I began to play out my next appointment in my head under the extraordinarily cool breeze from the cab’s ac. I was en route to the other side of Oshodi-Isolo Local Government Area in Lagos for an interview with the self-acclaimed West African Goat, 2x Headies nominee, Paybac Iboro.
Caleb Iboro Hansen became a talking point in mainstream hip-hop community after breaking into the 2019 Headies nomination roll-call for the first time. The Lyricist on the Roll nomination was a nod to Paybac’s pen game (on Implode), and the category was quite unusual that year; 3 songs and 6 artistes were nominated for the category. Sharing that category with the Show Dem Camp (Crown) duo – Ghost & Tec –, A-Q (Crown), Ycee (Balance), and Boogey (Implode), was enough reason for every hip-hop head to give him their attention.
To prove his first nomination wasn’t a fluke, Paybac returned the following year in the Rap Album of the Year category with his debut lp, Cult! – A-Q won both times.
This isn’t the first time I’ll be meeting with Paybac, but I am drawn to remember this whole process began with a response to a cold Twitter DM I sent in April. The first agreed appointment was scheduled right before his Bogobiri performance in May, which he wasn’t on time for, but made up for with a wonderful show. We met backstage in person for the first time, and we agreed at a later date after he offered his apologies for not making the appointment.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting an apology because of the common knowledge of creatives and egos. Even the A-listers keep folks that shelled out millions of Naira for a ticket waiting for hours. To then get an apology without making a comment on ‘how long I had been waiting, was something I didn’t take lightly. I fell ill and was out for the rest of May and would later see each other when he headlined The HipHop Event (May Edition) where we decided to give it another shot in June.
2 solo albums later after his debut, I made my way down to the location. After dropping off at the wrong location – 2 streets away – earlier, I decided to walk the rest of the way. I never anticipated the distance despite being 2 streets away; very long streets. I was beginning to break a sweat when I saw the hotel’s insignia and walked into the bar right in the compound. The unplanned cardio was worth it when I sighted the WAG chilling with a bottle of Stout on his table and dragging at a brightly burning joint that was right behind a gradually travelling oil. A testament to the freshness of the strain. “Goats and Grasses.”
I joined him at his table, exchanged pleasantries, ordered a can of malt, joined him in the trees session, caught up on activities, and spoke about The HipHop Edition incident and how it has been handled so far – an off-the-record moment. We then kicked off the less than 29 mins session.
Bro! Thanks for doing this. Let’s kick off with the origin story of the West African Goat
I was born in Surulere and lived in Festac. I had 2 sisters at the time, a brother, a step-sister, and a little sister 4 years later. My primary education (Radiance) was in Festac and my secondary school education was at FGCL (Federal Government College Lagos), Ijanikin.
How did you stumble onto hip-hop?
I’ve loved hip-hop since I was 6/7 years old and my first memory of it was Biggie‘s Hypnotize. My late sister is the reason I love rap. She was a big rap fan ever since I could remember. You know those kids that attach themselves to their older siblings, yeah, that was the relationship between us. I was attached to her hip, hence her interests became mine and she was a huge hip-hop fan.
She would listen to tapes – play, stop, and rewind – on her Walkman player so she could write out the lyric, and I witnessed her go through that a couple of times.I was with her a couple of times she did that and found it really interesting – ranks as one of the most interesting things I’ve seen. Hip-hop music then was an interesting sound (that made sense to me), and those written-out lyrics made me see the picture.
Let us talk about realising when rhyming was your path
The first moment was watching my sister write out the lyrics from her Walkman. The second was when a classmate of mine performed “Being around the world / yeah (3x)” by P-Diddy (Puff Daddy) and Mase. The last was when a friend in Ijanikin wrote and performed a song dissing our seniors; he’s a rapper now and goes by Ossy Bleu.
Osi performed it standing on a locker in front of a bunch of us, singing “I’ll smoke Lala till I die,” in the hostel. I loved the energy and feelings he evoked within me with those performances.
These three moments were pivotal in my decision to be a professional rapper.
Who did you first show off your rhyming skills to?
