Birmingham, 2018. The O2 Academy is rammed with punters looking to get licked, and UK rap legend Chip and Brummie superstar MIST are gearing up to take to the stage. This is an 0121 show, which, year after year, has become the go-to event for the young lads and ladies of the dance. “I was so pissed, I couldn’t go there were no tickets left and I was really annoyed. Can’t wait for next year…” reads one comment from an unlucky fan on YouTube vid from the evening.
These sought after shows are the mastermind of Nathan Dawe, who has slowly solidified himself as a multifaceted music lover and producer, connecting the dots between DJing, live events, UK garage, pop, and UK rap. 2019’s follow up 0121 event had performances from young rap icons Aitch and Jaykae. “It’s become a bit of a running joke on who is gonna come next…,” says Nathan, who has also scored a UK Top 20 hit with Jaykae featuring track “Flowers”.
Born in Burton on Trent, Nathan’s career so far has been a singular, extraordinary experience. He’s the local club DJ, gone national – and straight into the heartland of UK heavyweight chart territory. He’s 26 now, but has been spinning records his whole life, ever since picking up his first pair of decks age nine. He laughs: “I would do my own parties at home and charge my mum and dad to come and listen.”
Some might think that having the goal of becoming a DJ from so young is a strange move. For Nathan, it made sense. It was everything he wanted. “I just remember going to parties as a kid, everyone would be sliding around on their knees playing football with balloons or whatever – but I was always fixated on the DJ. I think it was that fascination with one person, who is controlling the energy and the vibe for the whole room. When you have that much power, you control people’s nights.
Not able to play nightclubs, Nathan’s first route into DJing to a crowd was via blasting the tunes at other kids’ birthday parties. He made a name doing it for himself too. “Because it was a small town, if there was a party, they would get me in to do the DJing.” By the time he hit sixteen years old, he was putting on his own events – stuff by the name of Shuffle and Cube, with posters plastered across town, on bus stops and taxi ranks.
Pretty soon, the big, established local venues started calling up. He got a residency at the local nightclub, Bullet, before he was of legal age. Eventually someone grassed him up – “One day someone sent an anonymous email to the club and said ‘You need to check how old your DJ is – he’s 17” – but before then, he managed to play the club week in, week out. It was all part of building the dream.
The Soundcloud mixes came next, enabling Nathan to take his DJing abroad and into summer seasons in Zante. This was good, for a while. But coming home and back to the cold UK winter was demoralising.
“I remember thinking a lot of my friends were on good money and I was only earning a hundred pound a week in the winter. That was great when I was 15, but when I was 21 it wasn’t. I had a massive aspiration to be a big DJ. I remember watching, like T4, Party in the Park and thought I would love to play to those crowds but wouldn’t be able to do it sitting on my arse.” And so, he gave it one last shot. One more year, to make the big time, starting with one more Soundcloud mix.
Nathan Dawe’s GOLD EDITION 1 mix became a viral hit, when it dropped in 2015. “I was having friends ring me, like, yo I’m at pre-drinks and they’ve put your mix on. It was mad.” He blew up, thanks to the mix’s cross genre blends, and began getting booked in clubs and nights throughout the UK. “I started realising it was spreading across the country. I got asked for my first picture that year.”
Never one to press pause, Nathan then considered his next steps. “Naturally Soundcloud mixes aren’t going to last forever. I had a vision thinking that I needed to start bringing out music. A lot of the bigger festivals were thinking: yeah, he’s got Soundcloud, but what big songs does he have?”
Debut single “Cheatin’” dropped in 2018. Sampling Deborah Cox’s 1999 hit “It’s Over Now”, it became the first taste of Nathan’s artist sound – lush, sugar sweet vocals, over club ready production. Having then connected through Nathan’s DJ sets both at home and abroad, Jaykae jumped on the remix. Breakthrough smash “Flowers” came next, interpolating a sample from the huge and iconic Sweet Female Attitude track of the same name. It’s become one of the smash hit tracks of the year.
Now looking forward with his foot fully on the gas, there’s a single coming up featuring UK man of the moment and UK number one artist KSI. It’s all part of Nathan’s plan for worldwide domination. When he speaks about future plans, he’s very clear. “Keep bringing out hit after hit. Getting number ones and becoming a solid name in that side of the industry.” Local club DJ, to national star, to international club act and globally renowned producer? Stay tuned for more. 0121.