It’s been two years since Julie Adenuga first went live to over 100 countries. The multi-faceted career of Beats 1’s ‘Voice of London’ spans everything from web design to youth mentoring, but radio has always found its way to the surface.
The 28-year-old Tottenham native first discovered her passion when she was offered a chance to trial for a presenting role on Rinse FM in her early-20s. Never one to back away from an opportunity, she gave it a shot, and quickly progressed from weekly appearances to the daily drive time slot. It was there that Julie would find her voice; an enthusiastic, effortless and familiar presence that listeners welcome into their lives like an old friend.
“Out of everything I do, radio just feels the most natural,” she says, despite having never really been a radio listener herself, other than when her older brothers, Skepta and Jme, would leave her at home as a kid to tape their radio freestyles. Rather than allowing disc jockeys to tell her what to listen to, she’d spend her younger years creating her own eclectic compilations, which would include everything from her brothers’ favourite 2Pac songs to Spice Girls deep cuts.
“I wouldn’t have whole albums,” she admits of her sometimes-obscure taste. “I’d just have one song that I really liked, like ‘Everything Fades Away’ by Mariah Carey on ‘Music Box’, which is like a deluxe version of the album. I think my love for radio just came out of enjoying it.”
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Although she wasn’t necessarily the biggest name in broadcasting, those already familiar with Julie weren’t surprised when it was announced in the summer of 2015 that she’d been enlisted to join Zane Lowe and Ebro Darden as the three main anchors on Apple’s new radio station.
However, Julie remained in a state of disbelief for much of the station’s first year, convinced that she’d be axed at any moment. “I was apprehensive to celebrate prematurely,” she says. “I wanted people to listen and say, ‘She is a good presenter,’ before I was like, ‘Look at my new job!’”
Aware that her fellow anchors each have decades of experience to their names, Julie remained humble, ensuring that she made a valuable contribution to the station’s success and soaking up knowledge wherever she could. “I felt like I had more to prove than I had to celebrate,” she recalls. “So I was concentrating on that. I needed to exceed expectations, because I didn’t know anyone. I wanted to make sure that I was worth taking a risk on.”
It was after an interview with Pharrell Williams at Apple Music festival that the reality of her new position really set in. “[Skepta was the guest on Pharrell’s] OtherTone show, and they went and worked in the studio that same night,” she remembers, still wearing a look of surprise across her face. “Pharrell’s manager asked me to come to the studio and he was there! He was making music, and I was like, ‘I’ve only ever watched this on YouTube.’”
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I felt like I had more to prove than I had to celebrate...
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Before her eyes, the pair would create ‘Numbers’, which would land on Skepta’s Mercury Prize-winning ‘Konnichiwa’ album, but Julie couldn’t stick around for the rest of the session. “[Pharrell] came and spoke to me. We were just having a conversation, not even about work. I was like, ‘This is just nuts’,” she laughs. “I had to leave early to celebrate.”
London couldn’t ask for a more genuine voice: as she heads into Beats 1’s third year, Julie - who admits that she can’t feel successful unless those around her are also thriving - is proud to use her show to connect her hometown to the world. “I’ve always felt like London is a place where people are better when they’re connected,” she says, smiling warmly.
“I definitely think that comes out in the music, from going to Plastic People, or a drum ‘n’ bass rave, or a grime night. To be connected to loads of people who are different to me, but it’s celebrated not frowned upon; London’s definitely that place for me.”
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Listen to Julie’s Beats 1 show Monday-Thursday at 8pm in Apple Music.
Words: Grant Brydon
Photography: Vicky Grout
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