Cameron: Well first I just want to say thank you for meeting with me today. Came all the way from D.C. just to interview with COSIGN. Well first question is can you tell me a little about yourself?
Nitecrawler: My name is Robert Owoyele but I go by DJ Nitecrawler. I’ve been DJing for seven, going on eight years now. I started off, really just teaching myself. I’ve always been into music. I grew up in the church and I use to play the drums, the conga, the trumpet, and the piano for a little while. When I was in college, I was just sitting around and I came across some DJ software. And I was like, “I’ma just teach myself how to DJ.” Honestly, I never expected it to take me the places that it has … never expected to have the opportunities that I have now … and it has turned into a thing bigger than I would’ve ever guessed.
Cameron: Crazy how that works out. Well they do say big things have small beginnings. So, where did you go to school?
Nitecrawler: Well I’m from Arlington but I got shipped all the way to Pennsylvania. I went to school in the middle of nowhere. Bucknell University. It’s a small, private, liberal arts school with about 3500 students. A black population of about 105! Definitely was a struggle. I learned a lot, and grew as a person having to be surrounded by … not only people that don’t look like you … but also people of a certain background. It cost about $55,000/year to go there. I had a football scholarship, which is the only reason why I know about the school and how I was even able to attend. You’re talking about very affluent people who have preconceived notions about who you are as a black man and as a black student. It was a lot to deal with. Definitely helped grow my musical tastes because I was forced to play music that I didn’t normally listen to.
Cameron: Do you still play football now?
Nitecrawler: I mean, I play flag football. (Laughs) I’m in a coed team. Shout out to Death Row. That’s my team’s name. It’s my claim to fame actually. I got injured my junior year and that was my last game I got to play college football. From there, that gave me the time I needed to focus on DJing. I started to take it seriously.
Cameron: What’s the story behind your name?
Nitecrawler: It’s actually football related. We had some type of Wall Of Fame where all the records were hold by position. I set the record for wide receivers in pro-agility. At the time I had ran it, it was cold outside… our colors were orange and blue. So I was in all blue everything. Everybody was like “Damn, you ran that so fast you looked like Nightcrawler of X-Men.” At the time I was still going through potential DJ names with my younger brother, he liked Nitecrawler, so we ran with it.
Cameron: Now you know I’m a nerd at heart, so I gotta ask … do you read the comics?
Nitecrawler: I didn’t read the comics but I’m real big on the movies. I kinda wish I would’ve read them though.
Cameron: Ahhhh okay. Well what do you think sets you apart from other DJs that are out here, and what do you like best about what you do?
Nitecrawler: I would say two things. I’m very eclectic when it comes to my sound and my music. I don’t listen to just one genre. I think a lot of DJs limit themselves to only hip-hop. I grew up in the South, so southern hip-hop influences run deep. I had a cousin that moved in with us when we were younger that listened to nothing but East Coast rap, so I also have that influence as well. I’m Nigerian, so when it comes to African music, I’m very well versed in that. Going to a PWI, a lot of my gigs weren’t hip-hop based. I was playing EDM and Pop music; even growing up in the band and being introduced to Classical music. When I look at DJing, I don’t look at it as playing music. I try to match things based off a song’s key. I look at how things go together musically. I’m also a turntablist. When I practice, I practice scratching more than anything. That’s the real authenticity of DJing and where it all started. I think that’s where I shine the most. I do a lot of tricks and beat juggling. What I love the most is being able to change people’s moods. You could have a real bad day at work and step into the place and forget all about it. I feel that I have influence over people and its dope being able to bring positivity. That brings me joy.
Cameron: So what advice do you have for all the young DJs out there trying to be seen and get booked?
Nitecrawler: Go out, support, and network. People gravitate to people they know. If nobody knows who you are, its gonna be hard to book a gig. When I moved to D.C., I use to go out until 3 to 4 a.m., even if I had work in the morning. I knew if I wasn’t out here networking I wouldn’t have opportunities. I also would say, create your own opportunities because its better that you have control rather than depending on somebody else.
