Alpha Ojini is having a good year, eve’ though he is without a single in 2021. The talented rapper, producer, and sound engineer has 5 projects out in a career that began as far back as 2009, as a student of Madonna University, Okija.
Born Ebuka Alex Ojini-Ntamere, the rapper grew up in Lagos until his family relocated to Imo state when he was 10years old. The rapper is back in Lagos, taking it by the horn as he prepares to take his place in the mainstream section. He has an impressive catalog as an artist, a producer, and a sound engineer. He has worked with mainstream artists on songs and projects in several capacities, and one thing remains certain. You can’t go wrong with Alpha Ojini.
In the hip-hop industry, Ojini has earned his critical acclaim and it’s only left for his commercial success to match is critical acclaim value. Luckily, his #QuickBars series – short videos of his freestyling on sampled beats of current trending songs (all genres) – have been doing well to attract the long deserved attention and support he deserves to push himself to mainstream.
Seeing that, we reached out to him for an exclusive interview on the phone, to talk about his journey and experiences from the very beginning up till his 29th Birthday.
Let’s take it back to the beginning. When and how did the music journey begin? Let’s talk origins
Origins! Origins! I didn’t start rapping until 2007. 2007, when I entered the University. That’s when I started messing with rap in the first place. I was never a rap-rapper material. I was a bookworm. I was always like… My focus was, is, and carrying First (position). As you see. [chuckles]
It’s almost like I missed out on all the music I would’ve listened to in my childhood, because of the kind of household I grew up in. My parents, they loved music. I used to see old records and stuff, but, it’s like once they became Born Again, it was only gospel we listened to. And that Born Againsm happened way before we were born. It wasn’t that bad though. I’m trying to be funny, but… The koko is that I wasn’t exposed to as much secular music as most people are when they say ‘Oh my parent’s used to play so so and so music’. And erm… There was a lot of comedy in our house. Like Bro! We listened to local Igbo comedies and stuff. Maybe that’s why I have a touch of humour in my music.
Yeah yeah! that’s basically the backstory. I didn’t really listen to a lot of music growing, so when I was in the university was like ‘BOOM’, all this music hitting me at the same time. I got myself an mp3 player in 100level. That’s what I mean by ‘all the music hitting me at once.’ It was almost as if… I was like, ‘WTF!’ Where has all these been all my life.’ And then as the kind of curious person I am, I started trying to like, see if I could make this stuff that I like so much for myself.
I started, you know, basically trying to write my own raps, because it was rap that gravitated to me first. Eminem, Lil Wayne, Jay Z, the whole shebang. Like, I didn’t even have a favorite rapper. I was just listening to everything that people were saying in the name of rap. T.I, everybody. That was the beginning for me.
After a while, I realised that “Omo it’s not only about rapping. Do you want to make music? You’ll need beats. Do you want to finish the songs? you’ll need to mix. I just learned all these things, like, late… as I was just learning to rap, it was, like, another thing is hitting me. It was as if I just got a whole pic of what it would take to, like, build a career in a short period of time. Then it was ‘Woah! Do I really want to do this?’ I said ‘Yah.’ So, I started trying to learn how to make beat… mix… and whatever I was doing at the time.
2009, I eventually released what I call my first single (Don’t Tell Me), which was the song I recorded with a headset microphone in my room in the hostel when i was in school. And it was passed (shared) Bluetooth to Bluetooth throughout school then. I was in 300 level or I was about to enter 300 level then. Yeah.
Then I did a cover of Dagrin‘s Pon Pon Pon. That one also circulated in school. That was when my name started getting a big of buzz on campus. Although I was a broke motherf*cker. Always looking scruffy. There was no way anyone would listen to the music, and picture or match it to me when they saw me in person. Maybe that’s why I didn’t blow in school. [chuckles]
On the production side, I actually didn’t even know people made beats. Like sit down with a computer to make beats, until I walked into a room one day, and saw someone pressing a computer and musical sound was coming out from like, a pair of laptop speakers he had in front of him. Those tiny tiny computer speakers people use to have back then. I came to look at the screen, and the n***a was drawing a graph type of stuff and music was coming out. I was like, ‘I thought people used to gather band together and play, to make instrumentals for music.’ This was how people used to record back in the day, But I didn’t know about this PC simplification of making music. It was like, “puuuufff” mind-blowing! So that’s when I took an interest.
