The latest Nandos x Noisey Music Exchange documentary opens with a contemplative Chloe Robinson meandering around the streets of Manchester. Moments later Robinson, aka DJ Barely Legal, is transported to Cape Town and greeted by rapper Dope Saint JudeDuring a beautifully shot 10-minute film (directed by Jack O’Hare), Dope introduces the Birmingham-born DJ to Cape Town’s hip-hop scene, and the politically charged environment that informs her music.

At the documentary’s premiere screening, Jamz Supernova described Robinson as one of the people behind new-wave grime. It’s a weighty description for someone in their mid-twenties who stands just shy of 5 ft, but she owns it. Her sets assert an intimate knowledge of UK club culture, demonstrated further during my conversation with her; her answers are peppered with references that suggest a serious musical education. As the documentary premiers in time to kick of celebrations for International Women’s Day, Robinson speaks to gal-dem about the unifying power of music, a childhood imbued with garage and her forecasts for 2017.

gal-dem: Tell us a bit about your trip to South Africa, what were the takeaways for you? 

Barely Legal: I got to experience the music scene in Cape Town first hand and learned a lot through Dope [Saint Jude], who grew up there. It’s the kind of stuff you can’t just read about online. We visited the Cape Flats, which is the flat land where they housed black people during apartheid, and I learned how that segregation is still apparent there. I probably went to about five or six clubs while I was there, and it was nice to see that segregation is really not evident in the music side of things. When you go into a club it’s full of people from all walks of life. You can see that music is really bringing people together.

gal-dem: You travel a lot, what’s it like playing at home versus playing to a crowd abroad? 

Barely Legal: What I play is very much a UK sound. People who come to see me at home are quite on top of their music and it feels like there’s a responsibility to play unreleased dub plates and what not. It’s more exciting playing to a crowd abroad because it’s all new to them. At the same time you’ve got that risk of people not feeling comfortable hearing new sounds when you play abroad, but I haven’t had a bad experience yet. 

gal-dem: How has growing up in the UK influenced your taste in music? 

Barely Legal: My mum is a UK garage head so I was forced to listen to garage when I was younger. I didn’t like it until I was 9 or 10 but then we bonded over it. Quite a few of her friends were garage producers, like B15 Project, and she used to play it really loud in the house. I went to Glastonbury for a couple of years in a row when I was younger, not with her though. She just shipped me off with her friend who is a DJ, bit weird. She would take us to these mad parties in the middle of the forest. So yeah, I guess my mum influenced my taste in music a lot.

Image by: Luke Dyson

gal-dem: Do you find that there are any distinct challenges being a female DJ? 

Barely Legal: I’m kind of used to it and I do think there’s been a real rise in female DJs, which is good. I’ve struggled with live streams a couple of times though. I did a Mixmag live stream wearing a crop top and boys hoody, big deal. But I just got completely slated. I got called a slag, people said things like “came for the tits stayed for the music”, really horrible things. So now every time I do a live stream I feel a bit worried just because that’s where you get all your online trolls.

gal-dem: Are you particularly looking forward to any of your sets this year? 

Barely Legal: I’m playing Glastonbury for the second time. Last year I played a daytime set so it was quite quiet. This time I’m playing a bigger stage so I’m really excited.

gal-dem: Are there any artists that you’re particularly excited about in 2017?

Chloe: There’s a girl I know called Kirsty, but her artist name is Kyrist. She does drum and bass but her tracks are really complex, I think she’ll have a good year. And there’s a guy I’m putting out on my label [Pretty Weird] who’s never had a debut solo release called Near. His sound is quite a dark and subby, quite slow tempo. I’m really excited to watch him grow.

gal-dem: What track would you recommend for our readers? 

Barely Legal: Solitude by Skeptical and Alix Perez [released via Exit Records].

Keep up to date with Barely Legal here and Dope Saint Jude here.