I have pondered on the many intriguing ways to write this to you. I have teased for months. I have waited for significant things to happen, so I could tie this story to one of them. Significant things have happened. But on an ordinary Sunday morning like this, I have woken by 7AM to finally type. Unprovoked? Maybe. Maybe not. On Saturday, I tweeted that it is wholesome that the new kids in the music scene seem to love each other. Like many others, I had watched videos of Fireboy DML, Superboy Cheque, Blaqbonez, Fave and Joeboy gathered in one apartment, playing PS5, dancing and creating promotional skits for each other. I said it was happy news, especially for OAU kids.
In AG Baby and Miscellaeous, I told you about my freshman year at Obafemi Awolowo University, and my stay at Awolowo Hall. I wrote,
Indeed, these stars were once in Obafemi Awolowo University at the same time. Fireboy DML, Chinko Ekun, MC Lively, Virus Zamora. So was Kyle B (now called Superboy Cheque and signed to Phyno’s Penthauze). So were Woli Arole and Yhemolee (Aunty Margaret). So was the “best rapper in Africa”, Blaqbonez, who does have a rap song titled OAU Boy. It was no big deal; we did not know what they were about to become.
I described DML as a dark-eyed boy who sang all day in Room 101. This post is titled “DML and Miscellaneous” because in 2014, when I met him, he was simply called that — “DML”, a simple abbreviation for “Damola”. Adedamola Adefolahan. I called him “dark-eyed” because I remember his eyes being caved in, and his eye lids, looking mysteriously dark. Like he wore mascara. Like he had intricate thoughts. As I wrote in that post, the harmonies he made were soulful. But one person cannot make harmonies, can they? The full story was that the boys in Room 101 enjoyed singing. And they were good at it. They had an acoustic guitar and choir parts. So when they sang Wizkid’s Love My Baby or Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud, it was something. It was indeed a soulful harmony.
I do not know a lot about DML, personally. So throughout this piece, I will not claim to do so. I don’t think he knows me either. It has only been a few meetings and one DM between us. In 2014, I was a freshman at OAU. I was in Room 102 of Block 3, Awolowo Hall. DML was in Room 101. But there was no chance of a relationship. We were both reserved people, you see. But I remember his singing. And I remember him sitting outside his room to just stare into space. I have a mental image of that. Who does that?
“Me and you, we’ve got history.”
In AG Baby and Miscellaneous, I also told you about my second year as a law student. I moved off campus. I worked with a school media agency. I wrote and edited many publications so I would get a shot at presenting. That decision to pursue presenting was an intentional one, made in my second year. Before then, I wishfully, covertly pursued music.
And yes, this is the cringeworthy part of this “piece”. As cringe worthy as calling this a “write-up” instead. You see, in secondary school, I was a rapper. Don’t laugh yet. I was pretty good at it. At least, for my age. I was in a group called the “X-Quad” and my stage name was “Guerro”. Okay, you can laugh now. I think I was good because I actually explored themes. No, I wasn’t doing, “my girlfriend is Kate, I met her at the gate”. At 15, I was talking about consequential things — like the poverty in this country, the pain of stardom and the effect of chance. Well, more or less. My schoolmates remember the other songs though — those corny ones I wrote for 15-year-olds. The most popular had a hook that consisted of repeated mention of my name — “David A! David A! David A!”
In 2011, I did my own version of M.I’s Safe, a mashup of the defining songs from 2010 and 2011. Now, the original version was incredible, refreshing. Mine was as good, I promise. And that moment, when I performed it in front of my school, was perhaps my greatest till date. And oh, my 24 years has seen many great moments. Later, the school would bemusingly sponsor a mixtape for X-Quad, and send CDs to every student. You opened that brown envelope to see your results, the school fees for the next term, and our CD. It was top.
2012-2014 however, was bottom. I finished secondary school in 2012 and resumed OAU in 2014. Those months in between were horrid. I understand now that I was definitely depressed. I didn’t know what to call it then. I lost a sense of purpose and on some days, I wanted to just die. But I wrote. I played the keyboard for my local church so I got to take it home. I would play that Yamaha keyboard into the night, tears in my eyes, and a pen in my hand. I wrote maybe 50 songs; songs that no one will hear until I die. Songs that are admittedly outdated, out of sync with today’s genres.