Everything kinda like came together because of my exposure to music, all of a sudden in the university. I liked some secular music before then, but it wasn’t like I was really crazy about it till I entered university. Yeah. That’s how it started.
What were the early challenges you faced?
In the beginning, nobody wanted to teach me anything. I quickly realised that there’s money attached to everything. You know, before, if you want to learn how to… There are some things you’ll tell someone or tell a friend ‘you want to learn’ and they will just teach you. I just realised that for some reason, on campus then, all the people who knew ‘how to make beats’… they weren’t willing to teach you anything without you paying, and I didn’t have any money to pay anybody.
I started tinkering around with… borrowed laptops from friends, you know, to try to learn how to make beats. I didn’t even have a laptop of my own, at the time. I don’t think I bought a laptop till my final year. So between then and my final year, was just me borrowing… I made friends and kept borrowing their laptops. It was crazy. So that’s one challenge. I never had devices of my own, but I was determined to like, keep learning the shit.
No money was definitely a factor, because I knew some of my friends… You know as you keep getting more known for music in school, you begin to meet more people that are into music. Some of them had money to go out (of campus), pay for studio sessions. That was when I even realised you could pay for time in the studio and record. So I decided to do that when I would go for IT, Industrial Training.
In 2010, I think that was when I went for my IT. I was back in Owerri, that’s where my family lives, and I decided to go book a session to record my first ever song that was recorded in the studio. The guy insisted that I paid upfront. That I pay for fuelling the gen, pay for a session, pay for this, pay for that. For someone like me at that time to be asked to pay 20k, was like, you were squeezing my chest.
I was like ‘This is the sacrifice we have to make. We’re making this music. [enter American accent]It’s gotta work mehn. This shit is gotta pop off’ [exit accent]. So I paid the money and then I came on the day the guy was supposed to record the song and the guy had japad. It took me a while to realise, from plenty asking questions from people around, to realise that the guy has been trying to travel. The guy was broke as fuck! He was always looking sick. My guy was practically looking like his clothes were…abi his body was a hanger for clothes. The guy was looking shrivelled like, all the time. Turns out the guy was broke and was also looking for money to go back home, and I was the guy that supplied the money. That was how I was scammed my first time around.
Second time trying to go to a studio to record. I saved up like random 10k (N10,000) again, to go to another studio and try and record. This time I was like ‘Omo I don’t know how many songs I can do’ So I had written a whole project worth of music. Then I was really flexing my pen. this was 2010. I was like in a phase. I go just dey write, dey write. I had like lyric books, I had… M.I was my inspiration, Lil Wayne… I used to have their lyrics at the back of the books to like, inspire me, and all that stuff. I think I put up a picture of the ones that had like M.I lyrics on them, on the day I was celebrating that I was on the Judah EP.
So, (I) eventually went to a studio that the owner didn’t run away. The studio was very popular in Owerri, GB Studios. It was the studio that some of the popular hits in Owerri were recorded back then. I think people like 2Shortz and Co. came to record there too. All them guys, Slow Dawg… all the guys that were popping in the east.
When they booked my time, I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t have extra money to pay the engineer. The protocol was if you booked your time, you were supposed to pay extra for the engineer, and then the engineer would handle your session. I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t have money, so I was like ‘Omo’… yeah! I had my engineer.
At the risk of spoiling their equipment, I just pulled up with a friend, my guy Izu, and he came through. Two of us sat there. I didn’t know how to use Cubase, I didn’t know how to use any of the other software that’d probably be better for recording. All I knew how to use then was Fruity Loops (FL Studio). So I was using it for everything. We set up Fruity Loops on their system. That’s how we ended up trying to set it up, we patched, patched, patched around it eventually we found a way to use it to record.
That was how I used that 8hour session… in fact, it wasn’t even up to 8 hours. Someone came in that day to collect data from the studio, ended up burning a CD for 2 hours. That guy ended up becoming my guy. We’re still cool till today, Benny Joe. He produced the only song I’ve done so far that I didn’t make the beat for. It’s called The Artist. He sampled Dorobucci by the way.
Anyways in those 6 hours that were left, I recorded a 12-song project. Because that’s how broke-ness and efficiency can come together to create some really powerful stuff. That’s how my first project came about, No Silence, I did a ‘photo shoot’ at one photo studio somewhere on Douglas Road in Owerri there. Where I sat on a couch, crossed my legs, and put one finger over my lips. It’s such a shame. It’s an embarrassment. That cover art is embarrassing.
