NATIVE Exclusive: DJ 4Rain is Embracing His African Roots

For Black History Month, the producer & DJ showcases Cape Verde's historic town of Cidade Velha.

On the day of DJ 4Rain’s conversation with the NATIVE, he had just returned from Egypt. His trip to the North African country was both personal and professional: since his early career, the French-born producer and DJ has been very pragmatic in seeking out inspiration. He has resided in a number of cities—London, Paris, Montreal, Toronto, Miami—and that vast cultural palette informs his eclectic musical style.

4Rain’s most recent undertaking is however his most important yet as he’s made trips into Africa in recent years, performing events and collaborating with musicians and fellow producers. Forthcoming on the 24th of February, is his live mix which was shot in the historic town of Cidade Velha, a United Nations Heritage centre. “We planned it about a year ago,” says 4Rain, whose parents were born on the island of Cape Verde, where the town is located. “I haven’t been in my country for fourteen years, and we planned to make it there, and we wanted to make something really special. It was like, ‘what can we do in our home country that can have an impact on the world?’ We chose Cidade Velha because it’s one of the biggest stories of the country.” 


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In collaboration with his team, 4Rain did more research and the magnificent natural scenery only added to his zeal to have a DJ set there. Cidade Velha, considered the oldest settlement in Cape Verde, was discovered in the 15th century by Portuguese traders. Over the centuries its importance bolstered as a route for intercontinental trade while Portuguese colonial efforts in other parts of Africa was largely established from this stronghold. With dealings in slaves, the town became a multicultural hub, although by the nineteenth century that enterprise fortunately withered. Most of the breathtaking structures—a royal castle, a 15th century church, the town square—however remain in place, making Cidade Velha officially one of the Seven Wonders of Portuguese  Origin in the World and UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

4Rain’s forthcoming DJ mix as part of the celebrations for Black History Month is therefore quite the curation. Such meticulous planning to showcase what might be the most underexposed of the world’s wonders is an invaluable lesson in paying artistic homage. “The live is a mix of a lot of African music and also some music from Cape Verde—it’s like a mix of all my favourite artists. I tried to share the best music with emotional [resonance]; so there’s a lot of rhythm, there’s a lot of emotions”. Being a musician and particularly being Black, the significance of Black History Month isn’t lost on 4Rain, and he’s “very proud” to share in its celebration this year. “We have the opportunity that people will listen more to what we have to say in this period,” he affirms. 

A global name, DJ 4Rain has been rocking with the creme de la creme of the music industry for a while now. He started out early in the bubbling French scene, by his late teens already gathering a credible fanbase with his spirited takes on electronic music. He would become acclaimed in the producer-DJ lane, making incursions into the Canadian and US scene where he’d lived in the city of Miami. JLV, who managed his early career, introduced him to the camp of Meek Mill and 4Rain worked on the ‘Dreams Worth More Than Money’ album. Around this time in 2015, 4Rain released his debut single “Call Me”, a commercial success which reached the peak of no. 2 on the Shazam French charts. 

Right from the start, 4Rain has always had the sort of close mentorship and protection which grounds him in positive ideals. His elder brother frequently travelled and joining him expanded his perspective on life. He also tells me that he began producing by watching a friend create music steeped in Cape Verdean and Portuguese music traditions, funana and kuduro respectively. “That’s the way I started,” he said, “And one day I said, ‘let me try something’.” Although he stopped, two or three years later he began DJing. Production would come again way later, some eight years ago. This time 4Rain had more than just the fundamentals going for him; attuned closely to his individual journey, his production often traversed geographical sounds, representing the high levels of consciousness and lifestyle to be found in different places.  

“Whatever” coaxes a memorable performance from Sasha Ogletree, her vocals serenading with shiny lightness. As with most EDM songs, the feeling of exhilaration arrives mostly from the beat but 4Rain’s perfect soundscape gives just as much importance to the featured act. “I Don’t Belong” employs similar use of the soaring vocals, pairing existential concerns with the sharp edges of the electro-based production. 4Rain flavours “You And I” with the zesty turns of Techno, released sometime last year. Navigating the nuances of the close-lying genres, there’s no surprise that varied demographics and acclaimed festivals around the world have welcomed 4Rain into their midst.