Cameron: So what brought you out to D.C.?
Nitecrawler: When I went to school in Pennsylvania, I was already on the East Coast. I was a finance major and knew that I wanted to work in government. The government agency, that I currently work for, recruited at my school. I ended up applying and getting the job. I figured I had been away from Dallas for four years, so what’s a few more? I told myself that I would only stay there for two years and come back to Dallas, but now I don’t know if I’m ever gonna leave. Ideally, if I could, I would coexist between Dallas and D.C.
Cameron: That sounds … mad expensive.
Nitecrawler: Very! (Laughs)
Cameron: What would you say are the major differences between D.C. and Dallas?
Nitecrawler: (Long pause) Man, I feel like D.C. has a solid identity. You have a bunch of different sectors of D.C. where people have grown up, and those different areas are known for something. You have your artistic crowd, music crowd and so on. I feel like Dallas is still trying to find their identity and what exactly their culture is. We went through the whole Boogie Movement … the dancing movement … I feel like that was an identity/culture that we could’ve embraced and I feel that it was shot down for a number of different reasons. Maybe people not respecting the music behind it. Now we’re seeing so many areas like Cali and Atlanta with dancing. It seems that Dallas has gone back to the drawing board and still trying to find out what is our culture … You know, outside the typical Texas stuff like Chopped & Screwed and Slabs, which is more Houston-based. Hopefully in the next few years we can find it.
Cameron: What other DJs do you COSIGN? Whether it is in D.C. or Dallas?
Nitecrawler: Definitely gotta say DJ Mister Rogers! There’s a mix that he did back in 2011 and I would listen to that every single day just to learn from the things he was doing. DJ Spoon … that’s actually my best friend. We started DJing together at the same time and it’s dope seeing him progress. DJ Korrect, the first DJ that embraced me, put me up on game, and introduced me to promoters. I wouldn’t be where I am now without him. I would also say DJ Dope Star, DJ Drex, and DJ Schemes, definitely the homie. And there’s plenty in Dallas that I would COSIGN. I got to work with DJ View for the first time a couple weeks ago and I was definitely impressed. A dope DJ! And last but not least I have to go with the OG DJ Jazzy Jeff. Hands down my favorite of all time.
Cameron: Any projects you have coming up that you want to give us a COSIGN Exclusive on?
Nitecrawler: I haven’t dropped the actual event, but just some background first. Every week I would do a video called “Sample Saturdays.” Pretty much its me putting together a routine of music that’s out today, and then going back to show where the sample came from. I’m very big on samples. When I figure one out it’s like an epiphany! I’m turning this concept into an event, featuring it out in D.C. for the first time in February. Each time, we pick an artist (either older or newer) and run through their entire catalogue playing the sample and then the actual song. It’ll be like an actual DJ set, so everything will flow together. Just trying to educate the people and give tribute to the original.
Cameron: That sounds super dope! Well since we’re on the topic on samples … what are some of your favorite samples?
Nitecrawler: Oh you came with the tough questions today. Well, first I have to say the “Otis” sample with Kanye and Jay-Z, which was “Try A Little Tenderness.” Just hearing the original, the build up, and have it translate into the song was genius. Next, I have to go with “Consideration” with Rihanna/SZA and that sampled Common’s “Be.” Finally, I have to go with “Check The Rhyme” by A Tribe Called Quest. Which is sampled in “Candy Rain” and also from a Minnie Riperton song.
Cameron: What do you think about the current state of hip-hop?
Nitecrawler: People act as if real hip-hop/music isn’t out there still. Just because what’s commercial and what’s being pushed by mainstream media isn’t what we’re use to, it doesn’t mean that good music isn’t there. So it honestly annoys me when people say that hip-hop is going down a bad path. The state of commercial hip-hip might be. But I know a lot of dope artists that are local, regional, and nationwide who make real hip-hop. The media just doesn’t promote them. And we can’t expect them to because the people who listen to real hip-hop aren’t necessarily the ones controlling the media. So if you look … Or consider yourself a real music head … you can find the music that you’re looking for.