These were just some of the things I faced in the beginning sha. Came back to school with the project. I didn’t know how to promote it. I didn’t know what the internet was doing. I didn’t know… I just set up a ReverbNation account and put the music up there. Marketing the music was so different back then because there was no Apple Music, there was no Spotify. Maybe it was available in other countries but none of that sh*t had come close to Nigeria then, yet. So it was still having to pay blogs to put your music for other people to still download it for free. So basically, you spend money to make music, and then spend it so that someone can just put it on their blog and make more money from it. Like the exploitation was crazy. I hate those f*cking bloggers. Anyways, I digress.
Those were just some of the challenges. I remember after that period, a lot of people started fucking with me in school back then. Then, it was as if the school was my target market. I didn’t really think outside school. I then went back again… I found another studio somewhere in New Market, Owerri there. I remember paying 5k for half a session, that was 4 hours. I recorded my next project which was… what the f*uck was that project? Yeah, yeah, yeah! Road To R.U.S.H. It was like 10 covers. I wrote all the verses on beats that I was fucking with at the time.
I remember a time I visited a friend of mine, who’s a Prince. So we went to like his father’s, palace, thingy, place. And then we were chilling there for like 2 days. Cool Guy. And I f*cking wrote some of the verses there. I recorded everything in a 4 hour session too. That was my second project. The first and second one are all on, I think SoundCloud and AudioMack. Yes!
Problems; No promotion, being naive in the beginning, being ripped off, plus so many other things I don’t even know… but you said early challenges, so yeah. Those were the early challenges
How did you develop yourself as a rapper and producer?
As you keep making music, you keep developing. I can only say all those stuff that I went through, only served to make me better. I guess. So I continued to listen to music, I continued to pay attention to what was happening. And then in 300level, I met a friend, in one of the rooms I was assigned to because we used to have shitty hostels in Madonna (University) back then. Like the hostels were fucked up. That school should be closed. [scoffs]It should be f*cking closed. And the guy who owns it, that Reverend Father. The guy should be f*cking sanctioned because that school is a… is a wasteland. Anyway, moving on.
So one of the rooms I was in… I think we were like twelve (12) in a room. F*cking junkyard. But, you know, met some cool people, including someone who became one of my closest friends to date. His name is Prosper, and he is also into music. At the time too, he had aspirations to actually sing and make music too. He was doing reggae. We met, started trying to make music together. We got so close, kinda like joined forces. He’d have some ideas, I would record him and ‘mix’. You know, we would roll together. He was cooler. He was way cooler than me. So he would give me tips for like babes, and like being cool generally. It was just a cool friendship that we continued, even till now we’re still cool.
I say that to say, he told me how the scene was like in Lagos, musically. I was born in Lagos and stayed in Lagos for like 10 years before we moved to the east. I didn’t know what Lagos was like anymore, but at that time, it was like 2011 or so, we had been in the east for another 9years or so. I really didn’t know what Lagos was like again. the guy (Prosper) was just giving me the gist of how Lagos was ‘where everything happens,’ and all that stuff. ‘You have to come through.’ He told me about his brother. His brother is Fortune. The guy who has been on like, 2 of my… 3 of my projects so far. he was on My Own Ones, he was on Half-Price, he was also on Chvmeleon. He did that outro for me on Chvmeleon, where we were having that conversation in Igbo.
Yeah! so he told me about his elder brother and how the scene was there (Lagos). He was like ‘Come through. Come through.’ So when we had holidays sometimes, I will just like jonze my parents and then fall in (go to Lagos). I followed them to wherever they were going to. Then all the little little things we were doing were super amplified in my eyes. You know, like if we had a radio show, or like if we had a show somewhere. Well, he was really doing big things at the time o. Like that’s just facts!
He started this thing in 2006. He’s my guy guy. Like this music P? I’ve not seen too many people who are actually musical like Fortune Angelo. Right now, he’s a gospel artist and a choreographer, and he still makes amazing music. there are not many people who can actually sing anymore. Every time I work with him, I hardly have to use auto-tunes, and in 2021, that’s a big compliment. Anyway, moving on.
