Manifestation is real. It may seem cliché, but 24-year-old DJ Niyah is living proof of it. Coming up as a DJ and then having to take a pause due to the pandemic, she’s been fighting for the opportunities she feels she deserves. Niyah went from an avid concertgoer and music-lover to DJing for some of the biggest up-and-coming hip-hop artists, all while hustling and advocating for herself. Now on her third tour, she’s been able to follow her dreams and make timeless memories and valuable connections in the meantime.
Diving into a male-dominated industry with a natural confidence, she hasn’t allowed being in the minority to deter her from chasing after what she wants. She started as a freshman, teaching herself the ropes of spinning with the help of friends and their equipment. Now, she’s working on other endeavors in addition to vibe setting.
EUPHORIA. sat down with Niyah before the Detroit stop of Grammy-nominated Jack Harlow’s Crème de la Crème tour to discuss manifesting her dream DJ career, being a woman in the industry, and more.
So, you’ve been DJing for a while, but how did you turn it into a career?
So I had this DJ group when I was in my freshman year. I was the only girl, and there were, like, 10 guys, and we would throw local parties and stuff. I would try to learn from them. Basically, I DJed locally for a long time, and I really started to try and reach out to people because I wanted to do concerts. I love music so much. I would attend concerts all the time. I would be the first one in line waiting for my favorite artist, so I always wanted to be the one to open up, so I would just reach out to people that I wanted to open up for, never really got a response, and then the first person I ever opened up for was Joey Badass, which is how I got Niyah Badass, because that was like my favorite rapper ever. So, after that, I really just made it into a career. I reached out to people and tried to get as many opportunities as possible. I started throwing my own parties, I just made that what I wanted to do. I still had other jobs, I would work a the daycare and stuff, but there was just a time where I was like, “fuck work, fuck college” and I just spinned full on.
What type of gigs are the most fun for you?
Concerts. Concerts and festivals, that’s where my heart is. I appreciate my local gigs, but I feel I really grew out of that scene, I don’t really like clubs and bars a lot. Where I’m from, I feel like the music there, they play the same thing. It’s hip-hop and Spanish music mainly, and some pop, but I’d rather spin Baby Keem and stuff I love. That’s why concerts are my favorite, that’s when everyone relates to the music and artists that are going to perform.
You call yourself a tour DJ, so you’ve been on tour with multiple artists, who else have you worked with?
I’ve worked with Lil Mosey, Polo G, Luh Kel, Jack [Harlow], Coi Leray, that’s all I can think of.
So mostly rappers and hip-hop?
Why is that? Is that just most of the music you listen to or that’s where the opportunities arose?
Definitely most of the music I listen to is R&B and hip-hop, so mostly that’s why. Those are also the people I reach out to for opportunities and also connections, like knowing people, being put on and stuff as well. Mostly hip-hop.
How’d you end up working with Jack?
I’ve been a fan of Jack for almost three years now. I reached out to DJ Drama, and his manager. I knew some of his team but I did more research to see who really works with him. I reached out to a whole bunch of people and then I hit him up and let him know that, “Hey, just letting you know I reached out to some of your people on your team to see if I could DJ for you.” And he was like thank you.
You were DMing him?
Yeah, I met him at his show and I would just reply to his stories here and there, I didn’t know him and he didn’t really know me. I was just a fan I guess. So yeah, I reached out to DJ Drama, he’s the one who wrote back to me saying he was going to send it to the team. It took a long time, I kept checking in, and they’d be like, “Oh yeah I got you.” Two months passed by and I didn’t receive anymore DMs and I kept hitting him up, but then I was like, I don’t wanna be too annoying. I had tried to think out of the box, like what can I do to really grab their attention, and I set up my DJ equipment in my backyard, and I had my boyfriend record me and I just did a mini Jack set of how I would perform, and then that got to him.
I don’t know who she is to him, but I knew a girl from Atlantic Records, and I sent her that video and she sent it to DJ Drama. And then he DMed me and was like, Jack was impressed with the video, and I still didn’t hear anything for weeks, and I was like, I guess my opportunity just doesn’t exist, but then out of nowhere I was having a whole breakdown, I was just stressed about my gigs because it’s really hard out here, and the next day I’m in Starbucks, and I get a DM from Jack like, “Hey, can you call me?” And I called him, and from there, he wanted me to audition, and it was just so fucking random, like I thought I wasn’t going to get it at all.
How did it feel when you actually secured it?
It was a fucking insane feeling because I was like, “Wow, this really could be something.” Like, I was nervous, but I know my worth, I know what I bring to the table, like there’s no way you can see past that. I had to do an audition, I’m always nervous, I really do overthink it, but it ended up going really, really well and we did our first show together, and then I did the first three shows of the tour to see how it went, and he just accepted me and wanted me to DJ for the rest of the tour.
What was the audition like?