When I resumed OAU in 2014, I still had plans. While DML sang in 101, I sang in 102. Not as well oh, Jesus. Often, I was with my more talented friends — Mark and King David, who now both sing for church. When I moved off campus in 2015, it was with Mark. We were roommates with a simple plan—I would write songs for him, he would sing them. Or maybe we would sing together. Psst. That didn’t work out. One day, Mark and I opted for some talent hunt event. I wrote the song and played the keyboard while he sang. I had a mic at my mouth to do a little adlib during the hook. I don’t know how well we did. But I remember that one of the judges sternly said to Mark, “perhaps you should do away with the others”. I was the others. And the name of this judge was Banke, a student from the music department.
Banke was an artist herself. And only two years later, I would go on to write for her. I have written 10 songs maybe. Two of her released tracks were happily co-written by me. I co-own them as well. I think she is incredible. She doesn’t remember that night, but I do. I have never mentioned it, but it was defining. I got to my room and resolved to quit. I could write music, but I would never mount a stage again. To sing? Never. I decided to focus on other talents — writing and speaking. Which, as you may have noticed, have served me exceedingly well. Do I feel pained, am I keeping a grudge? No. I was grateful. I will tell you why later.
The next time I met DML was in Banke’s room, in that SHG Hall of Maintenance Hostel. I would go there, to play her keyboard and arrange songs. I think there was a concert coming at the time. Yes, it was called “Banke Live”. It was epic, I think. I remember Asake’s performance. I thought it was very coordinated. Yes, the same Asake who sang “my energy is high, what the fuck?” He is another OAU alumnus. And his energy was already high by 2017. I was wrapping up when DML walked in. I am not sure if I said anything to him. Again, we were two reserved people. But if I did, I must have said that I liked Sisi Rose. Sisi Rose is a DML single from 2015. I thought it was enjoyable. You should google it. Ha, another cringeworthy part of this piece.
“Olamide has signed Damola!”
The next time I discussed DML, I was in a jeep with Banke. We had spent some time in a studio, set in the second floor of some busy building in Ikeja, Lagos. Was it Ikeja? It was Duktorsett’s studio though. We had gone over the chords for Ni fe mi to—my favorite song. Also, unheard of. But yes, the same Duktorsett who has now found the limelight with his deft production of Basketmouth’s Yabasi. Last year, Duktorsett sent Basketmouth a possible theme tune for his new show, Papa Benji. “Wooyoo wooyoo wooyoo wooyoo wooyoo, wooyoo, wooyoo, Papa Benji!” was all it had. But people loved it. I DMed to say that. Basketmouth chose to do more work with Duktor, and actualize his dream of branching into music. Ta-dah! That beauty titled Yabasi was created. Another colleague, @giveittotayo, has been involved in video productions. I am happy for everyone.
Later, Banke and her boyfriend (now fiancé) drove me to Ikeja City Mall. On the way, she casually turned and said, “Olamide has signed Damola”. “Oh that’s great!”, I exclaimed. That was two OAU kids for Baddoo. Three years before, Chinko Ekun had signed an illustrious contract with YBNL, one that expired only a year after. He had moved on, to Dek-Niyor Entertainment. Well, DML’s was good news nonetheless. “But everything is still lowkey”, Banke added. Of course it was. Labels sign artists way before they tell us. Songs are finished way before we hear them. Music collaborations are planned way before we see them. Davido doesn’t just stumble into an artist’s comment section and decide to “gift” a verse. That part is necessary clout. The deal is closed behind the scenes. Again, way before.
By 2018 however, Duktorsett’s most noteworthy contribution to the scene was a few collaborations with Efe. Yes, BBNaija’s Efe. Who I ran into on the same day. He was at the studio, looking tired, disgruntled. As if he had spent some days there, repeating sequences, waiting for magic to happen. Months before, he had been given N50 million, and the whole country knew about it. They were waiting for magic to happen, rooting for it to not. I felt sorry for him. It is a lot of pressure — showbiz. Especially, the music part. This is why my next point is instructive.
Seyi Shay and Survivorship Bias.