So it was through him I got into Lag, started following them around, and their mom was really cool. She allowed me to stay in their house. I was basically squatting with them. That even continued till… like until after school, when I graduated and I left my house after NYSC. I had to come to Lagos to pursue this thing. When I came to Lagos, it was them I stayed with more than, I think, boya 2 years before I found my feet.
Yeah, yeah, yeah! That’s how I basically developed. Coming to Lagos, learning a lot, going to shows. Just basically seeing what the industry was saying, listening to music, being exposed to conversations. You know, watching music come out, watching artists unfold. Like, in Lagos it was a totally different thing. Cos’ before music would get to Owerri in that way, it would probably take months before a song that popped off in Lagos would have the same effect in Owerri, back then. It was like Lagos people were getting everything first. That’s how it kind of developed.
What was/are the motivation(s) behind your debut LP, Half-Price?
Half-Price came about because I was like ‘Omo! This is 2017, I had moved to Lagos finally, I had stayed with my guys, I had squatted for years, we had suffered, things had happened… (pause) I started making this music. I was like, ‘Omo! It’s crazy how I came here for music and then I had to shelf it, go work for like 3 years.’ You know, do 9-5, better suit and tie, teach Maths, do other stuffs. You know, basically hustle, to enable me stand on my own before I could say ‘Ok, let me go back and face music.’
At that point in 2017, I was like ‘Yo! Omo, I need to drop a project. I don’t really care if I have sponsors, I don’t care if I have financing, I don’t care if have the budget, all that stuff. let me just put the best music I’ve made so far into an album. It had a loose theme of how I felt undervalued, how I can see my talent. Like I know how talented I am, but then I know the recognition I’m getting is nowhere close to what I’m supposed to get. So, it was basically loosely based on that theme of being undervalued, hence, Half-Price.
It was always as if it (the album) was always going to be undervalued, no matter how… I don’t know how to explain it right now, but that’s basically the theme. Like on the cover, you can see me pushing out a stack of CDs to someone who’s holding out a few coins or even one coin. It was almost as if, you know, I do all these stuffs, I put in all this talent and that’s the recognition I get. that’s the payback that I get. That’s the price that is paid, that’s the value that is put on it too, which is usually always less.
Anyways, that’s the motivation for Half-Price and that is why… that’s the thought process behind the way I created the visual feel for the project. When it was time for the album to actually come out, that concept for the cover had already been in place. I’d already shot it and that was when I met people at WeTalkSound. I met with them during that period and we became cool. The whole gang, Dolapo, Vader, Fortune, you know… Everybody at that place. They helped me create another concept where we had the ermm, the track-listing at the back like a supermarket receipt, and some other cool concepts they came up with for graphics for individual songs.
That was another aspect of me learning about collaboration. How to work with people and creative come together to bring out a concept that works for a particular project. that was a cool experience. Apart from that, we shot a skit, where I was at a supermarket. Just a funny skit that i think I deleted from my IG (Instagram) a long time ago because it was super embarrassing, but it was really fire at the time. (chuckles)
Yeah Yeah! So that was how Half-Price came about.
Feedback from Half-Price and how you worked on them?
Most of the feedback I got was positive because a lot of people were just like ‘eyah eyah.’ I didn’t get a lot of negative comments. It was more like everybody trying to say ‘Omo, this guy, even with all the odds stacked against him, he still put out a project.’ Even Vector said something to that effect. He said he bigged me up (gave a shout-out) on a radio show, just randomly. I think it was Vader that had spoken to him about me, and how he (Vector) said “Big ups” for putting out that kind of project and all that stuff. That was a cool moment that I appreciate.
The review I got from Pulse which was basically the biggest review at the time, was, I think 4.5 out of 5, or 4 out of 5. It was really high. It was higher than what Chvmeleon got eventually. Although it wasn’t the same person that reviewed both albums.
It was basically positive. Everybody was like, you know, basically happy that… not happy. Like they were thrilled that; young rapper who didn’t really have financing or budget could put out an album, and then drop it without an industry-backing or like a record label or other stuff.
But sonically and musically, a few people DM’ed me. A few people who felt that they need to let me know what could be better. I really didn’t remember what most of them said, but if I can remember one; a guy said it was ‘thematically loose.’ Like it didn’t have a running theme from the beginning to the end. And not every project is like that, but me, I always like my projects to be like that. Like the songs are all great, but he didn’t really have something to glue them all together. The same way you have Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly, all glued together by a central theme, both visually and otherwise.
