The word tastemaker gets thrown around all too often in the music world, but for a truly deserving representation of the title, allow us to introduce Tiffany Calver.
The DJ, radio personality and cultural provocateur has spent the last few years breaking boundaries and carving out a space for herself in male-dominated hip-hop circles – becoming the first woman to mix for Drake’s OVO Sound show on Beats 1 Radio, as well as the first woman to host BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra’s renowned Saturday night Rap Show.
Telford-born, London-based Tiffany has built a reputation for discovering and spotlighting emerging talent, introducing artists to new audiences both through her slots on air and live events Tiffany Calver & Friends. But this year she’s also enjoyed her own well-earned time on the stage, opening for none other than her friend Drake on the European leg of his recent Assassination Vacation Tour.
We caught up with Tiffany to talk travel essentials, exploring cities on the road and capturing it all in her tour photo diary.
You were really out there on the Drake tour. Name in huge graphics flashing down at the crowd. Has it all sunk in yet?
Big up my g Rashid Babiker on the graphics! The one great thing about being in front of 20,000 people is that you’re forced to separate yourself. When I first stood out on the arena stage I was Tiffany, which made it a million times worse. I was just me - nerdy, doesn’t really know what to say, voice kind of wobbles a little bit, awkward, sarcastic Tiffany. I still needed a lot of tequila, but at the end of the tour, I was Tiffany Calver.
Being in a new city almost every day, does it become a blur?
DJing, in general, is very fast paced. You fly somewhere, check into your hotel, play at the venue, then fly away again. You don’t really get to see or experience anything. It’s sad because you travel the world but see nothing. What I really loved about the Assassination Vacation tour is that it took this into account. We’d have multiple days in cities like Dublin and Dam where we spent a few days there so it was sick. We explored the city and walked around the streets, ate at local joints and had a chill time.
What are your tour essentials?
My tour essentials would be lots of... oh my god... ginger shots, major fucking key when you are travelling a lot… ginger shots. My Jul and sleep mask are major keys too. Obviously being a DJ I needed my USBs, backup USBs and Sennheiser headphones. I also think it’s very important to have your support system and I had Goldie Quaker who’s my best friend. She came with me everywhere and did everything.
"She was my tour manager, therapist, bestie and when I saw her in the crowd she was my flipping number 1 fan."
Fredo tour then straight onto Drake. What were the challenges?
The biggest challenge was tricking my immune system into not getting sick, especially when cramped in a bus with a rapper and all his mates are smoking weed. I don’t smoke weed so I had a gas mask on… but didn’t realise it was broken so it ended up getting me secondhand stoned. This is where the ginger shots came in!
"You’re initially really excited with all the alcohol, adrenaline, clubbing and afterparties. But after the first few Fredo tours, I learnt to respect what I do and recognise it as a job."
With that, you learn how to act and reign it in so those tours really did prepare me well for the 7-week excursion I’ve just been on. That is absolutely not to say I didn’t party a lot, but I was also in the gym, drinking my ginger shots and water and getting enough sleep which helped me be a responsible adult - something that is not my forte.
Was the energy unique to each city? Which surprised you the most?
I knew Paris would be full of life and passion - the energy is second to none, it’s my favourite place in the world for hip-hop and rap. Any concert or artist that performs there will probably say the same thing. I brought out Kalash for a Drake show. He got on the stage, went in the middle of the crowd, dropped his mic then lit up a spliff - that’s Paris for you.
"Nothing can prepare you to stand in front of 20,000 people ... apart from tequila."
Belgium surprised me the most! We had a show in Antwerp and even though the arena is massive you can still see everything. There was this one group of guys who were krumping to everything, the cameras were on them and they were hyping up the entire arena. I’m receptive to energy, as is any performer, so it made me play better too. Antwerp was loud, they were just sick - that one definitely surprised me.
"Fast-paced industries make you forget to capture moments, so this time I really made a conscious effort to make sure I did. With the Drake tour I was able to take two of my best friends and a photographer. These photos were originally just for us."