Dre Ngozi is mostly known as a DJ, but she is also a multidisciplinary artist, host, curator, and producer. She's been cultivating her craft as a versatile artist in every way possible, from acting and media art to DJing and now music production and scoring. Diasporically drenched in black music, she's known for her ability to seamlessly move through different genres, taking crowds on an unexpected journey. She is beyond the definition of an open format DJ. No set is ever the same. Her unique music curation has led her to play in major North American cities, headlining major events for crowds in the thousands and DJing legendary parties worldwide. She’s provided memorable sets for Boiler Room TV, Redbull Sound Select, NXNE and has rocked the decks alongside other DJ heavy-hitters.
Please introduce yourself, tell us what you do and what’s your shoe size?
Sup, I'm Dre Ngozi. A nomadic DJ, multidisciplinary artist, host, curator, and producer.
Size 8 women's, baby!
Can you tell us what it was like growing up and how that influenced your musical style?
I grew up in a very Caribbean household in Ottawa, which meant family gatherings always ended with calypso and soca songs loudly sung by the aunties, knocking of beer bottles with butter knives and of course lots of dancing. Gospel was played every Sunday while my mom cleaned the house. But, as a teen and I would get yelled at for blasting DMX from my bedroom. The new house rule became "no rap on Sundays".
I spent a lot of my summers in Toronto with my older cousins. One of them DJ’d for fun and would play reggae non-stop out of these big but old speakers, while the younger kids played outside. His sister was a big hip-hop head, so we’d watch music videos on BET all day. I really miss that era!
Plot twist is, I was also partially raised by a French Canadian caregiver who played Country Music, Elvis Presley, Elton John and The Beach Boys on repeat for a good portion of my childhood.
Top 3 highlights of Caribana?
1. I was [undisclosed] years old and was on road with my older cousin and her friends. I remember her spraying rum into my mouth with a water gun. I was so tiny or ‘maga’ as we say in Trinidad, so everyone seemed like giants to me. I kept getting trampled on and long story short, I lost my nail on my left big toe.
2. Caribana 2017 or 2018. Machel was on the truck doing what he does best and he looked down at me and told me I looked good. That's it. That’s the tweet lol.
3. My mom was visiting Toronto that one year when they decided to start charging a fee to enter Exhibition Place. The whole parade felt more chaotic than other times I was on road. Baracades were getting pushed down, fences forced open. I watched my mom get sucked into the crowd and shoved through a gate. I felt so bad and started to panic. I found her on the other side and her response was, "You forget I's a Trini!"
For those that don’t know, you are an accomplished, versatile artist, not just limited to DJing. What other creative circles do you find yourself contributing to?
I've definitely lived many lives. I've been a performance artist, model, visual artist, video content creator, stylist, shiatsu therapist, acupuncturist, host, music curator and now DJ/Producer.
As a DJ, the past couple years have been a challenge for those used to playing out at live events. Now that there’s some light at the end of the tunnel, what are you looking forward to the most?
Yes, it's been a whirlwind! I'm looking forward to focusing on music production and developing my own sound. I am looking to finish a project by the end of the year, in hopes of being able to play more festivals next year.
What artist or group do you remember first listing to growing up?
What artist or group have you recently discovered and has inspired you?
I wouldn’t say that recent, but The Cavemen really got me through much of the pandemic. They’re a fantastic Nigerian Highlife band consisting of two brothers.
You’ve been asked to DJ a 45 min set, but only allowed to use three LP records. What selections do you bring to the tables?
Eek, What a question lol! This depends if it's a live mix in the club or a recorded one for at home chillin' vibes, because those would be very different sets!
Slum Village - Fantastic, Vol. 2
Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
Michael Jackson - Dangerous (this one may be controversial, but it was the first "compact disc" I ever bought, so it’s close to my heart and every track is a bop).
Top five live shows you’ve seen or been a part of?
James Blake (every time)
Kamasi Washington at the classic Beacon Theatre in New York. I went by myself and it was pure Black Excellence!
FKA Twigs at The Danforth Music Hall, Wayhome Festival and Afropunk
Coldplay in Montreal
Last but not least, what are your ‘go to’ pair of sneakers, and what do you like about them?
Definitely, a pair of white Air Force 1s. Because, they can go with literally anything - jeans, trousers, shorts, dresses, skirts.