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DJ Target: The grime pioneer and respected purveyor of Black British music has been visualising success his entire life.

DJ Target is synonymous with championing the incredible talent within the British Black Music scene. Over the years he’s played a pivotal role through his multiple ventures, which includes being a DJ at BBC 1Xtra, a co-host for the popular show The Rap Game UK, the record label co-founder of Pitched Up and author of his autobiography Grime Kids. His versatility as a creative enables him to create spaces within different mediums, which allow him to become a gatekeeper in nurturing and showcasing talent. The synergy between all of his projects builds a wider picture, shining a spotlight on the British Black Music scene.

In his most latest endeavour, he’s in front of the camera as a host on the BBC 3 show Tonight With Target. Produced by New Wave and Fremantle label Naked, Tonight With Target is a music and entertainment show celebrating British Black culture. The show is filled with must-watch segments from interviews to live performances. The series features performances from big artists such as JME, Ghetts, WSTRN and Ms Banks, as well as shining a light on emerging talent across the UK in a number of exclusive cyphers. To coincide with the exciting launch of Tonight With Target we spoke to DJ Target discussing his latest show, discovering new talent and his Grime roots. 

Tonight With Target is a refreshing show that is guaranteed to fuel the interest of music fans and it has an innovative format. DJ Target discusses how the show came into fruition: ‘I think me doing The Rap Game gave me a bit of a first for wanting to do more TV and in the background, while we were filming The Rap Game I was invited onto The Jools Holland Show as a special guest to introduce Hamzaa and I remember getting so many messages afterwards saying ‘imagine if there was a show that showcases black music and celebrated the culture in a more focused way’ and it kind of planted the seed and I was like you know what actually on TV there is nothing else other than Jools Holland. There’s nothing that really celebrates live music and definitely nothing that really focuses on the success and the growth of black music and the culture that surrounds it.’

The show has many moving parts from live location performances, live studio performances to  topical music discussions. He is also joined by Remi Burgz who brings the charm in her Rider Room segments. Steering the show DJ Target bridges together all the elements.‘We didn’t want it to feel one dimensional, we wanted it to showcase as much of the wider culture as possible. We know it’s not just drill artists, we know it’s not just one type of singer/ songwriter, we know that there is bigger names that people want to see and hear, we know that there are newer names that we want to showcase to people. It’s just a case of coming up with 45 minutes that could kind of encompass all of that without it feeling too crazy and manic because a lot does go on in each episode but we wanted to make sure it still had a flow. I’m more than happy with how it turned out and the feedback has been amazing, so I’m very humbled by it.’

Across the six episodes, the TV series features a wide range of performances. Having asked who were some of his favourite artists to have on the show he emphasises that he loved every performance for different reasons and loved how the stage was lit differently for each performance. Saying it was a hard choice to pick a standout he picked a few of his favourite performances from the season. ‘One of my favourite iconic location performances was the JME one, the first one that we did, I loved the energy and vibe that he brought to that. Also Tiwa Savage she did her one in Lagos so that was a first for us having an international performance of that magnitude of someone who is that big. I loved Jorja Smith’s performance, Potter Payper was amazing, Eddy Luna, I could literally just keep going on, I love all the performances to be fair for different reasons.’

The Coronavirus pandemic impacted live music drastically and had meant that many artists hadn’t performed in over a year. ’Having live music in a room even though was had a very limited audience just that to be able happen was amazing and emotional. Some of the artists were actually getting emotional after their performances, one or two artists actually shed a little tear because nobody had performed. I hadn’t even realised that some of those performances were literally the first performance these artists have done in 18 months or more and some of the artists, the newer artists, they have never performed anywhere significant and some of them definitely not on TV, so it was amazing to have that back, on all fronts it was great to see.’

During the show, Jorja Smith mentions that she submitted an a cappella on Target’s Noticeboard a segment on his 1Xtra radio show and he was the first person to play her on the radio. Over the years DJ Target has helped shine a light on new talent with the UK music scene. ‘I remember with WSTRN, Akelle was a solo artist and he sent me the song ‘In2’ and it was labelled on the CD, he sent me a CD and it was labelled Akelle featuring Haile and Louis. WSTRN didn’t even exist at this stage and he sent be a bunch of demos and asked me what was my opinion, which ones do I think he should finish and go with and I heard ‘In2’ and I was like ‘bro this song is an absolute banger’.

‘I said it sounds, I know it’s not finished, finished, it sounds in pretty good shape as in I could play it on the radio. He was like ‘go on and play it and see what happens’ and I played it on the radio on the Sunday and I think on the Monday Dotty who was doing the breakfast show she played it, she heard me play it on the Sunday and then people just started playing it and next thing we knew the song absolutely just blew and they I guess were talking behind the scenes and deciding let’s become a group so by the time song was officially released and signed and whatever they were now known as WSTRN.

DJ Target has assisted in the journey of many artists and has helped amplify their voice, he continued to say: ‘There’s been so many stories, I don’t like to be the person to say ‘ah yeah it’s because of me’, it’s because of them, I just play my part and I have a platform to be able to showcase artists and I’d like to think I’ve got a good ear for music, it’s just that really. It’s just being being in the position to showcase artists and not being afraid to play an a cappella from a 17 year old girl who no-one in the world has heard of but it sounds amazing, that’s for me that’s great. It doesn’t have to be someone who has already got the media attention and knows a lot of DJs are playing them. I’m happy to play something nobody has supported before if I think it’s great, so yeah hopefully we just keep doing that as well.’

When discussing discovering new talent he says that there are a variety of factors that can make something great: ‘I’m always just looking out and listening out for something that just hits me, whether that it makes me want to the club, makes me want to cry, touches your soul, something you can relate to and someone who is not afraid to just be themselves. It’s so easy to follow the mould of what’s the in trend or what’s currently relevant but I think the artist that really stand the test of time are the ones that are true to themselves and not afraid to be that.’

His involvement in shows such as The Rap Game UK also exemplifies his passion for discovering new talent and not just from the capital, he showcases talent from all corners of the UK. ‘I think it is so important to make sure that we showcase what is happening across the country, there is so much talent in not just the bigger cities like the Birmingham’s and the Manchester’s and everywhere else like that but in some of the smaller pockets, in some of those smaller towns, parts of the country where there might not have a big, black music scene or they might not have the infrastructure there that enables them to be heard really so we have the chance to do that we have to represent across the board.’

DJ Target has also been synonymous with the Grime scene and has witnessed the evolution of the genre, right from the underground roots to its emergence in the mainstream.‘I remember watching the Stormzy set at Glastonbury a couple of years ago and just having a lump in my throat, thinking wow, although this is his moment, this is also a moment for the whole scene. This is a moment for those emcees who were on pirate radio fifteen years ago who now don’t even do music but they were part of that initial foundation. All of that and everything that has happened since then built it to the stage where you have got all of these huge artist winning BRIT Awards and selling out tours and merchandise and having movies and books and number one albums and it’s incredible to see it and to be still part of it as well is a blessing because I am able to still be involved in what’s going on now so I have been able to see begin but I am also still around to enjoy some of these moments as well.’

Watch Tonight With Target, available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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