So, I tried to bring that feedback into Chvmeleon.
Let’s talk Chvmeleon?
Chvmeleon is an album that everybody knows. I’d explained the theme a million times. And Chvmeleon is just you know, that point in my career where I started making more friends, relationships with different people. I really wanted to make it count both in terms of what I had learned from them, and in terms of wanting to collaborate with them to make magic.
It was basically me shooting my shot with different people, and being lucky enough to get a ‘yes.’ You know people like Ghost (SDC), Ycee, Oxlade, BlaqBonez, the whole shebang. Some of them were my friends already, others were people I didn’t expect; Ghost, Ycee. At the end of the day, Chvmeleon is an album I’m really proud of. It’s an album I used to show my range.
Some of the production on Half-Price is stellar. like, Half-Price production is peak Ojini. Not in terms of how the final thing sounded because I know I cringe when I listen to Half-Price, because of the mixes and other stuff. But in the terms of the actual creativity in the production, like the acapella I was singing, the beat on Temptation, the choir. Like that was me not giving A F*UK and just producing music. That’s what I did in PDA on Chvmeleon. I like when I like, have those moments when I’m not really pandering to anybody. I don’t care whether afro is in swing now, I don’t care if it’s amapiano. I just make what’s in my head. That was me in Half-Price. I’m trying to get back to that again. But in the meantime sha, we’re talking about Chvmeleon.
So Chvmeleon is just me showing my range shaa, and pandering, which was what I needed at the time. I needed to make an album people can just like, you understand nah, That people can like and love to listen to. That would just get me instant gratification of like ‘Yo! omo this is fire.’ And it was really nice to be able to reach out to people like Bizzle and he instantly fucked with it and was like ‘Omo, let’s help you distribute.’ I knew stuffs about distribution, but i needed that extra.
Sometimes reaching out to distribution guys in this current industry, when you’re not really established as an artist. Or, when you’re not sure of your sound or the numbers you can bring in. It’s really hard. Although I’m sure he had seen the value of that album, but it was really dope of Bizzle, through his company, reach out and Plug it for me, pun intended.
What did getting your first Headies Nomination feel like?
I was in shock when I saw the nomination. It’s not like I didn’t know I deserved it, but I didn’t really see it coming. You know when you make music, like people who are ‘up and coming’ I don’t like to use ‘Underground‘ because it’s almost as if we’re fuffing (f*cking) sewer rats.
Well, I didn’t see it coming. When I got the nomination, I was like… First of all, I was happy for Payper, because if I didn’t see it coming, I’m sure Payper wouldn’t have seen it coming. I don’t know if he submitted, but who cares? We got the f*cking nomination. It was really cool to pull up to the Headies, not just as random people who were trying to get in, but as people who were actually given invites, Vip invites to pull up. It was really cool.
Yeah! we didn’t win, but yeah, it was Falz. I mean, it was f*cking Falz. What can we do? [chuckles]
Do yo mind sharing your thoughts on the situation on the state of the music (hip-hop) industry?
I don’t have any state of thoughts on the hip-hop industry. I feel like, all of us are really just trying to survive. That’s the truth. Hip-hop gets a lot of unnecessary flak in this country from people who wake up one day and say ‘Omo rappers no day rap anymore.’ Till the next day, the same people will wake and be like ‘Omo, these rappers, they don’t really care about making money. They just wan dey rap. We no say you sabi rap, oya do music weh go make you money.” So it’s the same as ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t.’
I don’t have any takes, I’ll just be adding to the numerous takes. Because all of us are just trying to make music. The more rappers that you see out there who are big, I think the better it is for the industry. Everybody is just trying to see what works. You have artists who are rapping rapping, you have those experimenting. Everybody is basically just trying to see what works for them.
Everybody has a take, everybody has an opinion on what would be better for the rap industry, but we don’t really have an “Industry”. We’re just a bunch of rappers making music. We’re not yet a force in the country. We don’t need to be, for anything to happen. All we really need is a bunch of rappers… if we have good relationships behind the scenes, that would also be fantastic. Like a lot of us are cool behind the scenes. You can’t be cool with everyone, but at least, it’s not like back in the day when almost everybody was beefing with everybody.