Some people need to hear that this music thing is not for them. And I know I am being brutal. Most artistes fail. Most. Most of them will never see the limelight. Or make a worthwhile dime off their struggle. All the artists you know, are not more than ten per cent of all the artists that exist. We are suckers for success stories, but they are rare. Survivorship bias seduces us into overestimating our chances of success, especially with glamorous things. Many upcoming artists suffer from this. Because they are only glued to successful acts. Because triumph is more visible than failure. Meanwhile, choosing to do music is statistically a bad decision. We want to crucify Seyi Shay for telling some young person that music is not for them. Err… it is not exactly a bad thing to do. Good advice is not always affirmative. Sometimes, “give up” is more useful than “you can do it”. Who is she? Well, an award winning artist who has been around for a decade. Now, who are you? Just another fan. Don’t you think she is better judge of music potential than you?
I quit music because I realized early, that it is hard. And I wasn’t convincingly talented. I mean, I couldn’t convince myself. To undermine everything else and commit to that life. I wasn’t going to spend my pocket money on studio sessions and Nikes. Nope. I would try my hands on this law thing instead. Even saying this makes me cringe. I was 19, I hadn’t done anything. Except two full song books, a distinction in WAEC Music, and a string of impressive classical renditions that included the Hallelujah Chorus when I was 10. But I could already see that people who do music put a lot into it. And no, not only writing songs and recording. But everything that follows. They spend money on production, promotion, travel, clothing. Oh, they spend on clothing. Even when they are hungry, they have to look glittery. Because most of us are (ironically) miserable wannabes who do not want the people we call stars to look like us.
Oh, promotion. That “I will wait here and be lowkey dope until I am discovered” thought is foolishness. Shit. This ain’t Disney or Nickelodeon. Musicians have to push. They have to fight for visibility, audience. Nigeria has maybe 200 million people. The high rate of unemployment and poverty results in a disproportionate amount of people who want to use their “talent” to strike gold. Yet, everywhere you go, there are people as talented as you.
As talented as Fireboy DML? Maybe not.
King of SoundCloud.
I was re-introduced to DML (now Fireboy DML) by somebody I don’t remember. Maybe my good friend, Korie. I used SoundCloud on my 6S then. As some of you may know, SoundCloud is a blessing to many upcoming acts. I found Oxlade’s Shugar there, as well as Buju’s Commander. In my playlist, Fireboy quickly reigned supreme. There was Star, you., Don’t Say No, Girlfriend, Magic, G-Strings, Sing ft. Oxlade, Ajoke. I need you to believe me when I say this—if Fireboy’s early releases were made into an EP, that EP would bang. It is a pity that many of you have never heard those songs. Well, except King. Yes, I had heard King, way before Jealous.
You see, Fireboy had released King three days before he was signed by YBNL. Somehow, he convinced the label to re-release that song, with a video. In September 2019. And it was some eponymous release, wasn’t it? With King, he became king of the new. It sealed a hat trick. OAPs foamed at their mouths. This wasn’t another one-hit wonder. “Wetin we gain after Wetin We Gain?” Nah, shut up. You people should stop being unpleasant. Artists are human beings. They have their Google Alerts on — they read the mean things you say about them.
I understand why a debut album might exclude features, why labels might refuse to touch pre-contract music, but yo, Sing should have made it to LTG. It is the dreamer’s song, one that tells a story of belief and commitment. Fireboy’s, Oxlade’s. My favorite lines are—“So wetin come be this one, who dey follow you do competition? My followers no be one million, but my fanbase oh, e strong gidi gan”. You see, Fireboy doesn’t just make delicious, soulful, evergreen music, he makes honest music. And that is important. You don’t sense pretention. He is not talking about cars he doesn’t own or money he doesn’t make, but exactly where he is in life, exactly what he feels as a result. He speaks for us, and expresses our common emotions—determination, love, lust, sadness, joy, appreciation. Speaking about appreciation, you. was probably ahead of its time. The song is some heartfelt fan appreciation. How many fans did Fireboy have in 2018? It doesn’t matter. He was already thankful.
In the second verse, he says,
“Shoutout to my fans from all over, no be until I get 2 million followers.”
Well, guess how many followers this kid has now.
“Just one taste and more.”
On March 24, 2019, I shared a screenshot of Fireboy’s Jealous on my Instagram and tagged him. He DMed to thank me. I added, “You’re gon kill it bro! Drop those visuals soon so this banger can enter some proper charts”. He replied, “def. drops very soon”. I was already rooting. Genuinely. Like I always do. My wishes were kind, but a tad unnecessary.
