For The Girls: Dope Caesar Is Ready To Own Her Moment
"DJ Switch actually inspired me to not change my style because she’s a creative DJ too."
"DJ Switch actually inspired me to not change my style because she’s a creative DJ too."
Last month, a video clip of a female DJ blazing the crowd was shared across social media. In it, a DJ stood behind the wheels, surrounded and cheered on by a hype man and other music enthusiasts. The DJ, dressed in a white T-shirt and spotting dark sunglasses, was spinning Brick & Lace’s 2007 hit song “Love Is Wicked”; the Dancehall rhythms of “Love Is Wicked” soon morphed into a steady singular note that lasted seconds before unfurling into Afropop thump of Victony and Tempoe’s world-conquering 2022 jam “Soweto.” That transition, when it hit, sent both the DJ and the crowd of party-goers into ecstasy.
That DJ is Dope Caesar—real name Sarah Oboh. Her viral clip, which was first birthed in TikTok, got instant attention on that platform and Instagram and X (formerly known as Twitter). On TikTok, the clip boasts more than 12,000 comments and almost a million likes. On her Instagram, it drew more than 3,000 comments and almost 57,000 likes. It has also raised Dope Caesar’s profile, with more people seeking her services. “I’m very grateful for it,” she tells the NATIVE.
In this conversation, Dope Caesar speaks about her viral moment and also delves into her early days and what she’s been up to. She also shares her thoughts on the DJing space in the Nigerian music scene and how more women can carve a space for themselves. This is Dope Caesar at her most honest and realest.
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NATIVE: Tell me about your background. What was growing up like for you?
DOPE CAESAR: I grew up in a music house, literally. My dad used to be a musician, sound engineer and record producer to an extent. So, I grew up actually watching him rehearse with his friends. He had friends that could play different instruments – drums, bass and keyboard. It was mostly like reggae-dancehall music they really did. My mom also likes music. You know mothers na.
How did you discover your passion for DJing?
When I was a secondary school, I work the laptop for socials. I was in [boarding school]. It was really in 2017 when I finished uni that I stumbled across a very small entry-level controller in my dad’s room. So, I was like, “Okay, let me see how this stuff actually works.” Then, I started to just explore it. It just felt right just mixing music and I always felt I could put a twist to someone else’s stuff – just my own flavour. I wasn’t a producer then but with DJing, it just felt like I could still be creative with it. That’s how I noticed that I had some level of passion for it.
You have mentioned the music your parents listened to while you were a child. What kind of music did you listen to on your own to find your path?
Yeah, I listened to a lot of pop music growing up. I was a very big Disney person. So I used to listen to the Jonas Brothers, Selena Gomez and those kinds of people and then some underground stuff. I like alternative music. So those were the things I really accustomed my mind to. It was when I started DJing, I started to listen to normal club genres – Hip-Hop, Afrobeats and the like. But as a consumer of music, I used to listen to not-so-popping genres. Those were my go-to at that time.
What prompted you to make a professional career as a DJ?
Okay, there were a lot of “I’m not doing this stuff, I’m doing it. I’m not doing this stuff, I’m doing it” from 2017. I think last year was when it [the decision] actually [became] a kind of force on me because I was trying to go back to school – go and do masters and all of that stuff. Then a club actually hit me up and they’re like they want a resident DJ. But strangely, my papers never came so I just started doing it [the job] and from that job, I just started getting more jobs. I was like, “You know what, I’ll just focus on this full time, really focus on it as a career.” But I’ve been doing it [DJing] before then. I’ve been having small gigs but I didn’t see myself professionally as a DJ. It was just [a matter of] I’m passionate about this stuff and I need to do it. It wasn’t until May last year that [everything] changed.
Did you get any resistance from your parents concerning that decision?
No, they have always been supportive when it comes to DJing because my dad used to even be a DJ when he was younger. If you say you want to do music, he will support you. He’s that kind of person. If you say another thing, e fit just dey look you. But if you say you want to do music, he’d be like, “Yeah, yeah.”
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What’s the story behind your stage name?
It used to just be Caesar before. I’ve never had DJ Caesar in my name before. It was just a thing of “I like Julius Caesar.” So I just took the name because I like his character and how he was just that guy. In early 2021, someone was like, “Caesar is actually a boring name so you need to put something in front of Caesar,” and when she suggested that I didn’t have anything. Then I was listening to a DJ play – his name is DJ Craze and he’s a turntablist. So, he had this interview that was playing; I think it was Kanye’s interview where he said, “Dopeness is what I like the most,” and I was like, “Wow, you could just put Dope in front of Caesar,” and it just sounded right. And even before I started to tell people my name is Dope Caesar, when I play, people are like, “Damn, that’s dope.”
You have performed on reputable platforms. What would you say was your big break as a DJ?
I just think that [first] club believing in me was it because it’s not like I had prior experience [before working with] them. They hit me up. I didn’t go around looking for them. It actually put me on my toes. I had to always learn on the job until I became the DJ I am today. That experience opened me up to other platforms like Obi’s House and so many stuff. I think Obi’s friends saw me play at the club and told Obi about it like, “You need to get this person.” It really took my confidence and my learning—because I like to learn—to a very high level because I just had to be on my toes and I needed to get better and understand how things were.
Walk me through a usual Dope Caesar set. How do you prepare your mind for an event and keep yourself locked to the end?