I was speaking with Illbliss not to long ago and he was telling me how ‘Omo, it’s really cool how a lot of us in this our generation are cool with each other and have good relationships. That didn’t happen during his time. I think it’s a plus. M.I too has said that to me before. And it’s good that people in his own generation have started squashing their own beefs. M.I and Vector thing. For it to go, was a really good idea.
Apart from that… like I said, everyone is just trying to make good music. Everybody is trying to see what works and everybody already knows you’re a rapper. So if you end up coming back to do some real rap music, you will be well appreciated. But at the end of the day, omo [chuckles], we dey try pay bills, bro! So everybody is just trying to see what works, like I said.
So there’s no take. There’s no ‘Omo, hip-hop needs to take…’ nah, nah, nah. Hip-Hop didn’t start here, there are some elements of it that started in Africa. But we can’t claim hip-hop, cos’ we’re basically borrowing the sound from people we loved to listen to growing up. So we’re making music that wasn’t originally enjoyed by people here. We brought it and trying to force it down people’s throats. So the best way is, you know, trying to mix it with elements that people are already familiar with.
Now it’s easier to make trap and stuff, because people have travelled out, people are exposed, people listen to… Even for people that have not travelled out, there’s a lot of hip-hop music. It’s the number one genre in the whole world right now in the terms of numbers. It’s very easy to make your own because other people have listened to other versions outside, and they are familiar with it.
But at the end of the day, I just hope there are more rappers out there and like big. The same way afrobeat became a thing, at the same time you had people like Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy, Kizz Daniel. A lot of afrobeat artists were popping at the same time, so It looked like afrobeat is a thing.
If we have a lot of rappers on the same big platforms at the same time, it would also look that way
What will it take to close the mainstream gap in the industry?
There’s a microscopic few rappers in the mainstream. All of us we’re still working hard to get there too, like me. The thing is, funding is a big problem because a lot of people who the…. a lot of money in music is illegal money. That’s just the fact. Apart from people who run labels, we can… except we go look at their books, you can from the outside say ‘Omo! Okay, this is a label. Their financing is from music. they are a music company.”
People like Mavin, Choc city, Warner. You can barely pinpoint any other person who has big money behind him and not say it’s mostly illegal. And it’s just facts! I don’t have to call anybody’s name. I don’t have to say anything about anybody, because that’s not what we are doing here. I don’t have any facts, I’m not the police. But all I’m trying to say is that ‘Omo! it’s hard out here if you’re just an independent guy trying to finance stuff on your own.’
If you don’t have a yahoo boy behind you, well, it’s going to be very difficult when you get to a particular level. In terms of like, people seeing your face, being able to shoot expensive videos, promote, do all these stuffs at the same time to like, have your single pop and all that stuff. It’s difficult for a lot of us out here, but, at least some of us are still pushing. Eg. me.
It will get to a time I think we will get closer, but, how many of us? i don’t know, but I know there are a lot of people that are here to stay for a long time. People like Payper Corleone, Hotyce, you know. People like Paybac f*cking Iboro. People like Phlow… Phlow has… If I’m even saying that we have difficulties, imagine what it must be for Phlow. Who isn’t only independent, and a rapper, but also a female. So the challenges are multiple.
Which Underground King(s) do you revere?
We have a lot of people that I look at and I say ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. As far as rap is concerned we have people who are spitting spitting.‘ Like my list isn’t exhaustive, I’ve not mentioned everybody I fuck with in the industry. We’re not underground. We’re just rappers who haven’t blown up yet. [laughs]The same way mumcies will be like ‘You’re not dead in Jesus name.’ Lemme just borrow from them.
I don’t know who and who is more underground than the other now, because, all of us, we’re still trying to blow up. Although I know some of us have a leg up on others. Some of us are semi-Ol’Gs in our own right. Because I won’t say someone like me is on the same level as someone who started rapping 2-3 years ago, because, that just how it is.
Whats your overall take on the new crop of underground rappers?
Some of the newer guys I really f*ck with… I really fuck with what ABJ is really coming up with. Like, I really fuck with Apex Village. I’ve worked with them a couple of times, I’ve mixed a couple of their records. PsychoYP is my guy, and their work ethic is mad. I don’t know whether its because they’re so young or, I don’t know. So its something about it I just know that they’re just so close to that mainstream, and it won’t be long before people like YP is there.
Still on Abuja movement, that whole drill movement, the Lamba scene, the Odumodu Blvck, Reeplay, Anti-world gangsters. We have Victony, people who are like f*cking cheats. You know, sing today, rap tomorrow.
