazing and I love how everything about her is so real but her DJ career…She’s DJed for Lick events which is a company that I dream of DJing for. My big dream is the Wireless main stage; Yinka did that last year. I was with my friends and we were in the crowd. It was amazing. She’s a woman who has so much confidence. Some of the events Yinka’s done are dream events of mine. She definitely inspires me to think: you can do it.
Any low points so far?
I remember this event so specifically – I had an exam the next morning. At that point, my mum had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Watching my mum go through chemo, you just need something to do and I liked the pressure of life: going to school, DJing, student nights on Thursdays. I got to this event and there were loads of DJs rotating through the night but I was the only girl. Sometimes you are – that’s not a problem – but all the guys there were six feet and I’m five foot two. I remember standing on this stage thinking: Oh my God. It’s okay, you’re tiny but we move.
Then I looked at the desk. It was just CDJs but I had trained on a mixer. In that moment, there were fifteen different things hitting me at once. Normally, I would phone my mum but my mum’s not a DJ and she wasn’t well. I had to wake up the next day for my exam too. I thought I was going to have a panic attack so I went to the bathroom to just breathe: I’m here. I need to take the opportunity. I need to get myself together.
I don’t know if it was social anxiety but when I got home, I cried for three hours straight. I re-evaluated everything: I love this so, so much. I am not going to let this affect me. And that’s what I did. It’s all good. In the end, the set actually went really well. I remember living my best life for that hour.
What about achievements? Any momentous occasions you’ve ticked off?
I was checking my emails once and saw one message saying ‘BBC’. I opened it and saw an invitation to represent females with a DJ mix for International Women’s Day. This is crazy – on the BBC? I was so gassed. I did the mix straight away, replied to the email straight away. My mum had all her friends come around and we listened to the mix when it aired. When they introduced me as “DJ Kizzi for International Women’s Day”…even thinking about it now makes me smile.
You’re also killing your weekly set on Westside. Has radio taught you anything as part of your journey?
I used to be really mic shy. I remember a promoter telling me I needed to speak more on the mic but I was always too scared to. I’m only 50% of the way there but ever since I’ve been on the radio, I pick up that mic, talk with confidence and say what I’ve got to say. Being on air made me realise I actually enjoy presenting and hosting. Would I be a presenter? Would I do a podcast? It’s opened my mind.
Any advice for those looking to pursue DJing?
Three words: learn your stuff. Learn which genres you love and want to mix, then perfect them. Learn how to beat match. Learn in terms of equipment too. Be prepared: know what you’re going to work with when you get to an event. That was definitely a big one that caught me out. Also, take every opportunity that comes. Even if it doesn’t get you anywhere, take it and use it to better yourself.
We hear a lot of talk on social media about supporting your friends. How can we support our friends in this industry?
Listen to their stuff. Give them feedback. That was the one thing I craved when I started. It took one of my cousins to tell me a mix wasn’t smooth for me to perfect it. Also, repost and share their stuff – even if no one listens to it. It’s about feeling the support around you. It will fuel their confidence and manifest their dreams.