Oh, he was already killing it. Jealous was already a banger. It was already in proper charts. Jealous had been released within that YBNL Family album, in December 2018. Fireboy featured on other tracks — Ill Be Fine, Fire Down ft Picazzo were those I enjoyed. Jealous was outstanding though, from an album that also housed Motigbana and Poverty Die. Everybody knew. In what is my favorite Olamide music video, he cleverly teased Jealous in the first seconds. The video for Woske is one of those masterpieces that got heavily slept on. Kizz Daniel’s Flex has a similar concept. I hope the visuals and audio are not being slept on as well.
Wonderfully produced by Cracker Mallo, Jealous was not your typical Nigerian hit song. The first line is “Just one taste and I’m wanting more, shawtie”. The most popular line is “I’m getting addicted”. Not your typical viral lines because they are entirely in English language. The rest of the song, and the rest of his discography, reveal Fireboy’s mastery of language use. This artist shuffles between good English, common pidgin and incisive Yoruba with ease and precision. It took some time to understand the first lines of his second single—What if I Say. I am Yoruba and I did not know those were Yoruba. “Jo wo ma lo sanle” what now?
Few songs will ever outdo Jealous. It was a ringtone for many. Do you know how relevant a song has to be to make people change their ringtones in 2019?
Laughter, Tears, Goosebumps and Audacity.
In AG Baby and Miscellaneous, I said about Fireboy,
And boy, isn’t he audacious? Last November, in a season of EPs, this new artist released a full album on the back of only three singles! And damn, it was worth the risk. There are not too many artistes on this list of audacity.
You must recognize this audacity. To offer comparison (something I rarely do), Rema does not have a full length album. Omah Lay has dropped two four-track EPs, Joeboy released Love and Light a year before SBBM. Acceptance takes time. Artistes want to ease into the industry poco a poco. Fireboy said fuck it and went all in. Did it pay off? Well, you know the story. Three days after LTG was released, it amassed over 6 million streams on Spotify. Nigeria. did. not. have. Spotify.
It is something iconic, isn’t it? It is a beautiful, beautiful album. Apparently, Fireboy and those brilliant producers sat in Lagos Oriental Hotel for 5 days to record and produce. Five days confirmed his place as a generational talent. He could sing, he could write. On TV, Cobhams (legendary producer, also great judge of potential) said, “Fireboy is the truth. Fireboy is special to me. He has a body of work that I feel like he makes the effort to make every song a potential hit song. He is a good song writer. He is a true artiste. He is a great singer. He is a consummate musician.”
I loved those songs. I love those songs. From start to finish — Vibration to Like I do to Gbas Gbos to Wait and See. It is sad that Vibration did not win anything. It is Fireboy’s greatest — an electric, eclectic tune. Is it fast? Is it slow? Your body gets to decide. A complete composition. By my standards, the best compositions from recent years are—Teni’s Uyo Meyo, AG’s Ire, Burna Boy’s Bank On It, Wizkid’s Blessed and this Vibration. These songs had many words in them, meaningful words. But they are worth replaying because the words were properly placed, properly woven into sound. Unalterable. Nothing was left desired. We think Vibration is done, then Fireboy takes a breath and adds, “Jo. Jo, Faridah, jo.” What?
Understandably, he had doubts about Scatter. Yes, a few people thought Scatter and Omo Ologo were in the wrong room. But Scatter quickly became the theme song for 2019’s famous Dirty December. Shhh, now this part is an incredible secret. But I hear that at Nativeland 2019, it was when Fireboy came up to perform Scatter, that the stage collapsed. Literally, as e enter, the party scatter. Oh, and Scatter also made it to the soundtrack of FIFA 21. I must mention how ecstatic it is to hear Afro sounds during gameplay.
Fireboy once described his sound as “Afro-Life”. You know, Nigerian artistes have a tendency to slap “Afro” as a prefix to existing, foreign genres. Burna Boy once spoke about an “Afrofusion”. Wurld and his blue butterflies call their rave, “Afrosoul”. And then there’s AG Baby with “AfroPop”. Oloun a saanu. But these artists aren’t wrong. Form must be defined.
Apollo. “Might get cocky and do another one.”
Yet, artistes are supposed to evolve. They are supposed to stay interesting for a particular audience (and this requires alterations) and appeal to a newer audience (so they make more money). A few persons heard New York City Girl and criticized its appeal. Well, I thought they should have considered the obvious—that it wasn’t in fact meant for (just) them. The song is literally titled “New York City Girl”. Fireboy addresses a fine girl from New York City and speaks about summertime. Does Nigeria have summer? The video is digitally set in New York. What Fireboy did was shoot a straight, audacious shot at an international audience.
