London-based Beats 1 presenter Julie Adenuga is, without a doubt, one of the leading tastemakers when it comes to British music. Her consistency, personality and love for homegrown talent fuelled her come up, previously landing her the golden slot — The Drive Time Show — on Rinse FM, before heading over to the big Apple Music. While she has remained more behind the scenes, Julie's harmonies can be heard all over brothers Jme and Skepta's cult classic mixtapes, and her work supporting the Boy Better Know label has contributed much to making it the tour de force that we see today. Complex caught up with Miss Adenuga to piece together a playlist of songs that show her full character; from The Spice Girls and Cardi B to Tempa T and Bob Marley, this is Julie's life in 11 songs.
Do you remember the first track you played on Beats 1?
It was "Man Don't Care". I remember we had an argument about it as well. Everyone was saying we should play something a bit more known, but I just said, "No! We're playing 'Man Don't Care'." Then they said, "What if people are weird about it being your brother?" I don't care what anyone thinks! The first song I'm playing on Beats has to be "Man Don't Care". You know what's funny? The reason why I was so persistent was because if anyone ever asks me what the first song I played was, I wanted to be able to say "Man Don't Care". Now that you've asked me that question, I'm happy [laughs]. I didn't wanna throw my toys out the pram that early into the Beats 1 game, like: "What's the first tantrum you're gonna throw, Julie? Is it gonna be the first ever day you're on air?" [Laughs] But you know what? This is important to me.
What track refocuses you after a really hard day?
"Reflecting" by Skepta. It's the one where he says: "I get mad when I think this ting got me spitting with people like Boya and Saskilla!" [Laughs] Yeah, this tune, because it's like listening to his thoughts. Like, it's not a song. Even the beginning of the second verse, he's talking, but you don't realise the verse has started. He's just talking, just saying something and then it goes into a lyric. That song always makes me think. It's like a reset for when everything's mad; the kind of song that makes you stop everything and think about what's good and what's not. That feeling of just, "Stop. Start again. Look around and actually take a minute to breathe." That's what that song reminds me of.
What was the first track you ever bought?
The first track I ever bought must have been a Spice Girls tune. The reason I think it was Spice Girls was, remember the photos they used to do? You could buy them... I don't remember how much they were, maybe a pound, packs of five photographs of The Spice Girls. You had to collect all of them. So, on the pack, it was maybe like 50. It was like Pokemon cards. You buy a pack, you don't know what pictures are in there, so you flick through like "I've got that one, got that one, got that one, but I haven't got that one." Then you could swap with people, but you have to get all 50.
They were tapping into the money.
It was sick! That was the first thing I remember spending money on that wasn't food. I remember spending money on them and saving up to buy them. Spice Girls was the first thing I remember spending money on: full stop. If I had pick a track, it would have to be [sings] "Say You'll Be There". The beginning's like acoustic, and then it drops. "Say You'll Be There" is a tune!
Do you remember the moment you first realised you had a talent for singing? And, what was the first song you ever recorded?
My own song? The first song I actually vocalled and sang on was Jme's "What You Need" featuring Wiley. That song is jokes.
The song that I remember singing to was Mariah Carey's "Everything Fades Away" from Music Box. I think it's on the Deluxe version. I always used to sing Mariah because, in my head, Mariah Carey was the best singer. I thought if I want to be a singer, I should practice with Mariah Carey. So I always used to sing Mariah Carey tunes. Music Box, as an album, was my favourite album of all time. And then "Everything Fades Away", that was the song I used to practice singing to.
You're always at the right spots. I saw you at the Burna Boy show a few months back and I remember seeing your excitement on Twitter about seeing Cardi B in London, in April.
I bought four tickets to that and I don't even care who's gonna use them.
Didn't you meet her at this year's SXSW?
I still don't want to talk about it because it makes me worked up!
What's she like?
Exactly the same. I love her so much... I don't even know how to explain it. I just think she's amazing! She's so amazing.
Favourite Cardi B track?
"Pull Up" from Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. 2. Fucking tune! Oh. My. God.
The new one with Offset is a vibe!
