DJ Ecool

DJ Ecool is helping push African music to the forefront (Interview)

If you’ve never been to an Ecool party, you might not know what to expect. He’s known for weekly events on Wednesday, Friday & Saturday night in Atlanta, where he’s based. No matter the day, things start off modest and low key. At the beginning of the night you’ll find him on the mic welcoming guests and maintaining the energy. At 12:30AM, you assume that it’l be a pretty chill scene for the night.

If that is your assumption, you’ve never been to an African party.

By 2AM, you will be singing anything from your favorite Drake song to the latest hit from Davido, dancing harder than you ever have this year, shoulder to shoulder in a party that has reached it’s maximum capacity. And while “cool” is part of his name, after you leave one of his parties, you’re anything but. That’s the allure of Ecool. He knows how to make you dance and help anyone have a good time.

He’s worked with big names such as Ludacris and Doug E. Fresh. He’s a regular with African pop stars like Wizkid, Victoria Kimani, Tiwa Savage and as of late, Davido, with whom he’s played everywhere this year from SXSW to Lincoln Center.

You probably saw him on Tidal during the One Africa Music Fest, and any African artist you’ve listened to this year probably knows him on a personal level.

So how does someone like Ebi Ikpeme become DJ Ecool? The Nigerian born, Atlanta-based DJ explains his love for music, talks playing One Africa Music Fest and gives his take on whether or not Africa is really up next.

Talk about your love for music and how you got started DJing.
I have a lot of family members that are into music. My mom actually sings. She has two brothers who have been singing forever and they’re based in London. So, when you listen to all those things in your family, you start to ask yourself what kind of music talent you have.

I picked up other things like playing the drums, DJing and dancing. It’s all music at the end of the day. Because of my love for music, I started downloading music. Just because. You know, music I wanted to dance to. I started compiling stuff and I started building. I’m a computer guy, so I knew I could learn a lot of music programs like Virtual DJ. I learned it, and I mastered it, without turntables or anything. So my friends were like, you know how to do all of this stuff, why don’t you just do it? And that’s how it started.

DJs control the party. What’s your favorite part of the party?
Control. But aside from control itself, I love crowd interaction. Whatever means I have at a party to interact with the crowd, whether it’s birthdays, graduation, just asking them how their day was, the response is my favorite part. I love the liveliness of the party. And being able to enhance the energy of the crowd over the mic and get them hype as the DJ. I just want to see people have fun. That’s my thing.

You’ve worked with the likes of Davido, Wizkid and even Ludacris. What has working with huge artists shown you as an entertainer yourself?
It’s helped my own brand. If you’re focused on building your brand and you’re mingling with artists who like your work, it shows you how important relationships are. Through my years as a DJ, I’ve realized it’s all about connections and links with artists. Working with guys like that, gives me a larger platform because people are already paying attention to their work. They’re artists already. So working with them elevates me. And I want to be in a zone where I can work and build with those who are already working and building as well.

DJs are becoming visible staples in the industry – from producing, releasing albums and more. What do you hope to do with your own brand as a DJ?
I’m already in the works in regards to production. Before I started DJing, I produced. But then DJing took over. But with that said, with all the relationships I have, I plan on releasing a DJing album as well, where I feature artists from all over the world – be it African, American, Caribbean. That’s the plan. That’s one of my next moves.

You have a large following on social media. Why do you think that is? What makes following you so special?
Aside from music, why would someone follow a DJ? There’s the staple party pic, but then that’s it. I try to stay away from the staples and approach it as an entertainer. As an entertainer, you can dabble in everything else. If you go to my [Instagram] you’ll see videos of me dancing or me doing comedy, so that when people visit or follow they want to stay a little longer. They’re interested in what’s coming up next. If you put out dope material, the people will come. That’s why they follow.

What artists inspire you?
Damn. It’s hard to name any artist in particular, but I’m definitely inspired by people who have a natural drive for success. So be it a regular person or someone famous. For instance, I love Kevin Hart – how he promotes, how he works. I just like people who have a lot of drive and focus. He’s definitely someone I’d like to work with one day. He’s the epitome of a workaholic. He works, works, works, and then you see the results.