That should be Odes. He is in the US now. We had like a rap group, Swagger On a Billion – we were big Lil Wayne fans – with Young Sauce, who goes by Aebooms now; then SOB – when Swagger started dying out – not really a group though. We recorded our first 10 to 20 songs together. We recorded a lot of shit. I don’t know where all that shit is now. It was the year after we finished Ijanikin.
I never really rapped for anyone like “Hey I can rap come and see me,” until I recorded. Even now, I’m not the type of guy that will play my songs when we are chilling.
When I got to school, Nsukka, I met Barzini, Kid Marley, Random, and Bobby Combs. SOB then became St Oz Gang with Odes (who later travelled out). We lived together for like 2 years in Uni. It was when I met these guys I began recording solo music.
What was Uni like for you?
I remember the first time I performed in my first year. It was amazing; the craziest show ever. I had 2 more performances before I left uni.
I studied Geology
Yeah… [smiles]That’s what everyone says. [chuckles].
We were like a hundred and something in the 100 level, and twenty-something made it to the final year.
I was very good at Geography, so I just figured Geology and Geography should not be far apart. I figured wrong.
That must have been a trip though. I’ve always wonder how you came about Paybac Iboro.
There’s no story to the name. I think it’s a subconscious decision because of Paybac Tyme Record. There was never any discussion about choosing or using the name Paybac, but thinking about it later, I believe it was attached to my likeness for Paybac Tyme Record.
The first rap line I ever wrote was “My name is PayBac hope I’m on the right track,” and I never looked back.
That’s as simple as honest gets. Let’s move on to your catalogue. Walk me through it.
My first tape is a mixtape with Charlie X, The Broken Speaker Symphony; it is on SoundCloud. It was birthed because I just wanted to rap.
Charlie was looking for someone who could rap over early ‘90s beats – not the grimy shit, but the more soulful stuff. I had never done a project before, so the recording sessions were hectic. Charlie produced the whole thing, provided the studio and everything other things, while I just recorded my lines.
What opportunities did this tape create for you?
I had a song with Boogey on the mixtape. To be honest, I’ve gotten a lot of fans through Boogey than anyone else. Shout out to Boogey.
After The Broken Symphony, what was your next move?
I released my debut solo mixtape, The iBoro Tape in December of the same year as The Broken Speaker Symphony; it was released in August. I used beats from some songs that couldn’t clear SoundCloud on the tape.
I still have the zip folder and will probably upload it on Audiomack at some point.
That’s an admirable work ethic, bro.
The next project was with Charlie X called The Other Side of The Radio – it was more Nigerian Hip-Hopish. I also got a lot of fans from this project. Lots of folks want me revisit that style.
The next project was an EP called Frank Ocean Type Beats, a piano-based project. Probably still on SoundCloud.
That’s four project and no debut LP yet. That’s a lot of commitment and discipline.
The Frank Ocean Type Beats led to my debut collaboration album, Face Off with Boogey as The Lost and Found in 2016.
By 2017, I started putting out singles to my debut solo album; The Maami Water Song, Demons, and Lagos, Always on My Mind. The album, The Biggest Tree, dropped the following year. I followed up the album with an ep with Charlie X in the same year, Autopilot.
You must have crossed 200 recorded songs by now.
Oh yeahhh! Since! Since! [chuckles].
10,000hours achieved. Next up?
2019, I put out The Alternate Ending with Boogey. It came with my first Headies nomination for Lyricist on the Roll.
2020, I put out Cult! I got the second nomination for Rap Album of The Year.
2021, I started putting out singles for West African Goat.
2022, I put out an EP, Afro Rap and a collaboration album with Pizzo Da LP, Album of The Year.
2023, I put out the West African Goat.
What a run! Vector verse on Activ8 Remix. Did you know him way before the verse or it was circumstantial?
It was a bit random and happened quickly. I was on a live with Douglas Jekan and Vector. Douglas basically gave me an alley-hoop and I got the rest from there.
Ghost on the other hand, I’ve known since 2015. I took Elveektor, raps in Igbo – released Nsibidi 2 – to the Hennessy Cypher venue after winning a Vector competition or so. He didn’t know his way around Lagos and I was his guide. The cypher guys were freestyling in the car park and I jumped in. They said I must be in the cypher, from there I met Ghost.