"Lick" is good, but "Pull Up" is my fave. I'm surprised they didn't go with "Pull Up" as a single, though. Maybe they still will. So I went to see her perform at SXSW and Anthony, who works there, was there as well and he was like, "Cardi B might be around because she came but just missed her performance time." I was like, "That's fine, you've so made my day." He said I should meet her, but I was like: "You lot don't understand! I can't meet her because I'm going to faint. I can't meet her. I don't know what I'd say!" But they were just like, "No, just come." So I've gone and I met Jock, I think he's her manager or tour manager, and he was like: "Yeah, we're gonna make it happen. Don't worry." I was looking at him like, "Bro, if I faint, just catch me and take me to the hospital." [Laughs] She walked over and my brain was just going... I couldn't believe it. I could not believe it. I didn't know what to say. I thought I was gonna be one of those people who meets someone famous and starts mumbling their words. But she's really cool, man. She was doing her English accent as well. She was like, "I don't know if it sounds Australian or if it sounds English, but I like tea and crumpets!" She's seriously just amazing.
Who are you excited to interview next?
If I get to interview Cardi B, that would be amazing.
I don't know if I want to, though. I think I just want to be her friend. I don't want her to see me as a work person; I don't mind if our relationship starts that way, but I want to be her friend. I want her to be a part of my life so sometimes I can call Cardi like, "What’s going on?" She speaks, and it's so funny. Her personality is amazing. I do want to interview Desiigner. Actually, I want him to be my brother [laughs].
It felt like there were 10,000 articles written about women in grime last year. But I do remember you saying somewhere that your favourite event was Dirty Canvas. What was your favourite night that you've been to at Dirty Canvas, and was it at the ICA or at Rhythm Factory?
It was at the ICA.
What was so special about it?
It was special because it wasn't special—it wasn't even a venue! It was like in a corner, at the bottom of the stairs. It's not even a space. I always thought: "Why is there a party here? It's so random." At capacity, with maybe fifty people, it was the sickest rave. I don't know how they did it, to be honest. I don't know how or why they picked that venue, but it worked. And it was like 20 seconds away from Buckingham Palace, so it kinda felt official. Then you get in there and it's a grime rave in an art gallery.
Is there a specific track that reminds you of those times?
Tempa T's "Next Hype". Always!
Is there a track that makes you proud to be a woman and want to uplift the women around you?
I was gonna say "Bad and Boujee" by Migos...
I like that, you know. Even the video, I feel like they represent women really well.
You can go two ways when you talk about women empowerment. For me, the visuals of Ray BLK's "5050" is the epitome of women empowerment. It's fucking amazing. But then I also like tunes that are made for women to dance to. I don't particularly care for lyrics that are like "my bitch" or whatever. I don't care for lyrics like that. I'll sing them, but they don't mean anything to me because I don't feel like I'm anyone's bitch. I'm not offended by those lyrics, but I like tunes that make women dance. I love dancing, as a woman. I think that's one of my favourite things of all time. I was talking yesterday to my friend about strip clubs. I've never been to a strip club before, and I was like: "If I went to one, I'd want it to be a show." He was like: "You can go to a strip club like Magic City. That's a real show." I don't want to be dancing and there's just a person stripping. I want it to be a show! I've been to a pole-dancing class before and that shit is hard, bruv [laughs]. It's not easy. That's a fucking skill! So I like songs where you can dance to them or you can be sexy to them or you can rave to them or whatever. Any type of music that I can dance to with my bredrins, is okay with me. Which is why I said "Bad and Boujee".
If I had to pick a proper, proper song, it'd be Solange's "Cranes In The Sky". Right now, that's the original sit-down-with-20-people-and-just-sing-along tune. Everyone knows the ad-libs, everyone sings the high note at the end, and everyone does the little notes in between. Everybody knows that song—every single part of it. When I did a dinner recently, that was a thing. You can sing along to that song as a group and it feels great.
The Adenugas are fast becoming a household name, but what's the one track that reminds you of your family at home?
Bob Marley's "Bad Card". For some reason, even though my family's Nigerian, we always listened to reggae in the house. More than we listened to Nigerian music, even. When we were growing up, my mum and dad always listened to reggae. Always. Every single day! And obviously Bob Marley is reggae. You know how Justin Timberlake had "Worthy Of", the hidden track? "Bad Card" was always the song that wasn't mad popular but we would always listen to it in my house. We listened to it more than we listened to "One Love".
Let's say someone randomly put it on now, what would pop into your mind?
The house that we ended up moving into after we lived in Meridian Walk, didn't have a living room. So, since 2004, we haven't had a communal space for our family. There's six of us, which is quite a lot. But whenever I hear "Bad Card", that's always us sitting in the living room at Meridian Walk. We're not even near each other: someone's at the dining table, two people are on the computer, someone's dancing, someone's coming in and out. Everyone's doing their own thing, but we're all in this one space just listening to music, listening to this tune. And it's loud! We're talking to each other, but that's the main source of entertainment and we're just together, listening to music.