This would be a little bit difficult to explain but I like to study what’s going on when I’m somewhere—it depends on my mood, I’m a very mood-driven person. I need to see how people are—are they being receptive to the whole thing going on around them? Are they distracted? What do I need to do? What kind of songs do they listen to here? [Also], the age bracket actually guides you on the kind of music you have to still play and all of that. So it’s just a thing connecting with the atmosphere on an emotional level. Then if I do that, I’ll be able to give my best.
Have you ever had any situation where you don’t feel the vibe of the crowd and they are not moving the way you want them to, how do you navigate that?
If the crowd isn’t moving the way I want them to move, I would just do my job. I try as much as possible not to pressure myself like, “Oh, the crowd is not vibing to what I’m doing, that means I need to do this [or] I need to change this.” If I feel like I need to change stuff, I will change it but I have the rules set for changing it. I don’t have to play like someone else just because the crowd isn’t vibing. I’d just feel like it’s the wrong crowd for me. It could be the right crowd for someone else. I would just have that [in my head] so that I’ll be fine. If it doesn’t go well, no problem, we’ll go to the next gig and do better.
What will you say has been the most challenging aspect of being a DJ for you?
The most challenging part of being a DJ is actually being creative. That’s the most challenging part of being a DJ and being creative in the sense that it’s not about getting ideas, it’s about executing ideas. So, it’s how they [the ideas] are going to actually work and be musical because I’m being musical. I’m about doing it properly. It’s not about just that crowd that listens to you right now.
It’s just a thing of “How do you keep it musical?” There are just so many constraints to look at so that you can keep it musical. As much as you’re keeping it musical, you have to make sure it doesn’t fly over people that aren’t musical—you can do stuff and they don’t get it and they’re just looking at you. It can be very difficult. There are so many routines that I have that I probably may never really do because I haven’t found the crowd for it because it will just fly over their heads. So there’s no need to do it. At least for now.
One of your performances (where you mixed Brick & Lace’s “Love Is Wicked” and Victony & Tempoe’s “Soweto”) went viral on social media. How did that make you feel?
I was actually very overwhelmed. I was in disbelief. I posted that video on Saturday around 12. Before then, I posted two videos on my TikTok. I’d just opened TikTok on Thursday night and I posted a video with Poco Lee (Asake’s “Terminator” and Chris Brown’s “Under the Influence” mashup). And my friend texted me like, “Guy, you have like 100 followers.” I’m like, “Where did these guys come from because I just opened his account now and I just left it?” And when I was checking, I saw like 300 followers so I called my guy Sammy like, “Sammy, e dey burst for TikTok.” Sammy was like, “Mad mad mad.”
I think we were on thousand-and-something followers at the time I posted the “Soweto” and “Love is Wicked” [mashup]. Then it started going up. Sammy was like, “Guy, I think we’re going to do like 2,500 followers today.” I was like, “Nah, it’s not possible. I think 2000 is a fair reach.” That day, we did like 10,000 followers. I was just like, “Where are these guys coming from?” Then my friends started sending me [messages that] blogs were posting it. I was just very, very confused [at first] but at the same time, I’m very, very grateful for it.
I’m very grateful to everybody that watched it, dropped a comment, liked, shared and talked about it. Even if it didn’t go viral, I’ve always known that particular transition is good, and even if it did not go viral, it’s not gonna change anything. So I don’t want to say it made me feel a type of way. I just feel grateful that that happened.
How do you think the DJing space, like other aspects of the music industry, can become more receptive to women?
I think the best way, for me, is to have a proper standard for everybody so that people that are creative wouldn’t be scared of doing this job. There are people that are actually creative but they’ve always heard that “Your style is not for Nigeria; the way you play, it’s not what we need here. People just want to vibe,” and it actually puts them off. So, instead of telling them that you can’t do it, just let everybody find their footing and express themselves the way they want to.
DJing is quite a profitable business to an extent. Why I even do this is because DJ Switch actually inspired me to not change my style because she’s a creative DJ too. It made me believe I could do them too. This is a Nigerian like me, this is a woman like me and she’s doing it on an international level. If other female DJs see me do this stuff and they see that [I’m] making moves, they will start to believe in themselves and do it.
You have mentioned DJ Switch as an inspiration. Who are your other inspirations?
Yeah, I have one billion DJs that steadily inspire me. My biggest influence is actually a DJ from Barbados. His name is DJ Puffy. In Nigeria, I have many DJs – off the top of my head, I can’t even remember so many DJs. Puffy is my greatest inspiration. [There’s still] Skratch Bastid, Moody Mike from France. I have DJ Amy from France. Cocoa Chanelle from the US. There are so many of them that inspire me. I’m always learning even [from] the younger guys. I listen to as many DJs as I can, so even DJs that don’t play the kind of music I play, there’s something to always learn from them. So, I’m always opening myself to DJs, regardless of even where they are in the game – professional, entry-level, intermediate; whatever you are, I would just open my ears to you and try to learn something and see what I can pick from you.
You mentioned earlier about wanting to go into production. Is that happening soon?
Yeah, even sooner than anybody expects.
Does that mean there’s a project in the works?
Yes, there’s a project in the works. But I’ll move in silence about further details.
How have you been able to leverage social media to expand your brand?
We’re still navigating our way through social media but we are seeing the power in it. That very cheap but very effective and efficient advertisement. My team and I are making moves. That’s all I’ll say for now.
What’s the plan for Dope Caesar as a brand going forward?
[I see myself] on amazing festival stages, trust me. Inspiring the next generation of DJs that will take the African music journey to a different level. So it’s going to be those festivals [and more].
Featured image credits/NATIVE