Well, Eli added to the list of surprises, and people began to understand. LTG was gone, Fireboy wasn’t about to give us LTG 2. No, he would not let you box him. Apollo, the son of Zeus and Leto, was the Greek god of practically everything. Do you see the figure of speech now? In Fireboy’s interview with Joey Akan, he says,
I’m obsessed with Greek mythology. I’ve always been since I was a kid. And I just wanted to let people know that I think I’m entering god-mode. There was no intention to be subtle about that.
On August 20, the 17-track album including those three early releases was released. Fireboy explained that “this album is about evolution, growth, love and pain”. During his chat with Ebro Darden on Apple Music, he mentioned that Apollo showed that he is not just a one-hit-wonder, but an actual musician that writes and is here to stay. Oh, I believe that. This kid moved from 13 tracks to 17. Audacious again.
Who else could have pulled off Spell? I remember arguing that only three mainstream male artistes could have carried those verses, as well. Fireboy, Wande Coal and maybe Oxlade. And the latter would not have been as clear. Fireboy and Wande came to show off. You should try that “you put a spell on me” Fireboy repeatedly calls or “you don jazz me, hypnotize me” Wande adds in his verse. Good luck. These people can sing. Fireboy performs his songs easily. Yesterday, he “caught a vibe” at YouTubeBlack Africa Month Celebration with Energy and Airplane Mode. You should watch it. It’s something. His performances are always something — pure, enjoyable, gripping.
Then, there is Tattoo, a clearly sexual song. Streaming platforms flag Champion, Lifestyle and Go Away as explicit, but not Tattoo. Because Fireboy was able to pull off a sexual, sensual song without any vulgarity whatsoever— something you can do when you are a terrific lyricist. And that is the best thing about him, isn’t it? He can write. Spell begins this way — “Mufasa, Baba Simba, o mu seyin, a lo mu so do, o jaga jaga, pata pata, o balaga, a lo balaga.” Oh these lyrics are Yoruba, with an interesting meaning. They summarize the Lion King story in such a punny, delectable way. Before Fireboy sets off with repeated mentions of “you put a spell on me!” Who else says that?
Melody is easier than lyricism. To make good melody, you only have to create an arrangement of sounds that fit into the same (or similar) chords. To place purposeful lyrics over those sounds is another level. To do both as well as Fireboy does takes something generational.
Speaking about generations…
2020 and the new kids.
In 10 from 20: The breakout stars of 2020! , I did a countdown of the breakout stars of 2020. That year fed us, didn’t it? COVID and the attendant lockdown made us sit at home and listen. And these artistes flooded us, didn’t they? Concerts could not happen, so they came for that stream money. The new kids especially.
On Twitter, I said that the new kids in the Nigerian music industry are grossly talented. We have never had a breed like this. I can write long articles about Rema, Fireboy, Omah Lay, Ckay and Blaqbonez. In fact, I will write about Blaqbonez later today. For Culture Intelligence by RED. I know the specific, explainable reasons why I believe these artistes are undoubtedly genius. When I said this, I was met with some uproar. There was some mention of how 2011–2013 Headies Next Rated award category featured Wizkid, Ice Prince, Olamide, Tiwa Savage, Davido, Praiz, Eva Alordiah, Burna Boy, Dammy Krane, Seyi Shay and Phyno.
But the differential is “talented”. And by that, I actually mean multitalented. 2020’s artistes came ready. Omah Lay produces and hugs charts with zero dance songs. He is optimization personalized. Almost everything the mainstream audience know about Omah Lay, they know from two five-track EPs, and about four terrific features. Ckay is another artiste/producer I rate quite highly. I have for years now. I think his projects have been properly, deliciously curated. But I will give you time to get into him. And then there’s Blaqbonez, the new breed of promoter. I will say a lot about him today, you should read.
Oh, there is Rema. There’s that #BIGNEWS he and our protagonist trended that made us pee in our pants. Oh God, we want a collabo. Rema is incredible, his understanding of music. He sounds different because of how he plays with minor keys and sharpened notes—things he should not understand that well. I don’t know, maybe he experimented really early. Maybe he spent a lot of time on it. Maybe he’s genius. And this is one of those things I say, hoping that more people understood. Listen to his verse on Justine Skye’s Twisted Fantasy, listen to “I do not love you enough woah woah woah woah”. It is such a technical way to sing. People go to music school for that.
