Hey, You’re Cool! KISS FM’s Tiffany Calver
The youngest DJ in the U.K. to have a hip hop FM show
At just shy of 23 years old, Tiffany Calver is the U.K.’s youngest FM radio host to have her own hip hop show. As one would assume, you don’t just stumble upon opportunities like this. Even at her young age, Calver has stories like a seasoned vet in the game. From her motivation and her early journalism days to her first DJ gig (ya know, at an event she put together because she wasn’t getting booked otherwise), or even her first Radar Radio show, she should be the poster child for putting your goddamn self on.
Only days after her debut show on KISS FM, we caught up with Calver and discussed her D.I.Y. early days and how her view of music with no boundaries has allowed her to help artists like Atlanta’s Awful Records and Iman Omari’s book their first U.K. performances.
Ok. Let’s get to it. Walk me through the earliest days of your career. Where did you start?
Well, I really hated school. I come from a very small town very far away from London. I would make excuses to not hang out during lunch. There were maybe 25-30 of us in my entire year. They didn’t really explore music. We had no common ground. It was so exhausting to find things to talk to them about, so I would go and say I was going to study, but I really just wanted to get the fuck out. I thought University was the holy grail of escaping. I wanted to study journalism, obviously. I thought, “Fuck it, I’ll use my lunches to start writing, find my tone of voice, make a blog.” I started hitting random people and writers up. I created my blog, The Urban Playlist. [laughs.] Great name, Tiff.
But the blog helped me create my network. I can’t be mad. I was posting Rejjie Snow before he was Rejjie Snow. I was blogging about Sango when he first came out and Taku. It got literally a little bit of traction. Amaru had a blog or site in London with ADTV. He gave me my first opportunity to write, for free obviously. There was a point I was running the MTV wrap up blog every weekend of my adolescence with the editor for free. The only downfall for me is it took me a long time to know my worth because I was so used to being grateful for $50, $80 if I was lucky. And that’s U.S.
What was the name of your first mix?
Will Sin For Chipotle.
That’s an amazing title. You should bring that back.
I used to always do meme mix names because I’m serious about life. [laughs]
What was your first MSN name?
PrincessVirgo94. I used to think I was going to be a female version of Bow Wow and my name was gonna be Princess Virgo. I was obsessed with the Gorillaz and Kelis. I used to write freestyles to the “Bossy” instrumental. Yes, I remember some of the lyrics and no, I will not recite them.
If this were a radio interview, I’d make you! What was your first DJ gig like?
I wasn’t really reaching out that much. Nobody was really booking me, because to an extent, in every scene, it’s very clique-y. Everybody books their friend, etc., etc. I wasn’t really getting a place to showcase my developing talents. That’s when I started doing my own events so I could showcase myself and other people. Me and my friend Errol Anderson—I was still in school, he was a freelance writer—we were both broke as fuck. We put together all of our money. We flew in Iman Omari for his first ever gig in the U.K. purely just because we wanted to see him and we were like, “We know other people want to see him.” We did it on a whim. Errol sorted out the venue. Then Iman Omari was like, “You need to fly in my manager, too.” Which we then found out was his girlfriend. We flew them both in, got them a hotel, obviously having fuck all experience in events, and the show sold out to the point I can use that for free whenever I want because the queue went from downstairs in the building, through it, up into the restaurant, out the door and down the street the entire night. We put Iman Omari on the bill and it was Sango’s first gig in London as well. I was very close with Charlie Christie at the time who was managing him. He was practically my neighbor. Got him there, got his hotel. It was a very expensive risk. Little Simz at the time, she was still on the come up. I used to write for her manager’s website called So Cultured. He hit me up and was like, “Can we put her on the bill?” And I was like, “Fuck yeah, we can put her on the bill.”
That’s a LIT first gig, Tiff.
I was an aux god in those days. I used virtual DJ for my first mix. I could not afford DJ equipment. That Will Sin For Chipotle mix got 50k listens and I was like, “What?!” I was very vocal about wanting to do radio. A friend of mine put me touch with Ollie Ashley, who was starting Radar Radio at the time. I completely finessed the whole situation and sent my mix and asked if he had a slot. He hit me straight away like yes, come in, we’ll do a pilot show. Went in that day and met him. This was when Radar was brand spanking new, so the rules and regulations have DEFINITELY changed since then. I remember going in half an hour before my first show, and I’m just surrounded by turntables and CDJs and mixers and I have my laptop. He’s like, “Cool. Do you use Serato or Traktor or what do you use?” And I’m like, “I use virtual DJ. I just need an aux cord.” I’ve never seen him look more disgusted. He looked at me and like clutched his pearls and was like, absolutely not. He downloaded Serato onto my computer and was like, “You’re gonna start learning now.”
My first show was Ollie trying to teach me how to fucking DJ live to an audience—how to fucking DJ. There was so much alcohol in the room. That was his first noise complaint. I had all of my friends and we were smoking weed and hotboxing the the room. If it wasn’t for Ollie, I wouldn’t even be a DJ. I guess he saw something in me I didn’t see in myself. Today I feel like so many people just jump on the bandwagon. I grew up with my dad being a DJ. My coffee table as a baby were turntables in my house. I have a very high respect level for the craft. I didn’t want to be that cute light skinned chick that faded in and out of songs and just get by on that.
You’ve spun, chilled, partied with major collectives like Boy Better Know, Awful Records, etc. Who never turns down?
Honestly, Soulection. I’m really cool with Andre Power. We’re managed by the same guy now. In the entire time I’ve ever known them or I’ve been around Soulection it’s always fun. It’s always a party. Andre will wake up in the morning and do shots of Patron. He’s really ’bout this life. It’s just constantly fun. I have the best memories ever with people from Soulection. I can be in Berlin, I can be Amsterdam, I can be L.A., I can be in New York; they just know what to do all the time. I have the best time with them. They should honestly make city guides.
You spend a lot of time in New York. I’m going to go through some stereotypical NY things and you tell me if you love it or hate it. Bodega breakfast sandwiches?
LOVE. LOVE. Whenever I’m in New York, I’m disgustingly hungover. There’s a spot where I get a bacon egg and cheese on like muffin bread. It’s so fucking good. American cheese is so bad for you but so fucking good. When it comes to condiments you guys go ham for no reason.
HATE. It’s always really fucking hot in there. I do love the fact that I can take the 1 train at any time but hate the fact there’s a chance I’ll get attacked by a crazy person.
Oh, for the convenience I love them. The one thing I hate is that my accent will make them take the craziest routes.
Summertime in New York?
I love it. I just wish there were more fans. If the streets had air conditioning, it would be my favorite place.
And finally, what are your top three most used emojis this week?
It’s a red hot, a champagne bottle, and the gnarly bro hands. [laughs]