Definitely didn’t mention everybody’s name, but I feel like you still have people who are making solid music
Your career plans; rap and production
I want to blow! [pause]That’s my plan.
What is it like being an independent artist?
Being an independent artiste is hard. You have to sit down and tell yourself the truth. I’ve said it countless times. You have to be like ‘You’re going to finance yourself, you need to work., [enter American accent]You get a f*ucking job, Bro! [exit accent]. And then save, plan, learn as many things as you can, because if you’re independent, you need to pay as little as possible, and there’s no one out here who will work for free.
Personally, as I am now, my 9-5 is mixing for people, and I’m not about to mix people’s songs for free. Not with the prowess I have, not with the catalog or clientele that I have. I’m not mixing for free, neither do I mix for cheap. The same way I respect other people when I call them to do something for me. It’s the same way I respect their pricing. Nobody is out here doing anything free for anybody.
If you don’t want to pay, and you can do what needs to be done, that will be fantastic. Learn as many skills as you can. Save money, tell yourself the truth. Except along the line, you find a yahoo boy that will [laughs]Bruuuuh! As for the rest of us, we move!
How did you come about your producer tag ‘I gat the jazz’?
I’ve always been a fan of jazz music. That’s something I haven’t really explored because, f*cking afrobeat and amapiano is what people are doing. If you don’t do it now, it will be like you will not blow. [chuckles]Don’t mind me. I’ve always been a fan of jazz music, I’ve was wanted to… Like when I made my EP in 2014, I was experimenting with jazz rap. I’m not the first person to do that, a lot of people I’ve mixed jazz with hip-hop. In fact, they go very well together.
I’m a big fan of A Tribe Called Quest, big fan of Anderson .Paak, big fan of his duo with Knxwledge… I’ve forgotten what they call themselves (NxWorries). People who have that mixture of jazz in their hip-hop have always gotten to me.
I’ve always wanted to experiment, and like i said, I did that on my 2014 EP, My Own Horns, you know. I did that whole jazz-rap thing. It’s something I want to bring back. I mean, like I Gat the Jazz is from A Tribe Called Quest song, it’s called Jazz (We’ve got). That’s the song. Once the song start you’ll just hear [sings lyrics]. It’s just something that used to burst my head every time I listen to the song. It’s from A Tribe Called Quest I stole it.
Every beautiful piece of art is either stolen or recycled.
What do you think about beef in Nigerian hip-hop scene?
F*CK BEEF! [Laughs] Yo! Like, I don’t know, people forget that beef is real sh*t. For the fans who just exist for the entertainment, or who just want to have fun at other people’s expense, you know it’s cool.
I don’t really see any value in beef, because what if it is not squashed? What if it is a real-life thing that keeps dragging forever and ever? It doesn’t really make sense. Sometimes, what causes the beef is unnecessary stuffs like things that might not necessarily be true. Things that cause the beef might just be random.
I really don’t have anything positive to say about beef. Beef is just a waste of time. Beef can happen! Like you can have legit reasons to beef with someone. Personally, for me to take outright beef to a song, then it has to be that the person really really f*cked up. Like the person really called me out, or… i don’t know.
That’s what I think about it. I’m not really interested in it. Like a normal human being, if it happens, like when Pusha T and Drake were beefing. Because I’m a f*cking hip-hop fan, I definitely want to see what’s going on. Partly because I’m also worried because ‘WTF,’ peoples’ real lives are being exposed. Drake’s son is coming out, Pusha T’s dirty linen is exposed, Drake’s dirty linen is exposed. [sighs]Just a fucking waste of time.
It has entertainment value, not g’on lie.
Which rappers influenced your style (local and foreign)?
I listened to everybody, but my favourite rapper right now, like right now, is undoubtedly J. Cole. A close second is Kendrick, and most of the things I love about kendrick are his aesthetic. I love the way he has been able to build a god-like persona around himself and build albums that are timeless. Like, build an aesthetic, build an aura, build this visual element about him that just makes him look untouchable.
I have certain qualities that I know that if I had like, the funding, I could probably be like that. Because nobody in this f*cking country is touching me in terms of everything that I can do. Nobody raps on my level, nobody who is a rapper produces on my level, and nobody who is a rapper and producer mixes on my level. And that’s just facts.
