When the gloves are on: Hackney DJ Hitty back in the club after whirlwind pandemic
- Credit: @mindsetmanage
Hitty started DJing in gloves during the pandemic as a way to placate his partner. Only allowed to leave the house to perform a virtual set if he wore latex and stayed two metres from anyone - it seemed a fair compromise.
But now, even with clubs well and truly back open, the gloves have remained.
“We were doing a set for Insta Live,” he tells me inside Hackney Wick venue Grow. “Nobody was obviously partying in front of us, they’re sitting watching it on their phone. They can leave comments - and we could tell people were vibing. But then they all started putting on a glove emoji.
“It felt like something that people might expect to see again and I thought, ok, they like the look, they like the sound, let’s go.
“My identity now is a mixture of RnB, house music… And gloves!”
Every DJ needs a calling card. Fatboy Slim doesn’t wear shoes. Deadmau5 performs inside a helmet. Hitty wears gloves.
Now in his thirties, the Hackney-native otherwise known as Taureen Osborne has a clear idea of his identity. In the past year, his career, that’s known ups and downs, has been rebooted with online sets watched by 100,000 plus and now his first headline shows.
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However, it has been a long journey.
Having started off listening to his uncle’s records as well as Michael Jackson, Tupac and Notorious BIG, Hitty always wanted to be a DJ even when his peers were dreaming of a career in front of the mic as a grime MC. His first musical love was house music, inspired by his discovery of Armand Van Helden’s 1999 classic You Don't Know Me. But it was not a passion he would follow for several years.
“Grime was popping at that time,” he says. “I didn’t know where to look for house music. You ain’t cool if you’re listening to house. I didn’t know how to stay with it.
“I didn’t even know that I liked house music, specifically. What confused me was that in the Van Helden music video they were wearing clothes that you’d see in hip hop. So I thought it was just fast rap music…. I was young!” he laughs.
The spark for house was there but through his teenage years, the eager to impress Hitty was more likely to be behind the decks while his friends rapped. “You wanna make what’s cool,” he says about his time with Judgement Crew and K.i.G [the rap group, he says, had these names and many other incarnations]. DJ equipment can be hard to come by for a young lad but Hitty got creative, with the PlayStation game Music 2000 being an early outlet. But things changed when looking to study music for a sixth form college, he dedicated a summer to learning the piano.
“When it got to it,” he says, “I was just asked if I wanted to study music, I said yes, and that was it, I was in. I had all that self taught knowledge and in the end it didn’t matter! But it was actually a blessing. I learned about chords. That got me deeper into a world of production and DJing.”
Transferring out of grime into house music, he had an unexpected rocket into the big time in 2008 with a song he had made for fun. Head Shoulders Kneez And Toez, a funky house tune, was recorded with his old K.i.G mates and was an early example of the internet’s propelling effect when it went viral and reached the UK top 20. In his early 20s and now recording house for the first time, he signed with Universal (Island Records) and had a publishing deal with EMI.
“I thought it was spam - when they got in touch! It was so sick. I didn’t think it was real. I thought being signed only happened to people who’d gone to BRIT School. This showed me there was a power shift as to what was popular. I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.”
“But that period had its challenges. I am so grateful but at the same time I was so happy that I got to learn what the music industry really was.
“There was so much with royalties, publishers, lawyers, accountants… It was all happening so fast. All I knew was that I had to perform it and then everyone enjoys the track. The only thing I wanted to achieve was to have my music out there so that everybody can enjoy it.”
He admits being disappointed by the experience.
“There is not a lot of honesty in the whole thing. You don’t get told the label only wanted that first track and that was it. You’re wondering, why did they like the first track and not the others? I thought, this is it, I am gonna make a lot of money from this - I’ll be rich and famous. It felt like it was happening when it wasn’t. I learned a lot from it.”
Having left the label, he went onto found Nocturnalist Records with his friends Shenin Amara & AR with whom he has released music onto the major digital platforms. It has been a more enjoyable process that has allowed him full creative control as well as the ability to release music when he wants.
Hitty has long-moved on from Head Shoulders Kneez And Toez [it is tellingly not on his Spotify or Soundcloud] and began to hone his craft, finding his own sound.
“I wasn’t being honest then,” he says of his early work. “Now I feel like I am being true to myself. I love RnB, I love rap music, now I feel I have got my sound, I sample a lot.”
As well as the gloves, one of Hitty’s trademarks is to play almost entirely his own originals and remixes in his sets - but for new listeners there will be reference points with a sprinkling of samples from early 2000s hits.
“When I DJ now people get a nostalgic feeling. It gives them a shock of enthusiasm when there is a song you don’t really hear in the clubs anymore - but this sample or a remix can give it a rebirth.”
Hitty is keen to pay homage in his sets to the history of house by respecting the genre. But he has gone from making music to “blend in” to “putting his own stamp on things”.
Armed with 3D visuals, a large fanbase and his best ever selection of music, Hitty is now ready for further headline shows - with his X-Perience club night at E1 White Studio something of a homecoming. Fans can look out for his moves behind the turntables.
“People call me the dancing DJ for a reason. I see a lot of DJs who don’t look at the crowds. I thought for ages that was just what you had to do.
“But then I thought I wanted to be a wildcard. As long as I am honest in doing what I am doing, even if I am not successful, I will have no regrets.”
Hitty will perform his Hitty-X X-perience on Saturday, May 14, at E1 White Studio. Doors from 10pm. Last entry at 12.30am. For tickets, search www.fatsoma.com and type in Hitty.