When I was ready, I just reached out to him again. He is a very nice and amazing person. He drove down to my studio in Surulere to record his verse as I recorded mine. Shout out to Ghost.
That was a really chilled thing to do. Before we break down your catalogue, do you mind sharing your thoughts on Cult! missing out on the Rap Album of The Year?
I should have won it, but I also understand the industry and the politics that it comes with. The fact that I broke in there with no label, no pr, no machine, nothing, and just with my own money, is a win for me. I’ll never say I don’t want to win a Headies. I want to win it, still.
It was an honour to be nominated, but I would have rather won it.
Your Projects have this intention about them. Would you care to expatiate?
I feel like I was lost as a kid, and my projects have been based on my different levels of self-awareness.
On The Biggest Tree, I was coming to terms that I was depressed. At some point, I wanted to kill myself, and I think the album helped me not to go through with it. I realised it was just some chemical reactions fucking up your brain, and it’s something you can find a way to cope with. Cult! was me coming to terms with my identity as a Nigerian. On West African Goat I came to terms with myself as a human being and it talks about The Kid, The Fire, and The Goat.
Everybody wants to be the best at whatever they do, which is The Goat. We all start as The Kid; optimistic, dreamy, happy, and in a state of consistent euphoria. But you have to go through a stage of discomfort to get to whatever goal you wish to achieve. Basically West African Goat is about my self-awareness on what it takes to be a human being.
So far so good. I may begin to get too personal. Please feel free to shut me down whenever.
How did you lose your sister, Ekere?
I lost my sister from complications from diabetes.
That’s Tuff! Sorry for your loss, bro.
How about dropping out of school?
I was in the wrong place and the only thing that made sense to me at that time was music. I didn’t have a lot of guidance. I was one of those kids that fell through the crack. Before I became a boarding house student at Ijankin, I was always by myself; go to school, back home, cook, and do other things myself. I developed myself away from everyone without guidance and advice.
It’s a long story but I come from a broken home. My father left when I was like 8 years old. You know, a whole other story on its own. My mom was always working, my elder ones were in boarding schools, and my youngest sister would stay with family because of her age.
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do like school-wise. An example is the Geology course. At the time, I thought it was a waste studying Geography at the university, and somehow, I believed Geology was a better option without finding out what it was all about.
I was making all the shit up as I go along. When I got to the point when the school wasn’t schooling anymore combined with a lot of personal dynamics, and issues – I just decided to walk away.
That’s more than enough from behind the curtain. Let’s move on to the Industry and its issues.
The only problem I see in the industry is funding and PR. I’ve been saying it since and I always get crucified for it. PR and funding. Anyone you see with enough PR and money will blow in the industry. I’ve seen it happen repeatedly.
How about your relationship with others in the industry?
I’m an antisocial introvert. If you get me in the right spot or mood, I’m the greatest guy to hang with. I’m the most charming guy in the world and I’ll get anyone to do what I want.
I don’t go to shows or not trying to be anyone’s friend.
I have a tribe, but I realised the industry is more based on the perceived value you come with. You will be treated differently based on your perceived value. So instead of me chasing them without value, I’d rather use that time to work on up-ing my value.
Social Media is driven by hysteria and if they haven’t seen that hysteria around, they might not treat you right. All those people who post lies are not stupid. They know it’s a lie but they know it will cause hysteria in certain camps, and they go with it.
Well, that’s definitely tea for some young out there. To close it off, let’s talk next moves; music videos from West African Goat or new music?
I don’t know if I should say this/ but right now, I think music videos should not be your primary focus; unless you have money. Say a music video is 500k, the same amount will shoot 5 content videos for your songs. These 5 videos give you enough room and shelf-life to promote your project.
God willing, I will shoot one or two music videos from West African Goat. I’m working on a deluxe for West African Goat without ruining the current track list and theme. Lastly I’m working on another album for early next year. God willing.
All na God bro.
Thanks for your time, Chief. ‘Ppreciate