If I have the kind of finance or budget Kendrick has, I see myself in that light. That’s what I really like about Kendrick. And he does it in a way… he doesn’t look like he’s snobbish at the same time. Personally, I’m not a snob, I’m still a nice guy. I’m still someone who likes to do random things like cook and just, you know, be in love and just romantic. I’m just a regular guy, but for my music, that persona is something that I really really fuck with.
In terms of like, writing music, being relatable, touching people. You know, writing lyrics from the heart about what you’ve experienced nobody does it better, TO ME OO, than J. Cole. Because, I know that some people who would argue that maybe Nas is a better storyteller and all that, but they grew up in Nas’s era. I’m not going to now say otherwise, because I didn’t really experience Nas like that. If you listen to the stories I’ve told already, you will know that the era when I was listening to music was not peak Nas. Nas had already come and people who are much older than me were people that experienced him properly.
He has the respect. People like Nas, Jay Z. They have that respect. I had to go back and literally download old Nas and Jay Z albums to listen to what they were saying back then. That’s what I mean.
I literally watched J. Cole come out in 2009. I started listening from Friday Night Lights, then I went back a bit to listen to The Warm Up. I’ve been following him ever since, so it’s difficult for me to say there’s any other rapper who has like influenced me bigger than J. Cole. He’s the only person whose concert I’ve ever attended. I’ve never attended any concert as a paying fan. I’ve performed at concerts, obviously, I’ve been backstage at a concert as an artist, I’ve been backstage as the friend of a performing artiste. I’ve been backstage at M.I’s concert, just because it was M.I. But that was the first one that I paid, and I went and made sure I was in front. the one that J. Cole came to Lagos. Cos’ I was like “I have to see this fresh yellow guy up front.” You get me? The guy (J. Cole) is f*cking inspirational, for me o. That’s number 1 for me.
Then Jay Z, obviously. Jay Z just does some things for me. He was the first person I modelled my voice and tone after, in the beginning o. Eventually, your real voice catches up to you. But in the beginning, I just wanted to be like superlight and just be like [makes male mosquito noises], and I think that’s how Vector started too. When people started comparing him a lot to Jay Z then. His real voice started coming out, you know. So unconsciously, we’re influenced by all these things. I’ll just say J. Cole and Jay Z. Because every other rapper I listen to none of them really influence me that much apart from these 3 people (Kendrick) in the ways that I mentioned.
Then, I picked a little bit of everything from everybody else. Sometimes, I channel storytelling from Big Sean. Then I can channel just easy. Like, eazy. Like Snoop Dogg. There are some things you just channel sometimes, unknowingly. But these 3 guys are the ones that influenced me the most.
Then locally, Omo! it’s M.I. finish! There’s no other rapper in the country, as far as Nigeria is concerned, that I’m really really influenced by. The question is about influence, not about who you like. If it is about rappers that I like, they are many. There are rappers whose albums I’ve genuinely fucked with. Like Kel’s The Investment is super underrated. I don’t know why people don’t talk about the album a lot. Like Kel, that album, she just dropped it for us and left. Kel is someone that I fuck with a lot. I loved that album so much. I’m glad that today, I can say that we speak on a personal level.
It’s almost like surreal to me that most of the people I grew up seeing as like these guys are mad, legends, we’re cool now. People like ModeNine, definitely are an inspiration, but in terms of influence, I try to learn stuff from M.I. It’s a blessing that every other person who I’m inspired by, a lot of them are now people we speak on a personal… It’s surreal to me.
It’s different when you say influence, because I don’t really take a lot of them. Apart from like being inspired and like watching their moves, seeing what they do in terms of how they’ve been able to come up. A lot of them came up in an era where it was super difficult for even musicians that were singing pangolo, talk less of rappers. People like Illbliss, ModeNine gan gan gan. People like Jesse Jagz. People like Show Dem Camp, who have found ways to evolve and like switch up the music when required.
It’s a blessing to be cool with them now, because it just shows, all my hard work over these years hasn’t been for anything. And it just teaches me that I should pay it forward in the future when I see people making dope music. I should not really be standoff-ish to like pull them close and be like ‘Yeah, I f*ck with what you’re doing.’ I know I will get to that place soon, I’ll be like 30 in another year. [murmurs]Omo, I’m getting old, F*UK!
Thanks for your time and wish you the very best in your future endeavours.
This was fun though. Aight, peace bro, make I go chop.
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