But there’s a lot of artists – African artists that work like that. That sleep in the studio and you’re like, “man, you’ve already made it, you don’t have to work this hard.” But they do. Davido, Wizkid, P-Square, Victoria Kimani, and Tiwa Savage all inspire me to work like that with my own brand.

There have been a lot of American mainstream artists joining forces with major Afrobeats artists. What’s been your favorite collaboration so far?
I used to wait for when American artists would actually feature African artists. It’s happening now. I like the fact that Drake brought his song to life by featuring Wizkid. The story goes on and on. I also like the fact that African artists are featuring American artists now. Before it was like, why would we do that? But now, African artists are being featured because we’re popping now. It’s our time.

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You’ve done some huge events, such as SXSW and One Africa Music Fest. What’s your favorite part about doing big shows?
Doing the big shows here in the States is inspiring because the diversity in the crowd gets me hype. When I hit the stage, even though I know that there are people there who came to support me, I get to perform for all types of people from all different races and backgrounds. You look into the crowd and there are different people from all over the world. That’s my favorite thing.

You’ve got a solid arsenal of mixtapes. What excites you about creating mixtapes? What’s your favorite one so far?
I use mixtapes as a platform to reach out to people; for music lovers all around the world. When I put out a mixtape I put my all into it. I get inspiration from the fact that people are going to listen and enjoy it. I like that I can entertain people who like different kinds of music so I’m always excited when I make a mixtape. I can solely do Afrobeats, I can solely do hip-hop, but I like when I can mix all the genres. It’s almost like a radio station, you can hear all different types of stuff.

My favorite mixtape – man, my favorites are all the mixtapes I’ve done in the last 2 years (laughs). But there was this one mixtape that I did for V103 (radio station in Atlanta). It comprises of hip hop, dance hall, top 40, pop, EDM music, that definitely has to be one of my favorites.

What should we expect from you for the rest of the year?
Expect more events, more shows, and a tour. I was talking to Davido and he mentioned a tour coming up [in the fall] – Canada, Nigeria, London as well. So, I’m gonna tour. I’m gonna do some big events in Atlanta as well. There’s Passport Experience in Atlanta this month. I’m doing the annual Nigerian Independence party. That’s big. We’ll be doing a block party and a day party.

A lot of people are saying “Africa is up next.” Do you agree? What are you excited about people seeing from this movement?
I agree 100% that Africa got next. Because music moves in waves. You can’t help but realize that African music is ringing in everyone’s ears. No matter what race you are, you’re hearing about Afrobeats. And that’s pretty exciting because it took us awhile to get here. And when I say awhile, I mean pushing it in the club and then to the radio stations just to get people to understand that we exist…that’s my excitement right now. I’m really excited that we’re here now. People are actually groovin’ to our music.


If you weren’t DJing what would you be doing?
I’d be dancing. Dancing was my first love before DJing. I’d be a hip hop dancer, or Afrobeats. Man, whatever kind of dancing, whatever makes me move, I do. I’d be dancing and I’d be in everyone’s videos.

There’s a lot of up and coming DJs who would kill to be in your shoes. What’s your advice to them?
The thing about up and coming DJs is that they look at the success of today. They don’t see that you’ve put in work. When I tell them that I’ve been DJing since 2005, 06, 07, 08, I explain to them it was no overnight success.

So to up and coming DJs, be more visible. Put more content out, create more mixtapes. Build more relationships. Don’t rush to try to make the money someone else is making. You have to do the groundwork before you really make it.

What’s the important thing you want people to know about Ecool?
That I’m well rounded and very educated as well. When you book me for a show, I make sure I’m on time and I make sure I create a real experience at any of my events. When you say Ecool, I’m the go to guy who’s going to make the party go from 0 to 100. I make people have fun and understand that there are so many genres of music to enjoy and I can make you enjoy all of them. When you come to my party, I deliver.

Catch up with Ecool via Twitter and SoundCloud.

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