Bounce by Rema cannot be pulled off by just anyone. As shallow as that song might seem, your brain just doesn’t work that way. You cannot play with those many augmentations and still sound as suave. In “when I weigh the thing, e way one thousand pounds”, “pounds” has two notes. Even if other artistes use two, the solfa notation would be “soh lah”. The effect would be lost. Rema sharpens soh to make it ze. He does it over and over. This is why he sounds different.
Contrary to some loud opinions, his lyrics are also mature, refreshing for a 20-year-old. And he manages to take a unique, intriguing direction on features with both sound and lyrics. In Jonzing’s One Shirt, after two predictable verses from Ruger and D Prince, Rema subtly enters with “I tell her make she pray for me oh”. We wonder who he is talking about. Its his mother. He continues with “I tell my mama make she pray for me oh”. Most people would understandably begin with the second line. Because it gives more information. But good storytellers know that the first is more intriguing, even though the suspense lasts for seconds.
Somebody needs to write about Rema and Ozedikus. Something special happened there. Ozedikus is probably genius too. I hear he used to pass scrap beats to Rema—probably experimental stuff nobody was crazy enough to sing on. But Rema was 18 when he blew. When I was 18, I understood sharpened notes and minors. But that was because I had seriously studied music theory for 6 years. Who taught this guy?
Headies and the Numbers.
Rema won Next Rated at the 2019 Headies, ahead of Fireboy. I don’t know if our protagonist was disappointed about missing out on the 2019 Headies. I’m not even sure if LTG was submitted for consideration. The year in review is sometimes confusing. Fireboy was nominated for the Next Rated, Viewer’s Choice and Song of the Year categories. He won none. Jealous won Listener’s Choice and was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2020 Soundcity MVP Awards Festival. But it could have won more.
What we call the best is usually decided by an award. To be adjudged the best, being incredible is not enough. You have to hope that no one else is more incredible in the period for adjudication. In November 2016, Runtown released Mad Over You — one of the most loved songs the country had ever heard. December 2016 is still fondly remembered as “Mad Over You Christmas”. But Davido released If and Fall months later (February and June), in what is remembered as the most impressive run by a Nigerian artist, ever. If won Song of the Year at the Headies. Mad Over You might have won in any other year.
In 2019, for Song of the Year, the other nominations were Ye by Burna Boy, Dumebi by Rema, Wetin We Gain by Victor AD, Fake Love by Star Boy, Case by Teni, Legwork by Zlatan and Baby by Joeboy. Damn. What a year eh? Well, Apollo definitely made it to the Headies 2021, in grand style. Five wins? Whew. Album of the Year for Apollo, Best Pop Album for Apollo, Best R&B Album for LTG, Best R&B Single for Tattoo and Headies Revelation for the boy.
When I asked you to guess how many followers this kid has now, did you guess 2 million? You are right. 2.2 million on IG. Meanwhile, he had 66.6k followers when we had that conversation. The numbers have risen, astronomically. On Deezer, Vibration was the most streamed track of 2020. While Burna Boy was the most streamed Nigerian act, Fireboy came in as second. On Boomplay, LTG was the most streamed album of 2020. Burna Boy’s Twice As Tall came in as second and ta-dah! Apollo was the third most streamed.
Na only una dey this country?
“There’s nobody like me.”
“There’s nobody like me, there’s nobody like me. When I step inna the place, dem dey manya.”
With this hook, Fireboy announced that he was finally available for features. And he has been fire on them. The journey began with Reminisce’s Ogaranya, an early release from that experimental Vibes and Insha Allah project. Fireboy would go on to gift verses/songs to Cracker Mallo, DJ Cuppy, DJ Spinall, Peruzzi, Lil Kesh and Olamide. I thought that he brought the best composition to every project. Southy Love is criminally underrated, and still stands shoulders above every other track on Rum and Booogie. In my humble opinion.
Before these features, and after, he has been keen on a memorable discography. And he is on course. In that interview, he tells Joey Akan that his favorite song from Apollo is Remember Me. It says a lot—how much this artiste cares about creation and legacy. He is refreshing, isn’t he? When you hear him speak, write, sing, he does sound like somebody who actually reads. Oh he’s a nerd. Joey writes, “The glamour of stardom and celebrity makes it an easy quality to miss. But it’s all over his work. His pedantic obsession with words and storytelling power his art. When he speaks, he uses words like ‘mundane,’ and laughs when told of easier synonyms.”
