DJs curate the core of the music culture that we truly love at Keakie. As Grime grows into a global genre, it is important to keep in touch with the movement’s subcultural roots. Borne from the belly of UK Garage, the movement took a deep hold in pirate radio filled pockets across the country - from the streets of East London to the basements of Bournemouth.
J-Fresh : Grime's International DJ
It was in Bournemouth that Garage and Grime first reached the multi-talented DJ, producer and presenter J-Fresh. From his initial start, the curator has gone on to make big moves across each of his areas of expertise. As a presenter, he has exclusively interviewed the likes of Wiz Khalifa, Skepta, Krept & Konan and Vic Mensa. As a DJ, he has opened shows for French Montana, Snoop Dogg, Sneakbo and Wiley. As a host, he broadcasts a weekly radio show on 40 stations across the globe. In the process he has built himself one of the most impressive resumé’s in the grime game.
There’s always a dominant subcultural trend that first ignites one’s musical passion. For J-Fresh, it was the era of UK garage. A movement characterised by raw musical experiences, Fresh recalls how the authenticity of the trend got him inspired: “That got me hooked on music, DJing and rave culture. Radio just went hand in hand with that. That’s where I cut my teeth. As time progressed and I got more involved in radio stations I started linking with artists and doing interviews. A lot of what I’ve done flows organically from there.”
Not one to rest on the strength of one skill, Fresh decided to use each of his experiences to add to his creative repertoire. And so his talent for DJing morphed into a talent for producing. He said “as a DJ you start making your own little edits of existing records and the result is that you start creating your own original records.” As a result, Fresh has produced a slew of hits that have culminated in his recent Pineapple EP. Titled after his favourite fruit, Fresh hopes the EP represents a seminal moment for many of his future projects.
On his touring engagements, Fresh says that he loves being able to play tracks for an audience. “The energy you get back from the people is like a drug. You do it and you just want more; you want to do it again.” One example of this was his recent tour of mainland Greece. “I never thought I’d play there. I was at the French Montana tour and going into a country where I didn’t know the language or the locals. I was thinking “is my music going to connect?”. It’s a bit like the unknown. Just being able to go anywhere. You meet people for the first time. They connect with you and become fans of what you do and seeing people enjoy themselves is great. I feel blessed by it and use it to inspire me to keep on working and to work more.”
Following his uplifting message for aspiring DJs, Fresh gave some serious advice for those who really want to make it in the game.“Work hard - regardless of how much talent you are blessed with, the people you have around you or the opportunities you are given. You always have to work hard, try your best, develop and grow.”
He continued, “always be appreciative of every opportunity that you get - especially in the early days. No matter what you’re doing. You will be serving some sort of apprenticeship at the beginning. You will be working hard and possibly for little to no money. But you have to do that to learn, you have to do that to get your skills up and to know what to do and what not to do so that further down the line you are more rounded and you have a better understanding of the situation. You can’t just wake up one morning and expect everything to be there for you in a nice box with a bow on it. You just need to work as hard as possible.”
As for some of the highlights of his presenting career thus far, Fresh tends to prefer interviews that he secured with artists early in their career, typically just before they make it big. “I tend to look at it as the timing and when I did interview the person. A couple that spring to mind are Tinie Tempah and Kano. We covered Tinie three days before Pass Out charted. He performed at a 300 capacity club in Bournemouth. I played there before him and then we did a little interview. Three days later his record went to Number 1 and from that day on he’s rocketed into his own galaxy. It’s amazing to see. To get him at that time is a tough thing to replicate.”
He continued, “Kano is an artist I have rated from the get go. I have been trying to get him for a proper sit down interview for a while. I only managed to get that a year ago. It was like a 10 year cycle from his debut album to his latest album. There were so many interesting things to talk about about how he has changed and progressed as an artist. If I go back to his very first album, on the last date of his first album tour I opened the show for him. I’ve still got the A4 page of the running order that you have on the side of the stage. I took that out of my bag in the interview and he was surprised I still had that - with his old logo on too! It was nice for me that he recognised the depth.”
When we asked him who he’d love to interview right now based on the timing and quality of the artist, he said Stormzy. “He’s done incredible things and will continue to do incredible things. At the moment you’d say him because he’s on the cusp of some madness - even more madness than you would think.”
As for what’s coming next from J-Fresh, he shared that he’s working on some exciting new records. “I’m in the studio every week working on records and reaching out to new artists who I think are cool. I’ve done a couple of remixes that are coming out soon. One is coming out in two weeks. all the details will be online shortly. Another one is coming out in the middle of April. I like the idea that with the featured artists, they are all sick in their own way. I come across artists who I think are cool and I want to be more aware of them. So I reach out to them, make something cool and exciting and go from there.” We look forward to seeing what the multi-talented artist puts out next.
Be sure to connect with him on Twitter @J-Fresh and listen to his latest Pineapple EP