More recently, he’s been exploring African sounds. Even though DJ 4Rain wasn’t born in Cape Verde, he never felt alienated from its musical culture. His father played a bit of the guitar and would regularly listen to Cape Verdean music, most popularly Cesaria Evora who was nicknamed ‘The Barefoot Diva’. It was later in his life that EDM savants like Paul van Dyk, David Guetta and Tiesto replaced the affinity for Hip-Hop, another genre of Black origin that has been widely influential across the world, much like House and the ever-ascending Amapiano has done in recent years. 

“For the past five years I’ve tried to connect more with my country, with my community” he says, “I want to know how my life would be different if I grew up in Africa, because in Africa how people act together is different from how Africans in France or in Europe are together. In Europe, there are white people, there are Black people, and we’re treated differently from how it would be if I grew up in Africa. That’s why I’m trying to connect as much as I can with my country, and that’s what we tried to achieve with the Cidade Velha mix.”


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Like most DJs, 4Rain travels for the sound. With any country he enters, he embraces the ebbs of society and applies them to his music. A scroll through his Instagram page gives insight into what he’s been doing; early on, a viewer would behold the magnificence of Egypt’s world-famous pyramids and the ancient peculiarities of its landscape. He also played in Morocco not long ago, soundtracking a great night for the residents of Marrakech. 

“The first time I was in Africa I didn’t know how it’s gonna be,” he says, “because I used to play a lot in Europe where they consumed House music. I was really surprised that it was like—it was amazing, in Africa I feel like the people feel you more than other parts of the world. It’s like they’re living more for it, you know? It’s so unique, I mean, it’s unique everywhere in the world but in Africa I felt like it was something different. I really felt a big love.” 

That’s definitely saying something for someone who’s played at prestigious events and venues such as the Miami Spring Break Pool Party; the Netherlands-based FunX; Movie Club in Alicante, Spain, and at the High Club in Nice, France. Not just bringing the performing aspect to Africa, 4Rain has also proven eager to touch base with the continent’s sonics. In recent songs, listeners have uncovered an evolving love for Afro House. “Where’s Love” shimmers with the mysterious overtones of the genre, pairing bouncy drums with psychedelia-based electro-pop. With vocal samples creeping from underneath, a vivid nature comes alive throughout the song’s three-minute runtime. 

Collaboration wise, 4Rain has been bringing African artists into his sonic journey. Last year’s “Disturb Phone” featured Nigeria’s acclaimed Queen of Afro House Niniola and R&B-indebted South African singer KLY, a pairing which situated both artists in familiar soundscape while staking out new territory. “Out of Time” is perhaps his most successful incursion into the genre yet, a dazzling showcase which combined the beat making prowess of Botswana’s producer duo Team Distant with the luscious voices of Lioness Ratang, also from Botswana, and South Africa’s Priscilla K. Thematically, the song continues 4Rain’s sojourn into naturalist ideals, a need to diminish life’s fleeting trait by soaking in every moment. 

4Rain is also a dedicated ambassador for the environment, reflecting its beauty through his brand while speaking up on the dangers of modernisation’s creeping hands. Shot in the South of France, the visualisation for “Whatever” is ethereal in its depiction of nature, from the spotted horses to the mountains and skies, the caves. “I love nature, I love animals,” he says, “It’s so peaceful. I’m living a really fast life so for me it’s the only way to really disconnect. I don’t know, maybe I’m born with it, but I always felt we need to protect natural life. It’s a big message that we need to share too”. 

Growing up in the French city of Cannes, 4Rain loved to play football. This accelerated his networking within his immediate community and beyond, and considering the social aspect of music creation, it’s fair to say he got off to a solid start. DJ 4Rain is however concerned with handling the story of his life, and because that traces back to Africa and Cape Verde particularly, he’s been leaning more into this direction. He repeatedly mentions a Cape Verdean artist he’s working with, John Freedom, and hopes to collaborate more widely across the African music space. His dream collaborators? Black Coffee, Burna Boy, and DJ Maphorisa, who he’s “talking a lot with”. 

In the mean time, DJ 4Rain continues to explore the boundaries of sound and the geography behind them. His team are working to make sure he performs in more African countries and “Out of Time” has a “big” remix package to be expected in the coming months. His calendar for a world tour starting in April promises to be magnanimous, much like everything DJ 4Rain has done from the start of his career till this point. “So stay tuned, I’ll probably come to your country too,” he shares before we wrap up.

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