He says that the first verse of Remember Me was inspired by a Sir Walter Raleigh poem titled Soul’s Errand. I immediately googled this poem. Lo and behold, I knew the lines. I had learnt them in 2009. I had walked to and fro the school hall with an anthology in my hand, consumed by the power in those words. The same hall where for months, I had taught myself how to play the school piano. However, what was most amazing was this — I realized that I had written a strikingly similar poem in 2019, titled Whataboutism. The influence is clear but surprising—there are 10 years between these compositions!
I suppose this is the final lesson in this piece. Fireboy is a testament to influence. My favourite song off Apollo is Go Away. I am struck by the direction of it—not wanting to fall helplessly in love, wondering how to stop. I am struck by it’s distinct sound as well. I don’t know what the touch is exactly. Southern Africa maybe? There are so many creative combinations in these two albums that can only occur to people who have consumed diverse forms of art. People are creative because they consume, because idea sex happens in their colorful heads. He says his faves are Jon Bellion, Passenger and Wande Coal. He has framed photos of them in his house. He does sound like an offspring, doesn’t he? I know about the honesty, soul of Jon Bellion. I know about the sheer prowess and urgency of Wande Coal.
But he adds his own touch, his own style. Not only to the sound, but to the brand. His looks are novel, unprecedented. Like other new kids, he is taking fashion seriously. At the heart of it, of course, is Samuel Adekolu — another OAU alumnus known as Uncle Soft. It is Uncle Soft who has determined signature looks for Fireboy, Blaqbonez, Oxlade and Buju. But he has “a more entrenched role as the curator for Fireboy DML’s style”. The pair, friends, understand the importance of image branding — an artist’s looks should be an extension of their art.
Be good. Then you can be minimalist.
Wizkid’s fans say much about his minimalism. Now that’s an irony. It is pleasure to them. Everything Wizkid does not do, does something in them. Another irony. Minimalism is a powerful art of seduction. It is far better to be intriguing than bland, mysterious than boring. Never be boring. Fireboy understands — so his appearances are sparse, his pictures are few and his captions, short. He maintains his air of mystery. 2.2 million followers off 116 posts is powerful.
But in the music business, minimalism is expensive. When you have not blown yet, or when you are not a generational talent. If you have not blown yet, shout oh, make pesin help you. Post your music, no dey pursue aesthetics. Some artists cannot afford to be minimalist because they are not there, or as distinctly good. They need to put out many to strike gold as much as more talented peers. For most though, it is basically branding. Some people thrive off minimalism, others thrive off clout. We love Davido and Wizkid for opposite reasons, the same way we love Blaqbonez and Ckay for opposite reasons. Ckay—minimalism and aesthetics, Blaqbonez—ubiquity and humor. And that is okay. Stop it. Stop shaming artists for doing more or less than your faves.
At the same time, many artists are replaceable. Because they sound like the others. Or because the Nigerian audience just doesn’t give a fuck. We are starting to form them, but until recently there were very few cult followings. If you don’t release, we will listen to the others. And if you go quiet, we will forget that you ever existed. When you are Fireboy though, you can afford some quiet. You can go on airplane mode. He is good. He knows it. Everybody knows it. There is some “conviction”. It is beyond reasonable doubt. Get it? “Conviction” there is a double entendre. People are still listening to LTG. He knows what he did on those tracks. They have that personal, emotive touch. They have meanings that you will unravel on your own. You will sing the lyrics like they are your words, you will make the song yours. And what more can an artist do, what is the peak? If you hear a song, and say, “that’s my song!” Isn’t that the peak of it?
He knows that he shares those songs with many others. He’s not just a singer that gives ginger, he gives vibes. He influences moods. He knows that he is talented, special, loved. Whenever he decides on the name for his fan base, there will be frenzied enrollment. I think he knows. On the first track of his last project, he told us. On his late night TV debut with Jimmy Fallon, he reminded us.
Where is he known?
From Ikeja to Ojuelegba bridge, to the many places that he has never been.
What does he do?
He smashes and kills everything, he never misses.
Who is he?
A king, the best his generation has ever seen, a champion, a legend in the making.
How did he come in?
Suddenly, like NEPA bill.
You can reach me on IG/Twitter — @themccoyman