Interview with DJ Semtex from Hip-Hop Podcast: Who We Be TALKS_
Award-winning British DJ and broadcaster DJ Semtex has long been at the forefront of UK hip hop. His career has ranged from honing his craft on pirate radio, to working alongside the greatest artists of all time, and he now has his own weekly Spotify podcast Who We Be TALKS_ and fronts Capital XTRA’s Friday Night Hip Hop show. We sat down with DJ Semtex to gain some insight into his journey so far.
You’re a pioneer of the UK underground music scene. Can you talk about your early days on pirate radio?
When you’re trying to break through, all you need more than anything else is a chance. A chance to prove your worth or to develop your skills. Pirate radio gave me the confidence to broadcast to an audience, as well as the understanding of how to put a show together.
It was definitely risky as most pirate stations were based in decrepit properties - in areas that weren’t safe to be in after a certain time, and there was always the prospect of being caught by the DTI whilst on air. None of this bothered me as I was determined to make it and my aspirations outweighed the 'risks'. If it wasn't for stations such as Ital FM or Love Energy giving me a chance, my career could have been very different.
You have had the chance to work with some of the biggest names in the industry. Is there one conversation or interview that stands out?
I’ve been fortunate to interview some of the greatest artists of all time from across continents and genres, but if I had to choose one stand out interview, it has to be the ‘More Life’ interview that I did with Drake. It was incredibly significant both culturally and personally for a number of reasons.
I did Drake’s first UK interview back in 2009 when no one knew who he was, way before the hype, the album deal, and the phenomenon that he is today. He was supposed to appear on my show but didn't make it so I connected with him the day after and recorded it in Hyde Park. That interview was dope, it travelled, and made an impact.
Seven years later, Drake was on the verge of releasing his ‘More Life’ project and reached out to me via DM while he was on tour in the UK. He said “Really want to do an interview with you while I’m out here. Feel like it could be a good full circle moment”. It wasn't about a platform or radio station, he just wanted to talk and trusted me to do it right. He talked on everything from his feelings on the Grammys to his issues with other rappers, and it broke the internet. Every fan, artist, and media personality listened to it. It was the only interview that Drake did that year and it helped to amplify what I do. He gave me a great exclusive opportunity, and I’m forever thankful.
You have recently moved into the world of podcasting, hosting “Who We Be TALKS_” on Spotify. How does podcasting compare to the previous radio work you have done?
The podcast drops every Thursday, and it’s very different to what I do on my radio show. With radio it’s more about pace, momentum, and spontaneity, and with the podcast it’s about in-depth, uncompromising conversation. For instance, the very first episode of Who We Be TALKS_ with UK artist Dave is a highly detailed snapshot of the beginning of his career. And a recent episode with French Montana details how he has evolved as an artist, is more politically aware and keen to speak out on issues that he hadn’t previously.
These are both examples of key moments that can never be repeated which is why people still listen to them long after they were first posted.
This is greatest time ever for UK Rap, and i’m documenting the defining moments within the culture on the biggest platform for music.
Discover DJ Semtex all time top ten tracks in the RHA x DJ Semtex playlist here:
Catch DJ Semtex live on Capital Xtra every Friday from 9pm.
Listen to the Who We Be Talks_ podcast on Spotify.