Cameron: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Nitecrawler: I don’t see myself working a 9 to 5. I see myself DJing full time. But because of my finance background, I have many business endeavors that I’ve already put in motion and want to see them come into fruition. I’ll talk about one of them. It’s called “The Incubator,” which is like a one-stop-shop for start-ups and small businesses to help them get off the ground … We just want to help those businesses that may not be able to afford the big time PR Company or big time videographers that charge XYZ. I’m huge on helping people and I feel that God gave me the talents to be able to help others. I’m low key addicted to being busy.
Cameron: I always say there’s good busy and bad busy. So when you give yourself a break, what do you like to do for fun? Where do you like to go eat?
Nitecrawler: Definitely be outdoors. I love to go hiking. It’s nice to be able to get away from the hustle of the city, go out in the mountains or on a trail path where your phone doesn’t work, and have an adventure. My favorite place to eat DEFINITELY has to be Andrene’s Caribbean & Soul Food. They have the most FIRE oxtails and I think I’ve driven 45 minutes to get some before.
Cameron: What would you say is the major difference between D.C. and Dallas nightlife?
Nitecrawler: D.C. nightlife doesn’t rest. And what I mean by that is there’s something to do every night especially in the summertime. I know people that go to pool parties on Wednesday nights. In fact, there’s a big party called “Hooky”, where everybody skips work on Friday and goes to a huge pool party. Its stupid lit! Dallas nightlife, I would say that its limited very much so to the weekend. I would even say that D.C. nightlife is more black-friendly. I face way less discrimination in D.C. than when I go out in Dallas. This hinders the nightlife, because there’s so may black creatives but venues don’t want to work with us; or, they want to cut bad deals or charge us high up front costs. Dallas could thrive much more if creatives could just create.
Cameron: Speaking of which, who are some black creatives that you COSIGN or events put on that you COSIGN as well?
Nitecrawler: First off, everything that is put on by Good Culture; “Bangers and Brunch” and especially “Hip-Hop Book Club.” It’s a genius idea and I’m glad that they are gaining the traction that they are. Acquired Taste is another. The fact that AT was able to get something popping on a Wednesday night in Dallas and keep it going this long. I know people that aren’t even from Dallas that I run into in D.C. and know about “Wingsday.” For sure “Network and Chill,” they do a lot of dope stuff. These are the people that I see pushing the young urban professional scene forward and trying to get Dallas on the same level as Atlanta or D.C. I would also add Chef Kev in the mix. It’s not often you see a black brotha who went to culinary school, been on the Food Network, beat Bobby Flay, and combine his love for cooking/food with his love for nightlife, because he also throws events. It’s been a blessing to be able to link up with these people.
Cameron: Last few questions. Where can the good people find you?
Nitecrawler: You can follow me on all social media @djnitecrawler, don’t add that GH! My website is www.djnitecrawler.com. As far as where you can see me, the best way is to go to my site because I hate residences. You learn your audience and you don’t get that challenge of figuring them out anymore. I also like to bounce around and throw my own events. I just tell people, catch me if you can.
Cameron: And my last question. If you could make a 15-song playlist of artists (both local and non-local) that you COSIGN who would be on that playlist?
- “Where I Belong” – Rexx Life Raj
- “Off Top” – Lophiile with Freddie Gibbs
- “Mixed Messages” – Big K.R.I.T.
- “Too Playa” Migos feat. 2 Chainz
- “Artificial” – Earthgang
- “Word Around Town” – Dom Kennedy
- “Lightning Fire Magic Prayer” – N.E.R.D.
- “Booty” – Blac Youngsta
- “Drug Lord Couture” – Nick Grant
- “My Dawg” – Quality Control, Lil Baby, Kodak Black feat. Quavo & Moneybagg Yo
- “Sativa – Jhene Aiko feat. Sawe Lee
- “Backwood” – Ari Lennox
- “Say U Won’t” – Brasstracks
- “Best Part” – Daniel Ceaser feat. H.E.R.
- “Dickriders” – Gucci Mane