I flew to Atlanta, and they booked us a rehearsal studio, and they gave me his set list, and basically he came and I met him and we just started going over his songs, like the order, where he would want me to cue the song and stop the songs, and I had to talk on the mic, and see what I would say, you know DJ things like adlibs or whatever. And, that was basically the audition. He explained to me what it would be, how it’s going to be at the shows.
I was nervous, but once everything was just happening I’m just in there. I met him before, it’s not like I haven’t, he’s a really cool guy so it’s just vibes and just working. It was fun.
Is it ever awkward being one of the few women DJs when you’re out and about?
Yeah, I don’t even know how to explain it. It would depend on the situation, and it depends on the DJs, but some of them would be mean or not even acknowledge you, and some are very friendly and open, we’re both DJs no matter what the gender is. It really does depend, but for the most part, I feel like I get along with a lot of people, especially DJs. I’ll introduce myself, and whether they have a set and I’m after, it’s just always vibes. It’s never really intimidating or anything.
Do you ever do your own sets on tour?
Yeah, usually, for Jack, I do a 5- to 7-minute set before he comes on and hype up the crowd. And back when I was with Mosey, I used to do like 15-20 minute sets. Even at festivals with Jack, I’ll do a 5- to 7-minute set just to hype up the crowd, which is my favorite part, because I get to just throw bangers and jump with the crowd. I love that part.
How do you pick those songs? Does it depend on where you are location-wise?
It really does depend on location, but also, there’s just songs that are always gonna go crazy like “Faneto” by Chief Keef or “Mo Bamba.” And you know, like, when you’re at a festival it’s just a different vibe, even the concerts, they’re always gonna go crazy to those certain songs. But it does always depend on location and what type of crowd.
What’s it been like touring so far?
It’s been the best touring experience I’ve had and it’s not even two weeks. It’s really the group that I have, like the team, they’re all such great people, and it’s really fun. They like to do things, explore different cities, and I love that. My first tour was completely different from this tour. That’s why I’m like, I really appreciate this tour so much because I feel like I’ve been having a lot of fun, I’ve been tired, but that doesn’t stop me from anything.
So what was different about the other tours?
It depends on who you tour with and their team. The Mosey tour, everyone was cool, but he was 17, and I’m like 24, so it was really different age groups. And he’s more of, like, a rapper rapper, whereas Jack is really about his craft and touring, and he’s a perfectionist, and I fuck with that because I’m really about building some crazy shit, just putting in a lot of work to put on a show, it’s not like, “Let me just get on the stage, do this, and then get off.” It’s so much more than that, we rehearse all the time, we change the set list, we go over things as a team all the time to make it the best and I just love that. The tour has been really fun so far.
I saw in your bio that you’re also a producer. So you produce music too?
Yeah, I just started. I’ve honestly been trying to produce since I started DJing, but I just never really knew how to do it, I never really got into it as much as I’m getting into it now. I used to try and meet up with people so they could teach me, but I could never get it 100%, I feel like you need to focus on one thing, and do it all the way. So like, now that I already know how to DJ and stuff, I’m trying to branch out. I already branched out into engineering this year, it took me about two years, but now I know how to engineer. I still have a lot to learn, but I can sit down and do a session with an artist in the studio. I haven’t made a full beat yet, but I’ve been reading books about it. Alan Paul, he’s a producer from LA, he’s helping me right now as well, and he’s helping a lot, so I’m really understanding it now. That’s like a really big goal of mine. I really want to be a producer, DJ, engineer, kind of like DJ Khaled, but like a female. I want to be behind the scenes and make hits.
We don’t really have a female DJ that’s gotten there yet.
We don’t and I really hope I can get to that. This is a male-dominated industry, that’s something we can’t deny, so it really is important to me to set that female stamp for girls all over the world because we can do it. Just because it’s male-dominated doesn’t mean anything. I also don’t want it to be categorized as female and male. I’m stuck in between, but in reality, if I was a female stamp in the industry, it would really inspire a lot of women. It does, I get a lot of DMs now just like, “I can’t believe you’re a woman and you’re doing this, I didn’t think I could ever do this, and it’s crazy that I’m not even huge right now, but I have a few fans and they look up to me just because I’m female.”
Every girl should be able to try whatever they want without fear. Growing up, I wanted to play on the football team. I never did, I couldn’t, I was not built for that, but there was a girl from my high school on the football team. Girls can do anything.
Do you have a favorite memory from the gigs that you’ve done?
The first time I was at Rolling Loud was something I’ll never forget. That was in 2019. Basically my career took off in December 2018, that’s when I got news that I was going on tour. That year, I started working for YesJulz, and I was just making my way into the industry as a baby. I started DJing for her, and I went to Rolling Loud in 2018, and that was my first festival ever. I loved it, the best time of my life seeing all of my favorite artists. And then in 2019, I never thought I would be at Rolling Loud performing, like ever, walking up on that stage, that was insane. To see like 20,000 people, that was one of the best moments.