by Nadirah Simmons
A quick glance at DJ Nolita’s Instagram will impress you. The 22-year-old Brooklyn native is solidified as one of the hottest DJs in the game. But you don’t need to look at her near 13,000 followers to know that.
With a resume that includes spinning for TIDAL and on the Rolling Loud Festival stage, Nolita is poised and destined for greatness. What makes that reality all the more exciting is that just a few years back she didn’t want to be a DJ at all, instead hoping that she could carve out a career as a fashion designer. But after realizing it wasn’t what she wanted to do and learning her way around production equipment, Nolita thrust herself into the world of music-which should come as no surprise when you learn that her godfather is Aaron Hall and her uncle is Kid Capri.
A surprise DJ set that had her filling in for a friend and a boatload of performances later and “your girlfriend from GTA,” as Nolita affectionately calls herself, has her eyes set on traveling the world with some of the biggest names in music. We caught up with the DJ to talk about her transition into music, what it was like DJing on a bill that featured Beyoncé, her go-to songs to play at a kickback and navigating the industry as a young, Black woman.
I know you live in Brooklyn right now, where are you originally from?
I’m originally from here but I traveled a lot growing up. I got a taste of a lot of different places which has a lot to do with my music, my variety and my selections.
I also have a lot of musicians in my family. My mom was always in artist management, my godmother was a songwriter my godfather is Aaron Hall my uncle is Kid Capri. And I’ve always felt like I had a good ear for music. That and moving around opened my up to a whole new world.
When I’m talking to people in the industry I often ask where they’re from, because their environment influences their art. Do you think moving around a lot was necessary for you to be the DJ that you are now?
Yes! In a lifetime everything that leads you up to today is what made you who you are. How my life went is how it was supposed to go as far as moving around a lot and learning a variety of languages and music. It broadened my spectrum.
You come from this musical family, what did your beginnings in DJing look like?
I initially wanted to be in fashion design! I went to the High School of Fashion Industries and I realized I didn’t want to make the clothes. I wanted to wear them [laughs]. So I decided one day that I wanted to produce music. I went home and taught myself how to produce and then taught myself how to produce. Then eventually I started learning how to DJ.
I got tricked by one of my friends to DJ a set! He told me he was going to be gone for 20 minutes and he was gone for 45! I had no idea what I was doing at all, but it went really well.
And now you’ve DJ’d at some of the biggest festivals! What’s the different between Rolling Loud and a club?
I’ve also done TIDAL! TIDAL, Rolling Loud, they’re very on schedule. Everything is literally timed and on point. Rehearsals and all that with TIDAL. Whereas a warehouse or house party doesn’t have everyone running around trying to make everything perfect. And there’s no rehearsal!
It doesn’t surprise me that TIDAL would run a tight ship, which is why they do everything so well.
It was insane! I had to appear onstage from underground and I had to be there at a certain time. So I’m running from my fitting room to get there and I pass JAY-Z and I’m like “Hi Jay!” And he was like “hey.” Then I had to crawl under the stage in these 8-inch, thigh high leather boots to DJ in front of thousands of people. I went on after Lil Yachty and before Beyoncé.
When I get on Instagram and see a lot of people popping up saying they’re DJs when they’re just plugging a phone into an aux cord or standing behind a computer and calling themselves a DJ, and I wonder how that makes people who treat it as an art form feel. To the first part, I’m not all for it. Because it is an art form and people forget that. Anybody can wake up and decide they want to DJ but you have to really do it and give it your all. You can’t treat it like something that’s not as important.
People on social media want to do it because they see the hype around it. They see the people around you. They see that you get to travel. But they don’t understand how much work goes into it. It’s a lot of work. But I’m not against anybody deciding they want to do it, because that’s how life goes. Go for it, go for your dreams and be serious about it.
How do you separate yourself from those who aren’t serious?
I’m really big on keeping the focus on what I’m doing. When all you see is yourself you have nothing to be afraid of, nothing to worry about.
So be open to new ideas and meeting new people and then leave room for yourself and your thoughts. When you’re consumed with yourself and your own work it only elevates you!
What’s crazy is you’re only 22 years old! What are your goals as a DJ?
I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with so many artists, but I have some that are set as markers and goals in life. Like Rihanna or Drake. I want to be the Rihanna of DJs. I want to dress my ass off and DJ around the world.
Let’s say you’re DJing a chill, calm kickback. Who are you playing?
Kaytranada, Childish Gambino, IAMDDB, some Travis Scott and Banks. But I started out as a house DJ, so I would make a lot of remixes to the artists I just named or incorporate dance tracks and mix them in with the original tracks.
So, opposite end of the spectrum. We’re getting buck, who are you playing?
I’m playing Young Doloph, Cardi B, Playboi Carti, Travis Scott, Asian Doll, Rico Nasty, Matt Ox, Lil Yachty, JuiceWRLD, Future, Nicki, all of it! Let’s get into it. But I still have to keep my style so I’ll make remixes and incorporate those into my tracks.
What has navigating this industry been like as a young Black woman?
I’m very particular about who I surround myself with. I’m very cautious…I think that’s why I’ve been able to dodge the industry bs. I don’t surround myself with people that will harm my brand and harm me as a person. I only keep around me that I have an understanding with, that are like family, that will ride for me no matter what.
What advice would you give to a young woman who wants to DJ?
Go into it with an open mind and a strong mind. Make your own rules. Wonder but never worry. Live your truth and be yourself. Work hard. And be a boss.
Listen to DJ Nolita’s “Trap Mix” below.